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Sky Lantern and the 1000 Guineas

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The QIPCO 1000 Guineas, first run in 1814, brings together the year’s leading three-year-old fillies, the equine ballet dancers of their generation, to discover just which of them is their prima ballerina, which is the one who can dance fastest up the Rowley Mile’s famous spring ground.

Originally published in the official Newmarket 1000 Guineas racecard

So far there have been 206 elegantly fast Guineas-winning fillies, many of them hailing from the most royal of thoroughbred pedigrees. Many have also gone to become the most wonderful of broodmares, their Classic success securing them positions in the courts of pre-eminent stallions.

It can be argued that the 2013 winner Sky Lantern was bred for Guineas glory.

She is out of the Shareef Dancer mare Shawanni, who before the arrival of Sky Lantern had already produced the Group 3 winners Shanty Star and Arctic, the Greenham Stakes (G3) third Shropshire, as well as the Listed winner Hinton Admiral. Shawanni was a daughter of the Negligent, the champion two-year-old of 1989, who finished third in the 1990 running of the QIPCO 1000 Guineas behind Salsabil. 

Negligent produced two black-type runners – the Group 3 winner and Group 1 runner-up Blatant, and Songlark, winner of the Group 3 Prix Thomas Byron. She was out of the once-placed Negligence whose Ahonoora daughter Ala Mahlik collected a fourth placing in the 1986 running of the QIPCO 1000 Guineas, while her third dam Miss Justice was ancestress of Beauty To Petriol and La Cascade. They could boast Guineas credentials with a win and runner-up result in Italy’s version, the Premio Regina Elena (G2).

The pedigree stretches back to the 1931-born broodmare Dalmary whose daughter Rough Shod was a significantly influential mare in the US. She was dam of the 1965 champion US two-year-old Moccasin, Ridan, the second top-rated two-year-old in the US in 1961, the leading runner Lt Stevens, Gambeta, dam of Gamely, a dual US champion, and, perhaps most important of all, she was dam of the winning mare Thong. 

She has the greatest claim to fame of all as the second dam of industry legend Nureyev, a sire of nine champions, including Theatrical, Peintre Celebre and Miesque. Thong was also third dam of the 14-time champion sire Sadler’s Wells, who is such a massive influence on today’s thoroughbreds, primarily now through his son Galileo.

Sky Lantern was bred by Tally-Ho Stud in Ireland, the O’Callaghan’s family farm having bought dam Shawanni for €78,000 at the Goffs November Mares Sale in 2007. The Group 1 Haydock Sprint-winning colt Red Clubs had been retired to the County Westmeath farm and in his second and penultimate year at stud – he died in 2010 – he covered the 18-year-old Shawanni, the resulting filly foal born on January 27, 2010.

She was sold as yearling at the Goffs Orby Sale where she was spotted by agent Ed Sackville, who was buying on behalf of owner Ben Keswick. “Ben asked me to look for a sprinting bred, sprint-type filly as a future broodmare for Rockcliffe Stud,” recalls Sackville. “She was by Red Clubs and was a half-sister to Arctic and to Shropshire, related to Negligent and so from a fast family.”

The grey filly was bought for €75,000 and was sent into training with Richard Hannon, and she always gave signs that she might be good. But, as a realistic Sackville cautions, “Horses can be eye-catching on the gallops and be rated in the 90s, it doesn’t mean that they become 120-rated and Classic winners!”

Sky Lantern made a winning juvenile debut in May, and then picked up a Listed success back in Ireland at Naas. “That race was called the Naas Juvenile Sprint Stakes,” recalls Sackville. “Afterwards I rang Ben in Hong Kong and said, ‘Job done, anything more is a bonus!’”

Sky Lantern didn’t duck away from earning those bonuses for her owner. She finished second in the Sweet Solera Stakes (G3) and the Prestige Stakes (G2), and then hit juvenile heights with victory in the Moyglare Stakes (G1). Her three-year-old debut came when second in the Group 3 Nell Gwyn Stakes, before she going that one glorious place better in the QIPCO 1000 Guineas, fulfilling her birth right and going two places better than her grand-dam.

Ridden by regular jockey Richard Hughes, she was settled in mid-division and had plenty of ground to make up after the bushes, but her talent and tenacity saw her battle for her half-length win. Classic glory was followed with success at Royal Ascot in the Coronation Stakes (G1), a second placing in the Falmouth Stakes (G1), a fifth in the Nassau Stakes (G1) before she made it a Group 1-winning return to the Rowley Mile in the Sun Chariot Stakes.

Sky Lantern was retired to Keswick’s Rockcliffe Stud after her four-year-old season. She visited Dubawi for her first two covers producing the winning colts Gentle Bellini and Noonday Gun, but, appropriately for such a strong fillies’ family, it is her third foal and first filly who holds the promise that the pedigree’s quality will be retained for another generation. 

Named Snow Lantern the three-year-old is by the QIPCO 2000 Guineas winner Frankel. She ran once as a juvenile when second at Ascot over 7f last July, and on this year’s return to the racecourse looked a filly of the highest order. Given a seasonal debut at Newbury, and one of only two fillies in the 11-strong field, she won her mile maiden by an easy length and three-quarters from the Derby entry Derab.

A Classic run in today’s QIPCO 1000 Guineas was under serious discussion by connections, but in the end today’s race was sidestepped, Snow Lantern due to head to York for the Listed Michael Seeley Stakes. She holds summer Classic entries in Epsom’s Cazoo Oaks and the Prix de Diane in France.

“We think the Michael Seeley will tell us a lot, whether we go for mile Coronation Stakes or head for the 1m2f French Oaks. It is a very exciting time,” says Sackville. Sackville also updated on Sky Lantern’s latest broodmare news. “She had a colt by Kingman last year, has a Kingman colt foal at foot, and just last Monday she was successfully scanned back in-foal to Frankel.”

With an exciting runner this year, youngsters on the ground by Juddmonte’s leading sire Kingman and another foal on the way by the champion Frankel, Sky Lantern has every chance to become yet another QIPCO 1000 Guineas winner who could leave a lasting imprint on thoroughbred pedigrees.

by Sally Duckett