Grey Sovereign

Author: Jana Nemeckova, published: 9th October 2018

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Grey Sovereign was born in 1948, from the fourth British crop of Nasrullah. And if somebody wasn't meant to be the champion sire and dynasty founder, it was probably him.

Line in the scheme

Grey Sovereign's pedigree was the unpredictable mixture of classic and sprint influences. Both Nasrullah's sire Nearco and damsire Blenheim were Derby winners in Italy and Great Britain, respectively, and so was Grey Sovereign's damsire Baytown, who won the Irish Derby. He also placed in the Irish St. Leger and the Jockey Club Cup at a distance of more than two miles. Baytown's sire Achtoi won the Newmarket St. Leger and ran second in the Irish Derby, and his grandsire Santoi won the Ascot Gold Cup. Other male influence includes two St. Leger winners Black Jester and Swynford.

But Grey Sovereign was also inbred to the top sprinter Sundridge, and to the brilliant two-year-old The Tetrarch, who was the ancestor of both Nasrullah and Baytown. Baytown's damsire Poor Boy was also proven sprinter at distances up to six furlongs. Grey Sovereign's three-quarters brother Nimbus by Nearco, who was born in 1946, won the Two Thousand Guineas and subsequently also the Derby Stakes, but in Grey Sovereign, the 'fast' blood prevailed.

Grey Sovereign was no immediate success at stud either. He entered stud in 1953, but the world had to wait until the late 1960s to see the abilities of this dynasty. Algaiola, a filly from Grey Sovereign's second crop, won the Italian 1,000 Guineas in 1958, and Grey Monarch ran second in the Travers Stakes the same year after several good efforts among the top U.S. three-year-olds. Queensberry won the Cheveley Park Stakes in 1959 as well as several other stakes races, but the first real swallow was Sovereign Path, who won both the Lockinge Stakes and Queen Elizabeth II. Stakes in 1960.

Historical overview

Grey Sovereign was no immediate success at stud either. He entered stud in 1953, but the world had to wait until the late 1960s to see the abilities of this dynasty. Algaiola, a filly from Grey Sovereign's second crop, won the Italian 1,000 Guineas in 1958, and Grey Monarch ran second in the Travers Stakes the same year after several good efforts among the top U.S. three-year-olds. Queensberry won the Cheveley Park Stakes in 1959 as well as several other stakes races, but the first real swallow was Sovereign Path, who won both the Lockinge Stakes and the Queen Elizabeth II. Stakes in 1960.

Gustav won the Middle Park Stakes in 1961, defeating Sovereign Lord, who won the Richmond Stakes and Gimcrack Stakes earlier in the season. La Tendresse scored another valuable victory in the Lowther Stakes, but generally, these years belonged to sprinters. Cynara, former good two-year-old filly, defeated Silver Tor for the second place in the Nunthorpe Stakes 1961, and La Tendresse defeated him in the King's Stand Stakes a year later. Fortino followed with a victory in the Prix de l'Abbaye de Longchamp 1962 at distance of five furlongs, and the same season brought a surprising dirt star in Merry Ruler. A British-bred colt was exported to the United States and rebounded from a moderate three-year-old season with victories in the Gravesend, Toboggan, and Carter Handicaps at a distance up to seven furlongs.

Sprinters' story continued in the following years. Matatina proved to be the top-class filly, as she won the Nunthorpe Stakes 1963, and placed in the King's Stand Stakes, in another edition of the Nunthorpe Stakes, and in two runnings of the July Cup. Merry Madcap avenged her with the 1965 July Cup win and subsequently placed in the Prix de la Foret. Young Emperor was a slight exception as he followed his victories in the Coventry Stakes and the Gimcrack Stakes with the fourth-place finish in the Two Thousand Guineas. And after a short pause, Zeddaan entered the scene.

Zeddaan's dam Vareta won the Prix de la Foret at the age of two, and her sire was Vilmorin, the King's Stand Stakes winner by Gold Bridge. However, Zeddaan's third, fourth and fifth sire were stayers, and they played their role well. Zeddaan won three future graded races at a distance about five furlongs at the age of two, and emulated his dam with a second-place finish in the Prix de l'Abbaye de Longchamp, only behind the three-year-old colt Pentathlon. At the age of three, Zeddaan conquered the Poule d'Essai des Poulains 1968 but didn't stop with that. He also ran second in the Prix Eugene Adam at distance of ten furlongs and won only slightly shorter Prix d'Ispahan.

Zeddaan was the first 'Grey Sovereign,' who was able to cover some longer distance, but also the last one. The Italian-bred Don, a member of the famous Italian family of Delleana, won the Poule d'Essai des Poulains right in 1969, but never became famous. But by 1966, both Sovereign Path and Fortino already had their progeny on the racetrack, and the whole new era began. Grey Sovereign's descendants remained fast, but not sprinters anymore.

Caro, a grey son of Fortino, won the Poule d'Essai des Poulains right the next year after Don and added a third-place finish behind Sassafras in the Prix du Jockey Club. Sovereign Path's daughter Humble Duty won the One Thousand Guineas the same year, but let's get back to Caro for a moment. He already was a talented middle-distance horse, as he won a pair of G2 races at a distance of about 10 furlongs at the age of four, as well as the Prix Ganay. He also ran second to the great Mill Reef in the Eclipse Stakes, and retired as the French champion older male, with Timeform rating 133.

Pidget, a daughter of Fortino, stunned Ireland in 1972 when she won both the Irish 1,000 Guineas and the Irish St. Leger. She lost the fillies' Triple Crown in the third-place finish in the Irish Oaks. Zeddaan entered stud in 1969, and his son Kalamoun became the next Poule the Essai des Poulains winner in 1973 after a good two-year-old season, which included the fourth-place finish in the Observer Gold Cup. Kalamoun tired on heavy ground to finish seventh in the Prix du Jockey Club, but after his return to shorter distances, he destroyed the field of the Prix Jacques le Marois. Later he ran second to Sparkler in the Prix du Moulin de Longchamp. Kalamoun was rated 'only' 129 at the end of the season but was considered the best middle-distance horse of his generation in France.

Sovereign Path didn't do any worse in the meantime. His grandson Furry Glen won the Irish 2,000 Guineas in 1974, and his granddaughter Nocturnal Spree won the One Thousand Guineas in 1975. And later in this season, Wollow came to the scene. His sire Wolver Hollow emerged from handicap circles in 1968 with a second place finish in the Queen Elizabeth II. Stakes, and surprisingly won the Eclipse Stakes 1969 over the great Park Top. Unbeaten Wollow won both the Champagne Stakes and the Dewhurst Stakes en route to the title of the best two-year-old 1975. A year later he continued with the Two Thousand Guineas victory. He didn't stay the Epsom Derby distance and finished fifth but went on to win the Eclipse Stakes via disqualification, the Sussex Stakes, and also the Benson & Hedges Gold Cup.

Caro's big year came in 1977. Madelia was only a lightly-raced filly, but three of her four victories included the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches, Prix Saint-Alary, and Prix de Diane, which was enough to earn her the title of the champion three-year-old filly in France. The male category title went to the great Blushing Groom, but Caro's son Crystal Palace had no reason to be ashamed. He won the Prix Lupin on his way to a comfortable victory in the Prix du Jockey Club and then finished fourth behind The Minstrel, Orange Bay, and Exceller in the King George VI. and Queen Elizabeth Stakes in England. Back home in France, he rebounded with a convincing victory in the Prix Niel. Crystal Palace closed his career with a superb third-place finish in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe behind Alleged and Balmerino, and his Timeform rating 132 made him the fourth-best three-year-old in Europe, as he was rated only below Alleged, Blushing Groom, and The Minstrel, who all belong to the racing legends.

Right in 1978, Zeddaan's son Nishapour scored in another running of the Poule d'Essai des Poulains over Caro's son Rusticaro. The line was perfectly established already by the end of the 1970s, but 1978 was a turning point: Caro was sent to Spendthrift Farm in the United States. The European success didn't stop though, as Nebos became the German Horse of the Year 1980, and a French-bred Dorcaro placed in a pair of the Californian G1 races early in the 1980s. Tropicaro won the Prix Marcel Boussac in 1980, and the Prix Saint-Alary in 1981. And American foals continued the trend, as Caro seemed to bond with the U.S. blood excellently. Smuggly, a granddaughter of Prince John, won the Prix Saint-Alary and ran second in the Prix de Diane 1983. The Spendthrift-bred colt Siberian Express was the Prix Morny winner by autumn 1983 and got beaten in the Dewhurst Stakes only by El Gran Senor and Rainbow Quest. Siberian Express went on to win the Poule d'Essai des Poulains 1984 in a good 'family' tradition. Sharrood ran third in the Irish 2,000 Guineas and fourth in the Two Thousand Guineas 1986. Smuggly's full sister Asl ran second in the Oaks d'Italia 1988, and Gabina was a forgotten star of the late 1980s. She got her big victory in the Prix de la Foret, but otherwise placed in four more G1 races behind stars like Miesque, Warning, Soviet Star, or Indian Skimmer. The era was closed symbolically by stayer Turgeon, who won both the French and the Irish St. Leger and ran third in the Ascot Gold Cup among many top efforts.

Caro's first U.S. crop brought only the Flash Stakes winner Ringaro, who later became one of the top sires in Argentina. But Cozzene was born only a year later and became a big part of the international success of the line. He was a slow-maturing turf horse, who began to place in the top American handicaps during his four-year-old season. He concluded this season with a third-place finish in the inaugural running of the Breeders' Cup Mile. His five-year-old season was virtually weaker, but this time Cozzene exited the Breeders' Cup Mile in the winners' circle. Later he became both the internationally respected sire and the leading North American sire in 1996.

Dr. Carter was a member of the next crop but made noise earlier than Cozzene, as he was one of the top two-year-olds of 1983. He later placed in several Kentucky Derby trials and also was a good handicap horse at the age of four. Tejano, who was born in 1985, won three G1 races as a juvenile and later proved to be a talented miler. But this crop had another star. It was Winning Colors, the legendary grey filly who won both the Kentucky Derby 1988 and the Preakness Stakes and lost the Breeders' Cup Distaff only to the great Personal Ensign. Caro's stud career was closed soon after but in style. With Approval won the Canadian Triple Crown in 1989 and was voted the Canadian Horse of the Year.

The previous story turned to Caro at one point. But the above mentioned Kalamoun, who won the Poule d'Essai des Poulains 1973, established the second major branch of the line. Their members didn't achieve great results so often, but when they did, they were no less remarkable.

Kalamoun's first crop included Kenmare who won the Prix Jacques le Marois 1978 and defeated the Poule d'Essai des Poulains winner Nishapour in the Prix de Fontainebleau. Shakapour ran second in the Prix du Jockey Club 1980, and Bikala won this race in 1981 en route to his runner-up effort in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. Kalaglow became the British champion older male after his victories in the Eclipse Stakes and King George VI. and Queen Elizabeth Stakes in 1982. This was virtually all for sons of Kalamoun but not for the whole dynasty.

Saint Andrews, a son of Kenmare, won or placed in 16 graded races between 1987 and 1989, including two victories in the Prix Ganay G1, and the third-place finish behind Carroll House in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe 1989. Another Kenmare colt Highest Honor ran only second in the Poule d'Essai des Poulains 1986, but won the Prix d'Ispahan the following year and placed in both Prix Ganay and Prix de la Foret. Tony Bin, who was born the same year, was a son of Kampala, who ran second in the Sprint Cup G2 in 1980. Tony Bin's racing career spanned four years and included 5 G1 victories and 5 G1 placings in Italy, the third-place finish in the King George VI. and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, and the second place and subsequently also the victory in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe 1988. Another famous pair was born three years later when Kendor took the Poule d'Essai des Poulains 1989, and Polytain the Prix du Jockey Club.

Neither of these branches disappeared after their classic eras, but this is already a topic for further parts of this article.

Other major branches

It's hard to comment on 'other branches' of the line, which is active in all directions. However, there are two names to mention.

Sovereign Edition was born in 1962, from the first crop of Sovereign Path, and proved himself a very talented colt. At the age of two, he ran third in the Middle Park Stakes behind Spanish Express, who was also a son of Sovereign Path. The next season Sovereign Edition finished third in the Irish 2,000 Guineas, beaten for the second place by another half-brother Dandini. He failed in the Derby Stakes, but returned at Royal Ascot in the St. James's Palace Stakes at a distance of one mile and ran respectable third behind Silly Season, who placed in the Two Thousand Guineas and won the Champion Stakes. Sovereign Edition retired to New Zealand. He sired 17 crops of foals and left a high number of G1 horses among his progeny. His name is still present in many pedigrees, including the one of the superstar mare Winx.

Kalaglow, the best son of Kalamoun on the racetrack, wasn't exactly a star sire. He spent only 12 years at stud, and his far the best foal was Timarida, who won five top races in five different countries on both sides of the Atlantic. Most of his best foals were both stayers and late bloomers. The best colt was Jeune, who won four Australian G1 races and placed in six more. Jeune became famous for siring Mummify, a great rival to Lonhro or Makybe Diva, who won five G1 races, including the Caulfield Cup. But the actual motive for these paragraphs was a colt named Sternkonig.

A grey colt like his sire, Sternkonig became the top three-year-old in Germany in 1993. He won or placed in many top races, but most notably ran third in the Deutsches Derby behind future international sires Lando and Monsun. Sternkonig's biggest victory came in the Grosser Preis von Berlin a year later, when he defeated Monsun. Sternkonig's best son was Kallisto, who won the Derby Italiano and now is a useful sire at Gestut Rottgen. Sternkonig, who died in 2010, is slowly getting the international attention in the past few years as a damsire. German double G1 winner Ivanhowe won the Doomben Cup G1 in Australia, while half-brothers Windstoss and Weltstar both won the Deutsches Derby. Windstoss subsequently ran third to superstar Cracksman in the Coronation Cup, and this performance could hardly pass unnoticed.

Discussion: why the line was chosen

The historical summary itself can be a good explanation of why Grey Sovereign was set out as the separate line, instead of being a part of Nasrullah's. To be more specific, the line had everything necessary for such classification. It was especially distinctive manifestation on the racetrack since its inception, but also the top qualities over the span of several decades. And just like in Seattle Slew's case, there was also specific body type which Grey Sovereign passed on to his progeny. The sireline is famous for its grey color even among warmblood breeders nowadays, but the color is not everything. Even American descendants of Caro couldn't deny their lineage, as their physical resemblance with Grey Sovereign is still striking.

But when we get back to Nasrullah, some other classic branches, especially Mill Reef's, had similar potential. There can be a legitimate doubt whether we shouldn't treat Grey Sovereign the same way. But the answer is no, not really. The main difference is the viability of the line, which still has several top stallions in this decade. They come from different branches, and also find themselves in various places all over the world. Let's focus on this subject in detail.

Sovereign Path's branch didn't last very long. Wollow spent five years in Europe before his export to Japan but left almost nothing except his grandson Zagreb, who won the Irish Derby. Sovereign Edition left several good sons in New Zealand, including the Caulfield Guineas winner Beau Sovereign, but he was a better damsire. One Pound Sterling and his son McGinty were familiar names in New Zealand, and so was Spanish Express with Arrow Express in Japan. But in all cases, it was too little for a line.

Caro's branch proved to be the most successful one over the decades. However, his best son Crystal Palace didn't take part in this success. He left only a few good males before his export to Japan, but he became a sire of such broodmares as Marie de Vez and Alruccaba, and a damsire of Daltawa. Caro himself was, by the way, an outstanding damsire too. His daughter Miss Carina is responsible for Linamix's sire Mendez, Trolley Song and Carlotta Maria produced a pair of top American grey juveniles Unbridled's Song and Maria's Mon, and Lettre d'Amour became a granddam of Danehill Dancer. Cozzene's daughter Fearless Revival added Pivotal into this impressive group of sires. But Caro certainly had also other talents, and some of his sons inherited them.

As for the European part of Caro's progeny, Nebos became a good sire in Germany, but the flag was carried by a wholly unexpected name. Kaldoun, a grey colt from Caro's third crop, was only a minor stakes winner in France and placed in several G3 races, all up to one mile. Kaldoun became a successful sire of both flat runners and steeplechasers, so it was quite a surprise when his stakes-winning son Smadoun sired Chichicastenango, the top three-year-old colt of the 2001 crop. Chichicastenango won both the Prix Lupin and Grand Prix de Paris and ran second in the Prix du Jockey Club. He spent only six years at stud before his export to Japan but sired two winners of the Prix du Jockey Club in Vision d'Etat and Saonois. Both are active sires in France, as of 2018.

American-bred Cozzene, the second stellar son of Caro, wasn't a precocious colt himself and passed this unpopular trait to his progeny. Still, he sired several top runners, including champions Cozzene's Prince and the Breeders' Cup Classic winner Alphabet Soup. But Cozzene's successor was somebody else: Mizzen Mast, who lost the Grand Prix de Paris because of Chichicastenango, and who won the Malibu Stakes G1 in his second American start. The lightly-raced colt retired right after the subsequent victory in the Strub Stakes G2, and still stands at Juddmonte Farms at the age of 20. He has two active sons in the United States, and his French G1-winning two-year-old Full Mast retired to Argentinian Haras Chenaud in 2017.

With Approval retired as the Canadian Triple Crown winner, the Horse of the Year and the world-record setter, and he became the Canadian Hall of Fame member soon after. However, he retired to Ocala Farm in Florida and spent his last five years at Lanwades Stud in Great Britain. With Approval followed his sire in the trend of late-maturing turf runners, but also added some hope to the line. Lasting Approval, who placed in two G1 races at a distance of 9 furlongs, retired to stud in Argentina, and T.H. Approval, who was proven G2 horse from 10 to 14 furlongs, to Uruguay. Both sires were active as of 2015, and both have progeny successful on a G1 level.

It's quite an irony that the line, which was always famous for its precocity and speed, have such troubles. In recent years it seems like its development will go another way, which started thanks to Siberian Express. As I mentioned above, he won the Prix Morny G1 at two, and the Poule d'Essai des Poulains at three. He spent 11 years at stud on both sides of the Atlantic but left almost nothing except In Excess. The Irish-bred bay colt with conservative British pedigree was sent to the United States in the middle of his three-year-old season and became one of the top handicap horses in the early 1990s. He was able to win from seven to ten furlongs on dirt, and his victories included the Metropolitan Handicap, the Suburban Handicap, the Woodward Stakes and the Whitney Handicap. In Excess became the leading sire in California, and his second crop included Indian Charlie.

While In Excess turned the famous grey dynasty into a bay one and brought it to dirt, Indian Charlie sent it to the top American pedigrees. He won his first four races, including the Santa Anita Derby, and ran third in the Kentucky Derby 1998 before injury forced his retirement. His first crop of 2000 included two G1 horses, and the second one had Fleet Indian, who earned the title of the champion older mare in 2006. Indian Blessing exited her two-year-old season as the unbeaten champion two-year-old filly in 2007, and subsequently became the champion female sprinter in 2008. Biofuel, a granddaughter of Indian Charlie, captured attention as the Canadian champion two-year-old filly 2009, the champion three-year-old filly 2010, and the Horse of the Year 2010.

More importantly, Indian Charlie's son named Uncle Mo was already another unbeaten champion two-year-old by the end of 2010. He won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile just like Indian Blessing, and later ran second in the King's Bishop Stakes G1 over 7 furlongs, and won the Kelso Handicap G2 at a distance of one mile. Uncle Mo retired to Ashford Stud and was the instant success. Uncle Mo's first crop of 2013 included Nyquist, who also won the BC Juvenile en route to the champion two-year-old colt honors, and sensationally won the Kentucky Derby a year later. Uncle Mo proved no fluke since then with several other G1 horses, and his current fee is $125,000. This branch of dirt milers now seems to be the biggest hope of the line for the future.

Zeddaan's branch was always the less progressive one, and it survived only thanks to Kenmare. His son Kendor appeared on the maternal side of several top pedigrees as time went by, including those of Lope de Vega, French double classic winner, and successful young sire. Near the end of his stud career, Kendor sired Literato, who ran second in the Prix du Jockey Club behind Lawman and won the Champion Stakes. Literato retired in 2009 and is active sire in Haras Montaigu. In the end, it was Kenmare's son Highest Honor who carried the torch. He ran 'only' second in the Poule d'Essai des Poulains 1986 but ranked himself among the top French milers at the age of four. Highest Honor emulated his sire Kenmare and became the leading sire in France in 1995, 2000, and 2002. The line still has high potential as Highest Honor's son Verglas ran second in the Irish 2,000 Guineas in 1997, and Verglas's son Stormy River won the Prix Jean Prat, ran second in three more G1 races over one mile and placed third in the Poule d'Essai des Poulains 2006. Silver Frost, another son of Verglas, defeated future Prix du Jockey Club winner Le Havre in the Poule d'Essai des Poulains 2009. Both Stormy River and Silver Forst are also active stallions in France as of 2018.

Unfortunately, Kenmare's branch remained alone. Zeddaan's son Nishapour turned out to be only a useful sire of broodmares, and his Derby-winning son Mouktar spent two years in France before his export to Japan. Bikala died at the age of 15 and generally was a weak sire, and so was his unfashionable Derby winner Polytain. Kampala stood for six years in Ireland before he left Europe for good, and Tony Bin went to Japan right after his racing career. It's fair to say that Tony Bin left an indelible mark in Japan. He became the champion sire in 1994 as the last stallion before the long hegemony of Sunday Silence. He sired six champions and two Japanese Horses of the Year. One of them was the Tokyo Yushun and the Japan Cup winner Jungle Pocket, who became a sire of classic winners too, and so did Tony Bin's two grandsons Heart's Cry and Admire Vega. Both Jungle Pocket and Heart's Cry are active sires in Japan.

All in all, the line has eight possible ways of future development now. Europe has mostly descendants of Kalamoun. Sons of Verglas are standing in France, and Germany has both Literato by Kendor and Kallisto by Sternkonig. The fourth European influence is Chichicastenango and his sons, who are descendants of Caro via Kaldoun. Descendants of Caro ale also in the United States, including both Cozzene's son Mizzen Mast, and the whole branch of Indian Charlie. With Approval has sons in South America, and Jungle Pocket stands in Japan. And all these branches are still capable of producing top horses worldwide.

Even from a general perspective, Grey Sovereign's line is in a different position than both Blushing Groom and Mill Reef, whom I classified only as branches of Nasrullah. In my opinion, such classification of Grey Sovereign would be wholly unfair.

Branches in analysis

Both the scheme of classic winners and the previous text suggest that Fortino and his son Caro, and Zeddaan and his son Kalamoun, are the most reasonable choices for branches in the future analysis. I chose both sons from these pairs, as Caro is the obvious choice, and Kalamoun is easily connectable to the European "K" dynasty. There's not much sense in further division of these branches, even though they find themselves in various places worldwide. Once again I inspired myself in the last year's analysis, where the whole Grey Sovereign line had steady, yet no staggering numbers.

However, I decided to take out Indian Charlie as the specific branch. As I mentioned before, his descendants deviate from the "old" characteristics of the whole line, which alone is a good reason for further observations. Moreover, Indian Charlie has several sons at stud beside Uncle Mo, and both Adios Charlie and Liaison already proved they are capable of siring a G1 horse. Uncle Mo is writing his own story now, and he's still only 10. Nyquist entered stud in 2017, and his current stud fee is $40,000. Just like in Tapit's case, the branch is on a roll, and it's worth observing its development.

Grey Sovereign's line in pedigrees of 2018

Please note this scheme dates back to July 2018. I will add the remaining stallions once the analysis of the 2018 racing season is complete.