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Weatherbys Super Sprint breed shapers

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The Weatherbys Super Sprint was devised by Richard Hannon Snr and Lord Carnarvon as a lucrative prize for two-year-olds who hadn’t cost a fortune at the sales. Accordingly, it has been the source of numerous wonderful rags-to-riches stories in its 30-year history.

But just because the popular five-furlong dash staged at Newbury each July caters for inexpensive horses with unpretentious pedigrees, don’t think it hasn’t made its mark on the breed.
 
Paris House, the very first winner back in 1991, proves the point perfectly. The grey son of Petong, saddled by Jack Berry for Michelin Star-winning chef Peter Chandler, scored by a neck from Harvest Girl in the inaugural event only days after his inimitable trainer had broken Sir Henry Cecil’s record for the fastest century of winners in a season.
 
The 5,000gns yearling purchase went on to finish second in the Nunthorpe and land the Flying Childers Stakes that season, and rubbed shoulders with the best sprinters of his generation at three and four.
 
Paris House retired to Corbally Stud in County Kildare, shuttled to Haunui Farm in New Zealand for a period and later stood at Beechwood Grange Stud near York. He sired a number of lightning-quick sprinters in his own image such as Amour Propre, Misty Eyed and Mecca’s Mate, and even came up with a Group 1 winner in New Zealand in the shape of Tobruk.
 
Incidentally, Paris House’s half-sister Laurel Delight – another multiple five-furlong winner though not quite as talented as her brother – found fame late in life as the dam of Irish Derby and Irish Champion Stakes hero Cape Blanco.
 
Richard Hannon Snr’s fabulous fillies Lyric Fantasy and Risky won the following two Super Sprints, though sadly both proved to be largely inconsequential as broodmares. But look who finished a close third to Risky in the 1993 renewal: none other than the future 15-length Irish 2,000 Guineas winner Turtle Island.
 
At the end of his racing career Turtle Island joined his sire Fairy King on the Coolmore roster, and though not a resounding success as a stallion he did leave the 2,000 Guineas winner Island Sands and talented jumpers Bensalem and Seabass before he was exported to stand in Italy.
 
His most significant contribution to the breed was probably his daughter Uncharted Haven, a dual Grade 2 winner in the US who went on to produce High Heeled, winner of the St Simon Stakes, and Faraday Light, dam of Irish 1,000 Guineas heroine Just The Judge.
 
It was also a beaten horse in the 1994 renewal of the Super Sprint who turned out to be by far the most influential as the John Dunlop-trained Malafemmena, fifth behind the winner Brief Glimpse, went on to become the dam of Lockinge Stakes winner Red Evie.
 
Red Evie in turn has also excelled at paddocks, having produced the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Found and Group 3 scorer Best In The World – the dam of this season’s wide-margin Oaks winner Snowfall.
 
The Michael Jarvis-trained Blue Iris became Petong’s second winner of the Super Sprint in 1995 and, like Paris House, she made a deep impression at stud, chiefly through her Listed-winning daughter Swiss Lake.
 
Swiss Lake became a fantastic broodmare for Trevor and Libby Harris’s Lordship Stud, producing the stakes-winning speed merchants Swiss Diva, Swiss Dream and Swiss Spirit, as well as Coventry Stakes runner-up Swiss Franc. Swiss Diva and Swiss Dream have each produced a classy sprinter themselves, in Poetry and Yafta respectively.
 
1998 Weatherbys Super Sprint winner Flanders must rank as one of the most accomplished broodmares to have won the race. The Tim Easterby-trained daughter of Common Grounds, who also finished a short-head second in the King’s Stand Stakes at three, has produced no fewer than 13 winners to date.
 
Best of her brood is the Haydock Sprint Cup victor G Force, while her Grade 3-winning daughter Louvain became the dam of Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf and Poule d’Essai des Pouliches heroine Flotilla.
 
Flanders is still going strong at stud at the age of 25, with an Awtaad foal at foot and covered once more by Profitable.
 
Fast-forward to the millennium edition of the Weatherbys Super Sprint and we find another important winner in the shape of Superstar Leo, who came into the race on the back of success in the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot and a private sale to Roy and Gretchen Jackson’s Lael Stables.
 
The Jacksons have been admirably loyal in racing all 13 of Superstar Leo’s progeny themselves, and have been rewarded for doing so with the stakes winners Enticing and Sentaril. Even better was to come, as Enticing gave the owners their marvellous three-time Prix de la Foret winner One Master in her own breeding career.
 
Lady Livius caused surely the greatest shock in the history of the Weatherbys Super Sprint in 2005, winning for Richard Hannon Snr at odds of 100-1 having been well beaten on her two previous starts at Newbury and Newmarket.
 
Owner John Lee made a tidy profit when the Titus Livius half-sister to Mill Reef Stakes winner Galeota, bought by Peter Doyle as a yearling for just 21,000gns, was resold as a broodmare prospect to Emerald Bloodstock on behalf of Ballylinch Stud for 105,000gns.
 
Ed Sackville managed to buy Lady Livius’s two best offspring, Brown Sugar and Burnt Sugar, for his father’s De La Warr Racing. Remarkably, the half-brothers won the Sirenia Stakes at Kempton in consecutive years.
 
The 2011 and 2013 Super Sprint winners Charles The Great and Peniaphobia have been unable to pass on their genes as they are both geldings, but their victories also held a certain significance in the bloodstock industry.
 
Both were sold to race in Hong Kong as the former colony started to spend large sums in its pursuit of highly-rated horses to import for its own lavishly funded racing programme, fuelled by huge local betting pools.
 
Charles The Great, a son of Holy Roman Emperor, went on to win the Group 2 Jockey Club Sprint at Sha Tin for John Moore and retired with just shy of £1 million in prize-money, while Peniaphobia, by Dandy Man, fared better still by landing the Group 1 Hong Kong Sprint for Tony Cruz and netting nearly £3.5m over the course of his career.
 
Tiggy Wiggy (pictured) made mincemeat of her Weatherbys Super Sprint rivals in 2014 to go down as one of the race’s most iconic winners.
 
The Richard Hannon jnr-trained daughter of Kheleyf went on to take the Lowther Stakes and Cheveley Park Stakes at two and revealed another dimension to her immense talent by running a gallant third to Legatissimo when stretched to a mile in the 1,000 Guineas at three.
 
Tiggy Wiggy had been sourced by Peter and Ross Doyle as a yearling for £41,000, but it took MV Magnier a cool £2.1 million to buy her as a broodmare prospect for Coolmore. She was mated with the late Galileo in her first five seasons at stud, and has produced two smart two-year-olds in Year Of The Tiger and Southern Cape. This year’s juvenile out of the mare is a colt named Samuel Pepys, who is yet to make his debut for trainer Aidan O’Brien.
 
Mrs Danvers wrote perhaps the most extraordinary fairytale result in the 30 years of the Weatherbys Super Sprint. By an unfashionable sire in Hellvelyn and out of Rebecca De Winter, a mare rescued from an uncertain future by Connie and Mark Burton, she fell ill at two and racked up expensive vets’ bills.
 
When fully recovered she was sent to be broken by Claire Bonner, who did a fine job in concentrating the unruly filly’s mind, and she was then advertised to 20 trainers for lease as the Burtons were unable to afford her training fees.
 
Jonathan Portman was one of only two to reply and was the lucky recipient of the filly, who was taken to an Ascot sale to qualify her for auction races and in particular the Super Sprint. With no interest in her, she was bought back on one bid of £1,000 and subsequently leased to the 110-strong Turf Club syndicate – which happened to count Weatherbys director Nick Cheyne among its members.
 
Mrs Danvers won legions of fans by winning all five of her starts at two, including the Super Sprint, St Hugh’s Fillies’ Stakes and Cornwallis Stakes, and her Cinderella story has continued in retirement as she has been matched with Galileo at stud. She has a two-year-old colt and a yearling filly by the multiple champion sire.
 
Richard Hannon Snr and Lord Carnarvon’s intention might not have been to create a race for potential breed-shapers, but with the qualities of speed and precocity so treasured by the bloodstock industry, that is what they inadvertently achieved.