LAST week’s back page advertisement in The Irish Field for Blue Point was particularly apt in light of the weekend happenings. Darley pointed out that the now retired three-time Group 1 Royal Ascot sprint winner is a son of Shamardal (Giant’s Causeway) who, with 139 stakes winners, has sired one more than Sadler’s Wells at the same age. Blue Point is set to join Shamardal at Kildangan Stud in 2010.
With 12% stakes winners to runners, Shamardal is one of the best sires in the world, and 2019 is proving to be something of an annus mirabilis for him. While Blue Point and the Group 1 Poule d’Essai des Pouliches winner Castle Lady have flown the flag for the older generations, it is his juveniles who have stolen much of the limelight. His son Earthlight extended his unbeaten run to four when he added the Group 1 Darley Prix Morny to his résumé and the Andre Fabre-trained colt is the best of his generation in France.
That achievement alone would make the season for almost any sire, but it was firmly eclipsed on Sunday at the Curragh when Pinatubo demolished the opposition when winning the Group 1 Goffs Vincent O’Brien National Stakes. This was a victory of seismic proportions and, given luck in training, we are probably witnessing the next racing superstar emerge.
This was victory number five in an unbeaten run for the Sheikh Mohammed home-bred, a sequence that started with a pair of six-furlong wins at Wolverhampton and in the Woodcote Stakes at Epsom, the latter a race that was downgraded a few years ago from listed status but is now ripe for an upgrade.
Making his third start in six weeks, next stop for Pinatubo was the seven-furlong Listed Chesham Stakes at Royal Ascot where he accounted for Lope Y Fernandez, a subsequent Group 3 winner, by more than three lengths. Five weeks later Pinatubo faced his sternest challenge when he contested the Group 2 Qatar Vintage Stakes at Goodwood and this time he had Lope Y Fernandez 10 lengths in arrears in third as he beat another subsequent Group 3 winner, Positive, by five lengths.
Stepping up to Group 1 class, who could have predicted that the colt would slam his opponents by nine lengths and more, a breath-taking performance that is up there with the best we have ever witnessed at this level?
What of the name Pinatubo? Well, a clue to its origin is to be found in some of the others winners in the family. Pinatubo is a volcanic mountain that erupted in June 1991, in the process becoming the second largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century. Situated 100 kilometres north-west of Manila city in the Philippines, it had previously been dormant for 400 years.
Sheikh Mohammed raced Pinatubo’s grandam Mount Elbrus (Barathea), named after a dormant volcano in the Caucasus Mountains in Southern Russia, near the border with Georgia and the tenth most prominent peak in the world. Bred by Michael Page, Mount Elbrus sold through Gaskyns Stud for 160,000gns as a yearling to John Ferguson, the highest priced filly of 1999 by the former Rathbarry stallion Barathea (Sadler’s Wells). She was sent to France and won the Listed Prix Petite Etoile at Saint-Cloud over 10 and a half furlongs.
The Group 1 Goffs Vincent O'Brien National Stakes winner Pinatubo \ Healy Racing
The first foal from Mount Elbrus was a colt, Strobilus (Mark Of Esteem), and he won two of his first three starts for Michael Jarvis. On his fourth, and last run as it happens, he was sent to Italy for the Group 1 Gran Criterium in Milan and was denied victory by just a short head, the race being won by the Mark Johnston-trained Kirklees, with Aidan O’Brien’s Chinese Whisper back in third.
Six years after the birth of Strobilus, along came the cleverly-named Lava Flow, a daughter of Dalakhani (Darshaan). She was put in training with Andre Fabre and raced just six times in all. Following an indifferent juvenile career, she raced three times in her second season and won twice, importantly annexing the 11-furlong Listed Prix de la Seine at Longchamp.
Sent to the breeding shed, Lava Flow visited Dubawi (Dubai Millennium) for her first couple of coverings, producing this year’s four-year-old French winning filly Antisana, and the three-year-old gelding Al Mureib who has been placed an incredible nine times in 11 outings so far.
What a different story is it with her third produce, Pinatubo, while he is followed by a yearling filly by Sea The Stars (Cape Cross) and a filly foal by Teofilo (Galileo).
Dalakhani mares visiting Shamardal are also responsible for Group 3 winner Taniyar, the 2018 listed winner and group-placed Global Giant, and the group-placed Balansiya.
The emergence of Pinatubo has breathed life into a branch of a female line that has made a significant impact on the world of breeding and racing. The current star juvenile’s third dam El Jazirah (Kris) did not run but there was never any doubt that her place at stud was assured.
Her full-sister was Rafha, winner of the Group 1 Prix de Diane Hermes and dam of Group 1 winning sprinter and leading sire Invincible Spirit (Green Desert), as well as another top sire in Kodiac (Danehill). For good measure, Rafha’s daughter Massarra (Danehill) bred last weekend’s stakes winning juvenile Blissful (Galileo), having previously produced four stakes winners including Group 1 winner Nayarara (Cape Cross) and Group 2 winner and Group 1-placed Gustav Klimt (Galileo).
El Jazirah’s Group 3 winning half-sister Chiang Mai (Sadler’s Wells) may have fallen sort of Group 1 class but her best daughter did succeed at that level. She was Dalakhani’s daughter Chinese White who won the Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh. That mare’s current two-year-old Misty Grey (Dark Angel) is stakes-placed.
Two more Group or Grade 1 winners appear in the immediate family. Yet another half-sister to El Jazirah to breed a winner at the highest level is the stakes-placed Australian runner Al Anood (Danehill) and her best offspring was the dual Group 1 winner Pride Of Dubai. Though Wosaita (Generous), also a half-sister, failed to win, she bred a couple of stakes winners and is grandam of Uni (More Than Ready), winner in December 2018 of the Grade 1 Matriarch Stakes.
Pinatubo’s future is one that will be followed with great interest and, in an era of outstanding runners, he is set fair to join the pantheon of greats.