Last Lion shows Stack is not just a top trainer
The Last Lion: Group 1 winner is out of the Brief Truce mare Mala Mala
PICTURE: Getty Images Last Lion shows Stack is not just a top trainer
By Nancy Sexton 2:52PM 29 SEP 2016
TOMMY STACK'S retirement naturally evokes memories of Red Rum, whom he partnered to Grand National victory in 1977, as well as his Classic-winning fillies Las Meninas and Tarascon. But, like plenty others in the training game, he also dipped his toe into racehorse breeding – and did so with great success.
The Last Lion, whose brave win in Saturday's Middle Park Stakes came just a day before Stack announced his retirement from training, is the second Group 1-winning two-year-old in three years to boast a connection to the Stack family following The Wow Signal, the Prix Morny and Coventry Stakes winner of 2014.
While The Wow Signal was bred solely by Liz Stack out of Muravka, The Last Lion was bred in partnership with Barronstown Stud, themselves in the midst of a purple patch thanks to fellow Pattern scorers Simple Verse and Toulifaut. Incidentally, both horses boast a connection to Choisir – The Last Lion is a ninth Group 1 winner by the stallion, now a permanent resident in Australia, while The Wow Signal was one of the first good horses sired by his son Starspangledbanner, whose early years at stud were beset by fertility problems.
One of the most admirable campaigners of the season, The Last Lion has been true to type in that he descends from a family noted for its two-year-old success. His sixth dam, for example, is Ballisland, the joint-champion two-year-old filly of 1948 by virtue of wins in the Cherry Hinton Stakes and Seaton Delaval Plate.
One of her daughters, Ballynulta, became an important mare for Lionel Holliday as the dam of 1964 Lowther Stakes winner Pugnacity, herself dam of 1977 Benson & Hedges Gold Cup winner Relkino and ancestress of Muhaarar.
The Last Lion descends from Ballisland's Alycidon daughter, La Marsellaise, and fittingly is a product of a family that has served the Stacks well for a number of years.
Fourth dam Cake also filled the same role in the background of Myboycharlie, who was saddled by Stack to win the 2007 Prix Morny and Anglesey Stakes. The Cake family also features as the backbone to a number of high-class two-year-olds, among them 1988 William Hill Futurity winner Al Hareb and 2014 Norfolk Stakes winner Baitha Alga.
Cake's 1980 filly by Prince Tenderfoot, Molokai, scored at only a minor level but as the younger sister to 1975 Fillies Mile winner Icing, dam of Al Hareb, she was afforded her share of chances at stud. Molokai left behind three foals in Ireland for Swettenham and Barronstown Stud before heading to Australasia, where she foaled the Listed-placed Serene Look. One of those Irish foals turned out to be Breyani, a tough campaigner for Stack who won four races and finished in the first four in another nine of 14 starts.
In turn, she went on to provide Stack with one of the best fillies of his training career in Tarascon, partnered by a 17-year-old Jamie Spencer to victory in the 1998 Irish 1,000 Guineas.
One of the best performers sired by Tirol during his time with Coolmore, Tarascon later foaled High Award, Holy Roman Emperor's first winner who was bred by Stack in partnership with Jane Rowlinson and saddled by the trainer to win the 2010 Woodcote Stakes. She is also the granddam of the Grade 3-placed Sikara, another bred by Stack.
Mark Johnston also knows this family well having trained Tarascon's half-brother Mister Monet to win the 2004 Prix Guillaume d'Ornano. The son of Peintre Celebre was on a four-race winning streak when he suffered a fatal injury in that year's Champion Stakes.
Now, through The Last Lion, Johnston has his Group 1 winner out of this family. The colt, bought by his trainer for €82,000 from Glenvale Stud at the Goffs Orby Sale, is also another feather in the cap for his dam Mala Mala, for whom he is one of four stakes runners from ten foals.
Trained by Stack to run third in the 2000 Moyglare Stud and Cheveley Park Stakes, Mala Mala foaled the Listed-winning sprinter Contest to Danehill Dancer in her second year at stud and another Listed-winning sprinter, Russian Rock, to Rock Of Gibraltar in her fifth. She is also the dam of Horizon Sky, a stakes-placed sprinter in the US by Duke Of Marmalade. In fact, only one of her eight winners, the Montjeu gelding Laughing Jack, has won beyond 7f.
The Last Lion is a member of Choisir's ninth European crop bred in 2013, which was his first Irish season back following a short hiatus from shuttling. He hasn't returned to Ireland since 2014, when he covered 85 mares at a fee of €12,500, and although that particular crop has proven popular at the recent yearling sales – he returned an average of £52,167 at the Goffs UK Premier Sale and €35,333 at the Tattersalls Ireland September Sale – he probably remains of greater use in Australia, where he is responsible for six Group 1 winners and commands A$29,700 as a result. The son of Danehill Dancer is also not a young horse at 17 years old.
Of course, European breeders do have access to one of his best sons in Starspangledbanner, the sire of seven stakes winners, including The Wow Signal, Anthem Alexander and Spangled, from a first crop of just 33 foals. With that in mind, breeders will no doubt welcome a similarly tough second son of Choisir when the time comes for The Last Lion to head to stud.