The following story was published earlier this week at PaulickReport.com.
BUENOS AIRES – At Saturday’s races for Las Estrellas (Breeders’ Cup equivalent) at Palermo racetrack in the city here, Kentucky shuttle sires Bernstein and Pure Prize sired winners of distinction that will make Storm Cat and his branch of the Northern Dancer line increasingly powerful in South American breeding.
But the biggest lick of all came from the Danzig branch of Northern Dancer though a grandson of Lure, who was twice a winner of the Breeders’ Cup Mile.
The 4-year-old Lignote de Oro won the Estrellas Classic at 2,000 meters (about 10 furlongs) and established his sire Orpen as one of the most consistent sires of speed and class among the vast roster of stallions now on the international shuttle to Argentina.
Once an ornament of the vast Coolmore operation in Ireland, Orpen was sold to stand at Haras du Thenney in France after beginning his stud career well but not spectacularly in Ireland.
Then he was marketed as a shuttle stallion for South America and picked up to fill a desire for more Northern Dancer blood among Argentine breeders. As a beautifully balanced and very high-quality horse, Orpen has the type of physique that can add polish to the rangy and frequently rugged South American stock.
Certainly, that is the case with the very handsome Lignote de Oro.
In the walking ring at Palermo, the bay showed great balance and was well composed. Of medium size at about 16 hands, Lignote de Oro has very good width across the loins and impressive depth through the shoulder. His large gaskin and smooth, elastic walk indicate he has both the power to position himself in a race and the athleticism to perform over a variety of surfaces and distances.
The winner of a pair of consecutive Group 1 races going into the Classic, Lignote de Oro had proven himself one of the best horses in South America this year. Among his competitors was Don Valiente, a 3-year-old son of Orpen who had won this year’s Group 1 Polla de Potrillos at 1,600 meters (roughly a mile).
That pair of colts, along with numerous other good performers like the Estrellas Distaff contender Malpensa, had made their sire Orpen the toast of the shuttle sires because they were winning on turf and dirt. And this year’s Classic was being run on the outer sand course at Palermo, rather than the turf course at San Isidro.
If the race had been carded for turf, then the 7-year-old Life of Victory (twice a winner of the Classic) would have been at much shorter odds, as the Argentine handicappers believe he is better on turf.
In the flesh, Life of Victory stands a good hand taller than Lignote de Oro but is half as broad. The tall, tough chestnut is a son of the important Argentine stallion Incurable Optimist (by Cure the Blues), who stands year round at Haras El Paraiso.
In the Classic, the finish was exciting. Lignote de Oro had used his strength and agility to secure a good position in the race and took the lead while racing on the outside as the field turned into the stretch.
Meanwhile, Life of Victory was surrounded by slow horses going nowhere. He had to angle out on the turn, race nine wide into the stretch, and then take a shot at the leader as he zoomed off through the stretch.
Life of Victory made a game race of the Classic, gaining to the end and finishing a bit more than a length off the winner in good time on a track not quickened by the light, cool mist that settled over the picturesque racetrack.
The successes for Lignote de Oro and his sire Orpen must rank as among the more improbable in breeding. Mostly because Orpen’s sire Lure was as short on fertility as a sire as he had been long on natural ability during his grand racing career.
Bred and raced by Claiborne Farm, Lure went to stud with fanfare after his long and distinguished racing career that included two victories in the BC Mile, as well as victory in the United Nations at 10 furlongs. That was really as far as Lure stayed, and he needed firm turf to get that distance, although the handsome bay acted on any surface at his preferred distance of a mile.
Beset with dozens of super-select broodmares for his initial book, Lure proved a grim reminder of the uncertainties of breeding. He was nearly sterile, getting only a handful of foals from his first crop. As a result, the insurer Generali paid off on the horse and then sold him to Coolmore, where Lure had great hopes and got darned few foals.
Coolmore got the best of the lot in Orpen, and he has found his best spot as a sire in the breeding and racing environment of Argentina.