Miesque, Karakontie and the Breeders’ Cup Mile

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Twenty-six years and three generations of racehorses might have separated Miesque’s second Breeders’ Cup Mile from Karakontie’s victory in the same race earlier this month, but Miesque’s owners and jockey, not to mention her own relatives and descendants, have played leading parts in many of the renewals in between…

1987/1988

Owned by Stavros Niarchos and trained by Francois Boutin, Miesque  won ten Group/Grade 1 races (then a record for a European-trained filly, all of them under Freddie Head) among twelve successes in all from a total of sixteen races: the Prix de La Salamandre and Prix Marcel Boussac at two; the 1000 Guineas, Poule d’Essai des Pouliches, Prix Jacques Le Marois, Prix du Moulin and her first Breeders’ Cup Mile at three; the Prix d’Ispahan and repeat wins in both the Jacques Le Marois and Breeders’ Cup Mile at four. Miesque became the first filly to complete the English/French Guineas double since Imprudence exactly forty years earlier – like many French-trained 1000 Guineas contenders she warmed up for Newmarket in the Maisons-Laffitte race that bears that filly’s name. Besides at the Breeders’ Cup, Miesque’s other notable double came at Deauville where she was the first to win the Jacques Le Marois (sponsored by her owners’ stud, the Haras de Fresnay-Le-Buffard) twice.

Miesque never finished out of the first three in her career and suffered just three defeats in Group 1 company. The first of those was when second to Indian Skimmer in the Prix de Diane at Chantilly where the distance of the French Oaks, an extended ten furlongs, proved too far for her. Miesque’s other reverse at three was a more surprising one when she was beaten at odds of 1/4 by the Coronation Stakes winner Milligram in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot. Surprising because Milligram had twice finished second to Miesque, in the Marcel Boussac and 1000 Guineas, though she clearly wasn’t herself when well beaten behind Miesque again at the Breeders’ Cup. Miesque went into the following year’s Breeders’ Cup on the back of a defeat too, having failed by just a head to peg back the July Cup winner Soviet Star (by Nureyev, like Miesque) on soft ground in the Prix du Moulin. Like Milligram, Soviet Star had been beaten by Miesque in both their previous meetings – he’d finished second to her in the previous year’s Prix du Moulin and, more recently, fourth in the Jacques Le Marois.

Miesque broke the Hollywood Park track record with the first of her Breeders’ Cup victories under a superb rail-hugging ride from Freddie Head, while twelve months later at a damp Churchill Downs she romped to a four-length victory, a margin which hasn’t been surpassed in any renewal since. In what were then still the early years of the meeting, Miesque became the first horse to win twice at the Breeders’ Cup, while her two stateside performances earned her consecutive Eclipse Awards as Champion Turf Female as well as induction to US racing’s Hall of Fame in 1999.

1994

Miesque was an immediate success on retirement to stud, with both of her first two foals winning French classics. First came the Mr Prospector colt Kingmambo who emulated his dam by winning the Prix du Moulin after earlier Group 1 successes in the Poule d’Essai des Poulains and the St James’s Palace Stakes. Coughing ruled him out of a bid to end his career in the 1993 Breeders’ Cup Mile but Kingmambo’s brilliant sire career has kept his dam’s name to the fore in the pedigrees of big-race winners worldwide over the last twenty years, while his grandson Toast of New York went so close to landing the Classic at the latest Breeders’ Cup.

But a year later Miesque was represented in the Breeders’ Cup Mile by her daughter East of The Moon, by Private Account. Going one better than her dam at Chantilly, she had completed the French Guineas/Oaks double before impressing in the Jacques Le Marois, but her form tailed off thereafter and she beat only two home at Churchill Downs.

1997

Stavros Niarchos had died the year before, but with the Breeders’ Cup back at Hollywood, the famous dark blue colours with the light blue cross-belts were successful in the Breeders’ Cup Mile again – Nureyev the sire once more – with the Jonathan Pease-trained four-year-old colt Spinning World who had finished runner-up to Da Hoss at Woodbine in the race twelve months earlier. Spinning World had emulated Miesque by winning the Jacques Le Marois twice, the only horse since her to achieve that feat.

2002

Another success for the Niarchos colours, this time with the Pascal Bary-trained outsider Domedriver who had finished second in the Jacques Le Marois but was without a Group 1 success to his name in Europe before winning the Mile at Arlington. The Niarchos colours were also carried in the same race by the shorter-priced US-trained pair Good Journey and Aldebaran who finished third and eleventh respectively. Not only were Good Journey and Aldebaran half-brothers, they were out of a half-sister to the dam of Spinning World. Aldebaran, incidentally, was responsible for the other winner in the Niarchos colours at the latest Breeders’ Cup, Main Sequence, successful in the Turf.

2003

The venue is Santa Anita and it’s a second consecutive Breeders’ Cup Mile for Pascal Bary and the Niarchos Family. Six Perfections had been luckless in the 1000 Guineas at both Newmarket (beaten by Kingmambo’s daughter Russian Rhythm) and the Curragh, but she became yet another Jacques Le Marois winner for her owners when beating Domedriver at Deauville en route to the Breeders’ Cup. Six Perfections’ unraced dam Yogya was a half-sister to none other than Miesque herself.

2005

Miesque’s own broodmare career was always going to struggle to live up to its brilliant start. Nonetheless, her third foal, a full brother to Kingmambo but more a sprinter than a miler, proved smart despite bearing the onerous name of Miesque’s Son. At stud, Miesque’s Son is best known in Europe as the sire of Whipper who won three different Group 1 contests at Deauville in successive years; the Prix Morny at two, the Jacques Le Marois at three and, going one better than his sire, the Maurice de Gheest at four. Whipper couldn’t keep Miesque’s name to the fore in the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Belmont but he went mighty close, flashing home late to be beaten less than a length into fourth behind Artie Schiller.

2006

Back at the scene of Miesque’s second Breeders’ Cup Mile, Churchill Downs, Miesque’s Son has better luck twelve months later when his seven-year-old son Miesque’s Approval causes an upset in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, the first Grade 1 success of his career.

2008-2010

Now a trainer, Freddie Head makes Breeders’ Cup history by winning three consecutive Breeders’ Cup Miles with the Wertheimer brothers’ Goldikova, completing her hat-trick at Churchill Downs after two wins at Santa Anita. Also third when attempting what would have been a remarkable four-timer at Churchill Downs in 2011, Goldikova broke Miesque’s record number of Group/Grade 1 wins with a career total of fourteen, though it’s worth bearing in mind that Goldikova had two more seasons’ racing than Miesque, and that Group 1 opportunities for fillies and mares were less plentiful in Europe in Miesque’s day. Like Miesque, Goldikova earned a pair of Eclipse Awards.

2014

Freddie Head’s latest challenge for the Breeders’ Cup Mile came with Goldikova’s brother Anodin whose second place was a fine achievement for a colt whose last win had come nearly eighteen months and nine starts earlier in a Group 3 contest. And if he had to finish second at all, Head would surely have chosen to be beaten by Karakontie, the great grandson of ‘magnficient Miesque’ who had started the story in California all those years earlier.

Miesque enjoyed a long and prolific career as a broodmare before she had to be put down in January 2011 at the grand old age of twenty-seven. As mentioned earlier, her subsequent foals failed to live up to the achievements of Kingmambo and East of The Moon on the track, but she produced eight fillies in total, including three each by a couple of the most sought-after stallions of their day, Mr Prospector and Storm Cat. Her descendants enjoyed a terrific 2014. Besides Karakontie (a grandson of Miesque’s listed winning daughter Moon Is Up, by Woodman), they include Tapestry, winner of the Yorkshire Oaks in August, and that filly’s two-year-old brother John F Kennedy who is currently favourite for next year’s Derby. Like Miesque, their dam, Rumplestiltskin (out of Miesque’s daughter Monevassia – herself dam of two-year-old filly I Am Beautiful, a Group 3 winner at the Curragh in June) was a winner of the Prix Marcel Boussac. And then there’s Tale of Life, a two-year-old son of Deep Impact and another of Miesque’s maiden daughters Second Happiness, who looks to have classic potential himself after a most impressive winning debut for Pascal Bary at Saint-Cloud a week after the Breeders’ Cup.

Link to Miesque’s page in the Breeders’ Cup Hall of Champions, including videos of her two winshttp://www.breederscup.com/history/hall-of-champions/horse/4241

Link to video of Tale of Life’s win at Saint-Cloudhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y19IAi484mM

[Niarchos silks courtesy of JockeyColours]

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