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story posted Monday 7th May 2007 17:39

AN AWESOME COMBINATION OF GENES

WHEN DYLAN THOMAS put up his impressive display to win the Prix Ganay, the first European Group One of the 2007 season, recently, he was yet another example of the increasingly prevalent big-win Danzig/Sharpen Up cross, writes Clive Webb-Carter .

The first stakes winner to be bred on this cross was Coronation Stakes winner Kissing Cousin and since then the likes of sires Danehill Dancer and Invincible Spirit; Classic winner Rose Gypsy; Moyglare winner Chelsea Rose; Dylan Thomas’s Grand Lodge sister, Queen’s Logic; leading juvenile of 2006, Strategic Prince, to name a few, have all represented the same cross.

Yet another smart representative emerged on Sunday courtesy of Dalvina's impressive win in the Listed Pretty Polly Stakes.

Although this may demonstrate that both stallions complement each other, they certainly had very different careers as racehorses. Sharpen Up was sired by the unfashionable sire Atan, who raced just once (an impressive win in a fast time on the dirt at Aqueduct) before injury forced a career rethink. Sharpen Up’s dam, Rocchetta, failed to win a race but was a half-sister to the Yorkshire Oaks and Park Hill winner, Outcrop, and went on to produce a clutch of winners as a broodmare.

Sharpen Up was trained by breeder Mimi Van Cutsem’s famous husband, Bernard van Cutsem, in Newmarket and proved a smart two-year-old when his five unbeaten starts included the Middle Park Stakes (Gr1). The following year things were not so successful but he was a close second in the July Cup (Gr1). Despite his ‘cheap’ pedigree, Sharpen Up was retired to stud in England, although few expected him to be such a success. However, his third crop included the eventual double Champion Miler, Kris, and expectations were changed forever.

After that came Diesis, Sharpo and Pebbles which, in turn, led Gainesway Stud to make an offer and move Sharpen Up to Kentucky, where his successful career continued and where the likes of Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Trempolino, Prix du Jockey Club hero Sanglamore and Champion miler Selkirk were produced.

Danzig, on the other hand, was bred to be a very fashionable colt. His sire was the Northern Dancer and the dam, Pas De Nom, the winner of nine races. Danzig was bred by William Farish and Marshall Jenny and was foaled in Pennsylvania 1977, eight years after Sharpen Up. He was put in training with the legendary Woody Stephens after being bought at auction as a yearling for $310,000 by Henryk de Kwiatkowski.

Plagued by knee problems, Danzig raced just once as a juvenile (a win by eight-and-a-half-lengths) and only twice more as a sophomore (two wins, of course). Syndicated for $80,000 he was retired to Claiborne Stud in Kentucky where, in his very first crop, he sired the 1994 Breeder’s Cup Juvenile winner in Chief’s Crown. And followed up the trick with 20 more Champions including Dayjur, Polish Precedent, Danehill, Lure, Pine Buff as well as, more recently, Group-One winners Librettist and Ad Valorem.

Trying to work out just why this cross seemingly works so well is not straight forward but could be something to do with Sharpen Up’s broodmare sire, Rockefella. He is out of the Oaks and 1000 Guineas winner, Rockfel. In turn, her sire was Felstead who is also the sire of Danzig’s third dam, Steady Aim (and is also a distant relative of Rockfel). Therefore, when Danzig and Sharpen Up cross, there is duplication of Felstead, as well as distant relations. With a close up duplication of Native Dancer, through Sharpen Up’s sire line and Northern Dancer’s material sire, you get a pretty awesome combination of genes.



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