How soon they forget. Generation after generation, the bloodstock in the pedigree of Jack Hobbs, winner of the Group 1 Irish Derby at the Curragh, have swapped residence from one side of the other. In the first five generations of the colt’s pedigree, nearly half of his ancestors were born in North America, including both parents. The others were born overseas.
That, in itself, is not so unusual. Although for the majority of the past 200 years, nearly all the transactions have been bloodstock coming over to North America from Europe, for the past 50 years, a serious subset of American-bred bloodstock has found its way the other direction.
With the withering examples of Derby and 2,000 Guineas winner Sir Ivor (by Sir Gaylord), the classic-winning sons of Ribot like Ribero and Ribocco, English Triple Crown winner Nijinsky (Northern Dancer), and the nearly invincible Mill Reef (Never Bend), winner of the Derby and the Arc de Triomphe, trade in racing prospects going into Europe became increasingly more desired and more expensive.
World record yearlings – with or without talent – that sold for $10 million and $13 million went to race in Europe, along with thousands of other prospects who cost far less.
A winner in three of his five starts, Jack Hobbs has lost only to English Derby winner Golden Horn (Cape Cross), to whom he was second in both the Derby and in the G2 Dante Stakes.
As a testament to the form and class of those races, Jack Hobbs won his first stakes and classic in the Irish Derby, when he finished five lengths ahead of Storm the Stars, a Kentucky-bred son of classic winner Sea the Stars out of Love Me Only (Sadler’s Wells) who had finished third behind Golden Horn and Jack Hobbs in the English Derby earlier this month.
Bred in England by Minster Stud, Jack Hobbs raced in the colors of Godolphin, which has had a close relationship to the colt’s sire Halling and broodmare sire Swain. Both raced for Godolphin, and Kentucky-bred Halling (Diesis) made his reputation in Europe, then crossed the pond to challenge multiple Horse of the Year Cigar for international dominance.
Riding an eight-race winning streak, Halling came to the 1995 Breeders’ Cup at Belmont with a massive reputation that matched his good looks. That effort didn’t work out for Halling because Cigar cruised around Big Sandy to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic by two and a half lengths, with Halling eased in the stretch.
That result was too bad to be real, and Godolphin tried again five months later in the Dubai World Cup. The result was the same. Cigar cruised home, and Halling could scarcely beat a snail. Good as Halling was at his preferred distance of 10 furlongs, he could not act on a dirt course and never raced on one again.
Retired to stud in 1997, Halling won five times at the G1 level on turf, and he has been a solid, if somewhat moderate, sire. Until Jack Hobbs came around, here in the 24th year of Halling’s life, none of the stallion’s offspring had been a patch on their illustrious sire.
Prior to Jack Hobbs, the best of them had been Cavalryman, winner of the G2 Goodwood Cup in 2014, and Opinion Poll, winner of the Goodwood Cup in 2011. The stallion also sired G1 winner Empoli (Preis von Europa).
Like Halling, the Irish Derby winner’s broodmare sire Swain had raced for Godolphin, winning the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes twice, the Coronation Cup, and the Irish Champion Stakes. In his final start, Swain was third in the 1998 Breeders’ Cup Classic behind leading sire Awesome Again (Deputy Minister).
For an outstanding racehorse, Swain has been a most disappointing sire.
His best include Dimitrova, who won the G1 Flower Bowl at Belmont and was third in the Irish 1,000 Guineas, and Nasheej, winner of the G2 May Hill Stakes at 2, then third in the G1 Coronation at 3.
Both Halling and Swain have a similar profile with their progeny. Their stock tend to be better with age and to need or require 10 furlongs or more to show their form.
While she wasn’t a top racer, Swain’s Gold, the dam of Jack Hobbs, won three of her four starts, including a minor stakes at Turf Paradise going an iconoclastic six and a half furlongs. In foal to classic winner Afleet Alex, Swain’s Gold sold through Mill Ridge Sales at the Keeneland January sale in 2007 for $180,000 to James Delahooke, agent, and the rest is history.
And in all regards, Jack Hobbs stands out as an exception to the stuffier trends in his ancestors. A winner at 2, the dark brown colt improved out of sight with a smashing effort in his 3-year-old début, then was the nearest competitor to what appears to be an above-average Derby winner in the unbeaten Golden Horn.
Should Jack Hobbs continue to improve, as his pedigree suggests he should, there is a world to conquer out there.
*This post was first published two weeks ago at Paulick Report.