In the long history of the turf, there has never been a more profound sire to influence the world-wide scene during his own lifetime than Danehill. The son of Danzig – Razyana by His Majesty became the first successful sire to ply his trade on both sides of the equator, within the same year, and has effectively the blown lid off the “shuttle sire” program initiated by Coolmore. Prior to the success of Danehill, the idea of sires working on both sides of the equator was unheard of.
Danehill serviced broodmares during the first half of the year at Coolmore in Ireland, then be flown to Australia for the second half of the year to service mares down under. He sired three hundred and forty-nine stakes winners worldwide, an unheard of amount, from all of his get which were foaled in both the northern and southern hemispheres. Danehill has been the most successful of the shuttle sires to date as he has been the leading sire in England/Ireland three times, France twice and in Australia nine times.
This exceptional and prolific stallion has a very interesting pedigree in that he is inbred to Natalma 3×3. His sire Danzig is a son of Northern Dancer, who in turn is a son of Natalma. The dam of Danehill, Razyana is a daughter of Spring Adieu, who in turn is a daughter of Natalma. Despite this close inbreed, Danehill has remarkable success with Northern Dancer line mares, and his daughters who were not inbred to Northern Dancer have very good success with Northern Dancer line sires. There are many breeding theorists who are not in agreement with close inbreeding, but Danehill seems to be an exception to the inbreeding naysayers.
This is not to say that Danehill was only successful as a sire when inbred to the lines of his grandfather/third cousin. The more remarkable aspect to the sire record of Danehill would be that he got many high class stakes winners and stakes producing offspring to a wide variety of sire families. Quite simply, Danehill was one of the truly great sires in history.
Danehill was bred in 1986 by Prince Khalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte Farm in Kentucky. He raced in England and Ireland under the now famous green with pink sash, white sleeves with pink cap colours of Juddmonte, and was trained by Jeremy Tree.
Nine times Danehill went into the starting gate to race, winning four, placing second in one and third in two more races. His most prestigious victory was in the group one Ladbroke Sprint Cup. He would also take the group three Cork & Orrey Stakes and the Ladbrokes European Free Handicap, with third place finishes in the classic 2000 Guineas and the group one July Cup. Prince Khalid retired Danehill from racing and sold him to the partnership of Ireland’s Coolmore Stud and Arrowfield Stud in New South Wales, Australia.
Danehill became an instant success, especially in Australia, in his new life as a sire. Being a top sprinter, breeders were very keen to send good mares to him in order to obtain the speed he possessed as well as his very strong pedigree, for the resulting foals. He led the Australian sire list for the first time in the 1994-95 season with only three crops of racing age.
The list of group/grade one winners sired by Danehill is long and impressive. In fact he sired fifty-eight such winners, which includes eleven individual classic winners. Most of the offspring of Danehill possessed his good looks and rich bay colouring. Danehill was a dominant bay, much like his sire was.
There are so many places to start a list of the top progeny of Danehill that one can get bewildered by the enormity of the exercise. I will start with perhaps his most accomplished racing son in Rock Of Gibraltar. This handsome horse won ten of thirteen races, with two second place finishes as well. He reeled of seven consecutive group one victories at one point in his career, and was named as the ROA Horse of the Year in 2002. Among his win total were the English and Irish 2000 Guineas, Dewhurst Stakes, St, James Palace Stakes, Sussex Stakes, Grand Criterium de Longchamps, and the Prix de Moulin.
Dylan Thomas won five group one races which include the Irish Derby, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Irish Champion Stakes and the Prix Ganay, as well as the listed Irish Breeders Foal Levy as a two year old and a third placing in the Epsom Derby the following year. He was the Cartier Horse of the Year in 2007.
Duke Of Marmalade also won five group one races. His wins were the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, International Stakes, Prix Ganay, Prince of Wales Stakes and the Curragh Gold Cup, all in his four year old season. He was named as the Cartier Older Horse of the Year in 2008.
Desert King won the Irish Derby, Irish 2000 Guineas, National Stakes, the group three Tetrarch Stakes and then went on to sire the great Makybe Diva, three time winner of the Melbourne Cup as well as the Queen Elizabeth Cup, Sydney Cup, W S Cox Plate, BMW Stakes and the Australian Cup. Desert King has also sired Chelsea Rose, Desert War, Lachlan River, Mr. Dinos, and Real Love.
Additional northern hemisphere grade/group one winners are North Light (Epsom Derby), Westerner (Prix Royal Oak and Prix du Cadran twice each), Oratorio (Eclipse Stakes, Irish Champion Stakes, Grand Criterium), Mozart (July Cup, Nunthorpe Stakes), George Washington (Phoenix Stakes, 2000 Guineas), Horatio Nelson (Grand Criterium), Landseer (Poule d’Essai des Poulins, Keeneland Turf Mile), Danehill Dancer (Phoenix Stakes, National Stakes), Clodovil (Poule d’Essai des Poulins), Artiste Royal (Charlie Whittingham Memorial, Clement Hirsch Turf Championship), Holy Roman Emperor (Phoenix Stakes, Grand Criterium), Indian Danehill (Prix Ganay), Aussie Rules (Poule d’Essai des Poulins, Turf Mile Stakes), Spartacus (Gran Criterium, Phoenix Stakes), and Mountain High (Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud).
But wait! There are more! Danehill had an exceptional partnership with the mare Hasili by Kahyasi. Hasili is the dam of five grade/group one stakes winners, four of which were sired by Danehill, as well as a fifth group stakes winner sired by Danehill. The G1 winning full siblings are the fillies Banks Hill (Coronation Stakes, Prix Jacques le Marois, Breeder’s Cup Filly and Mare Turf), and Intercontinental (Breeder’s Cup Filly and Mare Turf, Matriarch Stakes). The two G1 winning colts are Cacique (Manhattan Handicap, Man ‘O’ War Stakes) and Champs Elysees (Canadian International, Northern Dancer Stakes, Hollywood Turf Cup).
The first of the five foals from the Danehill/Hasili marriage was Dansili, winner of the group two Prix du Muguet and the group three Prix Edmond Blanc and Prix Messidor. All five foals from this union became stakes winners, while the three sons have gone on to become very good sires and Banks Hill has produced group one stakes winner Romantica. Each one was bred by Juddmonte Farm, the breeder of Danehill himself.
If you think this is an impressive list, take a look at the list of grade/group one winners from Danehill’s southern hemisphere foal crops. Let us begin with Redoute’s Choice. Winner of the Blue Diamond Stakes, C F Orr Stakes, Caulfield Guineas and the Manikato Stakes, Redoute’s Choice looks very much like his sire and has taken the baton from Danehill as the preeminent sire in Australia. He is a four time leading sire down under and has carried the Danehill flag to the next generation of champion race horses.
Redoute’s Choice is from the broodmare Shantha’s Choice by Canny Lad, a sire who is a direct tail-male descendant of Star Kingdom. A small sample of the group one winners Redoute’s Choice has sired are Snitzel, Miss Finland, Melito, Lankan Rupee, Gallica, Fashions Afield, Musir, Stratum, Allez Wonder, King’s Rose, Samantha Miss, Lotteria, Dariana and Anamato. His sons Snitzel, Not A Single Doubt and Stratum have already sired over twenty group one winners apiece.
Another group one winning son of Danehill in Australia to have a big say in shaping the breed is Exceed And Excel. Inbred 3×3 to Northern Dancer, and thus 4x4x4 to Natalma, Exceed And Excel won the Newmarket Handicap at Flemington and the MRC Invitational at Caulfield. He won seven of twelve races in total and was named the champion sprinter in Australia in the 2003-04 racing season. At stud he is responsible for Excelebration, Helmet, Overreach, Guelph, Amber Sky, Reward For Effort, Outstrip, and in England the champion filly Margot Did.
Fastnet Rock won the Oakleigh Plate and the Lightning Stakes. He is another son of Danehill to carry on the tradition of sire excellence in Australia. A champion sprinter himself (2005), he was also named as the champion three year old colt as well. He is the sire of Mosheen, Sea Siren, Atlantic Jewel, Planet Rock, Foxwedge, Lone Rock, Super Cool, Irish Lights, Wanted, Rock ‘n Pop, Albany Reunion, Nechita, Rock Classic and Atlante so far in his stud career. Fastnet Rock led the Australian sire list in 2011-12.
Flying Spur was from the 1992 Australian crop by Danehill. He won the Australian Guineas, Golden Slipper Stakes and the All Aged Stakes before going off to stud where he would sire ninety-seven stakes winners and lead the Aus sire list in 2006-07. Among his best were Mentality, Forensics, Sacred Star, Casino Prince, Magnus, Alverta, San Luis, Dealer Principal, All Time High and Inspiration.
Other southern hemisphere bred group one winners by Danehill are Elvstroem (C F Orr Stakes, Caulfield Cup, Victoria Derby, Dubai Duty Free Stakes), Ha Ha (Golden Slipper Stakes, Flight Stakes), Merlene (Golden Slipper Stakes, Sires’ Produce Stakes), Nothin’ Leica Dane (Victoria Derby Spring Champion Stakes), The Duke (Hong Kong Mile), Arena (Victoria Derby, Rosehill Guineas), Blackfriars (Victoria Derby), Catbird (Golden Slipper Stakes), Danzero (Golden Slipper Stakes), Dane Ripper (Australian Cup, Cox Plate, Manikato Stakes, Stradbroke Handicap), Danske (New Zealand 2000 Guineas) and Danewin (Spring Champions Stakes)..
The above lists detail the accomplishments of the outstanding male offspring of Danehill. His daughters have done very well on the track as well, such as the aforementioned Banks Hill and Intercontinental as well as Aquarelliste (Prix Ganay, Prix de Diane Hermes, Prix Vermeille), Dress To Thrill (Matriarch Stakes), Echelon (Matron Stakes), Light Jig (Yellow Ribbon Stakes), Laisserfaire (Cape Flying Championship twice, Newmarket Fillies Sprint, South Africa Fillies & Mares Sprint twice), Peeping Fawn (Pretty Polly Stakes, Nassau Stakes, Irish Oaks, Yorkshire Oaks), Rumplestiltskin (Prix Marcel Boussac), Promising Lead (Pretty Polly Stakes), Punctilious (Yorkshire Oaks), Regal Rose (Cheveley Park Stakes), Simply Perfect (Fillies Mile Stakes, Falmouth Stakes), and Wannabe Grand (Cheveley Park Stakes).
Whew! Other than Dansili, the above listed sons and daughters of Danehill are only the grade/group one stakes winners he sired. Fifty-six G1 stakes winners from a total of three hundred and forty-nine stakes winners. He sired a grand total of one thousand five hundred and forty-five individual race winners. There are currently well over one hundred and fifty sons of Danehill at stud around the world and many of these sons have now got sons of their own at stud. Another particular son of Danehill that has shone at stud is group three stakes winner Commands, a full brother to Danewin. Commands has led the Australian sire list three times in his stud career.
Danehill, as would be expected from such a prolific sire, is also a top rated sire of broodmares. One does not have to look further than the great Frankel for confirmation on this aspect of Danehill’s stud career. Frankel, as we all know is the most talked about thoroughbred in modern memory, was out of the mare Kind by Danehill. Teofilo was bred on the same pattern as Frankel, being sired by Galileo, is out of Speirbhan by Danehill. Teofilo has sired over twenty stakes winners so far in his early stud career. Silent Name is by Sunday Silence out of Danzigaway by Danehill and currently has fifteen stakes winners to his credit and has already been a leading sire in Canada.
The exceptional filly Danedream by Lomitas is out of Danedrop by Danehill. Danedream won the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Grosser Preis von Berlin, and the Grosser Preis von Baden twice. Trade Fair, Siyouni, Intense Focus, Golden Lilac, Perfectly Ready, Intello, Noble Mission, Saoire, Tapestry, Dick Whittingham, Roderic O’Connor, Cima De Triomphe, Sepoy, Art Connoisseur, Benicio, Shocking, and Hallowed Crown are some of the major stakes winners from daughters of Danehill.
After a few years when the progeny of Danehill began to make a big noise in the big stakes races around the world, Coolmore would buy out Arrowfield’s half interest for a cool twenty-four million dollars and take complete control of the stallion’s stud career. His service in Australia was therefore conducted at Coolmore’s Australian farm in New South Wales.
Danehill was by all accounts a pleasant and easy going horse. He would go about his duties without any hint of resentment or obstinacy. He was also very comfortable travelling, which in his case was quite important since he racked up many frequent flyer miles travelling between Australia and Ireland. In the words of Coolmore’s stud manager Peter O’Brien “To travel with he was like a child. He was the quietest horse, including a broodmare, you would ever see. He just got on the plane, eat and drink water, fall asleep and wake up when we arrived in either Sydney or Dublin.” O’Brien’s nick name for Danehill was “Mr. Layback”.
While there are many who believe that the practice of shuttling sires back and forth is too demanding on the horse, and I must admit that I am in this corner, there are as with most things in life, exceptions. Many of the stallions that have been pressed into service on a round the year schedule to breed mares, are not capable of performing at such an extensive rate. Some have not been able to perform with consistency or are unable to with stand the extensiveness, needing a respite or even a termination of being shuttled.
Danehill was certainly an exception. Perhaps it was due to his easy going manner and his ability to wind down and relax when needed. Danehill was always kept as fit as possible with daily exercise and lunging, proper feeding and with no over eating to help keep his weight down. Danehill had the mental make up to handle the constant visits to the breeding shed. Also the advances in veterinary techniques to determine when a mare is at prime time to conceive was of great assistance, as Danehill would only require one cover to impregnate a mare as opposed to having to redo his duty if any mares did not conceive.
He never wavered from his duties, nor lost any of his pre-potency, during his stud career. Coolmore had made the decision to cease shuttling him to Australia in 2003 as they were concerned about his advancing age, he was seventeen, and had made the decision to keep him in Ireland year round. However, Danehill would not get to feel the “semi retirement” planned for him as on May 13, 2003 he playfully reared and fell awkwardly. He broke his hip and despite the painstaking work of some of the best veterinary talent around, he could not be saved. Danehill was humanly euthanized, to end his suffering.
His death was a shock to the Thoroughbred community. The Coolmore staff, in both hemispheres, took it very hard as they believed they had lost a member of the family. Danehill was well loved by all who came in contact with him, not only because of his success as a sire, but because he was a wonderful horse to be around. The importance of Danehill will be felt in Thoroughbred breeding for many generations as his sons and daughters are continuing the magic he has set forth.
The Danzig/Danehill branch of the Northern Dancer male line is perhaps the most broadly accessible branch in breeding today. With so many successful sons carrying on the line, there are many available choices for breeders to acquire the blood of the great Danehill into their own breeding programs. This is a legacy of class and speed, in the tradition of his sire and grand sire.
The handsome Danehill is most assuredly one of the pinnacle ground breaking stallions in history. He changed the playing field and started a revolution, becoming a revelation, which breeders of Thoroughbreds, especially in Australia, are most grateful for.
(Photo courtesy of Coolmore Stud)