Blushing Groom – Small But Mighty
Occasionally greatness will skip a generation. Blushing Groom was by Red God, a chestnut son of Nasrullah. Red God was a minor stakes winner, and was certainly not one of the best of Nasrullah’s sons on the track. He was a better than average sire getting 12.1% stakes winners however, with Blushing Groom being the best of his get.
The dam of Blushing Groom was Runaway Bride by Wild Risk, a successful Steeplechaser in France. Wild Risk was a son of Rialto by Rabelais by St. Simon. Wild Risk was what was referred to as a plodder, a horse that could run a long distance of ground, but could not keep up in shorter events do to a lack of early speed. He was the sire of Vimy (King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes) and Worden (Washington D.C. International), so he did breed some class to his offspring.
Runaway Bride was bred by the Aga Khan IV and she came from the family that produced Khaled for the Aga Khan III, and Mill Reef for Paul Mellon. The Aga Khan IV had sold her after her racing career. He purchased the Red God – Runaway Bride colt as a weanling from his breeder John McNamee-Sullivan at the 1974 Newmarket December sales. The Aga Khan was a big admirer of Bayraan who was bred in 1971, a full brother to this colt. He then gave the weanling colt, a golden-red chestnut with three white socks, the name Blushing Groom.
Blushing Groom was sent to trainer Francois Mathet when he was of age to be broken and trained. Mathet was old school in his methods as he took his time with the colt and then tested him in a series of carefully monitored prep races against other colts in his care on the training grounds, before he entered him in a sanctioned race. Blushing Groom displayed great speed during these trials and Mathet was very keen to get him to the races proper. Inexplicably, Blushing Groom did not win his first start, surprising Mathet, but he was soon to be rewarded in subsequent races later in the year.
Blushing Groom won the Prix de Rochfort and then four straight group one races, Prix Robert Papin, Prix Morny, Prix de la Salamandre and the Grand Criterium, defeating the top English two year old J. O. Tobin in the latter race. He became the undisputed European Champion Two Year Old for 1976. Although Mathet was not totally convinced that Blushing Groom could stay twelve furlongs, he would prepare the colt for the classics. Specifically the Epsom Derby, a race the Aga Khan IV coveted but had not won at that time, was the key target.
The reigning champion juvenile made his three year old debut in the group three Prix de Fontainebleau winning handily. In his next race, Blushing Groom won the Poule d’Essai des Poulins, the French 2000 Guineas equivalent. On to England, Epsom Racecourse in particular, Blushing Groom was set to tackle the objective.
Favoured by the British for the race, Blushing Groom was up against The Minstrel, who had disappointed in the 2000 Guineas in England and Ireland, Hot Grove, Nebbiolo, Lucky Sovereign and Be My Guest among the field of twenty-two. He could not stay the trip however, confirming the fears of his trainer, and finished third to The Minstrel.
The Prix Jacques Le Marois, a one mile group one race run at Chantilly would be the final race in Blushing Groom’s career. He was victimised by a false pace and could only get up for second to the filly Flying Water. Gainesway Farm owner John R. Gaines had already approached the Aga Khan IV to syndicate the colt to the Kentucky farm when the season was to conclude.
However, an outbreak of equine metritis, a contagious disease to stallions, had been discovered in America. If horses were to be shipped to other countries, hasty speed would be needed before a ban would be in place, preventing horses from entering the States. Blushing Groom would be shipped off in early summer to Kentucky, just before the ban was enforced, thus ending his racing career.
The $6 million syndication value was eagerly paid. Blushing Groom had a very fluid motion whether at canter or at full speed and had faultless conformation. Since he was a grandson of Nasrullah, without the troublesome attitude, Gaines was very enthusiastic of Blushing Groom as a sire prospect. Many of his clients were as well, sending some excellent broodmares to his court upon his taking up residence in Kentucky.
Blushing Groom as a sire has been simply outstanding. He has ticked every box that breeders of Thoroughbreds look for when assessing a stallion’s body of work. He could sire precocious two year olds, classic middle distance winners, or any other type of runner. Speed, durability, on grass or dirt tracks, colts, fillies, you name it, Blushing Groom could provide. He became a good sire of sires and an excellent sire of broodmares.
Let’s start with perhaps his most memorable offspring Arazi, whose breathtaking run in the 1991 Breeder’s Cup Juvenile is still talked about as one of the greatest displays of speed ever witnessed. Arazi came into the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile with top credentials, having already won six of six races including the Prix Morny, Prix de la Salamandre and the Grand Criterium, group one races all, prior to his Breeder’s Cup Juvenile race. This was to be his first start on a dirt track.
The favourite was Bertrando, who had taken the lead from the off and carried his advantage into the Churchill Downs back straight and the far turn. Starting from the far outside post position, Arazi was twelve lengths back of the leader, when he began his run to fame. He was picking off horses one by one as if they were standing still, around the outside of the first couple of victims, moved to the rail gaining speed to pass the next group, moved off the rail as he entered the far turn, without breaking stride. He blew past Bertrando midway through the far turn and his momentum carried him wide into the home stretch. Arazi then extended his lead to as much as eight lengths, making the race a no contest as to the winner.
Arazi’s spectacular performance earned him the Eclipse Two Year Old Award winner unanimously. Experienced horsemen were slack jawed by the performance, and an instant legend was born. Arazi would win a couple of minor stakes in France as a three year old, after failing in his bid to win the Kentucky Derby and then was retired to stud, never reproducing his devastating performance again. He began his stud career at Dalham Hall in Newmarket, and has been moved around to Kentucky, Japan, Switzerland, and then to Australia, where he was eventually be pensioned in 2011. He has met with limited success as a sire. Congaree (Wood Memorial Stakes, Cigar Mile twice, Hollywood Gold Cup and Carter Handicap) has been his best on the track while his daughters as broodmares have produced Electrocutionist (Dubai World Cup), Lahudood (Breeder’s Cup Filly and Mare Turf), Bribon (Metropolitan Handicap), and Americain (Melbourne Cup).
Runaway Groom came from the first crop of Blushing Groom foals and would prove to be a harbinger of foals to come. Bred by Gardiner Farms in Ontario, the grey was purchased by Albert Coppola at the Fasig-Tipton yearling sale in 1980. He was unraced as a two year old and then ran a stellar season as a three year old. He won his first four starts, all in Kentucky. Entered in the Queen’s Plate at Woodbine, not far from his birthplace, he finish second. Runaway Groom captured the Prince Of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie Racetrack, the second jewel in the Canadian Triple Crown, and then shipped to Saratoga for the Travers Stakes. The field included the three separate winners of the American Triple Crown races from earlier that year.
The Derby winner Gato Del Sol, Aloma’s Ruler (Preakness Stakes), and Conquistador Cielo (Belmont Stakes) were to duke it out for bragging rights as to which one was the leading three year old. Runaway Groom went off at odds of 13/1 and was last down the back straight before coming on with a furious run to win the race by a half length over Aloma’s Ruler with Conquistador Cielo third. The race marked the first time that three separate winners of the American classics had competed in the historic Travers Stakes, but none of them won as the invading Canadian bred took the honours home.
Runaway Groom added the third jewel in the Canadian Triple Crown by winning the Breeder’s Stakes at one and a half miles on grass. He would subsequently go off form in next two starts finishing unplaced. Sent to California for his four year old season, he did not recapture his form here either and was retired to stud in California, moving to Florida after one season, and then to The Vinery in Kentucky.
As a sire, Runaway Groom became a success getting seventy-two stakes winners. Among his top offspring is Cherokee Run (Breeder’s Cup Sprint), named the Eclipse Champion Sprinter in 1994. At stud he would get War Pass (Breeder’s Cup Juvenile, Champagne Stakes) and fifty-two other stakes winners at time of writing. Runaway Groom also sired Wekiva Springs (Suburban Handicap, Gulfstream Handicap etc), Down the Aisle (United Nations Handicap), and The Groom Is Red (Champagne Stakes). Runaway Groom died of old age on June 8, 2007.
Other grade/group one stakes winners by Blushing Groom include Sillery, victorious in the Prix Jean Prat. Crystal Glitters won the Prix d’Ispahan. Baillamont had three group one wins, scoring the Prix Jean Prat, Prix Ganay and Prix d’Ispahan. Blushing John won the Poule d’Essai des Poulins at three in France and the Hollywood Gold Cup at four in the US. Digamist won the Phoenix Stakes. Nassipour won the Canadian International and later became a leading sire in Australia, while standing in New Zealand.
Nashwan was one of the best sons of Blushing Groom to race. He won the 2000 Guineas, Epsom Derby, Eclipse Stakes and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. Nashwan is the sire of Swain, Wandesta and One So Wonderful.
There are more. You’d Be Surprised won the Top Flight and Hempstead Handicaps and the John A. Morris Handicap twice. Al Bahathri was a top class daughter who won the Irish 1000 Guineas and then produced Haafhd (2000 Guineas). Sky Beauty won the Matron Stakes at two, the Acorn Stakes, Mother Goose Stakes, CCA Oaks, and the Alabama Stakes at three, and at four the Ruffian Handicap, Shuvee Handicap, Go For Wand Stakes and the Hempstead Handicap. Fire the Groom won the Beverley D. Stakes. Blushing Katy was a Champion Three Year Old in Canada. Snow Bride won the Epsom Oaks and then became a top broodmare. Too Chic took the Maskette Stakes.
Rainbow Quest is another high class group one stakes winner by Blushing Groom.He won 1985 the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and the Coronation Cup. Rainbow Quest later became an excellent sire, getting over one-hundred stakes winners. The list includes Saumarez, Raintrap, Rainbow Dancer, Quest For Fame, Color Vision, Nedawi, Croco Rouge, Millenary and Sunshack. Rainbow Quest is a two time leading broodmare sire with the likes of Kris Kin, North Light, Powerscourt, Look Hear, Marotta, Elusive Wave and Rakti produced by his daughters.
Rahy by Blushing Groom – Glorious Song by Halo became another top son at stud. A multi graded stakes winner, Rahy continued the male line of his ancestors by siring such top class individuals as Lewis Michael, Noverre, Pounced, Fantastic Light, Early Pioneer, Rio De La Plata, Dreaming Of Anna, Exotic Wood, Tranquility Lake, Mariah’s Storm and US Hall of Fame inductee Serena’s Song.
Rahy sired ninety-six stakes winners and is currently a very desirable broodmare sire with the likes of Giant’s Causeway, Declaration Of War, Lattice, After Market and Sophisticat produced by daughters of Rahy.
Mt. Livermore by Blushing Groom did not win a Group/Grade 1 stakes race, but did win four grade two sprints. After a nice career as a sprinter, Mt. Livermore stood at Gainesway Farm beginning in 1986 and became a successful sire. He sired seventy-five stakes winners which includes six champions. Among his top get were Peaks and Valleys, Housebuster, Mt. Sassafras, Subordination, Eliza, Mountain Angel and Orientate.
Blushing Groom’s son Groom Dancer won the Prix Lupin over eventual Arc winner Trempolino as a three old and the Prix de Conde over River Memories as a two year old. He won eight of thirteen races lifetime and then became a good but well travelled sire, upon entering the stallion ranks. He began his sire career at Haras d’Etreham in 1988, moving to Japan at the Shadai Stallion Station in 1995. While in Japan, he did double duty as a shuttle sire to New Zealand. He came back to Europe to stand at Cheverley Park Stud where he finished his career until he died at the age of twenty-three, in 2007.
While at stud, Groom Dancer sired Groom Tesse, Le Balafre, Kabool, Lord Of Men, Pursuit Of Love, Goose Bay, Dancienne, Sphenophyta and Astair.
The Blushing Groom male line has quite a few branches through the above mentioned sire sons, however the branch that is seemingly going from strength to strength is from his son Candy Stripes. From this stakes placed horse comes the great world champion Invasor, Leroidesanimaux, Lundy’s Liability, Sweetest Thing, Tapitio, Eventuail and Cursora, champions all. Leroidesanimaux would sire Animal Kingdom.
When one looks at the descendants of Blushing Groom, one has to admit that even though he is a direct male line grandson of the dynastic sire Nasrullah, he could certainly constitute as a founder of his own dynasty. His sire did not have any other get that remotely came close to Blushing Groom’s production record. Many of Blushing Groom’s sons have turned out to be successful sires and have sired a few sons that are continuing the line. However the broodmares sired by Blushing Groom have not taken a back seat to their brethren. In fact, many bloodstock analysts consider Blushing Groom’s legacy to be stronger through his daughters than through his sons.
Primal Force has produced two sons that were not only champions on the track, but are top ranked sires as well. Her son Awesome Again has been a sensational sire, following a sensational racing career. Awesome Again was a champion in his native Canada after he won the Queen’s Plate and the following year won the Breeder’s Cup Classic against a strong field that included Skip Away, Silver Charm, Touch Gold, Swain, Arch, Gentlemen, Victory Gallop, and Coronado’s Quest. This was, and still is, perhaps the deepest quality field ever assembled. Awesome Again flashed through between horses in the stretch to win the star studded event over Silver Charm and Swain in a blanket finish that saw five horses within a length of each other.
Awesome Again, who had won all six of his starts as a four year old, was retired to his breeder/owner’s Kentucky division at Adena Springs Farm. He was bred by Frank Stronach, a prominent Canadian breeder and owner. Sired by Deputy Minister, a grandson of Northern Dancer through Vice Regent, Awesome Again has continued the line admirably.
At stud Awesome Again has sired Ghostzapper (Breeder’s Cup Classic) an Eclipse Horse of the Year Award winner as well as a member of the Hall of Fame. Ghostzapper is a current top ranked sire in North America. Further top get of Awesome Again include the likes of Oxbow (Preakness Stakes), Game On Dude (Santa Anita Handicap, Hollywood Gold Cup twice each etc), Ginger Punch (Breeder’s Cup Distaff etc), Wilko (Breeder’s Cup Juvenile), Awesome Gem (Hollywood Gold Cup), Round Pond (Breeder’s Cup Distaff), and Paynter (Haskell Invitational) among his thirteen grade/group one winners so far in his stud career.
Macho Uno is a half brother to Awesome Again, sired by Holy Bull. He too is a Breeder’s Cup winner, having won the 2000 Juvenile event. Macho Uno has also sired a Breeder’s Cup winner, when his son Mucho Macho Man won the 2013 Breeder’s Cup Classic. Macho Uno has sired four other grade one winners so far in his stud career.
Primal Force has been a force for the legacy of Blushing Groom. Another broodmare daughter to produce a top sire was Blushing Promise. She is the dam of Carson City by Mr. Prospector, who in turn has sired City Zip (Hopefull Stakes), a high ranking sire currently standing at Lane’s End Farm, and champion sprinter State City.
Kadissya was bred by the Aga Khan IV and is the dam of Kahyasi by Ile de Bourbon, winner of the Epsom Derby and the Irish Derby, in the Aga’s colours. He sired fifty-five stakes winners before his passing due to cancer in 2008. Kahyasi sired Khalkevi (Grand Prix de Paris), Enzeli (Ascot Gold Cup), and Vereva (Prix de Diane). Kahyasi is the broodmare sire of current top sire Dansili and his brother Champs Elysees (Canadian International, Northern Dancer Stakes, Hollywood Turf Cup) and undefeated Zarkava (Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Poule d’Essai des Pouliches, Prix de Diane etc).
Epsom Oaks winner Snow Bride by Blushing Groom came from the very strong female family of Queen’s Statute. This family has been very productive for Windfields Farm and any of the breeders and owners who have bought yearlings bred from this female line. Snow Bride produced Lammtarra from a cover by Nijinsky. Lammtarra was undefeated in a short, but exceptional four race career. The Washington Singer Stakes at two was his only start as a juvenile. The following season Lammtarra made only three starts as a three year old. He won the Epsom Derby, the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes and then the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. Quite an outstanding achievement!
Speaking of outstanding achievements, Blushing Groom’s daughter Born Gold produced the great race mare Goldikova, whose outstanding achievement is in winning the Breeder’s Cup Mile three straight years. Goldikova is by Anabaa. She is now retired and has produced a colt by Galileo in 2013, a filly by the same sire in 2014 and is to be bred back to Galileo for a third time. There is high anticipation for these youngsters when they are old enough to race.
Other world class grade/group one winners from Blushing Groom broodmares are Spanish Fern (Yellow Ribbon Stakes), Stravinsky (July Cup, Nunthorpe Stakes), T. M. Opera O (Japan Cup, Satsuki Sho, Teeno Sho Spring twice and the Teeno Sho Autumn once etc), and Mayano Top Gun (Kikuka Sho and the Teeno Sho etc) in Japan.
Blushing Groom has been a very important sire in modern Thoroughbred history. He was well loved during his life as he was an enjoyable, sociable horse. He was not docile, as he did have a strong personality and character, but he was never mean or unruly. In 1988 he was diagnosed with testicular cancer and needed surgery to remove the testicle. He was fourteen at the time. He would sire two more small crops of foals until his sixteenth year in 1990. Some of his best came from his last few crops, such as Arazi and Sky Beauty, while his final crop of ten foals contained three stakes winners.
Blushing Groom was pensioned after the 1990 breeding season and lived another two years before he was humanely euthanized in 1992. The cancer had returned and it was deemed too far advanced to save him. Blushing Groom sired five hundred and twelve foals of which 18% became stakes winners, 4.7% of total foals are grade/group one stakes winners. This is an outstanding achievement, and places him among the all time elite sires of Thoroughbreds.
Blushing Groom was buried at Gainesway Farm in Kentucky, his place in the history of the farm and the legacy he founded secured.
(Photo courtesy of Gainesway Farm)