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A Habitat in Full Bloom

by Nigel Pullen ©

Habitat: Part 2 

In Part 1 of this article we delved into the racing career and pedigree of Habitat. In Part 2 we now focus on his career and influence as a stallion, and also see how inbreeding to his family has been successfully utilised.

The first Habitats hit the racetrack in 1973, and wasted no time in showing that speed was to be their forte. Royal Ascot hosts the first significant Group races of the European season for juveniles, and in 1973, two of these events fell to members of Habitat's first crop. By scoring in the Queen Mary Stakes (G2), Bitty Girl became the first of his 53 Group/Graded winners, and before the season was out Bitty Girl had added two more Group successes in the Molecomb (G3) and Lowther Stakes (G3).

Remembering from Part 1 of this article that Habitat was 4x3 to the closely related pair Admiral Drake and Bull Dog, it is significant that Bitty Girl's granddam, Tekka, was 2x3 to Bois Roussel (half-brother to Admiral Drake and Bull Dog) and Buchan (three-quarter brother to Admiral Drake's sire Craig An Eran). This pedigree pattern certainly worked, for Bitty Girl's year younger full brother Hot Spark added to the prestige of the family by taking the 1974 Flying Childers Stakes (G1).

Barely 24 hours after Bitty Girl's Royal Ascot triumph, Habitat posted his second Group victory as a stallion when his son Habat ran away with the Norfolk Stakes (G3) by six lengths. Habat also added two further Group wins before the end of 1973 by taking both the Mill Reef Stakes (G3) and Middle Park Stakes (G1). Interestingly, Habat's maternal grandsire Sunny Boy III traced tail female to Garron Lass, a half sister Plucky Liege (the dam of Bull Dog and Admiral Drake).

These victories ensured that Habitat was not only leading first crop sire, but leading sire of two-year-olds as well; and he was to head the latter table four times in all. Habitat's offspring were to monopolise the Middle Park Stakes over the next few years. His sons Steel Heart and Hittite Glory won it in 1974 and 1975 respectively, while Bassenthwaite gave Habitat with his fourth success in the race in 1984.

Surely it was no coincidence that Steel Heart's dam provided both the aforementioned Buchan together with Mary Tudor II (a very close relative to Bull Dog and his clan), while the dam of Hittite Glory had the previously name in Garron Lass. Furthermore, Hittite Glory's dam Hazy Idea was 3x3 to Netherton Maid, and the latter's own dam Phase possessed a strikingly similar background to both Admiral Drake and Bull Dog. Finally Bassenthwaite's dam supplied the mare Quire, none other than a 5/8ths relative to Admiral Drake.

Habitat's third crop contained his sole European Classic winner in the shape of English 1,000 Guineas heroine Flying Water. Once again we find a very similar sort of pedigree pattern, with Flying Water's third dam being by Bois Roussel. Further interest is generated by Flying Water's maternal grandsire Ribot, with the latter's dam Romanella having a very similar background to Habitat's sire Sir Gaylord, with Pharos, Gay Crusader, Papyrus, Sunstar, and Maid of the Mist.

Indeed, three other top class performers sired by Habitat, namely Distant Relative (G1), Roussalka (G2) and Steinlen (G1), had Ribot close up in their dams. Steinlen was to become Habitat's only 12 furlongs Grade 1 winner when scoring in the 1989 Arlington Million, rather ironically the year before it was reduced to a 10 furlongs event. Distant Relative's dam additionally provided both Bois Roussel and Bull Dog's full brother Sir Gallahad III, while Steinlen's dam had a balancing daughter strain of Bull Dog.

In addition to the Middle Park Stakes, there were four other Group 1 races, all run over five or six furlongs, which regularly fell to Habitat's offspring. These were the Prix De L'Abbaye (won by Double Form, Habibti, Marwell and Sigy), the July Cup (Habibti and Marwell), the Flying Childers Stakes (Hittite Glory and Hot Spark) and the King's Stand Stakes (Double Form, Habibti and Marwell).

Marwell and Habibti were both fillies that reverted to sprinting with devastating results after finishing fourth in the English 1,000 Guineas. While Marwell's dam Lady Seymour supplied some familiar names, for instance she traced tail male to Owen Tudor (dam Mary Tudor II) and her granddam was 3x3 to Friar's Daughter (a daughter of Garron Lass), she also provided another strain important to Habitat in My Babu. The latter's dam Perfume II was bred on very similar lines to Habitat's grandsire Turn-to. Habibti's dam Klairessa boasted an even closer relationship with Turn-to, for her combination of Colorado, Sweet Lavender, Fairway and Tessa Gillian made her a virtual three-quarter relative to him.

Another of Habitat's best offspring with a similar sort of pattern to Habibti was Rose Bowl. She was a top-class miler winning back-to-back Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (G2), and lasted out 10 furlongs to beat the great Allez France in the 1975 Champion Stakes (G1). Rose Bowl's granddam Peace Rose was a daughter of the handicapper Fastnet Rock, a horse that made little other impact as a stallion. Nevertheless, his pedigree contained Fairway, Mahmoud and Rose Red close up, a perfect balance for Habitat's grandsire Turn-to, who had Fairway's full brother Pharos, Mahmoud's three-quarter sister Sun Princess and Rose Red's full sister Sweet Lavender.

The pedigree backgrounds of the remaining Group 1 winner's sired by Habitat were intrinsically no different. Smokey Lady was a full sister to the aforementioned Steel Heart; Double Form's dam supplied Buchan, Owen Tudor and Honeyway, a close genetic relative to Sir Gaylord; the dam of Habitony provided Buchan, Bull Dog and Bois Roussel; Brocade's dam had Quire; the dam of Sigy boasted both My Babu and Buchan; and finally South African Group 1 winner Mauritzfontein was out of a mare with Bois Roussel.

This meant that all of Habitat's 17 Group 1 winners (see Table 1 below) possessed very similar genetic backgrounds; based on reinforcement of his strains of Admiral Drake, Bull Dog and Sir Gaylord. Breeders soon realised they could rely on Habitat to impart his speed and class on a regular basis, for these 17 individual winners came from a total of 17 seasons at stud, with each of his first 13 crops containing at least G1 winner. Those of 1972 and 1973 were the most fruitful, with three and two G1 winners respectively. All this was achieved from an annual foal crop which never exceeded 50; a sobering thought when one considers the size of the annual book of mares covered by some of today's stallions.

Table 1. Group/Grade 1 winners sired by Habitat.
Horse Born Sex Dam Dam's Sire G1 wins
Bassenthwaite 1982 Colt Splashing Petingo 6f.
Brocade 1981 Filly Canton Silk Runnymede 7f.
Distant Relative 1986 Colt Royal Sister Claude 8f.
Double Form 1975 Colt Fanghorn Crocket 5f.
Flying Water 1973 Filly Formentera Ribot 8f, 10f.
Habitat 1971 Colt Atrevida Sunny Boy III 6f.
Habibti 1980 Filly Klairessa Klairon 5f, 6f.
Habitony 1974 Colt Courteous Lady Gallant Man 9f.
Hittite Glory 1973 Colt Hazy Idea Hethersett 5f, 6f.
Hot Spark 1972 Colt Garvey Girl Princely Gift 5f.
Marwell 1978 Filly Lady Seymour Tudor Melody 5f, 6f.
Mauritzfontein 1979 Colt Reine Dagobert Roi Dagobert 8f.
Rose Bowl 1972 Filly Roseliere Misti IV 10 f.
Sigy 1976 Filly Satu Primera 5f.
Steel Heart 1972 Colt A 1 Abernant 6f.
Smokey Lady 1977 Filly A 1 Abernant 5f.
Steinlen 1983 Colt Southern Seas Jim French 8f. - 12f.

Because few of Habitat's stock stayed 12 furlongs, where the richest prize money in Europe was available, he never became champion sire. Nevertheless, he was runner-up four times, and was probably a better sire than most who actually won the title in his era. In his stud career, he sired the winners of over 1,000 races worldwide, and became the first stallion to have sired 50 individual pattern winners and winners of over 100 Group races.

The lack of success of sons of Habitat at stud in the Northern Hemisphere, whilst undoubtedly true, has always seemed a completely unfair stigma placed against him. Some breeders seem to see the continuance of a male line as the be-all and end-all of stallion success. Table 2 below details the sons of Habitat who have sired G1 winners; in the Northern Hemisphere there are just five of these winners, namely Best Pal, Don Orazio, Double Schwartz, Huntingdale and Richter Scale.

The pedigree of Crossways' son Veandercross merits a special mention. In Part 1 we mentioned the important role Challenger II played in Habitat's pedigree. Crossways was 7x7 to Challenger II's third dam Flying Vixen (by Flying Fox - Amphora), and Veandercross traced tail female to Flying Fox's full sister Vain.

Table 2. Sons of Habitat who have sired Group/Grade 1 winners.
Sons of Habitat G1 winners sired
Crossways Prince of Praise, Veandercross
Double Form Double Schwartz, Huntingdale
Export Price Notoire
Habeas Corpus Keepers, Lord Galaxy
Habitation Isle of Man
Habitony Best Pal, Richter Scale
Habituate Special
Homing Don Orazio
Imperial Seal Foxseal, Imperial Angel, Librici
Lord Seymour Never Undercharge, Simbolico
Red Tony Lady Eclipse, Potrero

Habitat's record as a sire of fillies and broodmares is second to none, and certain to ensure that he has an important role to play in pedigrees for many years to come; long after some current 'sires of sires' are forgotten. His record as a broodmare sire is well worth recording, and as Table 3 below illustrates, his mares are currently responsible for 23 G1 winners. He headed the broodmare sire listings four times in all (1987, 1988, 1994 and 1996), and throughout those two decades rarely dropped out of the top five.

Table 3. Group/Grade 1 winners out of Habitat mares.
Horse Born Sex Sire Dam
Barathea 1990 Colt Sadler's Wells Brocade
BlueDuster 1993 Filly Danzig Blue Note
Caerwent 1985 Colt Caerleon Marwell
Charming Duke 1982 Colt Iron Duke Charming Queen
Creator 1986 Colt Mill Reef Chalon
Dance Design 1993 Filly Sadler's Wells Elegance In Design
Gossamer 1999 Filly Sadler's Wells Brocade
Grand Lodge 1991 Colt Chief's Crown La Papagena
Grape Tree Road 1993 Colt Caerleon One Way Street
Grease 1979 Filly Filiberto Greedy of Gain
King of Kings 1995 Colt Sadler's Wells Zummerudd
Kutub 1997 Colt In the Wings Minnie Habit
Las Meninas 1991 Filly Glenstal Spanish Habit
Marling 1989 Filly Lomond Marwell
Never So Bold 1980 Colt Bold Lad (IRE) Never Never Land
One So Wonderful 1994 Filly Nashwan Someone Special
Pigeon Voyageur 1988 Colt Saint Estephe Homing Pigeon
Princess Lida 1977 Filly Nijinsky II Princesse Lee
Reference Ponit 1984 Colt Mill Reef Home on the Range
Shaamit 1993 Colt Mtoto Shomoose
Sil Sila 1993 Colt Marju Porto Alegre
Tessla 1986 Filly Glint of Gold Chellita
Zeiten 1990 Colt Danzig Blue Note

These 23 included the winners of eight European Classics; English 2,000 Guineas (Barathea and King Of Kings), English 1,000 Guineas (Las Meninas), Irish 1,000 Guineas (Marling), Epsom Derby (Reference Point and Shaamit), French Oaks (Sil Sila) and Irish Oaks (Dance Design). This total may increase further, for Gossamer looks a leading contender for classic honours in 2002.

Northern Dancer figures in the pedigrees of 14 of the above. This is probably no surprise, remembering that Habitat was 4x6 to Teddy, the latter being a close relative of Gainsborough, who appeared 4x5 in Northern Dancer. Furthermore, Northern Dancer was 4x6 Selene who was balanced in Habitat by Challenger II and other members of the Fenella family.

The most commonly found sources of Northern Dancer are Sadler's Wells (five times), Caerleon (twice) and Danzig (twice). Significantly Caerleon's dam Foreseer had the reverse Princequillo/Turn-to cross to Habitat's sire Sir Gaylord; while her maternal grandsire Hail to Reason supplied a very similar background to Habitat himself. It is therefore no surprise to find Hail to Reason in the pedigree of Sadler's Wells too.

Mill Reef also features prominently, appearing in Creator, Kutub, Reference Point, Shaamit, Sil Sila and Tessla. Here it is probably no coincidence that Habitat's sire Sir Gaylord (Royal Charger/Princequillo cross) was bred on similar lines to Mill Reef (Nasrullah/Princequillo). Both the Epsom Derby winners out of Habitat mares, namely Reference Point and Shaamit, shared not only Mill Reef but also Busted. The latter traced tail female to the mare Tete A Tete, a three-quarter sister to none other then Sir Gaylord's tail female ancestress Cinq a Sept.

Another name to crop up regularly is Round Table. Being a son of Princequillo, he was thus a useful balance to Sir Gaylord's dam Somethingroyal. The St. James's Park Stakes winner Grand Lodge is interesting, being a son of Chief's Crown, whose dam Six Crowns was a close relative of Habitat. Her sire Secretariat was Sir Gaylord's three-quarter brother, whilst her dam Chris Evert was a granddaughter of The Doge, a genetic relative of Habitat. Both were bred on a Bull Dog/North Star III/Ben Brush cross with either Pink Domino or his full relative Pennant.

The victory of Laurasian Express in South Africa's Provincial Stakes (G2) in 1994 heralded a new chapter in the Habitat story, for he was the first Group winner inbred to Habitat's dam Little Hut. Since that date inbreeding to the mare Little Hut, especially via the half brothers Habitat and Northfields, has gained in popularity, with the years 2000 and 2001 particularly fruitful, yielding 6 Group winners: Atavus (2x2 Habitat/Northfields), Butterscotch (4x5 Habitat), Chestnut Horse (4x2 Habitat/Northfields), Indian Lodge (3x2 Habitat/Northfields), Wade For Me (4x4 Little Hut's daughter Summer Hut) and Wins Fiction (4x3 Northfields/Habitat). Other Group winners boasting duplications of Little Hut are Exalted Miss (3x4 Habitat), Trounced (3x3 Northfields/Habitat) and the aforementioned Laurasian Express (1x3 Northfields/Habitat). Table 4 below provides details of Group/Graded winners with duplications of the mare Little Hut.

Table 4. Group/Graded winners with duplications of Little Hut.
Horse Born Sire Dam    
Atavus 1997 Distant Relative Elysian 3x3 G3
Butterscotch 1997 Gold Brose Bali Sugar 5x6 G3
Chestnut Horse 1997 Eton Lad Running North 5x3 G3
Exalted Miss 1993 Keepers Alleged Lady 4x5 G3
Indian Lodge 1996 Grand Lodge Repetitious 4x3 G1
Laurasian Express 1989 Northfields Landspeed 2x4 G2
Trounced 1993 Just a Dancer Meryl 4x4 G1
Wade For Me 1995 Western Playboy Waders 5x5 G3
Wins Fiction 1995 Platini Win Hands Down 5x4 G3

Duplications of Habitat's third dam Khara are found, via her daughters Savage Beauty and Little Sphinx, in three important broodmares, whose Group winning offspring are all incidentally fillies. The mare Dance By Night (4x5 Khara) was the dam of French 1,000 Guineas heroine Danseuse Du Soir and granddam of Group 3 scorer Audacieuse.

Another mare with a dual influence was Sari Habit (5x5 Khara). On the racetrack her daughter Filia Ardross won the Hansa-Preis (G2) in Germany, and herself later became dam of the Ascot Fillies Mile (G1) winner Sunspangled. Finally the mare Imagining (4x5 Khara) produced not only G3 scorer Vivid Imagination, but also the multiple Group 1 winning mare Serena's Song.

Over 30 years have passed since the birth of his first foals, but the name of Habitat's still burns brightly as a beacon for that priceless asset in a Thoroughbred - speed. His record in that time has already ensured that he will be recognised as one of the great sires, and his influence is almost certain to permeate well into the 21st Century and beyond.

February 3, 2002. Copyright by Nigel Pullen 2002.