A rich vein of breeding gold involving one of the world’s all-time great stallions was to the fore again with another Group 1 in Saturday’s South Australian Derby triumph of the exciting Dunkel (Dundeel).
The gelding – who capped a four-straight winning streak with the Listed Tasmanian Derby in February – stormed home at the end of the Morphettville 2500-metre contest to trump the heavily backed favourite Promises Kept (Cluster) by three-quarters of a length, serving notice of a promising spring to come.
It was a win of firsts in a couple of respects. It means jockey Billy Egan can now be known for far more than being “the one with his sleeves up”. And it was a maiden Group 1 victory – eight weeks since Dunkel’s previous start – that underscored the nous of the reclusive Patrick Payne, the trainer renowned not just for winners but for going out in public slightly less often than Salman Rushdie.
But the victory also again highlighted some proven patterns.
Dunkel became the seventh elite-level winner for Arrowfield’s surging stallion Dundeel (High Chaparral), his third in six weeks after Militarize’s ATC Sires’ Produce-Champagne double, and his seventh Australian stakes winner in this break-out season. It was more justification, were any needed, for his service fee bump from $66,000 to $82,500 this year.
It was another unfurling of the New Zealand flag, with Dunkel – a product of Sir Peter Vela’s Pencarrow Stud – the 20th Kiwi-bred winner of an Australian Group 1 this season, and stunningly the 11th of the 14 since the start of The Championships in Sydney on April 1.
And it was more validation for one of the elite forces of world breeding, Sadler’s Wells, and in particular another piece of evidence as to just how reliably potent duplicating the great son of Northern Dancer can be.
Dunkel was sold at Karaka 2021 for $40,000 to Steven Ramsay, then onsold for $100,000 to bloodstock buyer Kevin Myers when offered by Ohukia Lodge at the 2021 NZB Ready To Run Sale in November that year before making his way across the Tasman to Payne’s stable.
He’s from a mare who was handy herself, the four-time winner and stakes-placed Kudamm (Cape Cross), who’s thrown five winners from as many runners, with Dunkel clearly the best.
But it’s what lies a little deeper than Kudamm that packs a sizeable punch.
Dunkel’s superbly put-together pedigree is highlighted by a 3m x 3f duplication of Sadler’s Wells. That’s a relatively recent doubling of the 1981 throw these days, afforded by his siring of Dundeel’s dad High Chaparral aged 18, and Dunkel’s second dam, the unraced Shopping Spree, at 19.
Duplicating Sadler’s Wells is no new potion. And unlike doubling up on that other great force Danehill – often a Goldilocks business best executed through a sex-balanced split in just the right parts of the pedigree – it’s more easily performed, through a variety of gender blenders and positions on the grid.
But as Arrowfield’s pedigrees expert Peter Jenkins explains, whilst a double of Sadler’s Wells has been present in many exceptional horses, certain stallions help it along more than others.
“There’s hundreds of stakes winners with the duplication,” Jenkins tells It’s In The Blood. “It’s not as tricky as the Danehill duplication, which has to be done in a certain way.
“Some absolute champions have had the Sadler’s Wells duplication, but it comes down to how some specific stallions react. Dundeel appears to do it well.”
Three of Dundeel’s 24 career stakes winners, as well as one of his stakes-placed runners, have a doubling of Sadler’s Wells, and all with a different twist.
Aside from Dunkel with his 3m x 3f, there’s three-time stakes winner Hope In Your Heart. Being out of a mare by a Sadler’s Wells son in Montjeu, she has a 3m x 3m duplication.
Aquacade, who won the Group 2 Avondale Cup in New Zealand in February, has a 3m x 5f cross. And Miracle Of Love, Miss Finland’s daughter who was stakes-placed on debut at Scone last week, has a 3m x 4f, with Sadler’s Wells coming through her damline.
Aside from that, Dundeel had his first runner as a broodmare sire last year, in the Queenslander Noah ’N’ A Deel (Maurice), who’s now won three and been stakes-placed. She has a 4m x 4m duplication of Sadler’s Wells – on the reverse of the aforementioned quartet – since Maurice’s dam is by a son of the stallion in Carnegie.
Overall, Dundeel has an impressive 9.6 per cent ratio of stakes horses to runners carrying that Sadler’s Wells duplication, numbers which back Pencarrow’s enthusiasm for the mating that produced Dunkel.
“We’ve always been big fans of Dundeel from his racing days,” says stud manager Leon Casey. “And with a Cape Cross mare, not only were we looking for a fast staying type to breed to like Dundeel, but the opportunity was there for that three-by-three of Sadler’s Wells with a male and female with the cross.
“That’s a pretty close-up duplication of Sadler’s Wells these days, and of course the closer it is the more effective, hopefully. But I actually think Dunkel resembles Sadler’s Wells – in his markings, his build, and possibly the way he races.”
Another noteworthy aspect of Dunkel’s pedigree comes through the damsire, with Cape Cross being by Green Desert (Danzig-Northern Dancer). Jenkins points out that while the Dundeel-Green Desert cross is still in its infancy, it’s yielded seven winners from just 12 runners, including two stakes stars in Dunkel and Aquacade.
The stats don’t surprise Jenkins, since Dundeel’s sire High Chaparral over Green Desert has produced three Group 1 winners: Masked Crusader and dual US top-tier victor Tribhuvan – both sons of Toronado – and 2011 Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf winner Wrote, who was simply by High Chaparral out of a Green Desert mare.
It’s worked in the reverse, too, such as with New Zealand Thousand Guineas winner Media Sensation, a daughter of Green Desert’s famous grandson I Am Invincible, out of a High Chaparral mare.
Jenkins believes the blend, seen in Dunkel, of Dundeel over Green Desert is boosted by the fact Dundeel is out of a Zabeel mare (the unraced Stareel).
“I think this works because Green Desert is an intricate genetic relative of Zabeel,” he says. “Zabeel is by a son of Sir Ivor out of a granddaughter of Northern Dancer. Green Desert is by a son of Northern Dancer out of a daughter of Sir Ivor. It’s a mirror image intricate genetic relationship.”
Zabeel and Green Desert have combined for nine Group 1 winners to date, including New Zealand’s seven-time elite-level victor Kawi (Savabeel) and, on the reverse, two daughters of I Am Invincible in Invincibella and Viddora.
Jenkins also notes that as with many Group 1 winners with a duplication of Sadler’s Wells, Dunkel also has that sire’s three-quarter brother Nureyev (Northern Dancer), in Dundeel’s fourth column via his damsire Zabeel, providing “a good supporting line”. That also affects a triplication of the most influential American blue hen Special (Forli), as Sadler’s Wells’ granddam and Nureyev’s dam.
“You look and you see Nureyev in there as well, everything’s in the right place, and it’s a nicely put-together pedigree,” Jenkins says.
And just for good measure, Casey’s work is capped off by the fact the great French broodmare La Troienne (Teddy, 1926), comes through uninterrupted as Dunkel’s eighth dam.
“Coming from the best distaff family of the past century doesn’t hurt,” Jenkins jokes.
Casey reports Dunkel’s journey hasn’t exactly been straightforward.
“He was a bit immature in front as a yearling and tended to push his knees forward when he walked,” he says. “That made it hard at yearling sale time, but he’d really matured by the time the two-year-old sale came around.”
Also, Kudamm retained her placenta for “quite a long time” after bearing Dunkel, likely contributing to her missing in the seasons since.
Casey reports, however, that the rising 19-year-old is now “looking in pretty good shape” for another attempt this year. While Dundeel may not be in the frame, given the style shown by Dunkel it wouldn’t surprise to see another descendant of Sadler’s Wells chosen.