One of the greatest success stories of the sires' ranks over the past decade has been the rise and rise of the Irish National Stud resident Invincible Spirit. The former Group One-winning (but not truly top-class) sprinter made a promising start to his stud career when his first runner Spoof Master won Britain's first two-year-old race of 2006 (the Brocklesby Stakes, run that year at Redcar) and he then proceeded to churn out a solid flow of two-year-old winners throughout that campaign. The true confirmation of his class, though, came the following summer when his first-crop son Lawman landed one of Europe's premier middle-distance three-year-old Classics, the Prix du Jockey-Club at Chantilly. Having thus initially helped to consolidate the stud career of his father, Lawman is now himself getting established at stud, with the latest milestones in his burgeoning stud career coming courtesy of a rash of stakes performances from his second crop of juveniles, writes John Berry.
What has made Invincible Spirit's success so creditable is that he has done things the hard way. He was a very good racehorse, but as his first-season stud fee (10,000 euros) suggested, he was not the height of fashion at the outset on his retirement to stud. He started out on mares who, in general, were not quite of the class of the blue-blooded matrons whom he usually covers nowdays. In common with many of the members of Invincible Spirit's early crops, Lawman came from a mare who, at the time of covering, could not really have been regarded as a top-drawer matron. However, in retrospect his dam Laramie can be seen as being considerably more influential than the majority of Invincible Spirit's early mates.
When Laramie was covered by Invincible Spirit in 2003 (the mating which yielded Lawman), she was aged nine and still unproven as a broodmare. She came from a family which had thrown up many high-class horses over the years but which had been relatively quiet in recent seasons. She had been an ordinary racehorse, never finishing in the first three in a brief racing career in Ireland. Her first and second dams (Light The Lights and Lighted Glory) had been high-class middle-distance fillies in France, but that was fairly ancient history by this time, Light The Lights (none of whose foals ever achieved much on the racecourse) being 19 when her grandson Lawman was born. However, by the time that Lawman started racing as a two-year-old in 2006, it was clear that Laramie was an excellent broodmare, well up to the standards of the many good horses who had represented the family in the '70s, '80s and early '90s, horses such as the high-class stayer King Luthier and the excellent sprinters Paris House and his half-sister Laurel Delight (who now ranks as the dam of the 2010 Irish Derby winner Cape Blanco). Although Laramie had not bred a winner at the time of Lawman's conception, by the time that he made his racing debut she was known as the dam of the 2004 Prix de Diane winner Latice (who is now the dam of the high-class colt Fencing) and the 2006 Prix du Palais Royal winner Satri, both the products of relatively inexpensive coverings.
Both Latice and Satri were trained by Jean-Marie Beguine, who understandably bought Lawman (on behalf of some of Latice's connections) as a yearling at Deauville in August 2005 for 75,000 euros. This was not a large sum for a good-looking half-brother to the previous year's Prix de Diane winner, particularly as, being French-bred, he was eligible for French owners’ premiums - but the other way to look at it was that it was a lot for an Invincible Spirit yearling at the time. (Such a figure nowadays, of course, would be a relatively small sum for an Invincible Spirit yearling and would see the breeder selling such a youngster at a loss).
While many of the Invincible Spirit two-year-olds were doing so well throughout the 2006 season, Lawman wasn’t one of the sire’s busier youngsters. However, he did win 100% of his races at two, saluting the judge on his sole start that season when taking the Prix Matchless, a race for unraced colts and geldings at Saint-Cloud in the second week of November.
However, come 2007 it didn't take long for Lawman to emerge from the pack and establish himself as his father's best first-crop son. At the start of the season, Beguigne clearly regarded Lawman as a possible contender for the Poule d'Essai des Poulains. However, good but unspectacular runs in two lead-up races appeared to persuade the trainer that a bit more time and a bit more distance would help his charge, so the Prix du Jockey-Club (in its third year at its new distance of 2100m, having had its length reduced by 300m in 2005) became instead his principal target. Lawman confirmed his claims for this race by winning the Group Three Prix de Guiche over 1800m at Chantilly in May and, come the first weekend in June, the trainer must have been very happy with the colt. His riding arrangements must have further pleased him: he was able to secure the services of Europe's best jockey, Frankie Dettori.
What Beguigne would presumably have been less pleased about was the fact that the 2007 renewal of the Prix du Jockey-Club appeared an ultra-competitive one, even by the standards one expects of a Group One Classic. Although punters made Lawman the 7/2 favourite, nobody could have been confident of victory because a rough race was guaranteed with a 20-runner field. Furthermore, many of these 20 runners were clearly very good horses. However, despite the minor setback of being unseated by Lawman in the parade ring, Dettori rode like a man brimming with confidence (which was understandable as he had ridden Authorized to victory in the Derby at Epsom the previous day) and made victory look easy: he took his mount straight to the front, thus avoiding any scrimmaging, and made all the running for an emphatic 1.5-length victory.
Subsequent events were to show that the form of Lawman's Prix du Jockey-Club victory was very strong. The runner-up Literato ultimately won four races that year, culminating in a great triumph in the Group One Champion Stakes at Newmarket, beating the likes of Eagle Mountain, Doctor Dino, Creachadoir, Notnowcato, Speciosa and Mount Nelson. Third-placed Shamdinan headed across the Atlantic to land the Grade One Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park before finishing second to English Channel in the Breeders' Cup Turf. And fourth-placed Zambezi Sun won the Grand Prix de Paris six weeks later. Furthermore, Lawman did his bit to advertise his own form, winning the Group One Prix Jean Prat at Chantilly five weeks after the Prix du Jockey-Club, coping admirably with the drop back to 1600m.
Disappointingly, Lawman failed to build on his two successive Group One triumphs. He only ran once more, finishing last behind the champion five-year-old Manduro in the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville in August, despite having started second favourite. That clearly was not his true running - and when Beguigne's vet diagnosed that the colt was suffering from liver trouble, that spelled the end of his season.
This illness also spelled the end of Lawman's racing career, because shortly afterwards a deal was done to take him to Ballylinch Stud in Ireland. Come the spring of 2008, therefore, he found himself part-way through the task of covering his first book of mares, instead of facing up to another season of racing. He was covering these mares at a first-season fee of 25,000 euros, which, although a high price, was only a third of the fee which his father was commanding by that time - and, of course, it was largely thanks to Lawman's achievements that the Irish National Stud had been able to raise Invincible Spirit's fee as much as it had done.
The members of Lawman's first crop are now aged three and are headed by his first Group One winner Most Improved, winner this year of the St. James's Palace Stakes over a mile at Royal Ascot in June. The same crop also includes the Group Three winners Loi, Forces Of Darkness and Lady Wingshot, and the listed winner Mustaheel. If this can be viewed as very satisfactory (which it can), then the achievements so far of his second crop (currently aged two, obviously) can be seen as being even better.
In a quick-fire rush of juvenile success, Lawman has recently been represented by Us Law, winner of the Group Three Prix Thomas Bryon at Saint-Cloud on 11th October; by Just The Judge (previously a listed winner at Newbury) and Nargys, who filled the quinella in the Group Two Rockfel Stakes at Newmarket on 13th October; and by Law Enforcement, winner of the Group One Gran Criterium at San Siro the same day. Furthermore, less than two weeks previously his two-year-old son Orgilgo Bay had finished second in the Group Two Beresford Stakes at the Curragh.
One of many very successful sire-sons of the Danzig stallion Green Desert, the 15-year-old Invincible Spirit is now well established among Europe’s elite with eight individual Group One winners to his name. It is not fanciful to suggest that, with two individual Group One winners to his credit this season, his 8-year-old son Lawman might well be following him up the ladder of success.