Close Hatches Latest Juddmonte Filly To Eclipse Rivals


Khalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte Farms operation is a multiple Eclipse Award winner, both as a breeder and as an owner. But in addition to being recognised for its outstanding collective achievements in both capacities, Juddmonte has also produced individual champions. Latest among them is Close Hatches, named Champion Older Female for 2014 at last weekend’s Eclipse Award ceremony at Gulfstream Park.

Close Hatches became Juddmonte’s fifth US champion, all of them fillies. Her profile, though, is a little different from her predecessors who had all begun their careers in Europe and were all champions on turf. Close Hatches owes her dirt background to the closest males in her pedigree, coming from the first crop of Juddmonte’s Forego Handicap winner First Defence and out of a mare by Storm Cat.

Curiously, you won’t find Close Hatches’ dam Rising Tornado in the Juddmonte Farms studbook as she belongs to the operation’s discreet ‘B team’ of broodmares, a subsidiary known as Millsec. It is some measure of the strength of Juddmonte’s broodmare band that even its supposed lesser lights are capable of breeding champions!

The immediate female family of Close Hatches is a turf one. Rising Tornado was trained in France by Andre Fabre, though he had to send her to the provincial track of Les Sables d’Olonne in the west of the country to find her a winning opportunity. Fabre also trained Rising Tornado’s dam Silver Star who was placed in listed company and was one of no fewer than fourteen winners out of her dam, the sprinter Monroe. Pick of those was Silver Star’s full brother Xaar, Europe’s champion two-year-old of 1997 and winner of the Dewhurst Stakes (like his sire Zafonic) for Fabre and Abdullah.

More recently, the same family has produced the high-class half-brothers Cityscape and Bated Breath, the latter now standing alongside his sire Dansili at Juddmonte’s Banstead Manor Stud in Newmarket and represented by his first crop of yearlings this year. Monroe was a daughter of Best In Show, she too a prolific and highly-influential broodmare whose descendants include another female champion in the States, Rags To Riches. She took the Eclipse Award for top three-year-old filly in 2007 when becoming the first of her sex in more than a hundred years to win the Belmont Stakes, emulating her half-brother Jazil who had won the final leg of the triple crown the year before.

As well as training the dam and grandam of Close Hatches, Andre Fabre had an even closer involvement with two more of Juddmonte’s champion US fillies, as he trained the 2001 champion turf mare Banks Hill and launched the career of her sister Intercontinental who was to win the same award four years later for Bobby Frankel. Both fillies clinched their Eclipse Awards with victories in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf.

Banks Hill won her edition impressively at Belmont by five and a half lengths as a three-year-old and finished second in the same race at Arlington the following year, by which time she too had been transferred to Bobby Frankel (who also trained Starine, the mare who beat her). Banks Hill’s biggest wins for Fabre in Europe had come over a mile, in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot as a three-year-old and in the Prix Jacques le Marois at Deauville aged four.

On the day that Banks Hill won the Jacques le Marois, her younger sister Intercontinental made a winning debut on the same Deauville card in a newcomers race for two-year-old fillies. However, it was not until she was five, and on her final start, that Intercontinental gained her Breeders’ Cup success, also at Belmont, where she stepped up to ten furlongs for the first time in her career to defeat Ouija Board who had won the Filly & Mare Turf the year before and was to win back her title a year later. Incidentally, a third daughter of Juddmonte’s outstanding broodmare Hasili, Heat Haze, also contested the Filly & Mare Turf, finishing fourth at Santa Anita in 2003. A better bid to uphold the family’s record in the race came from Banks Hill’s daughter Romantica who was second for Fabre at Santa Anita in 2013.

The Filly & Mare Turf was a later addition to the Breeders’ Cup programme and first run in 1999. Juddmonte’s first two champion turf fillies pre-date that development and the end-of-year race that helped both Wandesta and Ryafan to their Eclipse Awards was Hollywood’s Matriarch Stakes. They won consecutive renewals in 1996 and 1997, gaining their respective Eclipse titles those same years.

Wandesta, a daughter of Nashwan, began her career in Britain with Roger Charlton. But it was in California that her career took off for Bobby Frankel, winning a couple of Grade 1 contests at Santa Anita at four and then two Grade 2 races at the same track as a five-year-old prior to winning the Matriarch. Wandesta became the first of no fewer than eight winners of the Matriarch for Frankel between 1996 and 2007. His other winners for Juddmonte included the aforementioned Heat Haze and Intercontinental, and Starine was another of his winners. Now run at Del Mar since Hollywood’s closure, the Matriarch has been won six times in all by Juddmonte fillies or mares.

Frankel had also taken over the training of three-year-old Ryafan by the time she too won the Matriarch a year after Wandesta. Up until then she had been in the care of John Gosden, winning the Prix Marcel Boussac at two and then the Falmouth and Nassau Stakes the following summer before landing the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland and the Yellow Ribbon Stakes at Santa Anita to make a late bid for Eclipse honours.

Sadly, Ryafan’s broodmare career proved short-lived as she died after foaling what was to be her only filly. Named Phantom Wind, she won Goodwood’s Oak Tree Stakes and finished fourth in a bid to emulate her dam’s Grade 1 success at Keeneland. Wandesta, on the other hand, has had a lengthy innings as a Juddmonte broodmare, albeit not a particularly successful stud career. However, her final foal, by First Defence, named Flame Hawk and trained in Germany, got off the mark in a handicap at Dortmund just before Christmas.

Unlike Banks Hill and Intercontinental, Close Hatches did nothing at the Breeders’ Cup to enhance her Eclipse Award claims, finishing last in the Distaff (in which she had been runner-up in 2013), but that mattered little as her hat-trick of Grade 1 wins earlier in the year at Oaklawn, Belmont and Saratoga in the Apple Blossom Handicap, Ogden Phipps Stakes and Personal Ensign Stakes had been sufficient to clinch the division’s title. She begins her stud career with a visit to another champion – the leading US sire of 2014 – Tapit.

Link to Close Hatches winning the Personal Ensign Stakes at Saratoga:

[Image of Juddmonte Farms silks courtesy of Zafonic]