by Nigel Pullen ©
The victory of Nayef in the 2001 running of the Champion Stakes (G1) at Newmarket was a fitting tribute to his dam, Height Of Fashion, who died in Kentucky in July 2000 at the age of 21. It surely entitled Height Of Fashion to enter racing's pantheon of broodmares, for Nayef was her fourth son to win a Group race; indeed eight of her 11 named foals have won or been placed in Group or Listed races.
Height Of Fashion had been bred and raced by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, and the bid of 3,000 guineas that secured her fourth dam, Feola, as a yearling for King George V at the Newmarket Sales in July 1934 proved a defining moment in the history of the Royal Stud. It was to transform its fortune over the next 40 years, in a way similarly to the purchase of Perdita II (the dam of Diamond Jubilee, Florizel II and Persimmon) had done nearly half a century earlier.
As a juvenile Feola showed little, finishing runner-up once from six starts. However, the following season she won a seven furlongs handicap on her return, and followed this up by finishing a length and a half second to Tideway in the English 1,000 Guineas, and third to Lovely Rosa in the Epsom Oaks. She gained her second victory by taking the Midsummer Stakes over a mile at Newmarket.
Feola was by the sprinter Friar Marcus (by Cicero) and out of Aloe (by Son-In-Law), a full sister to Foxlaw, winner of both the Jockey Club Cup and Ascot Gold Cup. Feola's grandsire Cicero and granddam Alope were bred on very similar lines, being slightly closer than 5/8th genetic relatives. Both shared Isonomy, Hermit, Galopin, Lord Clifden and Stockwell, while Cicero's strain of Rosicrucian was balanced by the latter's full brother The Palmer in Alope.
Feola retired to stud as a four-year-old, and over the next 13 years, bred seven winners from her 10 foals. Amazingly, eight of these were fillies, and of them, five in particular were to wield their influence across the racing world for years to come. Her 1939 filly by Noble Star was named Starling, and after failing to win, was exported to Argentina in 1945, where she became dam of the important stallion Sideral.
The second of this quintet of fillies (Feola's third foal) was a daughter of the sprinter/miler Sir Cosmo and named Knight's Daughter. Although having a rather evil temper, Knight's Daughter still managed to win three of her four races as a juvenile over five furlongs, before being retired to stud as a three-year-old. She was first covered by Foxhunter, and thus the resultant offspring named Cub Hunt was 2x3 to the full siblings Foxlaw and Aloe, a sign of things to come.
Knight's Daughter bred little of note while at the Royal Studs, and with many other daughters of Feola now resident there, she was sent to the Newmarket Sales of 1951. There she was purchased by American breeder Bull Hancock for his Claiborne Farm in Kentucky. She soon proved an inspired purchase, foaling the great Round Table (by Princequillo) in 1954. It proved a good sale for Hancock for he also bought the mare Rough Shod II. Like Knight's Daughter, she hailed from the Orby male line, and found fame as the ancestress of such turf luminaries as Apalachee, El Condor Pasa, Gamely, Sadler's Wells, Thatch and Topsider. By one of those twists of fate, much of the success of Rough Shod II occurred when her offspring were mated with none other than Round Table.
Two more influential fillies bred by Feola were Angelola (by Donatello II) and Above Board (by Straight Deal). Backward and unraced at two, Angelola made her debut in the Wood Ditton Stakes finishing fifth. She then developed into the best staying filly of her generation, winning the Lingfield Oaks Trial, Newmarket Oaks, Yorkshire Oaks and Princess Royal Stakes, and runner-up to Masaka in the Epsom Oaks. At stud she was to breed an Epsom Derby runner-up in Aureole, a highly-strung son of Hyperion who went on at four to win both Coronation Cup and King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes in the royal silks.
Above Board proved another late developer, gaining her first win in the Yorkshire Oaks, before running away from her 37 rivals in the Cesarewitch Handicap over two and a quarter miles, by six lengths. At stud she became dam of the good colts Above Suspicion and Doutelle, and was later to reappear in pedigrees as the fourth dam of English 1,000 Guineas and Breeders' Cup Turf heroine Pebbles.
The fifth of Feola's influential fillies is the one that interests us here. Named Hypericum, she was a daughter of Hyperion and thus a three-quarter sister to Aureole. On entering training, Hypericum quickly gave notice that she was temperamental and would be difficult to train, however she soon showed on the gallops that she had ability. After being narrowly beaten on her debut, she won her next race so impressively that she was allowed to take on the boys in the Middle Park Stakes. She ran well, finishing runner-up to subsequent English 2,000 Guineas winner Khaled, and took on the colts again in the Dewhurst Stakes. This time she triumphed by an easy two lengths, with subsequent Epsom Derby winner Airborne back in fourth.
After being beaten four lengths by Neolight on her three-year-old debut, Hypericum started as one of the outsiders for the 1,000 Guineas. Started was perhaps an inappropriate choice of word, for after causing problems being shod before the race, Hypericum then decided to charge the starting tapes, depositing her rider and galloping off. She was eventually caught and remounted, with the race starting 14 minutes late as a result. Ironically, the delay may have worked to her advantage, for she came through to win by a length and half from Neolight. This was to be her last victory; after making the early running in the Epsom Oaks she faded to finish unplaced, as she was in her final race the Coronation Stakes.
Hypericum's granddam Aloe was 4x4 to the three-quarter siblings Reticence and Hermit. In Hyperion's pedigree, his granddam, Serenissima, was sired by Minoru, a horse 4x3x4 to Hermit and his full sister Chanoinesse. Another horse in Hyperion's pedigree with close inbreeding was his dam Selene who was 3x4 to the mare Pilgrimage. Pilgrimage was a daughter of The Palmer, whose full brother Rosicrucian was present 6x6 in Hyperion's pedigree. Just to bring us back full circle, the dam of The Palmer and Rosicrucian, a mare named Madame Eglantine, was a daughter of the stallion Cowl, and that same horse was also maternal grandsire of Seclusion, the dam of Hermit, Chanoinesse and Reticence.
Hypericum proved an above average broodmare, with six of her seven offspring recording victories. Her best colt was the King Edward VII Stakes winner Restoration (by Persian Gulf), while she also foaled two important fillies in Belladonna (by Donatello II) and Highlight (by Borealis).
Belladonna made a promising debut running third in the Blue Seal Stakes on her only juvenile outing. Although she had to wait until her seventh and final race the following season to record her first win in a ten furlong maiden, Belladonna had meanwhile been campaigned in the best company, finishing second in the Newmarket Oaks and third in the Lingfield Derby Trial. At stud she produced the Italian Derby runner-up Ben Marshall, and later became the third dam of the consistent French stallion Fabulous Dancer. Belladonna's pedigree was almost the reverse of her 'cousin' Aureole, and interesting enough this combination of Belladonna and Aureole crops up 4x4 in Vaguely Pleasant, the sire of recent Prix du Cadran (G1) winner Germinis. Combining these close relatives using such as Fabulous Dancer and Vaguely Noble should certainly pay dividends.
Hypericum's daughter Highlight was not quite so talented on the racecourse as her half sister although she won two minor 12 furlongs event as a three-year-old, her only season to race. She probably put up her best effort on her second start finishing second in the Haverhill Stakes.
Her sire, Borealis, was a seven race winner who posted his best performance winning the Coronation Cup as a four-year-old, beating the previous year's Epsom Derby and Oaks winners Ocean Swell and Hycilla. He was also a half-brother to the top class stayer Alycidon. Since Borealis's maternal grandsire was Hyperion, Highlight herself was actually 3x2 to the 1933 Epsom Derby hero, and both her sire and dam were 4x5 to Bay Ronald. It is also worth noting that Borealis's granddam Rose Red was 4x4x4 to Hermit, who of course along with his siblings featured prominently in the pedigree of Hypericum.
Highlight proved an even better producer of winners than her dam. Altogether nine of her 12 offspring won races, and these included four fillies in Light Duty, Light O' Battle, Blaze Of Glory and Highclere, all sired by the good miler Queen's Hussar. The latter originally stood at a modest stud fee, but made his name by siring two horses considerably better than himself; the mighty Brigadier Gerard, and Highlight's daughter Highclere.
Highclere was a big filly and at first highly-strung just like her granddam. As a juvenile she was beaten in her first two starts, finishing a promising second to Polygamy on her debut, and then a head runner-up to Celestial Dawn in the Princess Margaret Stakes (G3). Her final outing saw Highclere narrowly beat modest opposition, and it was decide to fit her with blinkers the following season, an aid that had improved her sire Queen's Hussar. They certainly worked; for making her three year old debut in the English 1,000 Guineas (G1) she just held the late challenge of the unlucky Polygamy by the narrowest of margins. As she was a big filly, it was decided she would not be suited by the undulations of Epsom, so was sent to Chantilly to contest the Prix de Diane (G1-French Oaks) over 10.5 furlongs, where she easily beat subsequent 'Arc runner-up Comtesse De Loir. That was to be the pinnacle of her achievements, for after an excellent second to Dahlia in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (G1), she ended her career unplaced in the Benson and Hedges Gold Cup (G1) and Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (G1).
Highclere's sire Queen's Hussar was 3x3 to a son and daughter of Fair Trial, together with a balancing daughter strain of Fair Trial's sire Fairway. So Highclere had a sire 3x3 Fair Trial and a dam 3x2 Hyperion, and this was a classic case of a mating between parents themselves inbred to different horses, but with their individual inbreeding linked by common ancestors.
Fair Trial's maternal grandsire Son-In-Law had strong links to Hyperion's sire Gainsborough. For a start both were by sons of Bay Ronald out of mares whose maternal grandsires were bred on a Galopin/Plebian cross. Furthermore, whereas Hyperion's dam, Selene, was linebred 4x6x5x6 to Hermit and his full sister Chanoinesse; Son-In-Law's third dam, Reticence, was a three quarter sister to Hermit and Chanoinesse. Chaucer was the maternal grandsire of both Hyperion and Fair Trial's sire Fairway. Highclere had a further strain of Son-In-Law who was the sire of her fourth dam Aloe, and Highclere was additionally 6x4 Teddy, a close genetic relative to Gainsborough.
Highclere retired to the Royal Stud and once again did not disappoint as a broodmare; her first foal Milford (by Mill Reef) winning the Lingfield Derby Trial (G3) and Princess Of Wales's Stakes (G2). She eventually bred seven winners, and many of her daughters have become excellent broodmares themselves; being responsible for Group winners Capo Di Monte (by Final Straw - Burghclere), Wind In Her Hair (by Alzao - Burghclere) and Blueprint (by Generous - Highbrow).
Our interest is in her 1979 foal by Bustino named Height Of Fashion. A big filly like her dam, Height Of Fashion won all her three starts as a juvenile. Unusually, she took on colts in her first race, winning the listed Acomb Stakes, and followed this up by taking the two of the main autumn staying events for fillies, the May Hill Stakes (G3) and Ascot Fillies Mile (G3).
The listed Lupe Stakes was chosen for Height Of Fashion's three-year-old bow, and the race was certainly not without incident. She had only three opponents, including her stable companion and pacemaker, Round Tower, and consequently started a short priced favourite at 1-5. However during the race, Height Of Fashion had to demonstrate her hurdling skills, for an opponent slipped and fell in front of her. Fortunately she survived that hazard and duly won by two lengths. For the same reasons as her dam, it was decide to bypass the Epsom Oaks, and instead Height Of Fashion was aimed at the Princess Of Wales's Stakes (G2) where she had to compete against older horses including that great stayer Ardross. Set to carry just 109 pounds, and receiving 26 pounds from Ardross, she made the most of this weight concession, retaining her unbeaten record by two lengths with a game front-running display, wearing blinkers for the first time.
At this point Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum made an offer reported to be in excess of £1million for the filly, and so Height Of Fashion changed ownership between one Royal Family and another. In her final two races, Height Of Fashion did nothing to suggest that it had been money well spent. She hit her head on the stalls at the start of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes finishing a well beaten seventh, and was then tailed off last in the Yorkshire Oaks. However, once retired to the paddocks she was to repay her purchase price with interest.
Height Of Fashion was a daughter of English St. Leger and Coronation Cup winner, Bustino, a horse who will probably be best remembered for his epic but unsuccessful duel with Grundy in the 1975 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. The most fascinating aspect of Height of Fashion's pedigree was how it brought together duplications of two very influential broodmares in Feola and Rose Red.
We have already come across Feola's daughter Hypericum as Height Of Fashion's third dam, but Hypericum's three-quarter sister, Above Board, now appeared as the dam of Bustino's maternal grandsire Doutelle. Rose Red cropped up in Height Of Fashion as the fourth dam of Bustino and the granddam of Borealis (sire of Height Of Fashion's granddam) and these duplications were actually via another pair of three-quarter siblings in Borealis and Rosetta.
Now for the real gem; these strains of Borealis/Rosetta and Hypericum/Above Board were woven even close together in the pedigrees of Ship Yard and Highlight. Bustino's dam Ship Yard was by Above Board's son Doutelle out of a daughter of Rosetta, and Height Of Fashion's granddam Highlight was by Borealis out of Hypericum. All this meant that Height Of Fashion was 2x2 to the beautifully balanced close genetic relatives Ship Yard and Highlight. [The combination of Above Board and another of her close relatives, Aureole, also appeared 3x3 in the dam of the top filly Pebbles.]
It is worth listing the 12 offspring of Height Of Fashion:
Height Of Fashion spent her entire stud career in Kentucky, and in the first two seasons was visited by Northern Dancer with both offspring from these unions proving well above average. The first, named Alwasmi won the John Porter Stakes (G3) in England, and was placed in seven Group/Graded events in England, Ireland, Germany and America, eventually taking up stallion duties in the last of these locations.
Height Of Fashion's second Northern Dancer foal was named Unfuwain. A winner of six of his 10 starts, Unfuwain won the Chester Vase (G3), John Porter Stakes (G3), Jockey Club Cup (G2) and emulated his dam by taking the Princess Of Wales's Stakes (G2). Unfuwain was also runner up in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (G1) and fourth in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (G1), before becoming a highly successful stallion, especially of fillies. His Group 1 winning daughter Lailani is out of mare providing both Feola and Rose Red's full sister Sweet Lavender.
The third foal produced by Height of Fashion was certainly her best. He was a chestnut son of Blushing Groom named Nashwan, and proved a top class three-year-old, blessed with a glorious stride and real presence. Nashwan became the first horse to win the Group 1 quintet of English 2,000 Guineas, Epsom Derby, Eclipse Stakes and King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. Still unbeaten at the time, his racing career ended in anticlimax with defeat in the Prix Niel (G3), but just like Unfuwain he has become an extremely successful stallion. Significantly two of his Group 1 winners, Aqaarid and Nadia, feature Round Table close up in the pedigree of their dams (remember that Round Table traced tail female to Feola), while Solvig, the only Group winner to date out of a mare by Nashwan, has Round Table prominent in her sire, and Sweet Lavender in her dam.
Height Of Fashion next visited two Northern Dancer line stallions, producing Mukddaam, a colt by Danzig, and the Lyphard filly Manwah. Mukddaam gained black type with a success in the listed Fred Archer Stakes, and finished runner up in two Group 2 events, the King Edward VII Stakes, and that old family favourite of Princess Of Wales's Stakes. After a spell racing in America he ended up a stud in Australia. On the whole he had little success there as a stallion, but one of his better offspring, Daam, was out of a mare by Pompeii Court. Right on cue the latter's sire Tell was 2x4 to Feola's daughter Knight's Daughter, and yet again Sweet Lavender was found in Pompeii Court's dam.
After this, Mr Prospector or his sons were chosen as suitors for Height Of Fashion. Pedigree-wise there was not a lot in common between the two, and although the matings resulted in a listed winner (Sarayir) and two fillies (Bashayer and Wijdan) placed in listed events, one wonders if it was really the best choice.
So finally, we come to Height Of Fashion's last foal, Nayef, who a year ago was "hyped" out of all proportions after winning both his juvenile starts, the second by six lengths. He was made winter favourite for the English 2,000 Guineas, but being a big horse was still weak and immature in the spring. After finishing third in the Craven Stakes (G3) and eighth in the English 2,000 Guineas (G1), Nayef was wisely given a break and time to strengthen to his frame. He returned at the end of July finishing third in the Gordon Stakes (G3), but since then it was been success all the way with victories in the Rose Of Lancaster Stakes (G3), Select Stakes (G3) and Cumberland Lodge Stakes (G3), before his win in the Champion Stakes (G1).
Although Nayef was also a son of a Mr Prospector line stallion in Gulch, the latter was certainly not the archetypal son. Gulch himself was a versatile sprinter/miler who even finished third in the Belmont Stakes (G1), and his dam, Jameela, had a pedigree littered with obscure names.
As far as Height Of Fashion was concerned, the secret weapon nestling in Gulch's pedigree was that of his maternal grandsire Rambunctious (by Rasper II - Danae II by The Solicitor), for the latter's pedigree closely matched that of Height Of Fashion's paternal grandsire Busted (by Crepello). Rambunctious's sire Rasper II was a half brother to Crepello's dam Crepuscule; while his dam, Danae II, with background strains of Fair Trial, Hurry On and Bachelor's Double proved a perfect foil for Busted's granddam Martial Loan who had Fair Trial, Hurry On and Bachelor's Double three-quarter brother Tremola.
Nayef stays in training next season, but when he eventually retires to stud alongside his two half-brothers, it will give breeders of future decades a chance to duplicate these brothers in pedigrees, and ensure the name of Height of Fashion stays to the fore. With there being so many descendants of the mares Feola and Rose Red about, it should be possible even for smaller breeders to accumulate these strains in their mares with judiciously designed matings.
November 4, 2001. Copyright by Nigel Pullen 2001.