Thoroughbred breeding is full of champion stallions whose race careers could be described as a shade inconsistent and we have to look no further than the great Nasrullah and closer to home the likes of Oncidium and Hermes to know that they were very high class on their day, but very frustrating, no doubt, to their connections.
Such a one may have been the new sire in Northland, the very handsome and scopy PURE CHAMPION. The Irish-bred, now eight years old to northern time and then named Steinbeck, started on a long race career with a successful juvenile debut at Naas.
Trainer Aidan O’Brien thought a fair bit of him as he did not race again for five months until fourth in the Gr. 1 Newmarket Dewhurst Stakes, a race traditionally contested by the best of the Ballydoyle two-year-olds. The following season he commenced with a fourth to Canford Cliffs in the Gr. 1 Irish 2000 Guineas, but next up disappointed at Royal Ascot followed by a second in the Gr. 3 Leopardstown Meld Stakes and an abortive foray across the Atlantic.
Back in Ireland only a couple of weeks later he scored in a Listed race and then won the Gr. 3 Curragh Solonaway Stakes over a mile, thus concluding his European career.
Four months later, having been sold to Hong Kong, he reappeared with a new name for Tony Cruz and over the next year he had a dozen starts in a variety of races from HK-Gr. 1 downwards, winning just a minor 1800 metres and being second twice including a second in the Gr. 2 HKJC Jockey Club Cup to Thumbs Up.
It was much the same story as a five-year-old, starting with a HK-3 win in the HKJC January Cup over 1800 metres, second in the HK-3 HKJC Centenary Vase, third in the Gr. 2 HKJC Jockey Club Mile and fourth in the HK-1 Hong Kong Gold Cup to Ambitious Dragon.
A similar pattern was set by the now six-year-old entire, this time winning the Centenary Vase from Dan Excel, then second in the HK-1 Hong Kong Gold Cup and third in the HK-2 Chairman’s Trophy, but after that his form was indifferent in Hong Kong, albeit in good company. He had received the high World Thoroughbred Ratings of 117 at both five and six years and 115 at seven years. And so he came to New Zealand for grass to work its usual miracle.
Now co-trained by former champion jockey Lance O’Sullivan for members of his family, he caught the eye first-up when just over a length third to I Do and Pussy O’Reilly in the Gr. 1 Makfi Challenge Stakes. Three weeks later in the Gr. 1 Windsor Park Plate he turned the tables on I Do to score an impressive victory with such as Soriano, Sacred Star, Zonza, Nashville, Costume, Pussy O’Reilly, Shuka and Veyron behind.
His next two starts were anti-climactic, beating himself by over-racing, but just prior to Christmas he was impressive in defeating Diademe in the Gr. 3 Manawatu Challenge Stakes. His final start in the Gr. 1 Thorndon Mile was ruined by racing keenly once again from a very wide draw. He retired as winner of eight of his 50 starts for earnings equivalent to just under NZ$2 million and his form shows that he was best at around a mile although he could stay a little further when everything went right.
Pure Champion’s sire is the unbeaten Footstepsinthesand, who won his only two starts at two years and then scored in the Gr. 1 English 2000 Guineas against a field that included Dubawi, but was injured in the process and never ran again. A largely unproductive stint on the shuttle to Australia followed and he stood in Ireland and latterly shuttled to Argentina.
He has had 44 stakes winners so far including Argentine champion miler and older mare Infiltrada, champion Irish miler Chachamaidee (Gr. 1 Leopardstown Matron S.) and Italian Group One winner Shamalgan. Four other stakes winners including Chachamaidee have been out of mares by the great sire and broodmare sire Danehill, who is also our subject’s damsire.
The granddamsire is a much less usual one to find in pedigrees these days. With an Annual Timeform Rating of 137, Grundy was a great racehorse almost 40 years ago, winning the English 2000 Guineas and Derby, Irish Derby and King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes, but at stud he was a relative failure with just 13 stakes winners of which three won at Group One level, including Oaks winner Bireme (a close relative of Pure Champion) and the Ascot Gold Cup winner Little Wolf. He doubled his stakes winner total as a broodmare sire, although only the Adelaide Cup winner Water Boatman (also from Pure Champion’s family) won at elite level.
This is the No. 11 female line, well known here through the deeds of such as the good sires Hermes and Sea Anchor and in Australia through Buoy. It traces to the Ribot mare Ripeck, the Big Game mare Kyak and the Nearco mare Felucca – this latter being an important facet of the entire’s pedigree. The family through a number of generations was developed by Dick Hollingsworth.
The dam of Pure Champion is Castara Beach (Danehill), who has left three winners including Italian stakes placegetter Varenka. She is half-sister to six winners including stakes winners Water Boatman and Hill Hopper (Gr. 3 Newmarket Criterion S.; dam of Nannina, won Gr. 1 Newmarket Fillies Mile and Royal Ascot Coronation S.).
Granddam Sea Harrier (Grundy) was also a non-winner but was half-sister to five winners including Sea Anchor. Their dam Anchor won the Gr. 3 Newmarket Nell Gwyn Stakes and was also ancestress of a number of stakes winners including Cavalry, Star Pupil, Fenomeno, Jessicabeel and the Hong Kong Horse of the Year
The family further back is full of class including Buoy, Bireme, Talent (2013 Oaks),Good Faith, Daffodil, Mail The Desert, Dash For Cash, Ark Royal, Longboat, Bolas, Sharp Edge, Cut Above and Force Ten – all elite winners.
Pure Champion’s extended chart reveals two different patterns
on the sire’s and dam’s side of the equation. The sire of Footstepsinthesand, the tough Giant’s Causeway, is outcrossed and bred on a Northern Dancer/Blushing Groom combination, whilst his dam Glatisant has Blushing Groom over Northern Dancer with a daughter of Raise A Native to provide the balancing nick.
The closely related Storm Bird and Nijinsky also appear in the fourth and fifth removes, which invites the addition of The Minstrel in his mates. Footstepsinthesand is balanced line-bred to Native Dancer, Bull Page and Spy Song.
On the distaff side Danehill is bred on the Northern Dancer/Ribot nick and is inbred to Natalma. Castara Beach is strongly reinforced by the female line of Ribot through her third dam Ripeck, which provides a rare enough sex balance of Tesio’s finest masterpiece. She has other sex balances through Hyperion and Nearco.
Pure Champion is indeed very strongly influenced by Nearco, with 10 lines on the sire’s side alone plus five more on the distaff side including female lines through Felucca and Grundy’s sire Great Nephew, whose granddam is by Nearco out of Sister Sarah (therefore a very close relative of Nearctic). Other sex-balanced line-breeding is to Natalma (4 lines), Native Dancer (5), Wild Risk (3), Menow and Hyperion (7).
To add further sex balance we might look for male lines of Danehill, Rahy, Roberto, Rainbow Quest, Green Dancer, Grey Sovereign, Raise A Native, Major Portion and Worden (or Wilkes), and daughters of Northern Dancer, Storm Bird, Storm Cat, Giant’s Causeway and Danzig, also Nijinsky, Red God, Nasrullah and Court Martial.
So which among the younger broodmare sires might suit Totara’s fine looker, who was victorious in at least one good race every season from two to seven years? Obviously Danehill male line sires will suit him, especially Redoute’s Choice’s sons, and breeders need have no fear of inbreeding here, as I can think of no safer vehicle to which inbreeding could be made.
Replication of the breeding patterns noted above seems always to give one the chance of breeding a superior runner. Individual potential broodmare sires that I particularly liked included Captain Rio, Falkirk, City On A Hill, Scaredee Cat and Howbaddouwantit. Others that had something extra were Align, Any Suggestion, Ekraar, Electronic Zone, Golan, Gold Mine, Iffraaj, Keeninsky, Keeper, No Excuse Needed, Perfectly Ready, Postponed and Thorn Park.
Breeders would do well to give this horse their serious attention – he is a grand type with size and scope, considerable ability at ideal distances for a sire, being a stiff miler who can impart both speed and ‘stickability’, has proved very sound and has an excellent pedigree coming from a tried and true distaff line.
Footstepsinthesand x Castara Beach (Danehill)
From the Northern Dancer line stallion Footstepsinthesand out of a Danehill mare, this stunning individual boasts a truly international pedigree.
Pure Champion is a black type winner in Europe, Asia and New Zealand and winner of close to $2 million in stakes money throughout his illustrious career.
A quality stallion with pedigree and international performance, a Pure Champion.
This is a serious horse. Local breeders will remember his dominant front-running display in the Group 1 Windsor Park Plate but some may not be aware that this attractive son of Footstepsinthesand was also successful in Group company in both Ireland and Hong Kong.