Almanzor the key to Bassett’s stellar year

Almanzor: is from Wootton Bassett's first crop of foals

PICTURE: Edward Whitaker ( Almanzor the key to Bassett's stellar year
By Nancy Sexton 12:32PM 20 OCT 2016

THE idea that several of the 2012 intake of new stallions would be capable of siring a big name out of their first crops wasn't far fetched given the profiles that several had to offer, particularly Zoffany, Canford Cliffs, Pour Moi and Poet's Voice.

Perhaps not so obvious, however, was Wootton Bassett. That statement is not reflective of Wootton Bassett's talent since he was one of the leading two-year-olds of 2010. But it's fair to say the second half of his career on the track was rather an anti-climax and in turn, he started out at a very affordable €6,000 at Haras d'Etreham in Normandy.

In contrast to a number of his contemporaries, Wootton Bassett did not enter 2015 with a sizeable crop of two-year-olds with which to go to war. But lack of ammunition has not prevented him from producing a real top-notcher out of a first crop that numbers barely 20 in Almanzor, whose sweep of the Prix du Jockey Club, Prix Guillaume d'Ornano, Irish Champion Stakes and Qipco Champion Stakes provides the bulk of the £2.4 million won in Europe this year by his sire's progeny.

Such a total means Wootton Bassett is out on his own at the head of the leading European second-crop sires' list ahead of Zoffany, the only other second crop sire to produce a European Group 1 winner – achieved on Sunday when Ventura Storm won the Gran Premio del Jockey Club at San Siro -and break the million-pound mark.

Granted, Almanzor is the key to Wootton Bassett's current position but even so, it's an impressive achievement for a stallion who has had only 29 runners this year.

Wootton Bassett's breakthrough comes in the year his own sire, Iffraaj, is on a high through the exploits of Ribchester. Wootton Bassett, bred by Colin and Melba Bryce's Laundry Cottage Stud out of the Listed-placed Primo Dominie mare Balladonia, was himself the flagbearer of a strong first crop for Iffraaj in 2010, winning each of his five starts at two for Richard Fahey including the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere over the likes of Tin Horse and Moonlight Cloud.

Wins in a pair of lucrative sales races – the DBS Premier Yearling Stakes and Weatherbys Insurance £300,000 2yo Stakes – also contributed to an excellent first season for the colt in which he not only repaid his yearling price tag of £46,000 several times over but ensured Iffraaj ended 2010 as the overwhelming leader among that year's first-crop sires by earnings. As it was, Iffraaj dominated that year's list by number of winners as well.

Wootton Bassett went into winter quarters as a live Classic candidate but following a creditable fifth in the Poule d'Essai des Poulains on his seasonal debut, never showed the same juvenile sparkle. He ran three more times in Group 1 company but failed to trouble the judge, including when cut back to sprinting.

Unsurprisingly, he has imparted a degree of precocity to a number of his early runners. Almanzor was the pick of a first crop that included five juvenile winners while a similarly small second crop contains Hakeem, the wide-margin winner of a Nottingham maiden for Richard Hannon earlier in the year.

Yet while the ability to sire two-year-old winners is an imperative in gaining commercial respect, Almanzor is a great example of how a number of Wootton Bassett's progeny have improved from two to three. Another example is Do Re Mi Fa Sol, who was beaten only quarter of a length when third in the Prix de Malleret in July.

Wootton Bassett has a greater crop of 42 registered yearlings on the ground, bred in the season following the auction acceptance of his first foals; Etreham sent four foals by their stallion to the 2013 Arqana December Breeding Stock and were rewarded when they averaged €51,000 between them.

Almanzor was one of his sire's highlights in the ring, selling for €100,000 to Jean-Claude Rouget at the Arqana August Sale. Another feather in the cap to eye of his trainer, who also selected the ‘unfashionably bred' Le Havre as a yearling, he descends from a strong Aga Khan family that was originally in the hands of Marcel Boussac.

Almanzor's eighth dam, Pretty Lady, gifted the textile tycoon with Dynamiter, his dual winner of the Champion Stakes, and the unbeaten juvenile Abdos, now best remembered as the damsire of Darshaan.

Their half-sister, Dalama, won the Coupe de Maisons-Laffitte and although she left behind only three winners, today features as the ancestress of a host of Aga Khan luminaries through her Labus granddaughter Darazina. They include 1999 Prix de Diane heroine Daryaba and her daughter, 2009 Hong Vase winner Daryakana, in turn the dam of Prix Ganay winner Dariyan, a new recruit to Haras de Bonneval next season.

While that trio descends from Darazina via her Listed-winning daughter Darata, Almanzor is the latest celebrity to belong to the Daralinsha branch, also responsible in its time for champion Darjina and Prix du Jockey Club winner Darsi.

Prix Minerve winner Daralinsha, by Empery, left behind seven black-type performers, among them the Group 3-placed Darashandeh, the dam of Darsi, and Daralbayda, dam of Listed winner Darkara and granddam of Darjina.

Darkara initially did little to enhance the family as the dam of a single winner from eight foals, which explains her sale out of the Aga Khan Studs as well as the culling of her unraced Maria's Mon daughter Darkova. Nicolas de Chambure's Canirola Bloodstock picked up Darkova for just €16,000 at the 2011 Arqana December Sale and Almanzor is her first foal. He is followed by a sister, Troarn, who is with Rouget, and a yearling colt by Falco who realised €140,000 to Chantilly Bloodstock at the Arqana October Yearling Sale on Tuesday.

One trend of the season that might have caught several by surprise is the growing success of Maria's Mon mares in Europe. Maria's Mon was a strapping individual by Wavering Monarch who was a true dirt performer and influence, as illustrated by the fact that three of his own 18 winners in Britain and Ireland -Monzante, Infinite Spirit and Gaff – found a new level of form when switched to the surface in either the US or UAE.

Given that strong dirt profile, there can't be many foals out of Maria's Mon mares in training in Europe. Yet his daughters have made quite the impact this season as the dams of Usherette, her Listed-winning sister Show Day and French Listed winner Alignement in addition to Almanzor.

Air Force Blue is another high-profile performer of the past two seasons to boast Maria's Mon as a damsire, making him an influence to keep a close eye on in the future.

    Read More at Racing Post Bloodstock

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