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Black Caviar

October 2, 2012

This piece was originally written for The Sportsman at a time before Black Caviar had won her first Group 1 race.  Rather prophetically, we suggested that she was perhaps headed for greatness, but the comments regarding her pedigree and dosage remain valid.

The impressive filly, Black Caviar continued her unbeaten run at MooneeValley last Friday night.  She is certainly talented, and this season will see her step up to Group 1 company and perhaps stamp her as a great of the turf.  Her fifth win on Friday was her second consecutive Group 2 victory following her win in the Danehill Stakes at Flemington in September.  She had previously won two Listed races after winning on Open 2yo Handicap at Flemington.  Part of the wonder of the thoroughbred is just that anticipation of greatness, and Black Caviar has a better heritage than most.

Black Caviar is a three year old filly by Bel Esprit and is the first foal of the unraced Desert Sun mare, Helsinge.  Helsinge is out of the stakes winning Snippets mare, Scandinavia who won four races including the Group 2 QTC Cup and the Group 3 Blue Diamond Prelude.  She was also placed in the Group 1 Goodwood, the Salinger, the Lightning and the Newmarket Handicaps making her among the best sprinters of her era.  At stud she was no slouch either, producing the Group 1 AJC Galaxy winner, Magnus as well as Wilander, winner of the Group 2 Schillaci Stakes.

The filly’s third dam is an unraced Vain mare called Song Of Norway.  She was an outstanding broodmare, producing eleven winners from twelve foals including not only Scandinavia, but also other stakes winners in Frosty The Snowman, Midnight Sun and Russian Tea Room.  She also produced the stakes placed Song Of The Sun, by Desert Sun who is a three quarter sister to Helsinge.  The fourth dam of the mare is an imported Danish mare called Love Song, by Warpath.  She also produced the Bletchingly mare, Song Of Kingston who was to in turn produce the stakes winning MuirfieldVillage.  While Love Song was foaled in Denmark, she was the product of the mating of the UK horses, Warpath and Folk Song.  Warpath is an interesting stallion winning stakes races at both three and four years of age.  He was a son of Sovereign Path, out of a mare by Right Royal.  In turn, his second dam was by the wonderful stallion, Alycidon.  Love Song’s female line traces to some wonderful influences with the most notable being the great stallion, Court Martial, by Fair Trial and another quality stallion in Hornbeam by Hyperion.

Court Martial was Champion UK 2yo of his season, but at stud, this grandson of Fairway really stamped his importance on the breed.  He was Champion Sire and perhaps more notably in the modern era, was leading 2yo sire on six occasions.  Court Martial though is best known in Australia as the sire of Wilkes.  Wilkes sired the wonderful sprinter and Golden Slipper winning Vain, which will become even more critical when we look at the pedigree of Black Caviar.  Hornbeam is also an interesting stallion, being by the great Hyperion.  His lasting legacy in Australia is as the damsire of Lunchtime, who is the sire of another of our great speed sires in Snippets, interestingly the sire of Scandinavia.

Black Caviar’s sire is Bel Esprit, a son of the good stallion RoyalAcademy.  Royal Academy needs little introduction, being by the champion stallion Nijinsky, and siring over 50 individual stakes winners including such horses as Bullish Luck, Kenwood Melody, Oscar Schindler, Serious Speed and Val Royal who have won Group 1 races throughout the world.  Bel Esprit won eight of his nineteen starts including the Blue Diamond Preview, Prelude and the Group 1 Blue Diamond.  He also won the Doomben 10,000 at the highest level before retiring to stud in 2003.  In seven seasons to date, including the current one, he has served over 1270 mares without shuttling in what could well be a record.  He has sired seven stakes winners to date with Bel Mer being his only Group 1 winner with her victory in the Robert Sangster Stakes in Adelaide last year.  Bel Esprit is form the Vain mare, Bespoken who was a half sister to another Blue Diamond winner in Mahaasin.  The family had established itself in New Zealand for many generations and include the likes of the solid stallion, Omnicorp, winner of the Victoria Derby and San Domenico, the stakes winning son of Hurricane Sky in Wildly, and Tasmanian Derby winner, Suavity.

In terms of dosage, we see that Black Caviar has a four generation profile that reads [1.23/6.50] [15-9-4-2-0].  No doubt this reflects the strong speed lines in her pedigree, but we must also consider that a horse like Scandinavia had a dosage profile of [1.89/43.00].  This must give us some hope that Black Caviar could well extend beyond what we would traditionally expect from a horse with such a dosage profile.

The pedigree of Black Caviar is dominated by a 3x4 duplication of Vain through his presence as the sire of Bespoken, and also of Song Of Norway, Black Caviar’s third dam.  No doubt many breeders will look at this pedigree and use it as an example of the benefit of a close cross of such a wonderful horse as Vain.  However, as we saw by looking at Black Caviar’s family, Vain’s grand sire is Court Martial who traces to the same direct female line.  We also see the close presence in the pedigree of Snippets who is the sire of Black Caviar’s second dam, Scandinavia.  Snippets as we will recall is a son of Lunchtime, who has Hornbeam, another member of Black Caviar’s female line, as his damsire.  The number of important influences from the same female family could easily go unnoticed in a pedigree that is so apparently dominated by the duplication of Vain, and this alone is a good lesson to breeders.  Sometimes the obvious influences are not necessarily the most important ones.  In addition to the Vain duplication, the pedigree of the filly also sees Northern Dancer, Crepello and Silly Season duplicated within six generations.  Interestingly, Silly Season is the sire of Bel Esprit’s third damsire, Adios, and Lunchtime.

While the family of Love Song may have been a little quiet when she came to Australia, it is always interesting to note the ebb and flow of success in thoroughbred families.  With the modern trend to breeding for the sales ring, and the importance of close black type on a sales page, it perhaps could relegate some of these wonderful families, which have been in a lull, to the pages of history, rather than allowing them to again reach the heights of success.  Love Song was actually imported to Australia by the legendary golfer, and equally enthusiastic racing man, Norman Von Nida and his close friend, David Haines.  Considering that these two men also imported Ada Hunter, the dam of the immortal Kingston Town, it would be fitting if Black Caviar continues on to become a Champion.  The human heritage of the thoroughbred is often as interesting as their bloodlines, but that of course is a story for another day.

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