The chances of any given broodmare producing either a Derby or a Grand National winner must be very remote indeed. So what odds about the same broodmare becoming a dam of the winners of both races, contests which for many are the greatest flat race and steeplechase respectively in the calendar.
Well, remarkably, the odds of such an accomplishment currently stand at no bigger than 20/1, though those will contract considerably in the event of Cause of Causes being chosen by soon-to-retire champion Tony McCoy as his final mount in the Grand National on April 11th.
Cause of Causes advertised his stamina for the marathon trip at Aintree when winning the National Hunt Chase over four miles at the Cheltenham Festival a few weeks ago. He is out of the mare Angel In My Heart whose greatest accomplishment at stud so far came in 2003 when her son Kris Kin won the Derby. Although they have excelled in very different branches of the sport, Cause of Causes and Kris Kin share more than just the same dam; they are also both grandsons of Derby winner Roberto, with Kris Kin a son of Kris S and Cause of Causes by Dynaformer.
Cause of Causes now carries the colours (pictured being worn by Tony McCoy) of well-known Irish owner J. P. McManus, while Kris Kin raced for Saeed Suhail but the pair were bred by the Niarchos family’s Flaxman Holdings Ltd and it was in the Niarchos colours that Angel In My Heart raced. Initially trained in France by the late Francois Boutin, she went on to win the Group 3 Prix de Psyche at Deauville for John Hammond and subsequently finished runner-up in three Grade 1 contests in the States, including the Matriarch Stakes and Santa Ana Handicap by which time Angel In My Heart was in the care of Bobby Frankel.
If this sounds an unlikely background for the dam of a potential Grand National winner, bear in mind that Angel In My Heart is a daughter of Rainbow Quest who sired the dam of the shock 2013 Aintree winner Auroras Encore.
Cause of Causes was not alone at the Cheltenham Festival in being bred to excel on the Flat and having roots in the Niarchos family’s breeding operation. The Queen Mother Champion Chase winner Dodging Bullets, was famously bred by Frankie Dettori (who rode Dodging Bullets’ sire Dubawi to victory in the Irish 2000 Guineas), but his unraced dam, Nova Cyngi (like Kris Kin, by Kris S), was a Niarchos mare and a daughter of Northern Trick who won the Prix de Diane and Prix de Vermeille for Stavros Niarchos on the way to finishing second in the 1984 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
Northern Trick’s descendants on the flat include granddaughter Light Shift, winner of the 2007 Oaks, and last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Main Sequence, her great great grandson who was runner-up in the 2012 Derby when trained in Britain by David Lanigan. Incidentally, Lanigan’s stable currently houses Angel In My Heart’s as yet unraced three-year-old filly, named Human. She’s bred on similar lines to Kris Kin (and therefore Cause of Causes) as she’s by the Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Blame, a grandson of Kris S.
Angel In My Heart would not be the first broodmare to be represented by offspring in both the Derby and Grand National. Paul Mellon’s Crown Treasure bred a couple of high-class flat performers in Diamond Shoal and Glint of Gold, the latter of whom chased home Shergar in the 1981 Derby. Fourteen years later their half-brother Crystal Spirit finished fourteenth of fifteen finishers at Aintree.
Lettuce was a half-sister to the 1979 Grand National winner Rubstic, so it wasn’t too much of a surprise that one of her sons should end up taking his chance at Aintree – Mighty Falcon contested two Nationals in the 1990s, completing in the first of those attempts when finishing eighteenth. Less predictably, it was Lettuce’s Derby runner who fared much better, 66/1 shot Mighty Flutter finishing third to Secreto at Epsom in 1984.
[Image of Tony McCoy courtesy of Paul]