The Irish-bred mare Zhukova turned the Grade 1 Man o’ War Stakes at Belmont Park into a procession with her six-length victory on Saturday (May 13). Rating in front over the soft course, Zhukova kicked for home with an impressive turn of foot and won the day.
The 5-year-old mare’s sire, Australian champion Fastnet Rock, proved a top-end racer due to his speed, and his stallion career has been marked by the capacity to produce individuals who can race effectively and produce speed at some point in a race.
They are not, however, limited to sprints. Both Fastnet Rock and his sire Danehill (by Danzig) were rated “sprinters” because of their exceptional speed, and Fastnet Rock was an Australian highweight of that division.
Typically to become top sires, however, sprinters need to sire stock that does more than sprint, and in that both Fastnet Rock and Danehill, as well as the fabled Northern Dancer stallion Danzig, all excelled far outside the norms and expectations of breeders.
In the case of Fastnet Rock, he has 114 stakes winners to date, predominantly in Australia but increasingly around the world as those opportunities come to the horse.
In addition to G1 winners Down Under like Atlantic Jewel (Caulfield Guineas and three other G1s), Awesome Rock (Mackinnon Stakes), Catchy (Blue Diamond Stakes), Planet Rock (New Zealand Bloodstock 1,000 Guineas), and Mosheen (Australian Oaks, among four G1s), Fastnet Rock has spread his influence around the globe.
In South Africa, the robust dark bay stallion has been represented by G1 winners Driefontein (Sangster Stakes) and Lone Rock (Goodwood Handicap). The G1 winners for Fastnet Rock in Ireland are Intricately (Moyglare Stud Stakes), in England are Diamondsandrubies (Pretty Polly), Fascinating Rock (Champion Stakes), Qualify (Oaks), and Rivet (Racing Post Trophy, also third on Saturday in the French 2,000 Guineas); and in the States we have Zhukova.
It is also worth noting that every one of the stallion’s Northern Hemisphere G1 winners are out of mares by Northern Dancer line stallions, and Intricately, Qualify, Rivet, and Zhukova are out of mares by Galileo.
That is the way that Fastnet Rock himself is bred. He is a grandson of Northern Dancer’s son Danzig and is out of Piccadilly Circus, a mare who is a granddaughter of Northern Dancer’s son Nijinsky, the last winner of the English Triple Crown.
Piccadilly Circus is a G3 winner by Royal Academy (Nijinsky), winner of the G1 Breeders’ Cup Mile at Belmont and a good sire. The mare is a full sister to G3 winner Raheeb. Both are out of the Australian listed stakes winner Gatana (Marauding), who was also second in the G1 Newmarket Handicap.
This is not a “stallion” pedigree of the sort that stallion managers covet, but there are some useful animals past the first couple generations, and the female line traces to a half-sister of 1941 2,000 Guineas winner Lambert Simnel (Fair Trial).
More to the point, there is no getting around the fact that Fastnet Rock is a very good sire and continues to prove it.
A few hours prior to Zhukova’s G1 success on Saturday, the 4-year-old Fastnet Rock filly Turret Rocks won the G3 Blue Wind Stakes at the Currah, and she is out of a Galileo mare.
Already G1-placed, Turret Rocks is being aimed for the Yorkshire Oaks later this year, where she may have to contend with Zhukova.
The latter was bred in Ireland by Mrs. C.L. Weld, the mother of trainer Dermot Weld, and the late Mrs. Weld is also the breeder of Zhukova’s dam, Nightime. The latter is a daughter of Galileo and won the 2006 Irish 1,000 Guineas.
So highly was Zhukova regarded that the filly passed out of the ring unsold for 540,000 guineas (upwards of $1 million) as a yearling at the Tattersalls October sale in 2013.
Racing for owner John Murrell, Zhukova won the 2016 renewal of the Blue Wind Stakes for her first group success, then added the Kilternan Stakes later in the season. Now the winner of a G1 and 7 of 10 lifetime starts, Zhukova has total earnings of $479,310 and a value that stands considerably higher.
Nightime has a 2-year-old colt named Pitch Dark (Dubawi) who brought 1.1 million guineas as a weanling at Goffs November sale in 2015, and the mare has a yearling filly by Zoffany.