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story posted Wednesday 22nd December 2010 22:44

GENEROUS: So much to give

One of the mysteries of the modern world has been the on-going marginalisation of Generous, the brilliant winner of the 1991 Derby winner whose stud career has contained more relocations than that of your typical British soccer manager. Generous was an outstanding racehorse who has proved a very good stallion, but despite this he has found it very hard to get himself settled at stud and, almost impossible though it is to believe, he doesn't appear to be standing anywhere at present. If any stud-master does have him and is planning to make him available to breeders in the forthcoming season, please let us know, because Generous keeps coming up with reminders of his merit as a sire, writes John Berry.

All lovers of racing have frequent cause to bemoan the modern-day mindset which has seen it become the norm for the world's best horses to have unjustifiably short racing careers. Few racehorses in recent years have been more under-used than Generous, whose two seasons of racing showed him to be a tremendous galloper. One can only speculate how he would have fared if allowed to race in maturity, but it is a fair bet that he would have achieved true greatness because his two-year-old and three-year-old careers combined to give him the profile similar to those of the great horses of the old days.

Coming early in the summer in mid-June, Royal Ascot identifies the best of Britain's early two-year-olds (as well as identifying champions in most divisions from sprints to staying races). It used to be the case that the best early two-year-olds would often remain the best of their generation for the entirety of their racing careers, but this is rarely the case nowadays. Aidan O'Brien and Richard Hannon are probably the only current European trainers of top-class horses who get many of their best prospects on the track in the first half of their two-year-old season, and even they tend not to do this with the youngsters who seem likely to develop into champion stayers. The five-furlong New Stakes (which has been known as the Norfolk Stakes since 1974, in honour of the Queen's long-time representative, the late Duke of Norfolk) used to be Royal Ascot's premier juvenile race, and in the past it was as natural that its winner would be aimed at the following year's Derby as it was that the Derby winner would be aimed the following year at either the Coronation Cup or Ascot Gold Cup – or both.

The Norfolk Stakes nowadays is more likely to be won by a subsequent sprint handicapper than by a subsequent Derby winner, but its past roll of honour includes the Derby winners Isinglass, Flying Fox, Lemberg, Hyperion and Blenheim , while Lemburg's St Leger- and Ascot Gold Cup-winning half-brother Bayardo (who disputes with Dancing Brave the unwelcome distinction of having been the best horse to be beaten in the Derby) won the race on his debut in 1908. The Coventry Stakes (which also used to be run over five furlongs, but which is nowadays run over six) is now the meeting's principal two-year-old race. Its recent winners include the subsequent Classic-winning milers Henrythenavigator and Canford Cliffs, but Mill Reef, who took the Coventry in 1970, remains the most recent Royal Ascot two-year-old winner to land the Derby.

Mill Reef, of course, went on to win the Dewhurst Stakes at the end of his two-year-old season and won the Derby, King George VI And Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Stakes and Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at three before consolidating further his reputation at four with Group One weight-for-age victories in the Prix Ganay and Coronation Cup. He was, hard though it is nowadays to believe, set to remain in training as a five-year-old, but sadly a broken leg sustained on the home gallops when being prepared for a second Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe meant that his four-year-old season proved to be his last. Generous' career in his first two seasons bore remarkable similarities to the path followed by Mill Reef, so the fact that his racing career was restricted to those two seasons seems particularly sad.

Mill Reef made a winning debut at Salisbury in mid-May of his two-year-old career, but Generous was out even earlier, landing the Garter Stakes over five furlongs on debut at Ascot on 2 May 1990. Like Mill Reef, Generous tackled the Coventry Stakes second up but, whereas Mill Reef won this race by six lengths, Generous could only finish second, beaten two lengths by the top-class sprinting juvenile Mac's Imp, who had already won three races and who would go on in the next couple of months to land the Richmond Stakes at Goodwood and the Group One Phoenix Stakes at the now-defunct Phoenix Park track in Dublin. Generous struggled for a while after this good Royal Ascot run and finished well in arrears in the Prix Morny in August but, after winning at Sandown in September, he bounced back to his best by emulating Mill Reef with a Dewhurst Stakes victory, beating the Champagne Stakes winner Bog Trotter by a neck.

Like Mill Reef, Generous ran well in defeat in the 2,000 Guineas the next spring. Admittedly Mill Reef's performance in finishing second to Brigadier Gerard ranked more highly, but Generous' fourth place behind Mystiko was still creditable – as was made very clear the following month when Generous bolted up in the Derby by five lengths, slamming the Craven Stakes winner Marju, who franked the form 13 days later by winning Royal Ascot's St. James's Palace Stakes. This was the first time that Generous had been ridden by Alan Munro, having previously been partnered almost exclusively by Richard Quinn, stable jockey to his trainer Paul Cole. However, following the 2,000 Guineas, Generous' owner Prince Fahd Salman had decreed that Quinn would be replaced by Munro, who had previously been riding primarily for Mac's Imp's trainer Bill O'Gorman. Munro thus had the perfect introduction to Generous, and the partnership continued to establish its dominance when Generous followed up his Derby victory with equally impressive wins in the Irish Derby and, again following in Mill Reef's footsteps, the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes. In the Irish Derby he beat Europe's other star three-year-old, the Prix du Jockey-Club winner Suave Dancer, while his King George victory was similarly sensational: he started the 6/4 on favourite and won by seven lengths.

Following the King George, Paul Cole didn't run Generous for another ten weeks. When Generous did resume, he returned to action in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe as one of the very few horses to start odds-on favourite for Europe's weight-for-age championship. Sadly, he was not able to cap his season with this crown as he ran way below form: whether he'd 'gone over the top' having been in work all year, or whether he was just too fresh after his let-up, isn't clear, but what was clear was that he pulled too hard in the first half of the race and ran too slowly in the second half, finishing eighth of 14 behind his Irish Derby victim Suave Dancer. It wasn't a bad run (he only finished one place behind the previous year's Derby winner Quest For Fame and in front of the wide-margin Oaks winner Jet Ski Lady, as well as his St Leger-winning stable-mate Snurge and Miss Alleged, who won the Breeders' Cup Turf on her next start) but, by the standards of his preceding three Group One victories, it was very much an off-day.

Sadly, Generous was not able to put his Arc defeat behind him: unlike Mill Reef, he did not stay in training at four, instead retiring in 1992 to stand alongside Rainbow Quest and Warning at Banstead Manor Stud, owned by Prince Fahd Salman's Saudi compatriot and relative Prince Khalid Abdullah. Generous remained there for only four seasons, relocating to Japan in advance of the 1996 season when his first crop had just completed their two-year-old season. He hadn't had time to prove himself either a success or a disappointment, so his emigration was more than a surprise, particularly bearing in mind that he was owned by a very wealthy man. The 20th century then ended with Generous at stud in a third continent (Australasia) with him standing in New Zealand first at Glenmorgan Stud and then at Westbury Stud. However, he still couldn't put down roots and came back to Britain. 2005 found him at Sandley Stud in Dorset, the former site of the National Stud which was at the time an off-shoot of Northern Ireland's Scarvagh Stud. When that operation folded, its proprietor Alfie Buller sold off most of its impressive roster – but Generous appeared to be the one horse with whom he didn't want to part. Which brings us to the present day, and the mystery of why Generous currently doesn't appear on any roster.

Throughout his peripatetic stud career, the one constant theme was that Generous kept leaving good, sound, tough horses wherever he went. This made his nomadic existence even harder to understand, but basically his transience was just another non-sequitur in the story of a horse who has been under-used and under-appreciated throughout his life. What made the decision to retire Generous so prematurely even odder, in the absence of any suggestion that he might have been an unsound horse, was the fact that he came from a family of very, very tough and durable gallopers. Bred in Ireland by Barronstown Stud, Generous is a flashy chestnut son of the Nijinsky stallion Caerleon, winner of the 1983 Prix du Jockey-Club and a sire whose stock generally thrived on their racing and stayed well. (They also, incidentally, tended to thrive particularly on fast ground, which makes Generous' below-par run on a wet track in the Arc even easier to forgive). Pin-hooked as a foal by Hamish Alexander for 80,000 Irish guineas and re-sold as a yearling at Goffs in 1989 for 200,000 Irish guineas, Generous attracted plenty of interest at these sales because of his strong pedigree, a pedigree whose stars were horses who had enjoyed thorough racing careers.

Generous' grand-dam Margarethen, a daughter of the 1952 Derby winner Tulyar, was a wonderfully tough race-mare, winning 16 of her 64 starts in America. Margarethen proved a great broodmare, most obviously by breeding the super-tough French-trained racemare Trillion, winner of two Group races as a three-year-old, three as a four-year-old and two as a five-year-old. Her best win came in the Group One Prix Ganay as a four-year-old in 1978, in which year she finished second in three other Group One races, including chasing home Alleged in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. Trillion, amazingly, then went on to produce a daughter who ended up out-ranking her in both class and toughness: the amazing Triptych, who won one Group One race at two (the Prix Marcel Boussac), one at three (unusually for a filly, this victory came in the Irish 2,000 Guineas), one at four (the Champion Stakes), five at five (including the Champion Stakes and the Coronation Cup) and one at six (the Coronation Cup). Margarethen's other daughters included Generous' dam Doff The Derby, a daughter of the Bold Ruler-line sire Master Derby whose racing career completely failed to get off the ground - she began her stud career as a two-year-old! We can, of course, forgive Doff The Derby her failure as a racehorse: not only did she breed Generous, but she ultimately came up with five stakes performers including the 2001 Oaks and Irish 1,000 Guineas victrix Imagine, whose stud career has already produced four high-class performers including Horatio Nelson, winner of the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere in 2005, and Kitty Matcham, winner of the Rockfel Stakes in 2007.

With such a solid pedigree, it is no surprise that Generous has proved adept at siring durable racehorses. His first four years at stud in the UK yielded the likes of Blueprint (winner of the Grand Prix de Deauville as a four-year-old), Capri (winner of the Grand Prix de Chantilly as a four-year-old), Catella (winner of six races including in Group One company as a four-year-old) and Generous Rosi (a Group Three winner in England as a four-year-old and a Grade Three winner in America at six). His stock do not necessarily need too much time, though, as the same period also yielded the 1998 Oaks runner-up Bahr as well as the Group Two-winning three-year-olds Radevore and Lisieux Rose. His best juvenile from that time was the 1997 Royal Lodge Stakes winner Teapot Row, while he has subsequently come up with the 2007 German Oaks winner Mystic Lips.

In New Zealand, Generous came up with such Group winners as Philamor (Avondale Guineas), Zilzie (Taranaki Cup) and Tullaroan (this month's Manawatu Cup) while his Japanese offspring included the multiple Group winner Erimo Harrier. Even more notable, however, has been his success has a broodmare sire, his stars in this respect including the 2,000 Guineas and King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner Golan and his Derby-placed brother Tartan Bearer, the Prix Marcel Boussac winner Proportional, the UAE Group One winner Al Shemali, the current top-class Australasian three-year-olds Lion Tamer and We Can Say It Now (winners respectively in the past few weeks of the Victoria Derby and the Levin Classic) and the high-class UK-trained stayers High Accolade and Tungsten Strike (a half-brother to Al Shemali).

Now aged 22, Generous is a very well-bred horse who was an absolutely top-class racehorse. A very decent stallion who retired from racing with so much untapped potential, he still potentially has much to offer as a stallion.

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