War of Will won the Grade 1 Preakness Stakes on Saturday; Etoile won the G3 Fillies Sprint at Naas in Ireland on Sunday, with Peace Charter second (both by War Front); and Dogtag won the Hilltop Stakes at Pimlico on Friday.
So when Claiborne's stallion manager, Bernie Sams, asked the stud grooms, “Have you guys given War Front any peppermints this morning?” the answer was the affirmative.
Life is good in Bourbon County, Kentucky.
The thick-bodied, big-jowled son of Danzig looks just like what you'd expect a son of Danzig (and his sire Northern Dancer) to look like. Lots of muscle, powerful hip, not overly tall.
Come to think of it, that's not a bad description of the Preakness winner, either. War of Will is also out of a mare by a son of Northern Dancer. The dam is by Northern Dancer's best European-based stallion son, Sadler's Wells.
Based at Coolmore in Ireland, Sadler's Wells ruled racing in Europe for a generation, and he did that not because he sired a pack of sprinters. In fact, I don't believe Sadler's Wells ever sired a pure sprinter; instead, he sired classic horses. Bags of them.
The two best sons of Sadler's Wells were Galileo and Montjeu, not necessarily in that order, but Galileo is still alive and is the stallion who has risen to replace his own sire as the most important breeding animal in Europe.
In addition to the great ones, Sadler's Wells sired a large number of good and useful horses, and among the latter class was a bay filly born in 2000 who went on to win the listed Prix de Bagatelle. That was useful form, but Visions of Clarity went far beyond that in her producing career.
Today, Visions of Clarity is the dam of three stakes winners, including two at the G1 level: Preakness winner War of Will and the Irish highweighted juvenile colt Pathfork (Distorted Humor), who won the G1 National Stakes and is now a sire.
As good as Pathfork proved himself as a juvenile, he did not train on at that level and went abroad for a stallion career. The good-looking horse stands at Highlands Stud in South Africa.
In sharp contrast, War of Will was a highly regarded juvenile, placed at the G1 level, and he has advanced in form and racing effectiveness so that he is now a classic winner.
Bred in Kentucky by Flaxman Holdings Limited, War of Will comes from a family long held by the Niarchos family. The dam Visions of Clarity and granddam Imperfect Circle (Riverman) were both stakes winners in the Niarchos silks and have become significant producers.
Imperfect Circle produced only two stakes winners, but the “other” one was international star Spinning World (Nureyev), who won the Irish 2,000 Guineas and Prix Jacques le Marois at 3, along with the Breeders' Cup Mile, the Prix Jacques le Marois a second time, and the Prix du Moulin de Longchamp at 4. The handsome chestnut was also second in the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket and in the Breeders' Cup Mile as a 3-year-old.
Third dam Aviance (by Northern Dancer's son Northfields) won a G1 at 2 in Ireland and became a foundation mare for Flaxman Holdings. Bred in Ireland by Ballydoyle Stud in 1982, Aviance was out of the Sir Ivor mare Minnie Hauk, a daughter of the exceptional broodmare Best in Show (Traffic Judge).
This immensely important family goes back to the Colin mare Herd Girl, bred by James Corrigan from the imported English mare Torpenhow.
Generations of racing and breeding excellence didn't get War of Will across the finish line first in the Preakness; he did that on his own courage and athleticism. But the value in depth of family comes later at stud, when consistency in the genetic material of a horse's ancestors helps breeding stock to reproduce their own better qualities more frequently.
Frank Mitchell is author of Racehorse Breeding Theories, as well as the book Great Breeders and Their Methods: The Hancocks. In addition to writing the column “Sires and Dams” in Daily Racing Form for nearly 15 years, he has contributed articles to Thoroughbred Daily News, Thoroughbred Times, Thoroughbred Record, International Thoroughbred, and other major publications. In addition, Frank is chief of biomechanics for DataTrack International and is a hands-on caretaker of his own broodmares and foals in Central Kentucky. Check out Frank's lively Bloodstock in the Bluegrass blog.
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