It is now 32 years since Danzig’s son Green Desert won the July Cup at Newmarket. Danzig died at Claiborne in Kentucky in 2006 (his final crop were foaled the previous year), having just turned 29, but remarkably Danzig’s influence on Britain’s top sprint is still strong as the latest edition was won by his grandson U S Navy Flag. Between Green Desert and U S Navy Flag, Danzig has been responsible for, or contributed to the pedigrees of, plenty of other July Cup winners.
Green Desert, a $650,000 yearling from his sire’s second crop who raced for Maktoum Al Maktoum, was one of Danzig’s earliest runners in Europe. Like U S Navy Flag, Green Desert made a successful return to sprinting in the July Cup after three unsuccessful attempts at a mile. Not that he ran badly at the longer trip, finding only Dancing Brave too good in the 2000 Guineas and also finishing second in the St James’s Palace; in between he’d been bogged down in heavy ground in the Irish 2000 Guineas. The Curragh classic had seen the best of U S Navy Flag’s attempts at a mile; he finished second there (his dam Misty For Me had gone one better in the Irish 1000 Guineas) in between finishing fifth in the Poule d’Essai des Poulains and beating only one home in the St James’s Palace.
Green Desert won Danzig’s first July Cup in 1986 but it was the following decade which saw Danzig’s influence really take hold as he sired five winners between 1991 and 2000, while in the same period Green Desert’s son Owington became Danzig’s first grandson to be successful in 1994.
As we’ll see, Green Desert was himself to have an enduring connection with the July Cup and became much the most influential stallion among his sire’s six July Cup winners, more so than Polish Patriot (1991), Hamas (1993), Anabaa (1996), Elnadim (1998) or Agnes World (2000).
One notable son of Danzig who didn’t win the July Cup was Danehill – he’d finished third behind Cadeaux Genereux and Golden Opinion in 1989. Despite rivalling Green Desert as Danzig’s most important stallion son in Europe, Danehill has surprisingly played only a minor role in continuing Danzig’s influence on the July Cup into the twenty-first century.
However, Danehill did sire the 2001 winner Mozart, while the 2010 winner Starspangledbanner has Danehill as his great grandsire. The Australian-bred Starspangledbanner succeeded where his sire, grandsire and great grandsire had all failed; his sire Choisir finished second in 2003, while his grandsire Danehill Dancer had come fifth in Anabaa’s year.
The Danehill sire line might have had a leading Australian-bred contender for the July Cup again this year but the Diamond Jubilee Stakes winner Merchant Navy (by Danehill’s son Fastnet Rock) was retired to stud back down under after Royal Ascot.
Australian colt Choisir had been thwarted in his bid to add the July Cup to his King’s Stand-Golden Jubilee double by Oasis Dream, the second son of Green Desert after Owington to be successful. Like U S Navy Flag, Oasis Dream had won the Middle Park Stakes the year before, a double also completed by the 2011 July Cup winner Dream Ahead whose grandam Sahara Star was by Green Desert.
In turn, Oasis Dream sired the 2015 July Cup winner Muhaarar who thus represented a third generation of July Cup winners for his branch of the Danzig sire line.
Green Desert’s other top producer of sprinters is Invincible Spirit who never contested a July Cup but did emulate his sire by winning Haydock’s Sprint Cup. He’s been responsible for two July Cup winners, namely the filly Fleeting Spirit (who beat Oasis Dream’s son Main Aim) in 2009 and Mayson who won a renewal run in heavy ground in 2012.
U S Navy Flag’s sire War Front has a different profile to the other sons of Danzig who have produced July Cup winners, having been an American dirt performer. He didn’t win a Grade 1, his biggest win coming in the Grade 2 Albert G. Vanderbilt Handicap at Saratoga, and when he succeeded his sire at Clairborne (in 2007, the year after Danzig’s death), he did so at an initial fee of just $12,500. However, War Front now stands at $250,000 following three North American Grade 1 winners in his first crop but also due in no small part to the success of his offspring with Aidan O’Brien and the Coolmore partners.
When U S Navy Flag became the first colt for 35 years to add the Dewhurst Stakes to his Middle Park win last autumn he also became the third son of War Front to win the Dewhurst for Ballydoyle in six years after War Command and Air Force Blue. Both of those proved disappointing at three, with a switch to sprinting in the July Cup failing to revive Air Force Blue’s career after he’d begun the season with an odds-on defeat in the Guineas.
War Command was home-bred by War Front’s owner-breeder Joseph Allen, while Air Force Blue was a $490,000 yearling purchase at Keeneland. U S Navy Flag, on the other hand, as already related, is out of the Coolmore-owned Galileo mare Misty For Me whose other big wins for Ballydoyle, besides the Irish Guineas, came in the Moyglare Stud Stakes, Prix Marcel Boussac and Pretty Polly Stakes. The importance of War Front to Coolmore with its broodmare band full of daughters of Sadler’s Wells and Galileo was something discussed by thebreedingshed here in 2015.
U S Navy Flag is the best advertisement yet for the Galileo/War Front cross, while his full sister Roly Poly was also a triple Group 1 winner, including in the Falmouth Stakes at last year’s Newmarket July meeting. Fleet Review, third in the July Cup (and runner-up to U S Navy Flag in the Middle Park) is another bred on the same lines, out of a sister to Rip Van Winkle – four of O’Brien’s five runners in the July Cup were sons of War Front.