Anna Nerium was the 25/1 outsider of the whole field, and the only filly in the line-up, when winning the listed European Free Handicap at Newmarket in April. Already a Group 3 winner at two in the Dick Poole Fillies’ Stakes at Salisbury, Anna Nerium’s Free Handicap is just the latest stakes win for a remarkably diverse set of descendants stemming from Anna Nerium’s German grandam Anna Paola.
Anna Paola was the best of her sex in Germany at both two and three, with her five wins including that country’s Oaks, the Preis der Diana, in 1981. She was bred by one of Germany’s oldest studs Gestüt Röttgen which still has six members of the family in its broodmare band, all descendants of Group 3 winner Anna Thea who was out of a half-sister to Anna Paola.
No fewer than five* of Anna Paola’s daughters have themselves become dams or grandams of group winners. The most successful of these is the unraced Sheikh Mohammed-bred Anna Matrushka who was by Mill Reef. She bred three group winners for Sheikh Mohammed/Godolphin, namely Prix Hubert de Chaudenay and Prix Berteux winner Pozarica, Prix du Royallieu and Prix du Conseil de Paris winner Annaba and Park Hill Stakes winner Anna of Saxony.
Anna of Saxony has established a flourishing line of her own, becoming grandam of the Flower Bowl Invitational winner Ave and the Irish 1000 Guineas runner-up Anna Salai and great grandam of the 2016 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere winner National Defense.
Anna Matrushka is also grandam of Anna Monda (now a broodmare in Japan) who emulated her great grandam by becoming champion three-year-old filly in Germany in 2005 when her wins included the German 1000 Guineas and the Premio Vittorio di Capua. Another of Anna Matrushka’s daughters, Accessories, was unraced and sent by Darley to Australia where she produced the Group 1 winners Helmet and Epaulette, now at stud at Dalham Hall and Kildangan respectively. Helmet is the sire of recent Dubai World Cup winner Thunder Snow.
It was Anno Luce who achieved most among Anna Paola’s foals on the track, winning a Group 3 at Hanover, the Deutscher Stutenpreis, over a mile and a half, and finishing third in the Preis der Diana. While she became dam of the French listed winner Air Trooper, she’s better known for producing the 2016 Champion Hurdle winner Annie Power.
Anno Luce and her sister Anna Oleanda, a winner at around a mile and a quarter in Germany, were by Sadler’s Wells’ first-crop son Old Vic, winner of the Prix du Jockey Club and Irish Derby. Old Vic made relatively little impact on the Flat, with the notable exception of siring another German mare, Sacarina, who became dam of two Deutsches Derby winners, Samum and Schiaparelli, and grandam of a third, Sea The Moon, as well as producing a Preis der Diana winner Salve Regina.
Old Vic proved much more of a success as a National Hunt stallion, getting the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Kicking King and two Grand National winners, Comply Or Die and Don’t Push It. He very nearly got a third, Sunnyhillboy (beaten a nose at Aintree in 2012) and could yet do so as another of his sons, Ballyoptic, was narrowly beaten in the recent Scottish Grand National.
Old Vic’s success as a sire of Grand National winners could hardly have been envisioned by the man who bred him and himself competed in the Grand National in the 1950s, becoming champion amateur rider later that decade. Old Vic, who was bought by Sheikh Mohammed as a yearling, was a product of Bob McCreery’s Stowell Hill Stud in Somerset and bred from Cockade, a sister to another Stowell Hill-bred classic winner, the 1972 2000 Guineas winner High Top.
It was doubtless the Old Vic connection that was the key factor when McCreery purchased Anna Oleanda for 45,000 guineas when she was sent to the December Sale at Newmarket in 2005, the only daughter of her sire in the catalogue.
Anna Nerium, by Dubawi, was bought back for 300,000 guineas as a yearling to race in the green and black colours of Bob McCreery’s widow Jeanette (Bob died aged 86 late in 2016) and became Anna Oleanda’s third group winner and eighth winning foal all told. Anna Nerium’s ill-fated full brother Piping Rock was unbeaten in three starts as a two-year-old, including the Horris Hill Stakes, but died of colic before he turned three after being purchased by Godolphin. Their half-sister Middle Club, a daughter of Fantastic Light, won the Prix d’Aumale at two and went on to finish second in the Oaks d’Italia.
As often seems to happen, it was one of Anna Oleanda’s least successful daughters on the track who has performed best at stud. Her Manduro filly Coplow is the only one of her offspring to race who failed to win, in fact, but as a broodmare she earned fame in 2017 when her two- and three-year-old daughters Billesdon Brook (by Champs Elysees) and Billesdon Bess (by Dick Turpin) won races on consecutive days at the Glorious Goodwood meeting. Billesdon Bess went on to win the listed Upavon Fillies’ Stakes at Salisbury, while her younger half-sister won the Group 3 Prestige Stakes back at Goodwood and could join her ‘aunt’ Anna Nerium in the 1000 Guineas after finishing fourth on her reappearance in the Nell Gwyn Stakes at Newmarket.
*The others include three more ‘Annas’; Anna Petrovna, the dam of triple Winter Hill Stakes winner and Dubai Duty Free winner Annus Mirabilis, who was runner-up in the Racing Post Trophy and third in the Irish Derby; Anna of Brunswick, the grandam of Smooth Operator who won several group contests in France and Germany over six/seven furlongs; and Anna Comnena, grandam of Autumn Glory whose wins included the Prix Quincey.