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Anabaa Blue

by Nigel Pullen

Once upon a time there was a horse named Anabaa. He was written off by vets as a two-year-old when diagnosed as a wobbler, a condition thought to arise from a spinal injury, but he confounded the experts by becoming the Champion European Sprinter (at four, in 1996). Retired to stud, he defied the experts again, and became the sire of a French Derby winner from his first crop.

No, this is not a fairy tale, but a true story, with the latest chapter being written thanks to the success of Anabaa Blue (by Anabaa - Allez Les Trois by Riverman - Allegretta by Lombard - Anatevka by Espresso) in the 2400 metres G1 Prix Du Jockey Club (French Derby) at Chantilly.

Anabaa Blue's granddam, the German-bred mare Allegretta, has been establishing her reputation as important broodmare in recent years, and her star is very much on the ascendancy at present. She has already produced two G1 winners, Urban Sea (by Miswaki) winner of the Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe, and King's Best (by Kingmambo) last year's hero of the English 2000 Guineas. In addition, Anabaa Blue's dam Allez Les Trois scored in the G3 Prix de Flore. Amongst Allegretta's grandchildren are the Group winners Galileo (recent winner of the 2001 Epsom Derby), Urban Ocean, Tertullian, and Terek, while another granddaughter, Melikah was placed in both English and Irish Oaks. Not bad for a mare only foaled in 1978.

While Allegretta's sire, Lombard, was a seasoned campaigner, winning twenty races over five seasons including both German 2000 Guineas and St.Leger, Allegretta wasn't quite in that league, but she won over eight and nine furlongs as a two year old, and at three finished runner-up in the Lingfield Oaks Trial over a mile and a half. Her year-younger full brother Anno was the Champion Three-Year-Old of his year in Germany, and her fourth dam, Asterblute, numbered the German 1000 Guineas, Derby and Oaks amongst her victories back in 1949.

These German-bred mares, with their uniquely tight-knit pedigree backgrounds, are potent genetic weapons in the breeder's armoury, and Allegretta is no exception. Her pedigree is full of interest, with two sets of closely related individuals close up. The first of these are Belle Sauvage (granddam of Lombard) and Espresso, who appear 3x2. Belle Sauvage was by a son of Bahram out of a Hyperion mare; while Espresso had the reverse cross being by Acropolis (maternal grandsire Hyperion) out of a Bahram mare. In fact, Espresso was a closely inbred horse himself, being 2x1 to Blandford/Clarissimus sources Donatello II and Babylon.

The second pair of close genetic relatives in Allegretta's pedigree were the mares Aralia and Almyra who were found 3x2. Aralia, the dam of Allegretta's grandsire Agio, was by Alchimist out of Aster, and these two individuals were also respectively the grandsire and third dam of Allegretta's granddam Almyra. Things get even more interesting when comparing the pedigrees of the duplicated pair Alchimist and Aster. Both descend tail male from Dark Ronald, and both had granddams bred on very similar lines; one (Antwort) being by Ard Patrick out of Alveole and the other (Arabis) by Ard Patrick out of a granddaughter of the aforementioned Alveole.

Before we look at the pedigree of Anabaa Blue, let us first consider the racing career of his sire, Anabaa. As a result of his previously mentioned problems he did not make his racecourse debut until a three-year-old, at which age he raced six times, winning a minor mile race at Maisons-Laffitte and a six furlong handicap at Chantilly. He really came into his own as a four-year-old, wining his first six starts all over five or six furlongs, amongst which were the Prix de Saint-Georges (G3), Prix du Gros-Chene (G2), July Cup (G1), and Prix Maurice de Gheest (G1). He met his sole defeat in his final race, the G1 Prix de L'Abbaye, when beaten a neck by his stablemate Kistena.

Anabaa was a half brother to the French 1000 Guineas winner Always Loyal (by Zilzal) and the very useful colt Key Of Luck (by Chief's Crown). The most obvious feature when looking at the pedigree of Anabaa Blue is the 4x2 duplication of Riverman. It is surely no coincidence that Riverman's trainer Alec Head, also owns Haras du Quesnay where Anabaa stands in France; while both the sire and dam of Anabaa Blue were trained in their racing days by Alec's daughter Criquette.

This double of Riverman was balanced by the presence of the mare Gay Missile, who was the dam of Anabaa's maternal grandsire Gay Mecene. Gay Missile provided My Babu, whose background of Djebel, Badruddin and Pharos made him a perfect foil for Riverman's sire Never Bend. In addition, Gay Missile supplied a daughter strain of Princequillo, to balance the son of Princequillo in Riverman, along with Admiral Drake, whose half brother Sir Gallahad III was present in Riverman, too.

The presence of Gay Mecene is important for other reasons. Firstly, his sire, Vaguely Noble, was out of a daughter of the mar,e Noble Lassie. The latter just happened to be a half-sister to the mare Promised Land, the dam of Allegretta's sire Lombard, thus making Anabaa Blue 5x4 to daughters of Belle Sauvage. The other important link provided by Gay Mecene stems from his great grandsire Aureole, who was by Hyperion out of a Donatello mare. This is the reverse cross to the stallion Acropolis (by Donatello - Aurora by Hyperion), who appeared in Anabaa Blue's dam as the grandsire of her third dam Anatevka.

Anabaa Blue is the second European Derby winner to be bred on a Danzig/Riverman cross, following the 1994 Epsom Derby hero Erhaab, who was by Danzig's son Chief Crown out of a Riverman mare.

It will be fascinating to follow the stud career of Anabaa to see the range of distances preferred by his offspring. He has certainly made an excellent start as his first crop contain another G1 winner in the shape of Prix Marcel Boussac winner Amonita, while his Southern Hemisphere crop includes the listed winners Donna Natalia and King Of Prussia. King Of Prussia's granddam is a daughter of a Sir Tristram mare, and given the latter's cross of Sir Gaylord/My Babu, closely matching Anabaa's double of Riverman and strain of Gay Missile, this could prove a fruitful cross for Anabaa in the Southern Hemisphere.

Copyright by Nigel Pullen 2001.