It's In The Blood

Via Sistina

Yulong Stud took two prime pieces of European “real estate” – a boulevard in Rome and a Parisien square housing the Louvre – plonked them down in Parramatta and scored a blue-blooded Group 1 quinella.

And that could be the tip of the iceberg for two mares who, on pedigree and performance, are straight out of Quality Street.

Via Sistina (Fastnet Rock) and Place Du Carrousel (Lope De Vega) were ultra impressive running one-two in last Saturday’s Ranvet Stakes (Gr 1, 2000m). Forget old mantras about Europeans needing a campaign here to acclimatise, or mares in particular adjusting to a season flip. They arrived here only a month ago, and this was their Australian debut.

Perhaps also forget other less exciting major acquisitions like Alcohol Free (No Nay Never), who was purchased for around $10 million, before finishing unplaced on five occasions before retirement. It may have only been a six-horse field at Rosehill on Saturday, but a green-and-white bullseye was scored, portending grander things ahead.

What’s more, Yulong will only be further impressed, from a breeding perspective, that so much excitement is being caused by a mare by Fastnet Rock (Danehill), whose already imposing reputation as a broodmare sire has had quite the upgrade in the past two weeks.

More or less in the Yulong way to which the turf world has become accustomed, this new pair cost a mere $12 million between them – the six-year-old Via Sistina selling to Evergreen Equine for 2,700,000gns (approx. $5.2 million) at Tattersalls December Mares Sale last year, and five-year-old Place Du Carrousel was purchased by Portofino Bloodstock for around $6.8 million at the Arqana December Breeding Stock Sale a week later.

The Chris Waller-trained Via Sistina is now a $2.30 favourite to score another top-flight race in a mouth-watering edition Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Gr 1, 2000m) at Randwick on April 13. Anthony and Sam Freedman’s Place Du Carrousel is $11, and in between them sit Mr Brightside (Bullbars) and Pride Of Jenni (Pride Of Dubai).

All going well, rich spring targets await. Via Sistina, winner of The Curragh’s Pretty Polly Stakes (Gr 1, 1m 2f), looks a strong candidate for the Cox Plate (Gr 1, 2040m) which is run over roughly the same trip. Place Du Carrousel won her Group 1 over that distance in Longchamp’s Prix de L’Opera (Gr 1, 2000m), but also won over the 2400 metres of the Prix Foy (Gr 2, 2400m) there last September, so could also be in Caulfield Cup (Gr 1, 2400m) reckoning.

Whatever they achieve on the track, the breeding fortunes of both will be must-watch affairs.

And that’s particularly the case for Via Sistina, a product of one of the most ballistic crosses in breeding, here or anywhere.

Her Coolmore sire Fastnet Rock needs no introduction. As fine a son of Danehill (Danzig) to have stood anywhere. The 22-year-old is a dual Australian champion stallion (2012, 2015), sire of 193 stakes-winners worldwide, 59 of whom have come outside of Australasia, through his 11 European shuttles to 2020.

He’s had 43 Group 1 winners, 12 in the northern hemisphere, and has had stakes-winners as far flung as Germany, Canada, Turkey, and Italy.

The brilliant winner, at three, of Melbourne’s Black Caviar Lightning Stakes (Gr 1, 1000m) Oakleigh Plate (Gr 1, 1100m) double, is also setting some fearsome numbers as a broodmare sire.

Accordingly, a slight majority of his top-tier winners – 23 – have been female. Three have won Ireland’s female feature, the Pretty Polly, in Via Sistina, Zhukova and Diamondsandsrubies, and the first two of those – which helps explain why Yulong fought so hard to acquire Via Sistina – are products of the extremely potent direct cross with the late, great Galileo (Sadler’s Wells).

Fastnet Rock over mares by Galileo has yielded no fewer than ten Group 1 winners. Granted, thanks to both standing under the Coolmore banner, it’s also his most prolific, with 152 runners – almost 50 more than his second-most, that being Galileo’s sire Sadler’s Wells (105 runners). But by any measure, that’s breeding gold, at 6.6 per cent Group 1 winners to runners. Furthermore, the cross has 29 stakes winners a 19.1 percent, close enough to one in five.

Less impactful has been Fastnet Rock over mares by Galileo’s dad, Sadler’s Wells. Phenomenally influential though he has been, Sadler’s Wells mares have left only one Group 1 winner by Fastnet Rock – that third Pretty Polly winner Diamondsandrubies – and ten stakes-winners at 9.5 per cent of runners.

Coolmore’s Colm Santry said the extreme potency of the Fastnet Rock-Galileo cross stands to reason.

“It’s a beautiful cross physically. On paper it’s amazing, but physically they match each other to perfection,” Santry told It’s In The Blood.

“Galileo mares are beautiful, classy, high quality mares, and when you put an Australian speed horse like Fastnet Rock over them, you’re putting size and speed and strength into them. They’re getting a load of quality from their dams, and speed from their sire.

“Fastnet Rock is probably the best stallion we’ve seen down here, and Galileo the best up there. They’re like the kings of two hemispheres. And the cross is amazing, and it’s amazing worldwide.”

Of its ten Group 1 winners, of whom seven have been female, six have come in the northern hemisphere. They also include Epsom Oaks (Gr 1, 1m 4f) winner Qualify, and the USA-bred Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (Gr 1, 8f) heroine Pizza Bianca.

And with all this in mind, Yulong will be banking on this cross in particular helping Via Sistina to further boost Fastnet Rock’s powerful – and growing – reputation as a broodmare sire, once she enters their breeding barn.

“There have been six Australian champion sires shuttle to the northern hemisphere: Flying Spur, Redoute’s Choice, Encosta De Lago, Lonhro, Exceed And Excel, and Fastnet Rock,” Santry said.

“They’ve all done a good job, but Fastnet Rock will probably be the one who leaves the biggest legacy, because he’s one of the best broodmare sires in the world. Exceed And Excel will turn out to be a great broodmare sire, but Fastnet Rock has the edge over him.”

Fastnet Rock’s daughters have been hitting it out of the park lately, helping him charge towards his first Australian broodmare sires’ title. Since August 1, they’ve had 27 stakes-winners worldwide, including 20 Group winners, five at Group 1.

Showing that potent cross works well in reverse, his leading such representative has been a daughter of Galileo in Warm Heart, who in this period has won thrice at the top level, in England, France and the US.

Closer to home, things have been very heady indeed, with three top-tier winners in eight days. Fastnet Rock is the damsire of three of the five Group 1 winners from Rosehill last Saturday, the others being Golden Slipper (Gr 1, 1200m) heroine Lady Of Camelot (Written Tycoon), and Ryder Stakes (Gr 1, 1500m) victor Veight (Grunt).

A week before that it was Zougotcha (Zoustar) flying this flag in taking the Coolmore Classic (Gr 1, 1500m).

Another Zoustar (Northern Meteor) product, Joliestar, brought the first of this terms four Australian Group 1s for Fastnet Rock as a broodmare sire, in Caulfield’s Thousand Guineas (Gr 1, 1600m).

And star two-year-old star, and Golden Slipper third-placegetter, Storm Boy (Justify) is another among these stakes-winners, as are Bodyguard (I Am Invincible), Renaissance Woman (Reliable Man), Cause For Concern (Worthy Cause) and many more.

Redoute’s Choice (Danehill) and Encosta De Lago (Fairy King) have shared the Australian broodmare sires’ title evenly over the past eight seasons. But it’s not surprising this season – after previous bests on this table of third in 2020 and fourth last term – to see Fastnet Rock clearly on top at present, in all categories.

He has 18 stakes-winners, of 27 races, with 235 winners from 592 runners, at 40 per cent, with Lady Of Camelot the leading contributor to his $27.2 million earnings total.

Encosta De Lago is second in all categories, with 11 stakes-winners of 19 races, 230 winners from 600 starters [38 per cent] and $23.3 million, with Fangirl (Sebring) his best earner.

On top of that, Fastnet Rock is making strides as a broodmare “grandfather”, with his daughters leaving the dams of five stakes-winners from 115 runners, including recent MRC Autumn Stakes (Gr 2, 1400m) victor Snow Patrol (Contributer), and dual Melbourne Group 3 winner Muramasa (Deep Impact).

All of which, Santry said, distils into one clear message for the coming broodmare sale season.

“Collect those Fastnet Rock mares. Just but Fastnet Rock mares,” he said. “To have him as a broodmare sire is a very positive thing when you’re looking at a yearling.”

Yulong general manager Vin Cox said the Fastnet Rock factor certainly adds value.

“Being a Fastnet Rock mare with her race record, it adds a lot of credence to the whole thing,” Cox said. “Fastnet Rock is one of the best broodmare sires in the world, and that’s got a lot of context out here in Australia. He’s very well known here, and proven with local stallions, so it really was an obvious choice.”

Via Sistina was bred in Ireland but by UK interests, from the quintessentially English-sounding Laundry Cottage Stud. While advertising as a small, family-run affair away from the Newmarket hub in North Hertfordshire, it can also lay claim to breeding outstanding galloper and now exciting young sire Wootton Bassett (Iffraaj).

The name of Via Sistina’s unraced dam by Galileo, which we’ve perhaps rudely left out until now, is Nigh. In another tick for her only mating with Fastnet Rock, she’s has had eight foals, four runners, and just the one – very good – winner.

From a family of several quality Irish mares, Nigh was well-related to speed. Her dam Native Force (Indian Ridge) also threw Kingsgate Native (Mujadil), winner of two Group 1s in the 2008 Ascot Jubilee Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m) and the 2007 Nunthorpe Stakes (Gr 1, 1000m).

Third dam La Pellegrina (Be My Guest) might have been an unraced gene vessel only, but her dam Spanish Habit (Habitat) also threw 1994 English 1,000 Guineas (Gr 1, 1m) winner Las Meninas (Glenstal).

And when you reach Via Sistina’s fifth dam, you tap back into another Australian angle. Donna Cressida (Don) also threw the dam of Romantic River (Irish River), who threw two stakes-winners here including Aqua D’Amore (Danehill), winner of Caulfield’s 2007 Futurity Stakes (Gr 1, 1400m) plus three other Group races.

Double-proving that cross with Danehill line stallions, Romantic River’s mating with none other than Fastnet Rock then produced Petrology, a dual stakes-winner including of the Sandown Guineas (Gr 2, 1600m) in 2014.

Via Sistina’s pedigree itself contains not a lot of obvious trickery. The first six removes have four and five appearances, respectively, of usual suspects Northern Dancer and his dam Natalma, though there is a 5f x 6f of the influential Buckpasser (Tom Fool), through two daughters.

But when you have Fastnet Rock over Galileo, do you really need to look much further?

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