When Simple Verse won last month’s St Leger she became the fourth European classic winner of the year in as many different countries for her sire Duke of Marmalade. But as we’ll see, that’s an achievement which has probably been best received in a completely different part of the world.
The first of Duke of Marmalade’s classic winners this year was the Italian filly Sound of Freedom who won her country’s 1000 Guineas, the Premio Regina Elena, before finishing second against the colts in the Derby Italiano. She was followed by another filly, Star of Seville, who won the Prix de Diane, the French Oaks, and then it was a German classic which fell to Duke of Marmalade’s son Nutan, winner of the Deutsches Derby, a colt whose female family we studied in depth here.
A year of classic success from the members of Duke of Marmalade’s third crop was a marked improvement on the achievements of his first two crops of three-year-olds. The pick of those was another filly, Venus de Milo, who finished second in the Irish Oaks and Yorkshire Oaks in 2013 and was placed in the Pretty Polly Stakes and Nassau Stakes at four.
Venus de Milo represented the Coolmore partners and was trained by Aidan O’Brien, like Duke of Marmalade himself. Duke of Marmalade failed to win as a three-year-old but made the frame in all his starts, all of them Group 1 races, finishing second in the St James’s Palace Stakes and the Irish Champion Stakes. However, he made up for that at four when reeling off five Group 1 wins in a row, taking the Prix Ganay, the Tattersalls Gold Cup, the Prince of Wales’s Stakes, the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes and the Juddmonte International.
Those achivements meant that the son of Danehill began his stud career at Coolmore in 2009 at a fee of €40,000, though by 2013 that had slipped to just €12,500.
2013 proved his final year at Coolmore, a year in which his Galileo half-brother Ruler of The World won the Derby; the latter’s brother Giovanni Canaletto finished fourth in the latest Derby, incidentally.
Duke of Marmalade’s sudden success in recent months therefore came too late as far as Coolmore were concerned. It was ironic that it was Bondi Beach, also owned by the Coolmore partners, who was involved in the controversial finish to the St Leger and initially awarded the race until victory was handed back, after an appeal, to the filly who was a daughter of their ‘reject’ stallion. Simple Verse went on to further Group 1 success when winning Saturday’s British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes at Ascot.
Duke of Marmalade’s rise to prominence in 2015 will no doubt have been particularly welcomed in South Africa, where Duke of Marmalade now stands at Drakenstein Stud who have produced these beautifully-shot promotional videos of ‘The Duke’.
Duke of Marmalade comes from a superb American family, that of Belmont Stakes winner and champion older male Lemon Drop Kid and 1992 Horse of the Year and champion three-year-old colt A P Indy, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Classic as well as being a Belmont winner himself. Lemon Drop Kid, incidentally, is by Kingmambo, as is Duke of Marmalade’s dam Love Me True. This is also the family, in Europe, of the Sprint Cup and Prix de la Foret winner Wolfhound.
So why South Africa for Duke of Marmalade? Well, another of this family’s successful stallions is Al Mufti, he too an export from Europe. Al Mufti was a son of Duke of Marmalade’s great grandam Lassie Dear, making him a half-brother to Wolfhound (who also ended up at stud in South Africa) and to the dam of A P Indy.
A $1.2m yearling son of Roberto, Al Mufti won over six furlongs at Ascot on his only start as a two-year-old and at three was considered good enough to contest the Derby, though finished down the field in tenth behind Kahyasi in 1988. Failing to add to that debut success in both Britain and the States, Al Mufti was sent to South Africa where he covered fifty mares in 1990. Unusually, though, that wasn’t the end of his racing career, because he subsequently returned to the track to win another three races and finish third in South Africa’s biggest race, the Durban July Handicap.
When Al Mufti died in 2011, the Sporting Post described him as ‘beyond doubt South Africa’s most influential sire of the last two decades’. South African bloodstock has been showcased to particularly good effect since the creation of the Dubai Carnival and Al Mufti’s son Victory Moon did particularly well there, also finishing third in the Dubai World Cup. Al Mufti also sired the dam of the Dubai Duty Free winner Jay Peg.
The aforementioned Bondi Beach now heads, appropriately enough, to Australia for the Melbourne Cup where he could meet another European horse who has played a large part in Duke of Marmalade’s success this year. That’s four-year-old Big Orange who has already won the Princess of Wales’s Stakes and Goodwood Cup this summer.