By Frances J. Karon
I’ve written previously about the 2019 first-season sires in the US, where American Pharoah is the leader by progeny earnings and stakes horses (11), and is the co-leader by number of SWs with four, tied with Constitution (second on the list overall), Competitive Edge (third), and Race Day (fourth). Although he is one GSW behind Constitution’s tally of 4 GSWs, American Pharoah has enough of an earnings advantage — nearly $700,000 — that he is a virtual lock to add a new accolade to his résumé.
The first-season sire race in Europe has been far less competitive than its American counterpart, with one standout producing more 2yo SWs in his first crop than such predecessors as recent year-end leaders Frankel (six) and No Nay Never (six), or the current hot sire Kingman (five). That’s Darley’s Night of Thunder, a son of Dubawi standing at Kildangan Stud in Ireland, who has sired seven SWs (and 11 total stakes horses) from just 87 foals. Among these SWs are 3 GSWs: Night Colours-G2 (dam by Green Desert) in Italy, Pocket Square-G3 (Dansili) in France, and Under the Stars-G3 (Invincible Spirit) in the UK. His nearest rivals — Due Diligence, Gleneagles, and Make Believe — each have 3 SWs.
Night of Thunder is the latest chapter in what has turned out to be a remarkable story, notable for the “what might have been” surrounding his grandsire Dubai Millennium (Seeking the Gold). First in nine of 10 career starts, Sheikh Mohammed’s homebred won the Prix Jacques Le Marois, Queen Elizabeth II, Dubai World Cup by six lengths, and Royal Ascot’s Prince of Wales’s by eight, racing from two (when David Loder trained him in his only start) to four (for Saeed bin Suroor). A condylar fracture ended his racecourse days prematurely and he retired to Dalham Hall Stud in Newmarket for a £100,000 fee in 2001, but on April 21st, about two-and-a-half months into his only covering season, grass sickness struck Dubai Millennium. He was euthanized just over a week later.
The abbreviated stud career of Dubai Millennium yielded 56 foals in 2002, of which five (9%) became SWs. Dubawi, winner of three G1s — the National at two and Classic Irish 2,000 Guineas and Prix Jacques Le Marois at three — was his only winner at that level. Echo of Light was a G2SW and Belenus a G3SW.
But it was enough. One horse, Dubawi (dam by Deploy), more than sufficed to establish Dubai Millennium’s male line. Dubawi has sired 180 SWs (12%) and has already made a name for himself as a sire of sires. Five of Dubawi’s six sons that have sired SWs have at least one GSW: Al Kazeem, who has been subfertile; Makfi (a 2,000 Guineas winner who is now in Japan); Night of Thunder; Poet’s Voice; and Postponed. All these stallions bar Night of Thunder have at least one G1SW, and it is still only very early days for Night of Thunder. And I would be remiss not to point out that Make Believe, the French Classic winner who sits in fourth place on the European first season sires’ list by number of SWs, is a son of Makfi, by Dubawi. He stands at Ballylinch Stud in Ireland and is represented by two GSWs.
Now, US breeders, take note, because Claiborne Farm in Paris, Kentucky, has a son of Dubawi on its 2020 roster.
British-bred Demarchelier is the only SW by his sire at stud in the US. A 425,000 guineas (roughly $590,000 USD) Tattersalls yearling purchase by Peter Brant’s White Birch Farm, Demarchelier broke his maiden in his first start at two, going 1 1/16-miles on the turf, before winning a 1 1/16-mile turf allowance at Keeneland in April of his 3yo year and the G3 Pennine Ridge (nine furlongs on the turf) that June. Trained by Chad Brown, he started as second favorite — behind a horse he’d defeated twice — in the G1 Belmont Derby but was pulled up by Javier Castellano when the rider felt him take a bad step. (FYI, the first two places in the Belmont Derby were filled by horses he beat in the Pennine Ridge.) He retires to Claiborne with a record of 3 wins in 4 starts, and will cover mares for $5,000.
Demarchelier was produced from a Sadler’s Wells full sister to Classic winner Yesterday and G1SW Quarter Moon. Bred on a similar cross to, among many others, Night of Thunder (whose dam is by Galileo, by Sadler’s Wells), Demarchelier will have access to mares by fellow Claiborne sire War Front, whose Danzig sire line is responsible for the broodmare sires of all three GSWs sired by Night of Thunder to date.