Pedigree Insights: Marcel

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Marcel | Racing Post photo

By Andrew Caulfield

When I visited Ballylinch Stud in County Kilkenny in 1997, it was apparent that this historic stud had a past, a present and a future.

The purpose of the visit was to interview stud manager John O’Connor about the acquisition of a new stallion, the G1 King George winner King’s Theatre. This son of Sadler’s Wells was to become another champion sire for the stud, but as a sire of jumpers, unlike the stallions which put Ballylinch on the map.

I have to admit it was the stud’s past which really interested me. The stud had been bought by Major Dermot McCalmont to stand The Tetrarch, a horse who has been billed as “one of the most remarkable horses ever seen on the English Turf; and possibly the fastest.” Because of his coloring–gray with white splodges–he was variously nicknamed The Rocking Horse and later The Spotted Wonder.

To be as succinct as possible, The Tetrarch won all seven of his starts as a 2-year-old in 1913 and such was his dominance of his generation that he was rated 10 pounds superior to the next-best juvenile. Then his luck ran out. A recurring injury prevented him from racing again and his stallion career at Ballylinch became the stuff of nightmares for any stallion manager.

The Biographical Encyclopaedia of British Flat Racing summarised it as follows:

“Like many other great horses, The Tetrarch had certain peculiarities and one of his was a marked lack of interest in sex. It required a lot of patience and perseverance to induce him to cover any mares at all and he would seize on any excuse to avoid carrying out his duties as a stallion. His owner described The Tetrarch’s attitude as ‘monastic in the extreme.’ In consequence The Tetrarch was a bad foal-getter and got steadily worse in that respect. He had been sterile for 10 years before his death in 1935. He only got 130 foals altogether, of which 80 were winners. In his closing years this once phenomenal racehorse was completely white in colour, very dipped in the back, and used to be ridden down with the letters to the local post-office.”

The box which housed The Tetrarch is still in use at Ballylinch, and the paddock in which The Tetrarch spent his days as a stallion is still there, surrounded by very high stone walls. I believe this type of paddock was the norm for that era, but it must have been rather like being kept in solitary confinement. Perhaps The Tetrarch could be excused some of his quirks.

The achievements of his progeny certainly entitled him to total forgiveness. He became champion sire in 1919 and sired a champion sire in his 2,000 Guineas winner Tetratema, who also stood at Ballylinch following a career built largely on his considerable speed. The Tetrarch’s most famous speedster, though, was the legendary filly Mumtaz Mahal.

Apparently gray Thoroughbreds were comparatively rare a hundred years ago but they are now much more common, thanks to The Tetrarch’s descendants, led by Mumtaz Mahal. Tapit, of course, is gray, and the first nine mares in his female line were all registered as gray or roan. In fact his fourth dam Foggy Note was a daughter of two grays, The Axe II and Silver Song. Both of these number The Tetrarch among their ancestors.

The Tetrarch has become so ubiquitous that he lurks in the distant ancestry of three young Ballylinch stallions which have been represented by group-winning juveniles over the last couple of weeks.

The first-crop sire Dream Ahead notched up group winner number two when Donjuan Triumphant took the G2 Criterium de Maisons-Laffitte. Then, three days ago, Ballylinch enjoyed a true 15 minutes of fame, with the potential for a much longer spell in the spotlight. Firstly the 3.30 at Leopardstown, the G3 Killavullan S., was won impressively by Blue de Vega, a colt from the second crop by the 2010 Prix du Jockey-Club winner Lope de Vega. Then the 3.45 at Doncaster, the G1 Racing Post Trophy, went to Marcel, a lightly raced colt by the 2007 Prix du Jockey-Club hero Lawman. It is far from impossible that Marcel and Blue de Vega will come up against each other in the 2,000 Guineas next May.

I will concentrate here on Marcel, as his victory came in a race which has been won this century by numerous future Classic winners, such as High Chaparral, Brian Boru, American Post, Motivator, Authorized, Camelot and Kingston Hill.

His victory confirms expectations that Lawman is poised for a rewarding time over the next few years. He was one of those numerous young stallions who found it hard to maintain his initial momentum. After covering 114 mares at €25,000 in his first season in 2008, his second book fell to 95 mares, at €20,000. The next step was to reduce Lawman’s fee to €15,000 for his third, fourth and fifth seasons, but it wasn’t all bad news. With his fee lowered and his first crop proving popular in the sales ring, the numerical slide was halted. Then good winners began to emerge from his first two crops. The St James’s Palace S. winner Most Improved led a team of four group winners from Lawman’s first crop and the second crop did even better, with a pair of Group 1 winners among its four group scorers. One of those Group 1 winners, Just The Judge took the Irish 1,000 Guineas in 2013, plus the following year’s E.P. Taylor S.

With only one group winner so far from Lawman’s first two €15,000 crops, he temporarily went off the boil. Marcel, though, comes from the third of those crops and–as I said earlier–Lawman should shortly be reaping the rewards from those early successes. His fee went back up to €20,000 in 2013 and then to €25,000 the following year. The yearlings from that €20,000 crop included individuals which sold for 450,000gns, 440,000gns (to Coolmore), 230,000gns and €270,000.

Marcel cost only 26,000gns as a yearling in a private transaction at Tattersalls. The youngster’s catalogue page showed that his second dam, the Alleged mare Absaar, was a winning half-sister to a pair of Group 1 winners. One of them, the Nureyev mare Annoconnor, was a Grade I winner over a mile and an eighth on turf and dirt back in 1988. The other, Roberto’s son At Talaq, won the Grand Prix de Paris in the days when it was over 1 7/8 miles and later added the Melbourne Cup. The catalogue didn’t mention that At Talaq had finished fourth in the Derby, or that the family had been represented by a much more recent Derby fourth. That was Arod, the 2014 fourth whose second dam, Pattimech, was a sister to Annoconnor.

I don’t know whether it is just coincidence that Arod and Marcel are both trained by Peter Chapple-Hyam. No doubt his fears that Marcel will lack the stamina for the Derby are based on Arod’s record. Although Arod’s sire Teofilo is a markedly stronger influence for stamina than Lawman, the colt’s racing career has been reinvigorated by a drop back to a mile this year. Arod is so effective at this shorter distance that he was beaten only half a length by the top miler Solow in the G1 Sussex S.

Doubts about Marcel’s ability to stay a mile and a half are also engendered by the fact that Munjiz, a brother to his unraced dam Mauresmo, was a smart sprinter at his best. Indeed it was by only a short head that Munjiz failed to win the G2 Diadem S.

That said, there’s no reason why Marcel shouldn’t stay well enough for the Prix du Jockey-Club, the mile-and-a-quarter Classic once won by his sire. Marcel’s broodmare sire, Marju, made his name principally as a miler, but he would have been a wide-margin winner of the 1991 Derby had Generous not been in the line-up. And Mauresmo’s dam, the Alleged mare Absaar, gained her only victory over 1 3/8 miles, having made her debut over a mile and three-quarters.

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