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Bago - An Analysis

"Bago : An In-Depth Analysis" 
by Michael Ventura © October 2004.

Bago, the brilliant French Champion 2YO of last year, showed more versatility then the bookmakers bargained for by winning the Prix D'Arc de l'Triumph in an electrifying style at odds of nearly nine-to-one. He's now won major French GI races at 1 mile, 1 1/8 miles, 1 ¼ miles, and the most important French race of them all at 1 ½ miles.

In his brilliant victory, won in and impressive time of 2:25.00, Bago showed the exact combination of stamina and the ability to accelerate past high-class horses that you don't see enough of in the present age of increased specialization. He also showed a beautifully smooth action that he probably inherited from his sire Nashwan.

One of the best European racehorses of the past 25 years, Nashwan, while a son of champion miler Blushing Groom, lacked the brilliance displayed by Bago as a juvenile. And it might even be said that a little too much stamina hindered his stud career; though he did manage to become a sire of top fillies like One So Wonderful, 1998's Champion Older Mare of Europe, and the 3 x GI winners Wandesta and Nadia (who were both out of Nijinsky mares).

The possible negative effects of Nashwan's stamina were mitigated to some extant by strong patronage on the part of the Maktoum brothers of Dubai, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum himself bred Swain, Nashwan's best son before Bago, from a Apple Blossom (GI) winning daughter of Key to the Mint named Love Smitten; a full sister to Champion Canadian filly and Canadian Broodmare of the Year Kamar. At this point in Bago's career at least, I could debate the relative merits of him and Swain into the dead of night, but one fact would remain: Bago is the one offspring of Nashwan with the now priceless attribute of brilliance. A brilliance which no doubt stems from his damside; which is powerful and tending towards the transbrilliant. By tending towards the transbrilliant I mean that the dam's sire, while a excellent miler and source of milers, still interacted well enough with stamina lines to get real 1 ½ mile horses like Theatrical and Peintre Celebre. And that the dam's dam was a full sister of an excellent French 2YO and Miler who ran good short and surprised by to siring good long.

If Nashwan was going to sire a Champion 2YO with brilliance, it was always going to be either from a daughter or granddaughter of Danzig or Nureyev, the only two recent miler/transitional type sires in the same league as Nashwan's sire Blushing Groom. In the relatively rare case of a stallion by a Champion Miler (in this case Blushing Groom) throwing to his stamina dosed dam (in this case Height of Fashion), I think the one way you're going to get brilliance in first generation offspring is by how the damside of the offspring interacts with the offspring's grandsire. In other words, by building up a critical mass of the best miler blood. (Another son of Blushing Groom who evidently threw to his damline even more was major stamina influence Rainbow Quest.)

As it turned out, it was Nureyev's unraced daughter Moonlight Box who produced Bago. Besides Bago, I count 9 GI winners combining Nureyev and Blushing Groom within 3 generations: Stravinsky, Tate's Creek, Megahertz, Special Quest, State City, Cosmo Sunbeam, Choc Ice, Sunstatch, and James Jaguar. Since Nureyev is a transitional type, the match-up with the sire's dam is less critical than it might have been, but it's still very important that Nureyev and Height of Fashion's St. Leger winning sire Bustino have combined in Nunthorpe S. (GB-I) winner Pivotal and Sabaah, the dam of 1995 Irish Champion 3YO and dual Irish Classic winner Desert King (by Danehill).

Bagos's dam Moonlight's Box is a young (b.'96) unraced daughter of Nureyev out of French Champion 2YO filly Coup De Genie; a daughter of Mr. Prospector from a Halo mare named Coup De Folie; who was the dam of two other GI winners in Coup De Genie's full brother Machiavellian and Exit To Nowhere (by Riverman). Moonlight Box was very well bred from a nick perspective; being bred on the reverse Nureyev/Mr Prospector cross to the likes of Coronation St. (GB-I) winning filly Rebecca Sharp (by Machiavellian); Champion Miler/$300,000 Stud Fee Sire Kingmambo (by Mr Prospector); and Prix De La Foret (FR-I) winner Etoile Montante (by Miswaki).

This is the family tracing to the CV Whitney bred mare Almahmoud (b.'47); perhaps the strongest sire producing family founded in the last 75 years; throwing 3 major sires (Northern Dancer, Halo, and Danehill), two far-above average sires (Machiavellian and Jules), and three other above-average stallions who sired GI winners (Maribeau [Bemo], Cannonade [Caveat], and Arctic Tern [Bering]).

With this relatively young line there's really only one best sire-producing branch, and as befits a Niarchos Family bred, Bago is right on the live wire. His 2nd dam Coup De Genie is a full sister to Champion French 2YO Colt Machiavellian; his 3rd dam Coup De Folie was a ¾ sister to Bonita Francita, the dam of Jules and Orpen; the 4th dam Raise the Standard was a half-sister to Northern Dancer and Spring Adieu (by Buckpasser), the 2nd dam of Danehill, and his 5th dam Natalma was a half to Cosmah, the dam of Halo.

The quality of his 4 grandparents is also very impressive: His grandsire Blushing Groom was the sire of 92 SW (17%), Broodmare sire of 142 SW (9%), and sired seven champions besides Nashwan. His sire's dam Height of Fashion was 1981's English Champion 2YO filly and dam of the excellent trio of Unfuwain, Nashwan, and Nayef; she was also a ¾ sister to GI producer Burghclere (the dam of Wind in her Hair), and her dam Highclere was a full sister to Light Duty, the 2nd dam of G2 winning miler Fly To The Stars.

Bago's damsire Nureyev was the sire of 137 SW (17.5%), 79 graded SW, and 47 GI stakes winners, and the broodmare sire of 127 SW (8%). He also sired seven champions. Bago's 2nd dam Coup De Genie was 1993's champion 2YO filly of France (interesting both granddams were Champion 2YO fillies), and as previously stated a half or full sister to 2 other GI winners.

Looking at the construction of the pedigree; we find the dam 3x4 to Natalma through Northern Dancer and Raise The Standard; 4x5x4 to Native Dancer through Natalma and Raise A Native, and 5x5 to Nasrullah through Nantallah and Nashua. Her sire Nureyev was 4x4 to Hyperion and 3x5 to Nearco, and her 2nd dam was 3x3 to Almahmoud through her daughters Natalma and Cosmah. (The sire Nashwan was outcrossed to five generations and close-up he only shared his male-line ancestors Nasrullah and Nearco with the dam; though he was 5x6x6 to Hyperion, to whom Nureyev was 4x4. Bago is thus 5x5x7x7x8 Nearco; 4x6x6 to Nearco's son Nasrullah; and 6x6x6x7x7 Hyperion.)

The closely inbred (3x3 Almahmoud) 2nd dam Coup De Folie produced 3 GI winners and was by Halo from a daughter of Hoist The Flag-Natalma named Raise The Standard. A lovely combination as Halo and Hoist The Flag were also crossed in Coup De Folie's ¾ sister Bonita Francita (by Halo's son Devil's Bag); the dam of GI winning half-brothers Jules and Orpen. And as proof this cross is powerful enough to work on the reverse; Hoist The Flag's grandson Cryptoclearance sired Matron (GI) and Spinaway (GI) winner Strategic Maneuver  and 1998 Belmont (GI) winner Victory Gallop (ped) from granddaughters of Halo who were also descended from Raise A Standard's half-brother Northern Dancer. (The Halo/Hoist The Flag cross sans Raise The Standard's half-brother produced a Champion in Japan named Manhattan Café (ped).)

As previously mentioned, Bago's grandsire (Blushing Groom), and damsire (Nureyev) make a good nick. But what really powers the pedigree is the triple combination of Blushing Groom; Nureyev; and Halo, the 3rd damsire. Three of the all-time greats at stud; they form a "Nick Triangle".  To wit: 

Nureyev + Blushing Groom=9 previously listed GI winners. 

Nureyev + Halo = Coronation S. (GB-I) winner Rebecca Sharp (Machiavellian); Gamely H. (GI) winner Tate's Creek (Rahy); French Classic winner Bluemamba (Kingmambo); John C. Mabee H. (GI) winner Megahertz (Rahy); and Prix De Maurice Gheest (FR-GI) winner King Charlemagne (Nureyev).

And Halo + Blushing Groom= Leading sire and broodmare sire Rahy (Blushing Groom); Spinaway St. (GI) and Ashland (GI) winner Ashado (Saint Ballado); Nunthorpe St. (GB-I) winner Bahamian Pirate (Housebuster); Gilberto Lorena (Arg-I) winner Real Number (Rainbow Corner); GI Producer Barari (Blushing Groom), the dam of Woodford Reserve (GI) winner White Heart (Green Desert); and Rahy's full sister Morn of Song, the dam of Prix Vermeille (FR-I) winner Mezzo Soprano (Darshaan).

But more than a "Nick Triangle" (A+B+Nick; B+C=Nick; C+A=Nick); Blushing Groom, Nureyev, and Halo also form a "Tripartite Nick" (A=B=C=Nick). I say that because all three have combined, not just in Bago, but also in major GI winning turf mares Tate's Creek (by Rahy out of a Nureyev mare) and Megahertz (by a Nureyev line stallion and out of Rahy mare).  (In contrast, Rahy and Seattle Slew have combined in one GIW [EarlyPioneer]; Danzig has combined with Rahy in one GIW [Tranquility Lake], and even Mr Prospector, who was born seven years before Nureyev, has combined with Rahy in 0 GIWs in major racing countries.)

by Michael Ventura ©
October 2004.