It's In The Blood

King Colorado

Ciaron Maher and David Eustace powered to their 11th Group 1 of the season on Saturday when King Colorado (Kingman) – a colt with a scintillating pedigree in more ways than one – took the JJ Atkins Plate (Gr 1, 1600m) at Eagle Farm.

The all-conquering stable’s surge towards its first national premiership this season hasn’t happened by chance. It comes after years of building up, instituting techniques and strategies rarely before seen on the Australian landscape, if at all.

There is, however, one coincidence concerning two of their Group 1 wins, which happened barely a month apart, and which are linked by an incredible mare who became a breeding colossus 40 years ago and half a world away.

King Colorado’s fourth dam is the American Fall Aspen (Pretense). Remarkably, she’s also the third dam of his stablemate Affaire A Suivre (Astern), who became Maher and Eustace’s ninth top-tier winner of the season in taking the Australasian Oaks (Gr 1, 2000m) at Morphettville in late April.

That the two stablemates are thus connected may be happenstance. King Colorado was conceived in England and foaled in the Hunter Valley, while Affaire A Suivre hails from the pastures of New Zealand. But there is no fluke in a pair of such quality stemming, uninterrupted along the female line, from Fall Aspen. She was quite the mare, and one who’s had other sizeable impacts on Australian racing, including on the former best sprinter on the planet, Nature Strip (Nicconi).

Foaled in Kentucky in 1976, Fall Aspen became the pointy end of a family developed over generations by renowned breeder Joseph Roebling. He had a bit of pedigree himself when it came to building things that would stand the test of time. His great-grandfather was John Roebling, architect and builder of the Brooklyn Bridge, which is still doing fine aged 140.

Joseph Roebling booked Pretense (Endeavour), a multiple stakes-winner standing at Spendthrift Farm, for his mare Change Water, a daughter of a US Horse of the Year in Swaps (Khaled). Change Water won only once from 12 starts, but became an outstanding producer, throwing three stakes horses, all in a row.

Fall Aspen – named for Roebling’s love of Colorado and its colours of autumn – was the first of the three and the best.

She was exceptional from the outset, at two winning the Matron Stakes (Gr 1, 7f) and a six and a half-furlong Grade 3, both at Belmont, before taking a Listed event at three, and eventually scoring eight wins from 20 starts.

But that – and her dam’s breeding record – would pale into insignificance alongside what she’d do in the breeding barn.

Between 1982 and 1998, Fall Aspen threw 14 foals – 13 raced, 12 were winners, and nine – repeat NINE – were stakes winners; four at the top level, and another four at Grade 2 or Grade 3. The nine achieved Timeform ratings between 117 and 125.

Sadly, Roebling didn’t live to see Fall Aspen’s breeding story, dying in 1980. She was bought via a dispersal by Spendthrift, and in a mark of her rare quality, would not only meet some of the world’s finest stallions but would change hands among global breeding heavyweights three times. This included being bought by Coolmore’s John Magnier when she was 18 – proverbially old enough to vote – for US$2.4 million.

For her first trick she threw Northern Aspen (Northern Dancer), a mare who won Hollywood Park’s Gamely Handicap (Gr 1, 9f) in 1987 for the then California-based John Gosden.

Second out came another filly in Elle Seule (Exclusive Native, by Raise A Native) who won a Grade 2 and a Listed race in France. Third came the stakes-placed colt Native Aspen (Raise A Native).

Sold to International Thoroughbred Breeders in 1984 and shipped across the Atlantic, Fall Aspen threw Group 2-winning colt Mazzacano (Alleged) and the filly Colorado Dancer (Shareef Dancer). She only won a Group 2, but continued her mum’s potency by throwing Dubai Millennium (Seeking The Gold), the four-time Group 1 winner who managed only one season at stud but sired, among just 56 foals, the breed-shaping Dubawi.

After two perhaps lesser foals, Fall Aspen threw three elite-level winners in a row: Newmarket July Cup (Gr 1, 6f) winner Hamas (Danzig), Grand Prix de Paris (Gr 1, 2000m) victor Fort Wood (Sadler’s Wells), and Timber Country (Woodman). He won two US Grade 1s at two – finally earning Fall Aspen her sole Broodmare of the Year title in 1994 – and another in the 1995 Preakness Stakes (Gr 1, 9.5f), after his third in the Kentucky Derby (Gr 1, 10f). He later sired five-time Australian top-level winner Eremein (and two more elite-level winners in the US and Japan).

Fall Aspen then bore Prince Of Thieves (Hansel, by Woodman), who won at Listed level and was her second straight Kentucky Derby third-placegetter. That came just after she was sold to Magnier, in foal to Danzig (Northern Dancer). Aged 19, she threw her final stakes winner Bianconi (Danzig), winner of a Group 2 sprint at England’s Ascot, and later sire of dual Australian Group 1 winner Nicconi, father of course of the nine-time top-tier victor, Nature Strip.

Fall Aspen died aged 22 having produced outstanding gallopers on turf and dirt, plus sprinters such as Bianconi (Danzig) and stayers including Mazzacano, winner of the Group 3 Goodwood Cup over 4200 metres, and second in the Royal Ascot Gold Cup when it was run over 4850 metres.

The great mare’s only foal not to make it to the track was Dance Of Leaves (Sadler’s Wells), but she threw a Group 1 winner – of the breeding-influential Racing Post Trophy (Gr 1, 1m) – in Medaaly (Highest Honor).

Dance Of Leaves also bore Medaaly’s placed-only full sister Laurelling, who came to Australia to throw Listed winner Laure Me In (Ad Valorem) in 2014, and – five years later – Affaire A Suivre.

As for King Colorado: Fall Aspen’s first foal, Northern Aspen, left just one, Canadian, Listed winner in Cypriata (Seeking The Gold), but also the unraced 1998 filly Jade Aspen (Jade Hunter). The last two of her seven foals were Listed winners, the second being More Aspen (More Than Ready).

After winning her black type over 1800 metres in Dubai, More Aspen was sent by owner Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa to Britain, where she produced three unraced fillies before being put to stellar sire Kingman and shipped to Australia. She bore her colt at Segenhoe Stud, and tying neatly back to the great Fall Aspen, he was named King Colorado.

Like Affaire A Suivre, King Colorado has already assured his stud value. But aside from merely rocketing from winning a Kembla Grange maiden to next start taking a 1600-metre Group 1, that value is further enhanced by the fact he’s entirely Danehill-free.

He springs instead from Danzig’s second most famous sireline, that of Green Desert (Danzig) and his son Invincible Spirit, who has produced a sire enjoying quite some success with Australia’s Danehill-heavy broodmare band, I Am Invincible.

King Colorado, through his third dam Northern Aspen, also boasts having Northern Dancer relatively recently, in his fourth generation, completing a 5s x 5f, 4f triplication of that particular GOAT. He has the same helping of Mr. Prospector (Raise A Native) for good measure.

Maher-Eustace’s bloodstock manager Will Bourne reflected on the noteworthy link between two of the stable’s young stars through Fall Aspen, each – slightly ironically – with an unraced descendant in between.

“It’s very random, but it’s a great connection,” Bourne told It’s In The Blood. “It does reflect how international the bloodstock world is now.

“But for what King Colorado has done, he’s suddenly a red hot prospect for Australian breeding. A precocious Kingman colt, with a great dam line, who’s Danehill-free? The marketplace is crying out for a horse like that.”

Stay tuned for the next Australian chapter in the stunning saga of Fall Aspen.

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