There was a time when the American bloodstock industry thrived with the addition of European blood. Arthur Hancock and his son “Bull,” in particular, imported European runners to stand at Claiborne Farm in Kentucky to great effect, among them breed-shapers of the ilk of Sir Gallahad III, Blenheim II, and Nasrullah. Other European-bred runners such as Mahmoud, Ribot, and Blushing Groom also became important influences on the American Thoroughbred.
Today, 80 years after Hancock first recognized the value of European runners, the American industry is swaying markedly towards Europe again, most specifically with regard to Galileo, who continues to carry all before him. Galileo has sired 46 G1 winners since he retired to Coolmore in 2002, including six - Adelaide, Cape Blanco, Magician, Red Rocks, Together, and Treasure Beach - who have scored at the top level in America. Granted, he has yet to sire a Graded stakes winner on dirt and made little impression himself when sixth in the 2001 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Belmont Park. But in light of the successful Kentucky stud career forged by another son of Sadler’s Wells, El Prado, not to mention Galileo’s own dominance in Europe and reputation as a leading sire of sires, it is not hard to see why some American farms have become so keen to tap into his line.
In 2015, there will be six sons of Galileo at stud in the U.S. They include the Breeders’ Cup Turf winners Magician, a new addition to Ashford Stud, and Red Rocks, who has been imported from Italy by Calumet Farm. Kentucky is also home to Irish Derby runner-up Midas Touch, a third-year stallion at War Horse Place.
The 2011 G1 Irish Derby hero and Secretariat Stakes winner Treasure Beach was one of the busiest stallions in Florida last year with a book of 101 mares, and will stand his second season at Pleasant Acres for $10,000. Australian G1 winner Seville is new to Heritage Stallions in Maryland.
The list doesn’t include Cape Blanco, who has been leased by Coolmore to stand the 2015 season in Japan. The first son of Galileo to stand in the U.S., he covered a total of 502 mares during his first three seasons at Ashford Stud.
As a result, it stands to reason that champion Noble Mission will be warmly welcomed by breeders at Lane’s End Farm. With a fee of $25,000, he is the second most expensive new recruit to the Kentucky stallion ranks behind Will Take Charge, a position that is reflective not only of his race record, which comprises three G1 wins, but of the fact that he is a brother to Frankel.
“We’re thrilled to the response to Noble Mission,” said Bill Farish, of Lane’s End Farm. “A lot of breeders have come to see the horse and are impressed by his looks.
“We’ll hold his book at 140 mares. He’s attracted support from an interesting list of international and North American breeders, and of course, we’ll support him well ourselves.”
Noble Mission is also slated to receive support from Juddmonte Farms, who bred the colt out of their star mare Kind. A Listed-winning sprinter by Danehill, Kind is a half-sister to Arlington Million hero Powerscourt and a product of the John “Jock” Hay Whitney stock that was acquired as a package by Juddmonte in 1983. Four of her first five foals are black-type winners and include G3 scorer Bullet Train, another Kentucky resident who stands at Crestwood Farm, and Listed winner Joyeuse, in addition to Frankel and Noble Mission.
Asides from talent and pedigree, Noble Mission offers the American breeder an element of soundness and durability that is increasingly craved. He won nine of 21 starts from 3 to 5 years and was placed on another 12 occasions; not once did he finish out of the first four.
He developed into a high-class 3-year-old for the late Sir Henry Cecil, defeating subsequent St Leger winner Encke to win the G3 Gordon Stakes at Goodwood after running second in the G2 King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot.
A Listed winner at four, he really came into his own at five for Lady Jane Cecil when a switch to front-running tactics under jockey James Doyle saw him lower the colours of Magician in the G1 Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh and deny Al Kazeem in a thrilling renewal of the G1 QIPCO British Champions Stakes at Ascot, with the likes of Cirrus Des Aigles and Ruler Of The World in arrears. He was also awarded the G1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud on the disqualification of Spiritjim.
Those powerful front-running victories handed Noble Mission the accolade of 2014 Cartier Champion Older Horse of the Year. As far as Lane’s End was concerned, the award provided the icing on the cake - only a week before, the farm had announced that they had purchased a majority share in the horse and would stand him in association with Juddmonte Farms from 2015.
Although Lane’s End developed champion sires A.P. Indy and Smart Strike, the farm also has an idea of what it takes to launch a European runner, having managed the successful stud career of top European miler Kingmambo.
“We’ve been looking for just this kind of horse for a while,” Farish said, “and they don’t come along very often. Kingmambo was so successful for us, and it adds so much to a stallion’s worth when they can appeal to the international market.
“There is definitely an increasing awareness of the quality of European bloodlines in North America. Yes, you still have the American breeder who wants a true dirt horse, but there is also an increasing demand for a horse such as Noble Mission.”
“It also helps that there are those Sadler’s Wells line horses that can run on dirt,” Farish added, alluding to the success enjoyed by El Prado and his sons.
Noble Mission’s retirement to Kentucky will have disappointed various breeders in Europe, but the move allows him to make his own mark without direct comparisons to Frankel.
As well established operations, Juddmonte and Lane’s End will be well aware of how the ploy worked for Lord Howard de Walden through the G1-winning brothers Kris and Diesis during the 1980s and ‘90s. While Kris enjoyed a long and successful championship stud career in Britain, Diesis gained the respect of both North American and European breeders during his innings at Mill Ridge Farm in Kentucky. Perhaps history is about to repeat itself.