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Distant signals full of promise; Champagne Stakes winner indicates sparkling career for first-season sire.

THE two-year-old campaign is warming up at last. After several months in which only one major trainer seemed to be targeting the most valuable juvenile events as a matter of policy, others are waking up, the races are becoming more competitive, and we are beginning to learn a meaningful thing or two about the quality of our youngest crop.

There can be little doubt that the temporary leadership lies with Fasliyev; there is no other way to read the form. The Nureyev colt has run five and won five, including two at Group 1 level, and he has looked dominant in Ireland, England and France.

But Fasliyev's sternest test is yet to come, and there are several already smart performers, patently on the upgrade, who can be expected to mount strong challenges over the next month or so.

Distant Music's victory in Friday's Group 2 Champagne Stakes at Doncaster was profoundly impressive, striking enough for my colleague Ian Heaney to raise him to joint-second in his juvenile rankings, although still 9lb short of the leader.

However, the gap is by no means insurmountable, and is to a large extent a reflection of one colt's greater experience and opportunity. Fasliyev did not meet another Pattern winner until his fifth start. Distant Music came straight from a debut maiden win into the Champagne, where he was opposed by two previous Pattern winners, and he brushed them nonchalantly aside.

Goodwood Group 3 victor Ekraar evidently had an excuse for his remote third place, returning slightly lame, but Rossini, who had followed his Group 3 Anglesey Stakes win with a Group 2 in the Robert Papin, was simply outclassed by a raw rival who may well be destined for great things.

What made Distant Music's performance so eye-catching was that he quickened up not once, but twice, and did it with scarcely a perceptible effort. It is a rare horse who can do that, especially in a fast-run seven-furlong contest completed in more than two seconds under the standard, and it is a weapon that promises to make him a formidable opponent at the highest level if he can produce it again.

From where did Distant Music derive this talent? Certainly not directly from his dam, Musicanti. No amount of pumping from the energetic Freddie Head could ever induce her out of her monotonous plodding rhythm, and the only win she could contrive came in a three-way photo-finish to a modest Saint-Cloud event over 14 furlongs.

Musicanti was manifestly one of the slower Nijinskys, and if we credit her with a certain degree of stamina, we must also debit her for a want of speed that others of her family by lesser sires had managed to display.

Her half-brother Vanlandingham (by Cox's Ridge) won the Washington DC, the Jockey Club Gold Cup and the Suburban Handicap, and was placed in four other Grade Ones. Her uncle Temperence Hill (by Stop The Music) numbered the Jockey Club Gold Cup and the Suburban among his four Grade 1 victories, along with the Belmont and Travers Stakes.

THE distinct stamina bias in the lower half of Distant Music's pedigree is balanced - or, more likely, counteracted - by speed in the upper half. Distant View, from whose first crop he comes, is a son of Mr Prospector out of Prix Morny heroine Seven Springs, herself by champion miler Irish River.

Distant View sped meteor-like across the scene in 1994. Fifth of 23 in a Guineas for which he started as a once-raced maiden, he streaked home in a weak Kempton event, was narrowly outshone by Grand Lodge in the St James's Palace, sparkled when defeating six Group 1 winners in the Sussex Stakes, then faded away with dull efforts in the Queen Elizabeth II and Breeders' Cup Mile.

Unraced at two because of a cannon-bone injury, Distant View also missed an intended campaign at four. His forelegs always gave concern, but he would have belied his breeding with an A1 set; he was true to his breeding in the class and speed he exhibited regardless.

Distant View returned to the land where Mr Prospector's sons famously thrive at stud, and soon became popular at a fee of $10,000. His first commercial stock were well received (understandably, none more so than a pair auctioned in these islands), while expectations were naturally higher for Juddmonte home-breds; Khalid Abdullah confidently committed 16 of his own mares to his novice stallion in 1996.

It has been a highly satisfactory first season for the Distant Views. He has had a stakes-placed performer in the States in Expanse, a cheaply-sold filly from a cheaply-bred mare, while here he has had four winners from six runners, headed by three Abdullah colts yet to suffer a defeat.

Apart from Distant Music, John Gosden holds a high opinion of Observatory, who won at Yarmouth on his debut, and Henry Cecil's Decarchy made a similarly favourable impression when also winning on his debut in style at the same course yesterday.

Distant View is dropping hints that he will be inferior to none of them in his impact on top-level racing.

PEDIGREE ASSESSMENT

SIRE: DISTANT VIEW

Bred by Juddmonte Farms in USA. Ran only at 3 years, won 2 (both 8f, inc. Sussex S.-Gr1) of 7 races. Also 2nd in St James's Palace Stakes. Timeform 126. Earned pounds 155,932.

Medium-sized (nearly 16hh), good-bodied type, strong behind the saddle, but with less than perfect forelegs. Won maiden on soft, but best form on firm. Closed with two dull efforts, in training at 4, did not reappear.

By a leading sprinter, outstanding sire and excellent sire of sires, chiefly in USA. Dam (and half-sister Regal State) won Prix Morny. Grand-dam Listed 2-y-o winner (also bred Gr1-placed Spendomania) out of winning full- sister to Pia (Oaks, grand-dam of Chief Singer, 3rd dam of Theatre Critic, 4th dam of Gothenberg).

Stands at Juddmonte Farms, Lexington, at a fee of $10,000 (live foal). Sire of one crop of racing age, inc. notable winner: Distant Music (Champagne Stakes-Gr2).

DAM: MUSICANTI

Bred by Juddmonte Farms in USA. Won 1 (14.5f) of 5 races at 3 years in France. Earned Fr132,000.

Plain sort, one-paced, but game and seemingly acted on any going. Untried at less than 10f, 6th in only Pattern effort (Prix de Royaumont-Gr3).

By an outstanding racehorse and sire. Half-sister to multiple Gr1 winner Vanlandingham (by Cox's Ridge) and minor stakes-winners Jenkins Ferry (by True Colors) and Popular Tune (by Stop The Music), and to the dam of Kirkwall (by Selkirk; Gr2 winner in France, Gr3 winner in USA). Dam won 2 races at 2 years, half-sister to 7 other winners, inc. Temperence Hill (Belmont S., Travers S., Jockey Club Gold Cup, etc). Grand-dam won 3 races, sister and half-sister to Graded performers Shannon Run and Glengary.

To stud at 4 years and dam of: Distant Music (1997 c by Distant View; Gr2 winner). She has no yearling, her foal is a full sister to Distant Music (foaled on 30 January), and she is in foal to Quest For Fame.

CONCLUSION

The best kind of advertisement for a freshman sire - an exciting two-year-old with the potential to reach the highest class at three.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Author:Morris, Tony
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Sep 16, 1999
Words:1203
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