The older I get, and probably because the older I get, the more I appreciate the generation game within horse racing: the passing of the blood-based baton from one crop to the next, of success breeding success, literally and figuratively.
This week saw the anniversary of an equine earthquake, the aftershocks of which resound today, including the headline act of this era let alone this year, as on August 13th, 2010, Frankel beat Nathaniel when the pair made their debut, the former the G. O. A. T. who has already sired eight Group 1 winners and the latter putting the able into Enable.
Racehorses make magic moments, but a stallion can make a season, and the stallion of this season is Shamardal. In his racing days, three wins at two (for Mark Johnston) made Shamardal the Champion Juvenile, and three at three – all Group 1s, for Saeed bin Suroor – made him potentially the best horse in the world that year, 2005, before a leg fracture curtailed his career.
His covering fee halved in the first phase, before his stock rose, all the way up to €70,000 in 2015, in what turned out to be his last year as a public stallion, health issues meaning that, since then, he has served only the Maktoum family and their associates.
Shamardal’s significance increased through last year, as a generator of generators, his son Lope De Vega becoming the height of fashion as a stallion, while Shamardal had as many as nine Stakes winners as a damsire.
But in 2019 he has gone nuclear, via his direct descendants, with four winners making him the top stallion at Royal Ascot, courtesy of Cape Byron and, moreover, a pair of Godolphin giants, one in the making and the other making the new wave, a chip off the old block, and now next door.
Following his dynamic double-up at Royal Ascot, Blue Point was immediately retired to stud, to stand alongside Shamardal at Kildangan Stud in Ireland, clearly a game-changing line for Godolphin, in tandem with the daddy, Dubawi. But no sooner did Blue Point exit stage left than the next big thing for Shamardal announced himself, Pinatubo almost off the chart for two-year-old achievement at this stage of the season.
But he’s not the only Shamardal star in the juvenile class.
Unbeaten in three races, increasing in impressiveness, Earthlight looks something special for Shamardal, for Godolphin, and for Andre Fabre. Earthlight is charging towards Sunday’s Group 1 Prix Morny at Deauville, having dismantled a Group 3 field over that course and distance, some British runners (Well Of Wisdom, Dubai Station) amongst them, though this company is completely different.
Pinatubo is clearly the best juvenile of the season so far, but the Prix Morny, collectively, is the best juvenile race of the season so far. There are not one, not two, but three Royal Ascot winners, Arizona, A’Ali and Raffle Prize, of which the last two have already increased their status and standing with further success, as well as Richmond winner Golden Horde, all of whom make for an exceptionally strong raiding party. But the home defence is unusual, because Earthlight looks so unusual.
Pinatubo is the best two-year-old, but the signs are that Earthlight may be the second best, which we’ll learn on Sunday, and what connects them both is a stallion, and a story, that’s developing into something great, the Shamardal story.
The Prix Morny is a must-watch on Sunday, but the highlight of Sky Sports Racing’s coverage on Saturday afternoon is the Great St Wilfrid at Ripon, part of the premier league of sprint handicaps.
Because it’s Ripon, with its ridges, track craft is a vital component, and INTISAAB has a big tick in that box, with two course wins besides a second in the 2016 edition of the Great St Wilfrid.
He’s coming to the race this time off his lowest mark since that year, and what else suggests that 18/1 is generous is where he’s drawn, high in 17, which puts him in and around where the hottest pace looks to be, next door to Dakota Gold and Belated Breath.