Top winners keep flowing from Delta

For the fourth time in the last five years, a daughter of Zabeel was named New Zealand Broodmare of the Year. The latest recipient of the title was Imposingly whose daughter Bonneval became only the second filly to complete the double in the Australian and New Zealand Oaks earlier this year, thereby securing her own title as New Zealand Horse of the Year. Bonneval (by 2000 Guineas winner Makfi) became the first three-year-old filly to be so honoured since Sunline (1998/99) won the first of her four consecutive New Zealand titles (also triple Horse of the Year in Australia).

While Imposingly largely had Bonneval to thank for her award, another of her daughters Imposing Lass (Bonneval’s year-older sister) won the Group 3 Belle of The Turf Stakes at Gosford in Sydney early in the year. In total, four of Imposingly’s daughters are now group winners following the earlier Group 3 successes in Australia and New Zealand respectively of Full of Spirit (by Flying Spur) and Lady Cumquat (by Duke of Marmalade). Full of Spirit was also runner-up in the Group 1 Challenge Stakes at Hastings.

Imposingly’s only win in New Zealand came in a maiden as a four-year-old but her status as a top producer was something she shared with (or perhaps even inherited from) her great great grandam Delta, the 1968 Kentucky Broodmare of the Year (click here for image).

As we’ll see, Imposingly is just the latest in a remarkable family of outstanding broodmares of which Delta’s own dam Bourtai has to be considered another. Bourtai produced a second Kentucky Broodmare of the Year in Levee (the 1970 awardee, when her daughter Shuvee was champion older filly), herself winner of the Coaching Club American Oaks, as well as Levee’s sister Bayou, the champion US three-year-old filly of 1957. Bayou went on to have some notable male descendants, including the Belmont Stakes winner Coastal, Kentucky Derby runner-up Aptitude and the champion three-year-old/older male Slew o’ Gold. Another who traces back to Bourtai is the 1973 US champion two-year-old filly Talking Picture who has featured in thebreedingshed before.

Delta won 16 of her 33 starts, enjoying her best seasons at two (winning the Arlington Lassie Stakes) and four. Among her several winning offspring in 1968 who helped Delta to her award that year was two-year-old Dike, winner of the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland, who went on to win the following year’s Wood Memorial and finish third in the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes.

Delta’s daughters included Shore who was to become the grandam of the Prix Lupin and Prix d’Ispahan winner Croco Rouge, a colt who was beaten a neck in the Prix du Jockey Club and twice reached the frame in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. Croco Rouge appeared on the scene just after his half-sister Alidiva achieved the remarkable feat of producing three foals who all won Group 1 races in Europe in the same season, a feat which according to some sources earned her broodmare of the year status in both Ireland and Italy (there would appear to be no official lists for either country) in 1997.

Officially recognised or not, that was some feat, with three-year-old filly Sleepytime winning the One Thousand Guineas, her four-year-old brother Ali-Royal the Sussex Stakes and her five-year-old half-brother Taipan winning the Europa-Preis in Germany and the Premio Roma in Italy. Alidiva’s formerly British-trained grandson (out of a sister to Sleepytime), now named It’s Somewhat, became another top-level winner in Australia among Delta’s descendants in 2017 when winning the Doncaster Handicap for Godolphin at Randwick in April.

Delta’s final foal was Basin, by Tom Rolfe, and the only one of her dam’s ten foals not to win a race (from five attempts). But it’s from Basin that Imposingly descends through the unraced fillies L’Quiz (foaled in Kentucky and exported to New Zealand) and Quiz Queen.

L’Quiz proved a fine broodmare herself, producing the 2002 New Zealand Derby winner St Reims and, before him, the 1998 Melbourne Cup runner-up Champagne, winner of the Australia Stakes and Mackinnon Stakes earlier that year. Imposingly is actually a three-parts sister to this pair as St Reims and Champagne were both by Zabeel too, as was the mare who beat Champagne a neck at Flemington, fellow New Zealander Jezabeel. Champagne’s granddaughter Charmont became a Group 1 winner herself in April in the NZ Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes – just minutes before Bonneval won the Australian Oaks on the other side of the Tasman Sea.

When L’Quiz was exported to New Zealand she was following in the footsteps of her half-sister Czaravina, another of Basin’s unraced daughters. She too founded a successful family down under. Her great grandson Zabeat (whose dam was another Zabeel mare) became champion stayer in New Zealand where he won the 2005 Wellington Cup, then a Group 1 contest over two miles.

A couple of Basin’s grandsons became Grade 1 winners in the States, Silver Ending winning the 1990 Pegasus Handicap and Siberian Summer the Charles H. Strub Stakes three years later. The latter was out of Basin’s daughter Mia Karina, a winner over an extended mile in France, and who became dam of another of the family’s hugely influential broodmares.

Magnificient Style won the Musidora Stakes for Henry Cecil but failed to add to that success as a four-year-old when trained in the States. In November of that year at Keeneland, she was bought by Robert Sangster’s Swettenham Stud for $410,000, paving the way for the Delta/Basin line to make more of an impact in Europe. The Australian wing of Sangster’s Swettenham operation, incidentally, subsequently bred Imposingly.

Magnificient Style was named 2012 Broodmare of the Year by the Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association, though even before then she had compiled quite a record. Her first big winner was Echoes In Eternity who was a disappointing favourite when trying to emulate her dam in the Musidora but went on to win the Sun Chariot Stakes and Park Hill Stakes for Godolphin. Sangster died in 2004 shortly before Magnificient Style’s first colt Percussionist (by Sadler’s Wells, who had carried the Sangster colours) won the Lingfield Derby Trial prior to finishing fourth in the Derby itself – he went on win the Yorkshire Cup two years later. Next came Percussionist’s sister Playful Act, winner of the Fillies’ Mile at two and the Lancashire Oaks at three when she was second in the Irish Oaks. She set a world record for a broodmare when some of the Swettenham bloodstock was dispersed at Keeneland in 2007, falling to a bid on Sheikh Mohammed’s behalf for $10.5 million.

Magnificient Style has produced eight stakes winners in total and it was the combined successes of her Galileo son and daughter, Nathaniel and Great Heavens, which earned her broodmare award in 2012. Already winner of the King Edward VII Stakes and King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes the year before, Nathaniel added the Eclipse Stakes to his record at four. Meanwhile, his younger sister Great Heavens became her dam’s second winner of the Lancashire Oaks and then went one better than Playful Act by following up in the Irish Oaks. Both that pair carried the colours of Lady Rothschild who had bought Magnificient Style privately when she was withdrawn from the 2007 December Sales.

Great Heavens, one of eight stakes winners out of Magnificient Style

Great Heavens, incidentally, finished sixth in the 2012 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, supplemented for the race after Nathaniel (who had been one of the favourites) was unable to run due to a fever. Nathaniel could yet achieve Arc glory as a stallion instead with his first-crop daughter Enable, warm favourite for this year’s edition of Europe’s richest race. Meanwhile, Bonneval, who returned to action with a Group 2 win at Moonee Valley recently, is prominent in the betting for the Melbourne Cup and could line up against Winx in the Cox Plate before then.

If the two fillies can win the top races in Europe and Australia this autumn, that would be some double for Basin, great grandam of Enable’s father and Bonneval’s mother!


1968 DELTA (Kentucky) < Bourtai

1970 LEVEE (Kentucky) < Bourtai

1997 ALIDIVA (Ireland/Italy?) < Alligatrix < Shore < Delta < Bourtai

2012 MAGNIFICIENT STYLE (GB) < Mia Karina < Basin < Delta < Bourtai

2017 IMPOSINGLY (New Zealand) < Quiz Queen < L’Quiz < Basin < Delta < Bourtai


Great Heavens image: Renewmar