Hancock family the foundation to War Front star
TWO Ballydoyle-trained War Fronts fighting out the finish to one of Britain’s premier 6 furlongs juvenile events. That could have depicted the outcome to the 2016 Cheveley Park Stakes, in which Brave Anna and Roly Poly ran down Lady Aurelia to provide a one-two for their sire and Aidan O’Brien. Or then again, it could depict the way U S Navy Flag held off Fleet Review to become War Front’s sixth juvenile Group 1 winner in last year’s Middle Park Stakes.
U S Navy Flag later became the first horse since Diesis to pull off the Middle Park – Dewhurst Stakes double during his length juvenile campaign. And although slow to hit top gear this season, this tough character is once again centre stage among the European three-year-olds, having been successfully reinvented as a sprinter in Saturday’s July Cup. Once again, Fleet Review was among those chasing him home and was far from disgraced as a closing third.
Both colts paint fine illustrations of the precocity and speed that War Front bestows on to his stock. U S Navy Flag also reflects very kindly on the reputation of Misty For Me, a dual champion herself who is the dam of Roly Poly – last year’s Falmouth Stakes, Prix Rothschild and Sun Chariot Stakes winner – and U S Navy Flag; the pair are two of the first three foals out of the mare and follow another high-class sort in Cover Song, a daughter of Fastnet Rock who won the Grade 3 Autumn Miss Stakes at Santa Anita for Spendthrift Farm.
To date, Roly Poly and U S Navy Flag are also the best of six stakes performers from 34 foals of racing age bred on the War Front – Galileo cross. A number of them have been bred by Coolmore and its associates, as they search for an outlet for their legions of Galileo mares, and indeed, it’s a list that also includes Fleet Review, who is out of a sister to Rip Van Winkle, and last week’s Sir Henry Cecil Stakes winner Naval Intelligence, one of the few good horses to leave the clutches of Ballydoyle.
Unsurprisingly, there are a number of regally-bred youngsters representing the same cross in the pipeline, namely Carefully (out of Irish 1,000 Guineas heroine Marvellous, a sister to Gleneagles), Dual Career (a sister to Fleet Review), Globe Theatre (out of Oaks winner Was) and an unnamed sister to U S Navy Flag and Roly Poly.
Few stallions have come under as much scrutiny as War Front in recent years. Only in 2011, the Claiborne stallion was available for as little as $15,000, but that’s not to say his early seasons in Kentucky had passed by unnoticed – a number of high-profile breeders, encouraged by his resemblance to Danzig and respectable race record that featured a Grade 2 win over 6 furlongs, supported him during those early years and indeed it was in Michael Tabor’s colours that his first European stakes winner Warning Flag was campaigned.
As the stakes winners flowed on each side of the Atlantic, among them Declaration Of War, Air Force Blue, War Command, Data Link and The Factor, his popularity understandably swelled. By 2014, he was commanding $150,000 and this year he was officially priced at $250,000. At last year’s Keeneland September Sale, his yearlings returned an average of $770,000.
Part of that inflation has to stem from Claiborne’s policy of book restriction; War Front has never covered more than 115 mares in a season and only twice since 2008 has he been represented by a crop larger than 80. In turn, his progeny doesn’t flood the market, unlike several of his rivals.
However, while War Front’s rise to within America’s elite has been swift, it remains a bumpy road. The likes of Air Force Blue and War Command might have been brilliant on their day but neither convinced at three. Nor did Peace And War, Giovanni Boldini, War Envoy or Hit It A Bomb. It’s a list that provides ample ammunition for the stallion’s knockers, despite the fact that the likes of Declaration Of War and The Factor thrived as older horses.
As such, the question immediately after last year’s Middle Park Stakes was how U S Navy Flag and Fleet Review would progress at three.
U S Navy Flag – one of a number by his sire who thrives in fast conditions – is not the biggest type, but then nor was Roly Poly, who thrived off her busy juvenile season to capture three Group 1 events at three. In fact, she did much during 2017 to restore War Front’s reputation as a sire of more than just two-year-olds.
Their dam, Misty For Me, landed the Moyglare Stud Stakes and Prix Marcel Boussac at two and the Irish 1,000 Guineas and Pretty Polly Stakes at three. Effective in top-class company for 6 furlongs to 1m 3 furlongs, namely when third to Perfect Shirl in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf, she was a tough and sound filly who is evidently passing down those attributes to her progeny.
Out of the Storm Cat mare Butterfly Cove, Misty For Me was one of the first good runners to represent the Galileo – Storm Cat cross that has been so well advertised in recent seasons by Decorated Knight, Churchill and his sister Clemmie, whose victory in last year’s Cheveley Park Stakes saw her become Galileo’s first Group 1 winner over 6 furlongs or less. Misty For Me was Butterfly Cove’s fourth foal but the first by Galileo, and understandably she has remained a regular visitor to Galileo, to whom she has since produced another champion in Ballydoyle and Listed winner Twirl. This is a family that is well established in the US but it has also long held respect in Europe, primarily thanks to the exploits of Butterfly Cove’s half-brother Fasliyev.
Butterfly Cove was the first foal bred by a Coolmore entity out of Mr. P’s Princess, who joined the fold following Fasliyev’s championship juvenile season in 1997. The daughter of Mr Prospector never made it to the track herself and Fasliyev was her first foal for breeder Harold Harrison, produced when the mare was a four-year-old. Bought for $450,000 by Demi O’Byrne, the Nureyev colt went on to become a brilliant two-year-old, sweeping the Prix Morny, Phoenix Stakes and Coventry Stakes before enjoying a level of success at stud for Coolmore and then in Japan.
The acquisition of Mr. P’s Princess came during a time of Coolmore support for Storm Cat and the mare went on to produce three fillies to the stallion; while Butterfly Cove never ran, she was followed two years later by the 1,000 Guineas Trial Stakes winner Kamarinskaya and the minor winner Empress Of France.
Mr. P’s Princess was actually a logical fit for Storm Cat given she was a half-sister to Haskell Invitational winner and Kentucky Derby runner-up Menifee, a son of the Storm Cat stallion Harlan. The pair were bred by Arthur Hancock out of Anne Campbell, a $725,000 purchase by Hancock’s Stone Farm at the Warner L. Jones dispersal at Keeneland in 1987. A Listed-placed daughter of Never Bend who was a direct descendant of James Cox Brady’s 1953 Acorn Stakes winner Secret Meeting, Anne Campbell was already the dam of Grade 1 winner Desert Wine at the time of her purchase and Menifee’s exploits in 1999 only served to enhance her standing. She also features as the third dam of 2006 July Cup and Golden Jubilee Stakes winner Les Arcs.
As for Menifee, he spent a period of time standing at Hancock’s Stone Farm before switching to Korea, where he has long been a leading sire.
It is fitting that it should be a former Stone Farm family behind U S Navy Flag and Misty For Me since Hancock has understandably been a good supporter of War Front during his stud career and was previously rewarded as the sole or part-breeder of Air Force Blue and one of the stallion’s early stand-outs, Grade 3 With Anticipation Stakes scorer State Of Play.