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story posted Wednesday 4th August 2010 09:57

COMPTON PLACE: Brave Borderlescott his father's son


No racehorse is indestructible. Even so, it was surprising to hear that super-tough sprinter Borderlescott had pulled up sore from his excellent win in the King George Stakes at Glorious Goodwood. However, Borderlescott had already proved himself to be a wonderfully durable galloper so it would be no surprise to see him eventually make a come-back and add further victories to his own excellent record and to that of his sire Compton Place, writes John Berry.

In an era in which the sprinter/miler is often more evident than the out-and-out sprinter, Borderlescott, although produced by a daughter of the St Leger winner Touching Wood, is a perfect example of a member of the latter category, which is easy to understand as the same comments could have been made about Compton Place.

Compton Place was bred to be a sprinter. He is a son of the 1989 King's Stand Stakes winner Indian Ridge, who was by the top-class sprinter Ahonoora from a daughter of the top-class sprinter Swing Easy from a daughter of the top-class sprinter Skymaster from a daughter of the brilliantly fast Grey Sovereign. Ahonoora, of course, proved at stud to be as much an influence for class as for mere speed, but Indian Ridge's dam Hillbrow came from so definite a sprinting background that her mating with Ahonoora inevitably yielded a proper sprinter. And Indian Ridge in turn, although capable of siring stayers such as the Irish Derby runner-up Definite Article (sire of the four-time Irish St Leger winner Vinnie Roe), unsurprisingly proved to excel best as a sire of short-distance gallopers - so his mating with Compton Place's dam Nosey (a mare whose best offspring invariably excelled over short distances) always seemed likely to produce a sprinter.

On the basis of his pedigree, it is thus only natural that Compton Place should have raced exclusively over five and six furlongs. Although his pedigree clearly was not that of a future Classic contender, he was such an impressive yearling that he fetched 92,000 Irish pounds when bought by Charlie Gordon-Watson at Goffs Yearling Sale in October 1995. Gordon-Watson was acting on behalf of the late Duke Of Devonshire, best known as the owner of the great racemare of the late '60s Park Top, but in the last decade of the last century enjoying an Indian summer as an owner, aided by his trainer James Toller. Although never racing a large string of horses, the partnership proved a formidable one, being represented by the likes of Emperor Fountain (a Listed winner at York in 1990), Lord Of The Field (winner of the Meld Stakes at the Curragh in 1993), Teapot Row (successful in the Royal Lodge Stakes at Ascot in 1997) and Duck Row (a Group Three winner at Doncaster in 2002) - while Bachelor Duke posted an emotional victory in the Irish 2,000 Guineas for the Duke's executors shortly after his owner's death in 2004. Toller had started his training career in Newmarket, having previously served as an assistant to a couple of trainers in the town, including Park Top's trainer Bernard van Cutsem. However, by the time that Compton Place joined his stable in the autumn of 1995, he had relocated his operation to Whitsbury in Hampshire (although he has subsequently returned to HQ, where he now trains in Eve Lodge Stables in the Hamilton Road).

Being trained at Whitsbury, Compton Place didn't have to travel too far for his debut, having his first race in a 5-furlong juvenile maiden at Bath in June 1996. Although in all his subsequent races he was to be ridden by Seb Sanders, he was partnered on that occasion by heavyweight Irish jockey Warren O'Connor, who at the time was trying to resuscitate his career in the UK. The pair got home by a head. Three weeks later Compton Place moved up to Listed class by contesting the Dragon Stakes at Sandown. Having started the 5/2 third favourite, he engaged in a thrilling duel with the joint-favourite Vax Star, the pair racing neck and neck all the way up the straight five furlongs. Vax Star got the verdict by a head, but Compton Place was back in the winner's enclosure four weeks later after landing a comfortable two-length victory in a six-furlong conditions race at his local track, Salisbury. That proved to be his final victory as a two-year-old, but his two remaining starts were both excellent: second places in the Gimcrack Stakes at York (to Abou Zouz) and the Flying Childers Stakes at Doncaster (to Easycall) showed him to be one of Britain's best juvenile sprinters, as well as a very consistent colt.

Compton Place's form at three was less even: in a four-race campaign, he finished in the first two twice and out of the first ten twice! However, his good runs included a superb victory in the Group One July Cup over six furlongs (starting at 50/1 and beating the 11/10 favourite Royal Applause by 1.75 lengths). Sadly, his season ended on a low note next time out when he could only finish 14th of the 15 runners (as the 9/2 favourite) behind the dead-heaters Ya Malak and Coastal Bluff in the Nunthorpe Stakes at York, while he was unplaced in his three races as a four-year-old in 1998.

Despite whatever problems had caused Compton Place to lose the consistency which he had exhibited as a two-year-old, he was clearly a top-class sprinter at his best. As such, and as a strong and handsome horse who boasted a pedigree full of speed, he had done enough to earn a place at stud. He didn't have to move far when he retired because he took up stud duties at Whitsbury Manor Stud in 1999, where he remains to this day. His initial stud fee was 3,500 pounds, and it is a testament to his success that, unlike the majority of sires, he has done enough to see it higher after more than a decade at stud than it was at the outset. It currently stands at 6,000 pounds.

Since retiring to stud, Compton Place has proved himself a stallion very easy to classify: while generalizations are rarely satisfactory, it is fair to say that a typical son or daughter of Compton Place is both fast and tough. The admirable multiple Listed-winning mare Angus Newz personifies these characteristics, but Borderlescott is an even better example: a member of Compton Place's third crop, he is currently aged eight, and he seemed at Goodwood to be as good as ever. He can now boast the fine record of having finished in the first three in 21 stakes races, all at either five or six furlongs. In fact, all his stakes victories have come at five furlongs - and as these include two consecutive victories in the Group One Nunthorpe Stakes at weight-for-age (at ages of six and seven), he is clearly a sprinter of the very highest order.

Compton Place's tally of Group/Graded stakes winners currently stands at nine. All of the European Group victories by his sons and daughters have come over five or six furlongs (or their metric equivalents) with the US Grade Three mile victory of his daughter Passified being the exception which proves the rule. She, too, is a very fast filly, having won over six furlongs in the UK and finished fourth in a very competitive 250,000-pounds sales race over the same distance prior to her export - while she posted her best American victory, in the Grade Two San Clemente Handicap on a firm track at Del Mar, in 1:34.15. Some of Compton Place's stock clearly take some time to find their form - such as Borderlescott, who didn't make his mark in stakes company until the age of four, and Intrepid Jack, who landed his best win when taking the Hackwood Stakes at Ascot in 2008 as a six-year-old - while many are very good at two. Of the latter category, Godfrey Street, Hunter Street and Able Speed (hk) - Prolific (Group race winners at two of, respectively, the Flying Childers Stakes at Doncaster, Cornwallis Stakes at Ascot and Richmond Stakes at Goodwood) are obvious examples. Overall, though, the two attributes which stand out above all else of the stock of Compton Place are speed and toughness - and, for his ability to pass those qualities on to his offspring, he looks sure to remain a popular and successful stallion for as long as he lives.

By remaining a popular and successful stallion, Compton Place continues, incidentally, to do his bit to keep the Byerley Turk sire-line alive. This line, which has produced some of the best horses in history and which came up with the Cox Plate winner in Australia as recently as 2006 when Rubiton's son Fields Of Omagh won the race for the second time, persists in Europe largely through Indian Ridge. Sadly, its long-term survival cannot be guaranteed, but Compton Place is one of several stallions who currently act as a fine advertisement for its merits.

Compton Place also acts as a reminder that European bloodstock lost a very good stallion when the 1977 2,000 Guineas winner Nebbiolo died prematurely. Nebbiolo's best son was the very fast juvenile Superlative, who proved a smart sprinting stallion without founding a dynasty, but it is mostly through some of his daughters that Nebbiolo's influence will persist in the long term - in particular through two of his daughters. Not only does Nebbiolo rank as the sire of Compton Place's dam Nosey, but he also takes a similar position in the pedigree of the hugely successful British-based stallion Selkirk, the dam of that distinguished veteran being Nebbiolo's Group-winning daughter Annie Edge.



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