After you've filled up on Northern Dancer where do you go?

Discussion in 'Horse Racing' started by Bustino74, May 24, 2016.

  1. Bustino74

    Bustino74 Thouroughbred Breed Enthusiast

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    In this relatively quiet period between the Curragh and Epsom something to put you to sleep.

    Most people who know a bit about thoroughbred breeding know that all thoroughbreds trace back to three arab stallions imported into England in the late 17th Century/early 18th century. The first to be brought in, The Byerley (sometimes written as Byerly) Turk, was a true War-Horse and was ridden by his owner (Robert Byerley) at the Battle of the Boyne. In the following 30 years he was followed by The Godolphin Arabian and The Darley Arabian. Today nearly 95% of TB horses are descended through their sire line to the last of these three stallions. It wasn’t always like this.

    If you go to the Racehorse Museum in Newmarket you can purchase a poster of Prominent Sire Lines in Europe. It portrays a wheel of stallions emanating out from the original three. I’m looking at one right now that I purchased in about 2006 and it’s much out of date already. But the first thing that hits you is the large bottom segment that has the words Northern Dancer (ND) written. I’m sure if I bought today’s chart that segment would be bigger still.

    The first I knew of ND was 1970 and the Triple Crown winner Nijinsky. Back then the sexiest stallion was Ribot. Not far behind was Crepello and Bold Ruler. The new kid on the block was Sea Bird, but he was not to be a champion sire. Hyperion’s son Aureole was still highly regarded but at the end of his breeding life. Sir Gaylord was appearing more and more after the success of Sir Ivor and Habitat. Soon they were joined by Mill Reef’s sire Never Bend. But ND eventually eclipsed them all. Over the next 15 years Nijinsky was followed by Lyphard, The Minstrel, Danzig, Storm Bird, Nureyev and Sadlers Wells amongst many others. Many of these sons became fine sires but that was especially the case with Danzig and Sadlers Wells. The favourite nick (or chosen blend of sires and damsires) of the moment is to breed a grandson (or great grandson) of Danzig with a daughter of Galileo, or vice versa, and this nick has been incredibly successful. The two 2016 UK classic winners are examples of this nick with Galileo Gold being by a great grandson of Danzig (in this case Paco Boy) out of a Galileo mare (so only inbred 5 X 4 to ND) and Minding being a daughter of Galileo out of a mare whose sire is a grandson of Danzig: so Minding is inbred 3 X 5 to ND.

    This is not particularly close inbreeding and inbreeding to ND seems to be a good thing. But how far can you go with it and should breeders be worried. One of the complicating problems here is that successful stallions cover far more mares than they used to and that two sons of Danzig have been almost as good as their father as a sire of sires: they are of course Green Desert and Danehill. Their success has further reinforced the dominance of the ND sire line. Just think of Green Desert: he has Invincible Spirit (who has sired Lawman, Zebedee and Kingman amongst others), he has sired Oasis Dream (who has sired Showcasing and Power amongst others), he has sired Cape Cross (who has sired Sea the Stars and Golden Horn) and he has sired Paco Boy’s sire Desert Style. That’s a powerful array of sires. You can look at Danehill in the same way and if anything it’s even more impressive in terms of sire sons even if not in terms of grandsons. These two are sires of sires par excellence but continually use them over each other and soon the danger is the gene pool will weaken. If that is a real danger where do you go to avert it.

    There are other good stallions at the moment. Let’s look at Sharmadal who is by Giant’s Causeway and whom you would consider an out cross to Danzig line mares. Except that Giant’s Causeway is a great grandson of ND (through his son Storm Bird). So how about Acclamation or his son Dark Angel? Well Acclamation is again a great, great grandson of ND (through his son Try my Best). With Pivotal you have the same thing as he is a great grandson of ND (through his son Nureyev). Even closer to ND through his son Nureyev is Arakan who is still at stud and has Dick Turpin and (probably) Toormore to represent him. But can you see any of these three being the sire of the future? These semi-outcrosses will be used but the dominance of ND blood is undeniable.

    So let’s look at the Sire wheel I talked of and go in two rings. You get to ND’s grandsire and it is the ‘big daddy’ Nearco. On my sire wheel 50% of the sires trace back on their father’s side to Nearco. So what of these other Nearco lines? The first is Dante who seemed to be developing a strong line through his son (Darius) and grandson (Derring Do) to give us Dominion and High Top and High Top’s son Top Ville. But it then all seemed to dissipate so that this is no longer a good sire-line. Nearco had another fine son in Royal Charger. His son Turn-to sired two good sires in Hail to Reason and Sir Gaylord. The latter sired Sir Ivor who established a good sire line (Sir Tristram/Zabeel) but in Australia. He also sired Habitat who got many wonderful fillies/mares but not a decent sire son. Hail to Reason got Roberto who got quite a few sons but it all seems down to Big Bad Bob and Intikhab (now retired) now and it is odds against they’ll persist. One sire line that might persist is through Hail to Reason’s grandson Tagula. His son Canford Cliffs has his 2nd crop representing him this season and after a very reasonable first crop it is to be hoped the Royal Charger line carries on through him.

    Fortunately Nearco had another fine son who was probably the best of his sons and definitely the best sire. That son was Nasrullah and his sire line has done well but probably needs a bit of support today. Nasrullah soon established multiple sires around the world. Here are a few: Bold Ruler (who had 2 Bold Lads and Secretariat), Princely Gift (who got Faberge, who got Rheingold) and Grey Sovereign who got the Zeddaan (Kalamoun, Kenmare, Kendor and Highest Honor sire lines) and Fortino (who got Caro and Cozzene). Unfortunately these sire- lines have lost their power.

    One important Nasrullah line is through his grandson Blushing Groom and he had Rainbow Quest, Nashwan, Groom Dancer and Rahy. There is no obvious son of Nashwan to carry on his line, it is the same for Groom Dancer and while one can’t deny the influence of Rainbow Quest through his daughters he didn’t quite get a son good enough to carry on the line. Today the Rahy/Blushing Groom line looks very much in the hands of the French sire Le Havre (by Rahy’s son Noverre) who again started promisingly and was the leading 1st Season Sire in 2013. He just needs to get a good son. He truly is an outcross for ND as he has none of his blood in his first 6 generations and only one line in his 7th. A new sire of interest has to be Lesroidesanimeaux (a grandson of Blushing Groom) who has his first European crop race next year.

    Which leaves Nasrullah’s son Never Bend: who in quick succession had two outstanding sons in Europe. The second of these was Riverman who looked as if he’d be a fine sire when Irish River came along but the line wilted. The first was the mighty Mill Reef, who sank the idea that Derby winners didn’t get Derby winners. His best sons were Shirley Heights (who got Slip Anchor and Darshaan), Doyoun (who got Daylami) and Reference Point who died young. Darshaan, like Rainbow Quest, has had a huge influence on the modern thoroughbred but has not quite got there as a sire of sires. It’s getting a bit late for his son Dalakhani as he is now aged 16 (again a total outcross for ND mares). The other possibility is Sir Percy who is by Darshaan’s son Mark of Esteem who gets winners but is not sent the best mares. It would be a tragedy if the never Bend sire line died out for the want of opportunity.

    So now we go two rings in on the sire wheel and you get to Phalaris (if you go in one ring you get Pharos who did establish another sire line other than Nearco but it died with the decline of the Boussac breed). Phalaris’s influence on the breed is enormous. As Tony Morris says ‘people tell me Phalaris is responsible for today’s great racehorses but he’s also responsible for most of the bad ones too’. Phalaris hogs about 65-70% of the sire wheel. So who was Phalaris? Well he wasn’t a bad 2yo but rated 9lb below the best of the year. He didn’t figure in the classics though did win as a 3yo over 10f. However it was as a 4yo and 5yo that he found his metier as a sprinter. In all, he won 16 of his 24 races and his biggest wins were in the Challenge Stakes (twice). He was retired to Lord Derby’s stud and was champion sire twice. He did well and particularly well for his owner. To the mare Scapa Flow he bred Pharos (Nearco’s sire) and Fairway. Fairway’s biggest win was the Leger, but he had been strongly fancied to win Lord Derby a Triple Crown but could not run in the 2000G because of mouth boils and got too upset by the crowd to do himself justice in the Derby. Again retired to Derby’s stud he was to be leading sire 4 times. He got a very strong sire line through his sons Fair Trial and Honeyway. Fair Trial was leading sire once and had the good sires Petition and Court Martial, while he also got Palestine (sire of Pall Mall). Court Martial was leading sire twice but never produced anything of his quality in terms of a son, despite an influence in pedigrees his sire line has died out. Petition had a bigger effect. His most famous produce was Petite Etoile but he sired a fine sire in Petingo who became the sire of Troy and the grandsire of Ela Mana Mou. Sadly Petingo died as an 11yo and then his son Troy died as a 7yo. Having watched those two, Great Nephew (a son of Honeyway), Brigadier Gerard (a great grandson of Fair Trial) and Grundy (by Great Nephew) run as a young man it is almost inconceivable to me that the Fair Trial sire-line and the source of these great horses is just about dead.

    Returning to Phalaris he produced another potent sire when bred with Lord Derby’s mare Selene (the dam of Hyperion) and produced Sickle. This colt was not a great racehorse but was placed in the Middle Park, July Stakes and 2000G. He was sold to the USA and his great-grandson Native Dancer produced 3 important sons. The first was Dan Cupid who sired the mighty Sea Bird. This line did not sustain. More important breed-wise was Raise a Native and through him Mr Prospector. Of most importance at the moment is probably Mr Prospector’s great-grandson Dubawi (by Dubai Millennium by Seeking the Gold). MP’s other important sons were Kingmambo (who has King’s Best and HenrytheNavigator) to represent him, Gone West (who had Zafonic and Zamindar as well as Elusive Quality who produced Raven’s Pass), Woodman, Machiavellian (who had Medicean) and Miswaki. The third important son was Atan who produced Sharpen Up. He had two full-brothers who looked as if they would establish strong lines. The better racehorse was Kris but though relatively successful he did not get a son to carry things on. His brother Diesis did and his most important son was Halling. But his influence looks to be dependent now on, the currently under a cloud, Jack Hobbs. Hopefully he will become the standard bearer for this line. Sharpen Up had other good sons and the best sire was probably Selkirk. He got lots of good fillies but not really a good son.

    But at least in the Sickle line we have a thriving line of sires who look likely to sustain for sometime. Look at pedigrees today and it is not surprising to see plenty of Northern Dancer but balanced with Mr Prospector lines and Nasrullah lines (either Never Bend or Blushing Groom). Look at the pedigree of the filly who won the Irish 1000G and she is by Fast Company (by Danehill Dancer by Danehill by ND) who is out of a mare by Zafonic (by Gone West by Mr Prospector) with the damsire being by Mill Reef (by Never Bend). Jet Setting’s dam adds another line of Mr Prospector and further back two ND lines (Storm Cat and Nureyev).

    So having covered Phalaris we pick up the residual Darley Arabian lines and there are a few surprises. The first of these is the sire-line that gave us Crepello then Busted then Bustino. This sire line has all but died out. Crepello was the great grandson of Blandford who sired two fine Derby winners in Blenheim and Bahram (who did the Triple-Crown). Blenheim gave us Crepello but Bahram gave us the line that is still held up today through Monsun who turned out a tremendous sire. The trick now is for one of his sons to carry on the line. Again it is hard to believe that there are not descendants of Crepello out there. The most important sire of this line today has become the top NH sire Presenting: so that will die out.

    A further residual line is that that encompasses Bay Ronaldand his great grandson Hyperion. As a teenager Hyperion seemed to me to be one of the dominant forces in European breeding with his descendants Thatch, Vaguely Noble, Aureole, Sing Sing and Tudor Melody everywhere. But today this branch has withered and Bahamian Bounty is the most prominent representative of the Hyperion-line while Bay Ronald at least has a stronger chance of survival through the sons of the German sire Acetenango.

    The final residual line is that which gave us the great champion Ribot. Despite him getting great racehorses (admittedly mostly in America), like Tom Rolfe and Graustark, the branch has withered. The foremost representative of this line today is Flemensfirth who as a NH stallion is not going to continue the line. When I first got interested in the genealogy of racehorses I seemed to read everywhere of the influence of St. Simon. It was undoubtedly true as Nearco was inbred 4X4 and 5X5 to St Simon and may still be true today, but the sire-lines he established of Ribot, Princequillo and Sicambre are gone.

    So all the sires mentioned so far trace back to Darley Arabian. We must now look at the other two source sires. The Godolphin Arabian, after initial strength in Europe, proved its strength in the USA reaching its heights with Man O’War. There looked as if there’d be a European revival with Known Fact and his son Warning. Dream Ahead (by Diktat by Warning) is the foremost representative of this sire-line in Europe. The European Champion Sprinter Avonbridge (by Averti by Warning) has not been successful enough at stud. Tiznow has been the standard bearer for this line in the States but it is unclear whether this line will sustain.

    Which leaves us with The Byerly Turkline: this stallion was always at a disadvantage as he was the first. He came 20 years before the other two and covered less mares and less good mares. Given that he hit a period of enormous influence during the 1930s to 50s. The reason was Tourbillon and his son Djebel, both bred by Marcel Boussac (see my Boussac article). Even with the idiosyncrasies of Boussac this looked a thriving line. But there was to be bad luck along the way. Hugh Lupus (by Djebel) was not particularly fertile and his best son Hethersett died after only 3 years at stud. Ahonoora (by Lorenzaccio by Djebel’s grandson Klairon) died relatively young just as it looked as if he would really establish himself as a top sire and a sire of sires. Then his son Indian Ridge (with remarkably only one line of Nearco in his first 6 removes) was poorly patronised during his first few years at stud and probably could have been more influential. This fine sire-line now seems best represented by Compton Place (by Indian Ridge) who is probably not getting the mares necessary to sustain this line in Europe.

    Does it matter that these two original sire-lines are dying out? Does it matter that even the St Simon, Blandford and Hyperion sire lines are dying out? Let’s face it the sires we mentioned here as influential still appear in the pedigrees of top horses and sires, so does it matter that they are not from the direct sire lines. To some extent it may not matter, or more correctly it may have not have mattered so far, but it may matter in the future. Why because breeding has its fashions just as other things have their fashions and it has become blatantly obvious that many breeders just follow those fashions. Princess Newmarket often reminds us this has become a numbers game and it has become more of a numbers game as books for sires have swelled from 40 per season to nearer 200. The end-effect is that the influence of these once important ingredients (sires) will dilute. We can’t say for certain what made Frankel stand out from his 100 other Galileo siblings of his year but maybe it was that dose of Rainbow Quest, maybe it was that dose of Ribot in conjunction with a dose of Princequillo or maybe it was all three.

    So I bemoan the early deaths of Hethersett, Ahonoora, Troy and Petingo. I sincerely hope that Compton Place surprisingly turns out a corker like his grand-sire Ahonoora, I hope that Bahamian Bounty gets a good son, I really want Monsun to be a sire of sires and I really would hate the Never Bend line to die out. Let’s hope too that Noverre’s son Le Havre secures the Blushing Groom line. Dubawi is fashionable enough to ensure his sire-line will continue but others need patronage. The saying in business used to be that no-one got in trouble buying an IBM computer, it was the risk-free, back-covering option. Thoroughbred breeding is similar as no-one questions you using a son of Green Desert or Galileo as your sire. But there are choices out there and it doesn’t have to be the Northern Dancer sire-line.
     
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    Last edited: May 24, 2016
    robbie, Tamerlo, Cyclonic and 2 others like this.
  2. Bustino74

    Bustino74 Thouroughbred Breed Enthusiast

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    apologies to all those sires I missed or where I am not quite up to date. Please feel free to add.

    One I missed was Makfi who is a great grandson of ND through the Unfuwain/Alhaarth line. He got a classic winner in his first crop.
     
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  3. Ron

    Ron Well-Known Member
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    Another masterpiece. Thanks Bustino. Nice to see Ribot in there; I do like to see him back in a pedigree.

    I know I've said this before but, in dogs, we refer to line breeding. In breeding is where the line breeding is too close and virtually guarantees failure. I actually like the distinction used in dogs as careful line breeding produces consistent types and, with the occasional selective out-cross can strengthen the line for future generations. In breeding is considered a "crime" and no-one would be interested in the produce. However, in line breeding dogs, one does have the distinct advantage of only continuing the line with the best specimen(s) from a litter. This gives more chance of sustaining a good line. Relatively speaking, it's more of a gamble with horses. One obvious similarity though is that it's about matching the potential sire and dam in a mating. Again, I can only talk in dog terms, but breeding a top dog to a top bitch could be a disaster if their conformation and temperament etc don't compliment each other. There are so many aspects of conformation and one can only get so close to "perfect". At least with line breeding one can see what is consistently produced (eg if one consistently gets excellent fronts then one would only out-cross to another line that also consistently produced excellent fronts; otherwise we start to introduce a weakness in that particular aspect. The last thing we want would be to double up on any weakness.

    I'm no expert on thoroughbred breeding, far from it; but I think where we have top sires producing top sires, someone is doing something right. We know that top sires can also produce "rubbish" but that is presumably where the mare has not been carefully matched conformation wise.

    I would find it very interesting if a respected judge were to take a very well line bred sire and analyse the resultant progeny from various mares, in terms of their conformation and the conformation of their ancestors.

    Perish the thought, but I imagine that, with dna, it would be possible to automate the sire and dam selection process
     
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  4. PNkt

    PNkt Well-Known Member

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    Sadly Compton Place died in September last year. Article here.

    I've got a 2014 edition of the "Sire Wheel" on my office wall, it is fascinating to look at.
     
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  5. Ron

    Ron Well-Known Member
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    I bet. Have only seen images. That took some constructing. Congratulations to whoever keeps that up to date; must be nightmare. But very rewarding to then look at it.
     
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  6. PNkt

    PNkt Well-Known Member

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    It's a shame they don't sell it online, I'm sure there are plenty of race fans who would happily buy them.

    Perhaps I should start taking orders?!
     
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  7. Ron

    Ron Well-Known Member
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    You can buy the American one here
     
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  8. Doalittle

    Doalittle Well-Known Member

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    I like you Ron am no experts in thoroughbred breeding. But I do know that DNA analysis has led to a similar system to what your talking about that has been devloped for cows. Yes I said cows. Bulls at AI stations have their DNA analysed and rated under certain categories like fertility, volume of milk, health, etc. This can then be matched to cows that perform poorly in certain categories.

    I would assume a similar system could possibly be developed for thoroughbreds. But one would imagine if it was possible it would already have been done.
     
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  9. Ron

    Ron Well-Known Member
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    Prominent Sire Lines In Europe chart These had 4 for sale. Don't know if they should though. Probably gone now
     
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  10. Ron

    Ron Well-Known Member
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    Not necessarily Doalittle. AI is permitted in show jumping but, for some reason, not allowed in thoroughbreds. AI is probably better controlled than normal mating
     
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  11. PNkt

    PNkt Well-Known Member

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    Genuinely, if anyone wants one the Racing Museum is a 5 minute walk from my office so I'm happy to get one and post it.
     
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  12. PNkt

    PNkt Well-Known Member

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    The argument against AI in Thoroughbreds is that it would result in certain lines becoming even more dominant. There's also a supply and demand issue - if you can get thousands of "straws" (as they are known) of Galileo semen each year then their value will fall.
     
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  13. Doalittle

    Doalittle Well-Known Member

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    That fair but what I was sujesting sires could be genomicly tested to see what traits they were likely to pass on to their offspring. So for example a new sire could be tested to see if their offspring devoloped faster than others. With cows it has led to completely different types of bulls being used to what was traditionally used. Obviously with thoroughbreds being proven on the racecourse is most important in providing moneymaking sires but some of the more average horses may have more advanced genetics they could be more likely to pass them on.
     
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  14. Ron

    Ron Well-Known Member
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    Yes. I was really referring to the likely attitude of the BHA towards scientific advancement.
     
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  15. PNkt

    PNkt Well-Known Member

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    It's not a BHA decision. Things like AI have to be agreed on an international level. From memory in this case I think it's the International Stud Book Committee which is made up of representatives of the major racing nations across the globe.
     
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  16. Cyclonic

    Cyclonic Well Hung Member

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    Surely the BHA can't stop a particular stud from doing an analysis of the strengths of their sires and mares? I think Doalittle has a valid point.
     
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  17. PNkt

    PNkt Well-Known Member

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    There's nothing to stop anyone doing genetic tests, it's all about cost and how reliable the tests are. At the moment the only one I'm aware of is the speed test that was used on Galileo Gold.
     
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  18. Tamerlo

    Tamerlo Well-Known Member

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    Bustino, a truly wonderful Article. Cross referencing all those horses would have made me dizzy!
    In reality, though, didn't Eclipse really eclipse them all?
     
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  19. Bustino74

    Bustino74 Thouroughbred Breed Enthusiast

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    Yes Tamerlo you are correct as all I say for The Darley Arabian I can almost say for Eclipse. Eclipse's sire Marske brings in the Ribot line so he has more of a claim than Eclipse..

    I suppose it's the sires from whom you see the wheel fan out that are the biggest in terms of impact and that's what Phalaris achieved and ND has done the same.
     
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  20. Bustino74

    Bustino74 Thouroughbred Breed Enthusiast

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    I probably brushed over Pharos a bit too quickly. I mean one day to do an article on Lord Derby and I'd cover him there.
    He was by Phalaris out of Scapa Flow, so a full brother to Fairway. Fairway was the better horse and intitially the equal of his brother as a sire through his son Fair Trial, but he also sired Blue Peter and Watling Street. However Tesio, who often used British stallions, sent his star mare, Nogara, to Pharos who by the time of Faiway's stud career had been moved to a French Stud. The rest was history.
    As well as Nearco Pharos got Boussac's Pharis (see Boussac article) who was a champion sire in France and an important ingredient in the Boussac breed. Today Pharos's sire-line influence is purely through Nearco which is why I didn't major on him..
     
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