The following post first appeared earlier this week at Paulick Report.
The winner of the Queen’s Plate at Woodbine racetrack in Canada was cheering news both for two-turn horses as sires, and also for turf performers, as the sire of winner Strait of Dover is champion turf horse English Channel.
Both English Channel and his sire, Smart Strike, stand at Lane’s End Farm outside Versailles, Ky., and both have made a mark for themselves as sires of horses who perform with distinction going a middle distance or beyond. A repeat leading sire in North America, Smart Strike also has shown the ability to get offspring with a high turn of speed, such as Vosburgh winner Fabulous Strike.
In 2007, the year that Fabulous Strike won the Vosburgh, English Channel won a trio of G1 stakes, all at 10 to 12 furlongs on turf, and earned the Eclipse Award as outstanding turf male after his victory in the Breeders’ Cup Turf.
A third star of 2007 for Smart Strike was Curlin, the year’s champion 3-year-old colt and Horse of the Year. Winner of the Preakness and Breeders’ Cup Classic that season, Curlin repeated as division leader and Horse of the Year in 2008.
Standing initially at Hurricane Hall before moving to Lane’s End, English Channel went to stud a year before Curlin, and the Queen’s Plate winner comes from the first crop by English Channel. The improvement that the English Channel stock have shown as they matured into their 3-year-old form is marked, with three stakes winners and four stakes-placed, and the results for English Channel may indicate how breeders and buyers should evaluate the prospects for Curlin: winners at 2, followed by great progress at 3.
Strait of Dover is unbeaten at 3, has notably improved as the distances have stretched out, and was the most comfortable horse going 10 furlongs on the synthetic at Woodbine. The dark bay colt set a new track mark (as distinguished from the stakes record set on dirt) of 2:01.99 for the distance.
Now the winner of four races from seven starts, Strait of Dover is the best produce to date of his dam, the Danzig mare Bahrain Star. She is a daughter of the beautifully pedigreed Antigua Rose, a product of Paul Mellon’s Rokeby Stud by the great English-based racer and sire Mill Reef (bred in Virginia by Mellon) and out of the English highweight racemare Rose Bowl, by the high-class miler and sire Habitat. In addition to winning the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes twice, Rose Bowl also stretched her speed to victory in the Champion Stakes at Newmarket.
The dam of three stakes winners herself, Rose Bowl was out of the outstanding racer and producer Roseliere (Misti), who was the best filly of her year at 3, winning the Prix de Diane and Prix Vermeille, and then became the dam of four stakes winners, including Rose Bowl and the outstanding racer Ile de Bourbon (Nijinsky), winner of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes and Coronation Cup.
Outstanding as her pedigree was, Antigua Rose was much of a disappointment. Twice a winner on the racecourse in England, she sold for 240,000 guineas at the Newmarket December sales in 1988 and was acquired for the breeding band of Ed Cox Jr., who bred Bahrain Star. Unfortunately, Antigua Rose did not produce a stakes horse, but Bahrain Star now has two stakes winners and a pair of stakes-producing daughters.
An RNA for $120,000 as a Keeneland July yearling in 1992, Bahrain Star sold as a 9-year-old broodmare in 2000 for $135,000 at the Keeneland January sale in foal to leading sire Red Ransom. Ten months later, she was a $70,000 RNA at the Keeneland November sale on a cover to Woodman. When offered for sale two years later at Keeneland November in foal to Smart Strike, the mare was hammered down for $27,000 to the Canyon Farms of Wally and Terry Leong of Kelowna, British Columbia.
The Leongs have been racing and breeding for three decades, mostly in the western provinces of Canada, but they struck gold with Bahrain Star from the start. The foal the mare was carrying became her first stakes winner, Starlite Strike, who won the Northlands Oaks.
The Queen’s Plate winner is the second stakes winner for Bahrain Star, and he is the third stakes winner for his sire. Judging from the rate of improvement in the stock by English Channel, there are more to come.