Where Champions Stand

At the end of the 1997/98 season, Danehill’s star was close to culmination in Australia, and beginning to rise in Europe. His 44 southern hemisphere stakes winners included 7 multiple Group 1 winners, headed by the Arrowfield-bred Danewin and the enigmatic mare Dane Ripper, and three winners of Australia’s premier 2YO contest, the Golden Slipper: the filly Merlene, and two Arrowfield-bred colts, Danzero and Flying Spur.

In the north Desert King (Irish Derby and Two Thousand Guineas), Danehill Dancer (the National S. and Phoenix S. in Ireland), Kissing Cousin (Royal Ascot Coronation S.) and US filly Danish had given Danehill Group 1 sire status, future stars Aquarelliste, Banks Hill, Mozart and Regal Rose were foals on the ground and Rock of Gibraltar would be born the following year.

The great sire Zabeel, bred by Arrowfield in partnership with Robert Sangster, had interrupted Danehill’s streak of Australian General Sires’ titles, and he would repeat that success in 1998/99. After that, the premiership would belong to Danehill for the next six seasons, giving him a final score of nine sire championships, unprecedented in Australian thoroughbred history.

It was just as Danehill was temporarily eclipsed that the horse who would ultimately succeed him as Australia’s champion sire, and most firmly secure his legacy, began his rise to fame.

A big, good-looking colt called Redoute’s Choice won his first race, a Listed Stakes event, at Caulfield in Melbourne on 20 February 1999.

John Messara picks up the story. “I thought to myself what a good performance it was first time out at that time of year, when all the best two-year-olds are out there. The trainer then said he was going to run him the following Saturday in the Blue Diamond.

“I thought, this is absolutely crazy, they’re running him a week after his maiden start. And they did run him, he drew the outside barrier and he still won the Blue Diamond, a Group One at his second start in a race, and I was absolutely flabbergasted. I thought to myself, from that moment on, this is the real thing, and I must track this horse.”

Bred and raced by Sri Lankan businessman Muzaffar Yaseen, and named for the famous French fashion company La Redoute, the colt was already on Messara’s radar, as he explains.

“I knew the pedigree well, because we were the under-bidders for his dam Shantha’s Choice when she was sold at the Melbourne Yearling Sale for $220,000. I’d seen Mr Yaseen after the sale and I’d congratulated him. Then, when she retired from racing, they’d called me and booked the mare into Danehill. So I’ve had an involvement with Redoute’s Choice from the day he was born, if you like, indirectly.”

The Damascus moment came in October 1999, when Messara was in France for the Arc meeting and Redoute’s Choice ran in the 1600-metre Caulfield Guineas G1, widely regarded as one of Australia’s stallion-making races.

“I remember waiting up at night and getting one of my staff to put the phone on the radio so we could hear the call of the Caulfield Guineas from Paris. It was an extraordinary call where Testa Rossa kicked clear, passed Redoute’s Choice, and Redoute’s fought back to win.”

The 1999 Caulfield Guineas remains one of the best displays of raw talent, and raw courage in recent Australian racing history, an assessment franked by the subsequent careers of the two colts Redoute’s Choice defeated that day.

Testa Rossa won another four Group 1 races and is a successful sire of 46 SW, including the high-class international performer Ortensia, trained by Paul Messara to Group 1 success in Dubai and England last year. Third-placed Commands, an Arrowfield-bred colt, has been a top 10 sire in Australia for the past eight seasons.

John Messara recalls, “With what I knew about Redoute’s Choice, his physical characteristics, his pedigree, and those two performances, I thought I’ve just got to get this horse. I came home from France and approached Mr Yaseen and luckily he sold me a half-interest in him.”

It was to prove another destiny-shaping decision for Arrowfield Stud and the Australian industry, but not everyone shared Messara’s confidence in Redoute’s Choice. Arrowfield already stood two brilliant Danehill sons, Danzero and Flying Spur (Australia’s Champion Sire in 2007), and doubts were expressed about the wisdom of standing a third.

The first Redoute’s Choice progeny sold at Australia’s premier yearling auction, the Inglis Easter Sale, averaged a respectable, if unspectacular, $134,000 off his $30,000 opening fee. That initial crop eventually produced 8 SW from 98 named foals, including the Arrowfield-bred colt Not A Single Doubt who opened his sire’s black type account in the AJC Canonbury S. LR on 20 December 2003. Another four 2YO winners that season were enough to earn Redoute’s Choice the title of Champion First Season Sire.

In 2004/05 he rocketed into third position on the General Sires’ list, behind Danehill and Zabeel, and won his first 2YO Sires’ premiership thanks to Golden Slipper winner Stratum. In 2005/06, with only three crops racing, he claimed the first of his two General Sires’ titles with 12 SW, six of them at Group 1 level: Fashions Afield, God’s Own, Lotteria, Nadeem, Snitzel and Arrowfield’s sensational Champion 2YO, Miss Finland.

Seven years later, the aggregate statistics of Redoute’s Choice’s stud career are astonishing: 105 SW, 23 Group 1 winners (including 7 juveniles, and 12 Classic winners), progeny earnings of more than $93 million, nine consecutive years as the Easter Sale’s leading sire by average, and 63 million-dollar-plus yearlings, among them this year’s Helsinge colt, sold for an Australasian record price of $5 million. More than 20% of the Easter Sale’s turnover since 2003 has been supplied by Redoute’s Choice yearlings.

This season alone Redoute’s Choice has been represented worldwide by 20 SW, two new Group 1 winners, Royal Descent in Australia and Wylie Hall in South Africa, plus 19 other stakesplacegetters.

However, it is his lifetime performance percentages that establish most clearly the margin of quality between Redoute’s Choice and his rivals. His 11.9% SW/Runners, 8.9% SW/Named Foals and 2.6% G1 Winners/Runners place him firmly in the very top bracket of the world’s elite stallions and have attracted the attention of another breeder who, like John Messara, focuses on quality.

That is HH The Aga Khan whose Haras de Bonneval in France has been home to Redoute’s Choice this northern hemisphere season, the first time the champion sire has left Arrowfield since 2000.

As leading European bloodstock commentator Tony Morris wrote in January 2013:

“No horse from the southern hemisphere has ever come north with more impressive credentials, and such conspicuously strong support from the world’s most successful private breeder can only encourage other European breeders, private and commercial, to get involved.”

The exceptional mares in his first French book, including the Aga Khan’s unbeaten champion Zarkava, offer Redoute’s Choice a rare and richly deserved mid-career opportunity to become a major international influence.

In Australia, Redoute’s Choice is already the dominant sire of sires in his generation, with ten stakes-siring sons, six of them with Group 1 winners on their records: Bradbury’s Luck, Duelled, Fast ‘N’ Famous, Not A Single Doubt, Snitzel and Stratum.

John Messara was as quick to secure early-crop colts by Redoute’s Choice as
he had been to purchase Danehill sons. In 2005 Not A Single Doubt joined the Arrowfield roster at a modest fee of $12,500. He has now sired 17 SW including the unbeaten Group 1-winning juvenile Miracles of Life and is fully booked for 2013 at a fee of $30,000.

Group 1-winning sprinter Snitzel arrived at Arrowfield in 2006 and last season, with his oldest progeny only 4YOs, he topped the Australian APEX ‘A’ Runner Index (compiled by Bluebloods magazine with Bill Oppenheim’s blessing) with an exceptional figure of 5.04.

Snitzel has stepped up the pace again in 2012/13 and will end the Australian season on 31 July with 11 SW and $6.5 million prizemoney earned by fewer runners than any other stallion in the top ten.

Arrowfield sold Snitzel’s first $1 million yearling at April’s Easter Sale where his average price of $335,000 was bettered only by Redoute’s Choice and Fastnet Rock.

A 50% fee increase for the 2013 breeding season, to $45,000, has not deterred breeders who filled Snitzel’s book in a matter of weeks.

The fate of sire-lines cannot be predicted with certainty, but it is certain that Danehill and his best son Redoute’s Choice have ensured the durability of Arrowfield’s stallion-making legacy.

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