Stunning Hong Kong sprinter a tale of two Danzigs

As racehorses Danehill and Dayjur had much in common besides being sons of Danzig. Foaled in consecutive years, they both enjoyed highly successful three-year-old seasons as crack sprinters. Both broke track records along the way, and both counted the Sprint Cup at Haydock among their successes. But at stud, their careers could hardly have been more different. While Danehill proved a huge success in his own right, and later as a sire of sires, in both hemispheres, Dayjur disappointed badly.

There’s no doubting that Dayjur was the better of the pair as well being more an out-and-out sprinter. Successful over five furlongs in the Temple Stakes, King’s Stand Stakes, Nunthorpe Stakes (in record time) and Prix de l’Abbaye, Dayjur famously ended his career in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint in which he was beaten a neck by Safely Kept after jumping a shadow near the line. Danehill, on the other hand, never raced over five furlongs and only returned to sprinting after finishing third to Nashwan in the 2000 Guineas. His track record came at Royal Ascot in the Cork & Orrery Stakes when ridden by Dayjur’s jockey Willie Carson as his usual rider Pat Eddery unable to do the weight.

Dayjur’s dam Gold Beauty, a daughter of Mr Prospector, was herself champion sprinter in the US as a three-year-old in 1982 and already dam of dual Grade 1 winner Maplejinsky. Dayjur began his stud career in 1991 at a fee of $50,000 at Shadwell Farm where he was to remain for the rest of his days and was given every chance to succeed with an outstanding first book of mares.

Among them were the dams of champion sprinters Groovy and Housebuster (and the dam of Safely Kept), the dams of champion three-year-old Risen Star and Kentucky Derby winner Gato del Sol and Ballade, the dam of champions Glorious Song and Devil’s Bag. They also included the champion fillies or mares Epitome, Mom’s Command and Ambassador of Luck, as well as Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Twilight Ridge and further Grade 1 winners Capades, Andover Way, Carotene, Header Card and Personal Business.

His first book covered all bases, not just American/dirt/speed influences, and comprised mares from a European turf background. They included Nashwan’s dam Height of Fashion, the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes winner Milligram and the Irish St Leger winner Eurobird.

However, a plummeting stud fee which had reached $10,000 by the end of the ‘nineties told its own story of Dayjur’s lack of success and when he was retired from stud duties in 2010 he was standing for just $3,000. With no Grade 1 winners in the USA, his sole Group 1 winner in Europe was Hayil who landed a substandard Middle Park Stakes in 1997. The closest he came to siring a sprinter in his own image was probably Tipsy Creek who won the Temple Stakes as Dayjur did himself, as well as the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot at two.

Meanwhile, Danehill, whose dam was out of a half-sister to Northern Dancer, was going from strength to strength, making a lasting impact shuttling to Australia before proving an outstanding sire in Europe too. Hong Kong’s top sprinter Mr Stunning, successful in 10 of his 16 starts and recent winner of the Hong Kong Sprint, brings the two sons of Danzig together in his pedigree as his sire, Exceed And Excel, is by Danehill, while his dam is by Dayjur. Exceed And Excel was a champion sprinter in Australia who himself became champion sire there in the 2012/13 season.

Mr Stunning isn’t the first good horse out of a Dayjur mare, and while he might have disappointed badly as a sire, Dayjur has rescued his reputation to some extent with the record of some of his daughters as broodmares. Dayjur mares have produced the US Grade 1 winners Giant Ryan, Here Comes Ben, In Summation, Shadow Cast (that infamous jump again!) and Tizway (probably the best of them, winner of the Whitney and Metropolitan Handicaps), as well as the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint runner-up Diabolical and, in Europe, the Prix de Diane winner Confidential Lady and the Prix Morny winner Elusive City.

Dayjur is also the damsire of the latest Killavullan Stakes winner Kenya, another promising Aidan O’Brien two-year-old by Galileo who could make more of a name for himself at three.

With Danehill and Dayjur close up in his pedigree it was perhaps inevitable that speed would be Mr Stunning’s chief asset regardless of other influences in his pedigree. His grandam was a top filly on dirt in the States, Fran’s Valentine. Like Dayjur, she didn’t have much luck at the Breeders’ Cup, and was disqualified from first place for bumping a rival in the Juvenile Fillies (she also finished second in the Distaff as a four-year-old). However, at three she won three Grade 1 races, notably the Kentucky Oaks.

The best winner Fran’s Valentine produced was the late-developing turf horse With Anticipation (by Relaunch). He won the United Nations Handicap, Sword Dancer Invitational and Man o’War Stakes as a seven-year-old after finishing first past the post in the same three races the year before when demoted from first in the United Nations. He was also runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Turf to High Chaparral as a seven-year-old.

Mated with Dayjur, Fran’s Valentine had earlier produced an altogether speedier and more precocious type who was one of Dayjur’s better performers. That was With Fascination who won the Prix de Cabourg at Deauville in 1995 before finishing second in the Prix Morny and Prix de la Salamandre.

A repeat of that union failed to produce the same results a second time – With Fervour ran eleven times without success in France, though she was placed several times at six or seven furlongs. She was then sent to Tattersalls December Sales in 2003 where she was bought for 65,000 guineas by John Foote Bloodstock which had bought Tugela, the future dam of triple Melbourne Cup winner Makybe Diva, at the same sale five years earlier for her breeder Tony Santic. It was Santic who also bred Mr Stunning under the name of Makybe Racing & Breeding.