Helmsman - Best mating plan

There is a powerful affinity developing in the world of thoroughbred breeding, one which is yielding incredible results when applied in a calculated manner. The potent affinity is one that is developing between descendants of the wonderful matriarch Best In Show.

In recent times there have been a number of highly successful horses bred in Australasia that are linebred to Best In Show which should hardly come as a surprise as the leading sire and sire of sires Redoutes Choice is tail female to Best In Show. Combine that with the success at stud of shuttle sire Last Tycoon down under and a recipe for success is blatantly obvious. Recent QTC Oaks (GR1) winner Dariana is by Redoutes Choice out of Baldarian by Last Tycoon which means that she is 5f x5f to Best In Show. Best In Show is well represented in Australia by sires that are tail female to her such as Spinning World (by Nureyev), Umatilla (by Miswaki), Denon (Pleasant Colony) and the up and comers Good Journey (by Nureyev) and Domesday (by Red Ransom). In the past sires such as Gielgud and Masterclass that were tail female to Best In Show also stood in the Southern Hemisphere and provide further access to her influence.

Perhaps the most powerful conduit for the Best In Show family is via her daughter Sex Appeal. Sex Appeal was the very first foal of the prolific Best In Show, dam of 17 foals all told. By the champion racehorse and sire Buckpasser her pedigree was crafted to produce a special horse and Sex Appeal though unraced proved to be a broodmare extraordinaire. Before discussing her deeds at stud it is worth dwelling on the pedigree of Sex Appeal. Born in 1970 Sex Appeal featured linebreeding to La Troienne (4x5), one of the most influential mares of all time, through the three parts siblings Busanda (by War Admiral) and Mr Busher also by War Admiral. It is worth noting that a year earlier another blue hen My Charmer was bred featuring a strikingly similar pedigree pattern to that of Sex Appeal. My Charmer the winner of 6 races would go on to achieve fame as the dam of Seattle Slew and also Lomond, winner of the English 2000 Guineas. My Charmer was bred 3x3 to the full sisters Striking and Busher, both by War Admiral out of La Troienne.

Sex Appeal started off her broodmare career in spectacular fashion when her second foal Try My Best (by Northern Dancer) was declared Champion 2 year old after winning all three his races including the Dewhurst Stakes. Try My Best only had two starts at 3 years winning the Vauxhall Trial Stakes before running unplaced in the 2000 Guineas. Retired to stud he immediately made an impact and went on to sire Breeders Cup victor and world class shuttle sire Last Tycoon. The Northern Dancer mating would be repeated no less than seven times with Sex Appeal producing four colts and three fillies. El Gran Senor would follow in the footsteps of Try My Best and go on to become Champion 2 y and 3 year old in England. Considered after Nijinsky to be the best son of Northern Dancer to race he also nearly became an English Derby winner too succumbing in the final strides of the race to Secreto. At stud El Gran Senor like his brother Try My Best was plagued by fertility problems which curtailed a brilliant career in that role. Nevertheless El Gran Senor posted 14% stakes winners to foals placing him in the same company as other elite sire sons of Northern Dancer such as Nureyev, Lyphard and Nijinsky . The remaining two sons of Sex Appeal by Northern Dancer were Compliance and Northern Guest. Compliance a modest racehorse went to stud in the USA where he sired Irish 2000 Guineas winner Fourstars Allstars and his full brother Fourstardave, a local hero in the racing jurisdiction of New York. Fourstardave has a race named after him at Saratoga racetrack run on the same day as the GR1 Travers Stakes and was given the "Key to the city"in 1994 ! Northern Guest was unraced and banished to South Africa where he soon established himself as a leading sire and would become champion broodmare sire on no less than six occasions. Both Try My Best and El Gran Senor were part of a "Golden Age" of racing in Great Britain and Europe, a period in which they played a part in establishing Northern Dancer as a breed shaper and played an integral part of the establishment of Coolmore as a thoroughbred empire.

The four full brothers stood at various locations around the world and the resultant geographic isolation has hampered what otherwise may have given rise one of the greatest synergies seen in thoroughbred breeding in modern times. Another factor to stymie linebreeding opportunities later would be the fertility issues which both Try My Best and El Gran Senor would have in the breeding barn. Try My Best took up stud duties at Coolmore in Ireland, El Gran Senor had stints at stud in Kentucky and Japan whilst Compliance stood at Dutch Acres Farms in New York and Northern Guest at Summerhill Stud in South Africa. Ultimately Try My Best would become responsible for the most influential sire son in the form of Last Tycoon whose two most important sons at stud have been Marju and O'Reilly. El Gran Senor had a number of sons to take up stud duties including Al Hareb, Belmez, Rodrigo De Triano, Colonel Collins, Lit De Justice, Helmsman and George Augustus. The last named George Augustus a GR2 winner in England became a sensational sire in Venezuela where he sired 14 stakes winners from just 41 foals and most likely would have been El Gran Senors best son at stud had he been afforded the opportunities that the like of Al Hareb and Rodrigo De Triano enjoyed.

Line breeding to Sex Appeal through her various offspring is a relatively rare occurrence, the results to date have been quite outstanding and have come in the form of varying pedigree patterns. Almost certainly the most successful example of this linebreeding approach is Ramonti a five time GR1 winner now standing at Darleys Kildangan Stud in Ireland. Ramontis Group One victories included the Sussex Stakes. Queen Anne Stakes and Hong Kong Cup. Ramonti is by the little known Martini Alonso (by Marju) out of Fosca by El Gran Senor thereby being line bred to the brothers Try My Best and El Gran Senor 4x2. In New Zealand Marju sired Australian stakes winner Jukebox Johnny to a grand daughter of El Gran Senor in a 3x3 pattern to Try My Best and El Gran Senor. Cherry One a stakes winner in the USA is bred within the pedigree to Try My Best and El Gran Senor 4x3. Cherry One is the first and only stakes winner sired by his sire Sir Cherokee to date. In similar vein Firebolt a Graded stakes winner in South Africa is bred along the same lines, only this time involving the brothers Try My Best and Northern Guest 3x2.

Grand Slam a son of Gone West out of the El Gran Senor mare Bright Candles has also produced stakes winners to mares reinforcing the Sex Appeal connection. Strong Hope winner of the GR2 Jim Dandy and Dwyer Stakes also finnished second in the GR1Carter Handicap, he is bred 4x3 to Sex appeal through El Gran Senor and his half sister Solar (by Halo). Sensational Slam another by Grand Slam won his debut in a stakes race recently, he is bred 3x4 to the full siblings El Gran Senor and Northern Prancer.

The win by Chinchon in the GR1 United Nations Handicap in July this year further highlighted the synergistic effect which siblings out of Sex Appeal have when drawn together in pedigrees. Chinchon is by Marju (by Last Tycoon) out of the mare Jarama whose grand dam is Northern Prancer. Chincon is therefore 3x3 to the full brother and sister Try My Best and Northern Prancer.

If breeders are unable to bring together the full siblings by Northern Dancer and Sex Appeal then line breeding involving Try My Best or El Gran Senor with additional strains of Best In Show can reap dividends. Dual Group One wining filly Heavenly Glow by Spinning World is bred 5x5 to Best In Show involving Try My Best through his obscure son Celestial Bounty. New Zealand Derby (GR1) winner Redoutes Dancer is by Redoutes Choice out of the El Gran Senor mare Condescendence thereby having Best In Show 5x4. Cambridge Studs Lucky Unicorn is bred along very similar lines to Redoutes Dancer, In this instance Try My Best replaces El Gran Senor in the pedigree of the dam and Best In Show is replicated 5x5. Young Australian based sire Good Journey by Nureyev has sired his first stakes winner Sound Journey out an O'Reilly mare in a 5x6 pattern to Best In Show involving Try My Best.

In New Zealand breeders can capitalize on the synergies which linebreeding to Best In Show offers. At stud we have the Last Tycoon (by Try My Best) line sires O'Reilly, Towkay and Kingmaker. We also have a number of sires by Redoutes Choice including Lucky Unicorn as well as Thewayyouare whose third dam is Best In Show. Intriguingly there is only one son of El Gran Senor at stud in Australasia and that is the champion 2 year old and Group One winner Helmsman. A successful sire from limited exposure in the USA Helmsman presents a unique opportunity for breeders to bring together the qualities of El Gran Senor with mares carrying strains of Try My Best or alternatively mares who may have other strains of Best In Show. Breeders with mares whose pedigrees carry the blood of Last Tycoon, Marju, O'Reilly, Towkay, Spinning World, Masterclass and Umatilla should be considering the services of Helmsman this year, it could just be the "Best" thing to do!