Flying Solow

256px-Solow_Building_New_York_August_2012

One of the best performances on World Cup night at Meydan last month came in the Dubai Turf which was won impressively by the Freddy Head-trained Solow. It was the five-year-old gelding’s first start outside France, and his first at Group 1 level. Solow’s trainer has handled some top milers, none better than triple Breeders’ Cup Mile Goldikova, who also raced for Solow’s owners the Wertheimer brothers, but it was well into Solow’s career, it seems, before Head realised he potentially had another on his hands. Solow’s pedigree reveals why that might be.

Solow’s win in Dubai was his eighth victory in his last nine starts, his winning spree having begun in June 2013. Those wins have come at a range of distances – three at a mile, two at nine furlongs, two more at around ten furlongs and one over a mile and a half. It was over that longest trip that Solow gained the first of his wins but it was only when dropped to a mile that he began to earn some black type, winning the Group 3 Prix Quincey at Deauville in August 2014 and the Group 2 Prix Daniel Wildenstein on Arc weekend at Longchamp.

But before Solow came down in trip he went up. To nearly two miles. That was in the Prix Vicomtesse Vigier at Longchamp last May in which Solow finished only sixth of eight, his only defeat since the summer of his three-year-old season. He may have since proven to be a miler, but in stepping him up to twice that distance, Solow’s trainer was merely following the pretty clear indications from the gelding’s pedigree that he was bred to be a stayer.

Solow’s sire Singspiel was himself a winner on Dubai World Cup night – of the World Cup itself in 1997  – but his other wins included victories in major races over a mile and a half on three continents – the Canadian International, the Japan Cup and the Coronation Cup. Singspiel can count a Gold Cup winner, Papineau, among his best offspring, but at the other extreme he’s also the sire of the good sprinter Take Cover who won the Group 3 King George Stakes over five furlongs at Goodwood last summer. On balance, though, Singspiel has proven a fair influence of stamina, with the average winning distance of his runners standing at 10.5 furlongs according to the Racing Post.

But it was the career of Solow’s dam High Maintenance which must have prompted Freddy Head to give her son a try over a long distance. High Maintenance was a proven stayer, who won over nine furlongs on her only start at two and was later successful at up to fifteen furlongs. She was beaten a head in a listed race at Chantilly and finished third in the Group 3 Prix Gladiateur at Longchamp at around the same distance.

High Maintenance’s dam Fabulous Hostess was better still, winning seven of her fourteen starts, including three pattern races in France, notably the Group 2 Prix de Royallieu over an extended twelve furlongs – not as much of a stayer as her daughter, therefore, but certainly reinforcing the stamina message in Solow’s pedigree.

It’s fair to stay that High Maintenance stayed better than her own pedigree might have suggested as she was by Highest Honor whose own racing career was quite an eclectic one distance-wise. Freddy Head rode him to finish second in the Poule d’Essai des Poulains, while at four Highest Honor won the Prix d’Ispahan, but he was also tried over as short as an extended six furlongs in the Prix Maurice de Gheest and finished third in the Prix Ganay over ten and a half furlongs. Highest Honor ended his racing career in the Breeders’ Cup Mile after finishing second in the Prix de la Foret over seven furlongs.

Highest Honor’s best progeny have performed at a whole range of distances. On the one hand, they include the French sprinter Do The Honours (winner of the Prix de Meautry) and the Coventry Stakes winner Verglas who went on to finish second in the Irish 2000 Guineas. Over middle distances, there was the dual Hong Kong Cup winner California Memory and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe third Sagacity, a half-brother to the Arc winner Sagamix. And over longer trips, besides High Maintenance, Highest Honor is also the sire of Double Honour who was twice third in Britain’s longest flat race, the Queen Alexandra Stakes over two and three quarter miles and went on to have a good career in steeplechases over very long distances, even contesting the Grand National.

As well as Solow, the Singspiel/Highest Honor cross produced another above-average performer in Au Revoir. He’s no miler though, successful in a couple of listed races in France over a mile and half and winning the Group 2 Zipping Classic in Australia over the same trip after finishing eighth in the Melbourne Cup last November.

There is no obvious source of speed in Solow’s pedigree therefore, though there are a couple of other examples of Singspiel producing milers out of quite stoutly-bred mares. Asakusa Den’en and Lohengrin were both good milers in Japan but their dams performed at a high level in Europe over middle distances. Asakusa Den’en was out of Whitewater Affair, winner of the Prix de Pomone and placed in the Yorkshire Oaks and Irish St Leger, while Lohengrin’s dam Carling won the Prix de Diane and Prix Vermeille.

Finally, it’s always interesting to uncover the reasons behind horses’ names. As a son of High Maintenance, with the emphasis on ‘high’, Solow presumably takes his name from the Solow Building (pictured), a fifty-story Manhattan skyscraper. It houses the corporate offices of Chanel, the fashion house owned by Solow’s owners Alain and Gerard Wertheimer.

[Image of the Solow Building courtesy of King of Hearts]

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