Rags to riches for son of Hernando; From Wolverhampton to a Santa Anita Grade 1.
Gitano Hernando had been a steady improver ever since his Nottingham debut behind Mastery in October last year, and he clearly reached a new peak when he finished an arguably unlucky second, beaten only a head by South Easter, in the Group 3 Dee Stakes at Chester.
Even so, that new personal best amounted to nothing better than a RPR of 105, and that hardly seemed adequate to give him a reasonable chance against the likes of Mine That Bird in the Belmont.
And yet there was a precedent that allowed some hope. In 1992 the Richard Hannon-trained My Memoirs recorded a RPR of only 104 when winning the Dee Stakes, he was supplemented and despatched for the Belmont, and he duly ran the race of his life there, collecting second money, only three-quarters of a length behind no less a celebrity than A.P. Indy, a colt on his way to Horse of the Year honours.
Anyway, Gitano Hernando's planned summer trip to the States had to be abandoned, and the setback that he suffered kept him out of action for more than four months. When he finally returned to the races, it was for a far less ambitious target - a Wolverhampton conditions race.
The long lay-off and supposedly inadequate distance of eight and a half furlongs meant that the one-time Classic hope did not even start favourite, but he easily overcame any imagined obstacles, setting a track record and posting another improved RPR of 109. Only six races into his career, he remained strongly progressive, and it seemed a fair bet that he would raise his game again.
Santa Anita punters did not expect him to raise his game sufficiently to feature at the business end of Saturday's 1m1f race on the synthetic track, preferring seven of his nine rivals in the betting, with proven Grade 1 star four-year-old Colonel John their first choice and Kentucky Derby hero Mine That Bird next best. They were in for a surprise.
Gitano Hernando was never far off the pace, came third into the straight, slipped between rivals to grab the lead a furlong from home, and kept on gamely under a typically strong Kieren Fallon ride to resist the challenge of Colonel John (who was giving only 3lb for the difference in age) by a neck.
Mine That Bird, ridden from last place as usual, made some late headway, but could finish no nearer than sixth, almost four lengths behind the winner.
It is scarcely relevant to recall that Mine That Bird was beaten only three lengths when third to Summer Bird in the Belmont Stakes, given that the New York race was over a 1m4f dirt track, but it is nevertheless a fact that Gitano Hernando has now proved he is competitive with some of the best in the States and there are grounds for believing that he may yet improve on his new best RPR of 122.
He would need to move up again to be in with a chance in the Breeders' Cup Classic, over 1m2f of the same Santa Anita oval, but the longer trip would undoubtedly be in his favour if he were to make that his next stop.
The Goodwood victory earned him an automatic start in the race dominated by European raiders Raven's Pass and Henrythenavigator 12 months ago, but we still await a decision as to whether that option will be exercised.
Gitano Hernando comes from the tenth crop of the Lanwades-based Hernando, who is himself a son of Niniski, a winner of the Irish St Leger and Prix Royal-Oak formerly resident on the Newmarket stud.
There were those who questioned the sanity of Kirsten Rausing when she acquired Niniski, a thorough stayer with no appreciable turn of foot, and they were swift to say: "I told you so", when she could attract no more than 38 mares to him at a fee of pounds 5,000 in his first season.
But there were to be some striking results from his initial crop of just 25 foals. Kala Dancer won the Dewhurst Stakes, and thanks largely to that performance Niniski was the champion first-season sire of 1984, relegating Kris and Nureyev to second and third places. In the following season, Petoski emerged as a star, lowering the colours of Filly Triple Crown heroine Oh So Sharp in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
Niniski's fee rose to pounds 40,000 after that, and among his later celebrities were St Leger victor Minster Son and the outstanding German-trained colt Lomitas before Hernando came along to become his leading earner and figure among the best in Europe for three consecutive seasons.
BRED by Stavros Niarchos, Hernando won seven of his 20 races, most notably the Prix Lupin and Prix du Jockey-Club at the top level. He also ran second in the Irish Derby and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, and ventures farther afield produced a second in the Turf Classic at Belmont Park and third and fourth places in the Japan Cup.
Never a winner at less than 1m2f, and best at 1m4f, Hernando had a similar staying profile to that of his sire, making him a dubious prospect as a commercial sire, but Rausing was undeterred, secured him for Lanwades and once again her faith in proven stamina was rewarded.
Standing at a fee of only 8,000gns, Hernando got two winners of the Prix du Jockey-Club in Holding Court and Sulamani in his first three seasons. Sulamani, of course, is the sire of this year's St Leger hero, Mastery, the line continuing to show its worth in the next generation.
Last year's Oaks winner Look Here and Casual Conquest, placed in two Derbys before scoring in Group 1 company in the Tattersalls Gold Cup this term, are typical of their sire in aptitude, and Gitano Hernando promises to follow suit. The remarkable thing about him is that he has achieved success at the top level without yet being tested over 1m4f.
Gitano Hernando's dam Gino's Spirits, a granddaughter of 1,000 Guineas heroine Mrs McArdy, showed useful form in Britain with a Listed win to her name, but it was in America that she blossomed and acquired the bulk of her earnings, with a Group 3 win at Belmont as the highlight.
The old advice to go west to earn one's fortune has been proved correct equally by mother and son.
SIRE HERNANDO Bred by Stavros Niarchos in France. Won 7 (1m2f-1m4f) of 20 races, viz. unraced at 2 years, 5 (inc. Prix Lupin-Gr1, Prix du Jockey Club-Gr1, Prix Niel-Gr2) out of 9 at 3 years, 1 (Prix Gontaut-Biron-Gr3) out of 5 at 4 years, 1 (Prix Gontaut-Biron-Gr3) out of 5 at 5 years. Also 2nd in Irish Derby, Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, Turf Classic, 3rd and 4th in Japan Cup. Earned pounds 1,263,901. RPR 126 at 3, 127 at 4, 120 at 5. Strong, attractive, 16.11/2hh, fluent mover, with an excellent turn of foot. Acted on any ground, equally effective at 1m2f and 1m4f. Tough, very genuine performer, competitive at the top level on three continents.
Very well bred. Among the best sons of his sire (also got Petoski, Minster Son and Lomitas). Half-brother to Gr1 winner Johann Quatz and Listed winners Walter Willy, Res Judicata and Adnaan, and to the dam of Curtain Call. Dam Gr3 winner, Gr1-placed, half-sister to Gr3 winner Bricassar. Each of dam's parents out of a Buckpasser mare.
Stands at Lanwades Stud, Newmarket, at a fee of pounds 12,000 (Oct.1). Sire of 11 crops of racing age, inc. notable winners: Holding Court (Prix du Jockey-Club-Gr1), Asian Heights (Gr3), Mr Combustible (Gr2), Sulamani (Prix du Jockey-Club-Gr1, Arlington Million-Gr1, Turf Classic Invitational S.-Gr1, Juddmonte International S.-Gr1), Tau Ceti (Gr3), Arvada (Gr2), Hanami (Gr2), Just Wonder (Gr3), Samando (Gr2), Atlando (Gr2), Songerie (Gr3), Casual Conquest (Tattersalls Gold Cup-Gr1), Indian Daffodil (Gr3), Look Here (Oaks S.-Gr1), Gitano Hernando (Goodwood Stakes-Gr1).
DAM GINO'S SPIRITS Bred by Rabi & Mrs Khan in Britain. Won 9 (7f -1m2f) of 35 races, viz. 1 out of 8 at 2 years, 2 (1 Listed) out of 12 at 3 years, 3 (inc. Noble Damsel H.-Gr3) out of 5 at 4 years, 3 (all Listed) out of 10 at 5 years. Also Gr2-placed. RPR: 84 at 2 years, 97 at 3 years. Earned pounds 265,754.
Showed useful form in Britain, and became smart on turf courses in US.
Quite well bred. By a half-brother to Sadler's Wells. Half-sister to 5 other winners, out of a winning half-sister to Gr3 winner Citidancer and to the dam of champion Japanese 2-y-o Admire Cozzene. Granddam won 1,000 Guineas, half-sister to Gr3 winner Secret of Success.
Sold out of training $550,000 at 2001 Keeneland November Sales. To stud at 6, and dam of Eclipse Park (2003 g by Rainbow Quest; winner), Crosby Jemma (2004 f by Lomitas; placed), Ginos Destination (2005 f by Dubai Destination; unplaced) Gitano Hernando (2006 c by Hernando; Gr1 winner), India Spirit (2007 f by Dr Fong; winner). Her yearling is a Dubai Destination colt who fetched 56,000gns at Tattersalls on Tuesday, and she was covered by Osorio in 2008.
CONCLUSION Strongly progressive colt, effective on grass and all-weather surfaces, promising to prove competitive at the highest level on either side of the Atlantic. Stays 1m2f well, sure to get 1m4f.
Gitano Hernando has proved effective on turf and all-weather surfaces at the highest level
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|Publication:||The Racing Post (London, England)|
|Date:||Oct 15, 2009|
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