Some of the most important sires of the past few decades have been from A.P. Indy, Storm Cat, Thunder Gulch, Danzig, and in more reason years, Giant’s Causeway, Distorted Humor, and Kitten’s Joy. While these sires all are great in their own right, each traces their sire line back to one major line, that of Darley Arabian, one of the three foundation sires. A.P. Indy, Storm Cat, Danzig, Giant’s Causeway, and Kitten’s Joy trace back through Nearco, while Thunder Gulch and Distorted Humor go through Mr. Prospector Going back even farther, those two lines (Mr. Prospector and Nearco), trace back to one horse, British racehorse Phalaris. There, our story begins. Phalaris, a stallion from Polymelus out of Bromus became one of the most important sires in history. Sire of five European Classic Race winners, his descendents include the past three US Triple Crown winners, Secretariat, Seattle Slew, and Affirmed. Other descendents are European champions Nijinsky (better known in the states as Nijinsky II), Nasrullah, Galileo (sire of Frankel and Cape Blanco) and High Chaparrel. However, probably the two most important direct progeny are Pharos and Sickle. Pharos, 2nd in the 1923 Epsom Derby, may not have been the most successful of races, but was one of the most successful of sires. Sire of Federico Tesio’s Nearco, an undefeated runner and an important sire in his own right, Pharos would begin the Nearco line that would appear in many of the major sires around the world and some of the most accomplished races. Since 1985, every Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner can be traced back to Nearco. Nearco went on to sire Nasrullah, who sired Bold Ruler, an eight time leading sire in North America, and of course, sire of Secretariat. Another important offspring of Nearco is Northern Dancer, near Triple Crown winner in 1964, who has had more Breeders’ Cup winners come from his bloodline than any other horse. Northern Dancer is the sire of Nijinsky, Danzig, Storm Bird, and Sadler’s Wells, all who went on to be outstanding sires. However, most of the important horses from him come from his offspring. He is on the paternal side of Storm Cat, Deputy Minister, El Prado, Danehill, Big Brown, Makybe Diva, Mine that Bird, Rachel Alexandra, Summer Bird, Sea the Stars, Frankel, and Black Caviar. Now that is one amazing list of offspring. From the other offspring of Phalaros, Sickle left his legacy to his great-great grandsire, Raise a Native, an important horse to have when it comes to winning the Kentucky Derby; winners like Affirmed, Street Sense, War Emblem, Smarty Jones, and Funny Cide had him on their sire line. Of course, one of the most important sons of Raise a Native is Mr. Prospector, one of the most important sires in history, who would be a major reason why the Darley Arabian sire-line has become such a dominant bloodline in recent North American history.
However, not all horses trace their sire-line back to Darley Arabian. The two other founders of modern thoroughbred racing, Godolphin Arabian and Byerley Turk, still have some dominance in horse racing today. While Byerley Turk hasn’t have much sire-line success as of late, he still exists on the dam side of many prominent horses. Through his modern successor, Ahonoora, he appears the damsire line of Leriodesanimaux, sire of Animal Kingdom. However, there are some sire-line descendents (although not as many as Darley Arabian has), Epsom and Irish Oaks winner and two time Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf winner Ouija Board, Epsom Derby winner Dr. Devious, English and Irish 2000 Guineas winner Don’t Forget Me, and Melbourne Cup winner Dunaden. However, Ahonoora passed away in 1989, ending the stud duty of one of the most important stallions for the Byerley Turk line. The last important sire-line descendent is Notnowcato, who in 2006 and 2007 was ranked in the top 20 in the world by the World Thoroughbred Racehorse Rankings. However, this line is basically non-existent in the United States today, although it has a few strong runners elsewhere, keeping the direct sire-line alive. The other founding sire, Godolphin Arabian, and the topic of this post, is represented in the sire-line of very few present-day horses. In the 2014 Kentucky Derby, not one horse traced back their sire-line to Godolphin Arabian, and only Hoppertunity traced back to him through his damsire-line. Yet, some of the greatest horses in the United States go back to him. Seabiscuit, Man O’ War, and War Admiral all trace back to him on their sire-line. Today, he is represented by Tiznow, and his progeny. So how does such a dominant sire-line in the 1800s and early 1900s basically become nearly lost 100 years later?
In 1877, Baden-Baden won the 3rd Kentucky Derby. His grandsire, West Australian was the first English Triple Crown winner and a main reason for the survival of the Godolphin Arabian sire-line. Sadly, Baden-Baden was not a successful sire, mainly having many daughters, unable to carry on the sire-line. The next Godolphin Arabian Derby winner wouldn’t be until 1887 with Montrose. Once again, however, the sire-line would not be continued by him as his progeny amounted to nothing. After Montrose, however, the Godolphin Arabian sire-line wouldn’t have a winner of the Derby for the rest of the 1800s, and era dominated by the Darley Arabian and Byerley Turk sire-lines. But even the Byerley Turk sire-line stopped winning the Derby, with its last winner in 1902 in Alan-a-Dale. For the next 14 years, the Darley Arabian sire-line won every Derby. It wouldn’t be until 1917, when the British-born horse, Omar Khayyam closed from tenth on the stretch to beat the favorite Ticket, a colt from the Darley Arabian sire-line. From there, the Godolphin Arabian sire-line would go on to win four more Kentucky Derbys, topped off with Triple Crown winner War Admiral’s 1937 win. Now, 77 Derbys later, a Darley Arabian has won each and everyone since War Admiral’s run. Over that same period, the Darley Arabian has the same amount of wins in the Preakness, and 74 Belmont Stakes wins. Only in the Belmont has a horse from the other lines won (Amberoid from the Byerley Turk sire-line in 1966 and Da’Tara from the Godolphin Arabian sire-line in 2008). Oddly, in only six more races, the Godolphin Arabian sire-line has won more Belmont Stakes, eighteen, than wins in Kentucky Derby and Preakness combined (7 in each and 14 combined, compared to 122 in each for Darley Arabian sire-line and 11 in each for the Byerley Turk sire-line). The Darley Arabian sire-line also dominates the Breeders’ Cup Classic, with 26 wins in 30 runnings, followed by Godolphin Arabians with 3 wins and Byerley Turks with won. However, the Godolphin Arabian sire-line is the only one with a repeat Classic winner, Tiznow, the most important current day sires from the Godolphin Arabian sire-line.
Tiznow has already Breeders’ Cup, Dubai World Cup, Belmont Stakes, and Travers Stakes winners from his progeny. With Folklore, Well Armed, Colonel John, Da’Tara, Gemologist, and of course Tizway he has many dominant children. But Folklore is a mare, Well Armed a gelding, and Da’Tara down in Venezuala, all that are left of the older crop are Colonel John, Gemologist, and Tizway. Colonel John’s progeny haven’t had much success, while Gemologist and Tizway have been recently retired, with their progeny to start racing in the next few years. Two major three-year-olds from Tiznow, Dynamic Impact and Strong Mandate are currently racing, with Dynamic Impact most recently beating Midnight Hawk in the Illinois Derby, and Strong Mandate is recovering from a disappointing finish in the Arkansas Derby. But two three year olds this year aren’t enough. In the coming years, more should crop up, but it isn’t a given that they will be successful. Tizway is a sire who needs to be preserved. Tizway and his male progeny are the last hope of a dying sire-line. While success has evaded the Godolphin Arabian line in the Triple Crown since War Admiral’s sweep, with only one win in the series races since then, the line still has winners. With a Belmont Stakes, a two time Breeders’ Cup Classic, and a Dubai World Cup winner since 2000, the sire-line is coming back. Before Da’Tara’s 2008 Belmont win, it was 70 years since their last win in the final leg. While the sire-line might not be on its way to making a comeback within the next few years, if the progeny of Tizway are taken care of and bred, the Godolphin Arabian line could begin to come close to its previous dominance. The line that contains the likes of War Admiral, Man O’ War, and West Australian, all multiple Classic race winners, could produce horses with lots of stamina and speed alike. Looking at history, most of the Triple Crown race wins came in the Belmont Stakes, the longest leg of the series. In fact, not one Belmont Stakes win came for the Godolphin Arabian sire-line when the distance was less than 2100 meters, with 2 wins at 2600 meters, 3 wins at 2100 meters, and 13 wins at 2400 meters. The United States, which has struggled to generate strong stayers, could get some help from this line. This line holds many of the founding genes of thoroughbred racing and the loss of this line is tantamount to losing history. With this past weekend having hosted not only the Belmont Stakes, the best Triple Crown race for the Godolphin Arabian sire-line, but also the Silky Sullivan Stakes at Golden Gate Fields, a race named after one of the best from the Godolphin Arabian sire-line, it is a time to understand the sire-line and keep it alive, whether you are a breeder, owner, trainer, or even just a fan. We cannot let hundreds of years of work just end.