Reward for keeping faith with stamina line; Oaks heroine a big boost for neglected sire.
AS EVERY punter knows, it is commonly the case that a horse's chance becomes obvious only after it has won; hindsight makes clear what foresight fails to recognise.
Look Here's Oaks victory surely comes into that category. Of course, this did seem to be one of the most competitive fillies' Classics in recent years, featuring a particularly strong Irish challenge, but it really should have been possible to identify the daughter of Hernando as a far better prospect than her odds suggested.
She had run only twice, so was short of experience, but there were five others in the field equally lacking in that department, and similarly without a Pattern victory in their records. Four of them - all from fashionable stables, used to top-level success - were at shorter prices, among them the second and third favourites.
Look Here actually had some sound credentials. She had made an impressive start to her career as a 16-1 shot in a Salisbury maiden last October, striding well clear of the experienced favourite Doctor Fremantle and 14 others in the final furlong. It was hard to find fault with her effort - and easy to like it more after what the runner-up achieved this spring.
Of course, Look Here had been beaten on her seasonal reappearance in the Lingfield Oaks Trial, but should she have been beaten? She was last of the sextet turning into the straight, while Miracle Seeker was making the best of her way home, but she easily reeled in four of her rivals and was gaining on the long-time leader with every stride in the closing stages, going under by only three-quarters of a length. Few could doubt that the best horse finished second.
It was a run that certainly entitled her to go for the Classic. She was clearly on the upgrade, and unlike some of those whom she would have to face there, she was guaranteed to relish the trip. Could there be a more reliable formula for producing a solid 1m4f performer than putting a Rainbow Quest mare to Hernando?
Had she been trained by one of the acknowledged masters of the profession, Look Here would not have been a 33-1 chance. But we needed to witness the race, and the sparely made filly's dominance, to appreciate what a brilliant job the master of Whitsbury had done with her. Ralph Beckett, welcome to the big time. We will not underestimate your charges, or your talents, in the future.
For Beckett, for Seb Sanders, and for owner-breeder Julian Richmond-Watson, who has only five mares at his Lawn Stud in Northamptonshire, their first British Classic victory will remain an unforgettable occasion.
And for Kirsten Rausing, who stands Look Here's sire, and who stood her grandsire, the Oaks delivered what was surely the best birthday present of her life.
The trend away from staying-bred stallions was already in place in 1980, when Rausing secured Niniski to stand at her Lanwades Stud in Newmarket. Would anyone in their right mind invest heavily in a horse whose principal achievements were to have won two St Legers - the Irish and the French - and had even been beaten in the Doncaster version? Most in the industry questioned her sanity, and when she attracted no more than 38 mares to him in his first season at a fee of pounds 5,000, that just amounted to confirmation that she was out of step with reality.
But it did not take long for the know-alls to wonder whether they might have been mistaken. In 1984 Kala Dancer won the Dewhurst Stakes, and at that season's end Niniski was champion first-crop sire, with Kris and Nureyev second and third. The following year Petoski won the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes, beating fillies' Triple Crown heroine Oh So Sharp. And in 1986 Niniski was able to command a fee of pounds 40,000. NINISKI never did get mares in great numbers, and nor was he ever favoured with quality mates in abundance, so it came as no surprise that he did not get a profusion of outstanding performers.
But he did get 17 individual winners of 42 Pattern races, and in addition to Kala Dancer and Petoski, there were Group 1 victories for Minster Son, Lomitas, Assessor, Hernando, Caitano and San Sebastian. Louis Cyphre scored at the top level in the US.
Rausing set her heart on acquiring Hernando for Lanwades, keeping the faith with a stamina line that others found easy to shun. And it is not hard to imagine that she got the deal done because more powerful forces in the industry had no confidence in a staying-bred horse who had not run as a two-year-old, did not win at under 1m2f, and whose best form was at 1m4f.
That best form was expressed at the highest level, with a win in the Prix du Jockey-Club, seconds in the Irish Derby and Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, places too in both the Turf Classic at Belmont Park and the Japan Cup.
Hernando's racing class was in no doubt, but his forte as a stayer was unlikely to impress commercial breeders. Rausing would inevitably face the same problems with him as she had with his sire.
By the mid-1990s the most fashionable stallions were attracting three-figure books, and the received wisdom was that no horse could be competitive without that kind of support. Hernando's first crop numbered only 55, and he did not make the lightning start that gave Niniski an early profile. On the first season sires' list he was unsighted, with one minor winner at home; of four wins abroad, two came in Sweden.
But the breakthrough was not long delayed, coming through Prix du Jockey-Club victor Holding Court, son of a plating-class mare who ran 33 times without winning, and when Sulamani emulated him two years later, Hernando could boast two Classic winners from his first three crops, both conceived at a fee of 8,000gns.
After Sulamani's impressive three-year-old campaign, Hernando received his one and only three-figure book, but in 2006 and again last year, the numbers dropped into the 40s.
After Look Here and Derby third Casual Conquest, he can surely hope to receive support appropriate to a proven Classic sire.
Look Here is the last of seven foals, all by different sires, produced in consecutive years by the unraced Last Look. A model broodmare for a small stud, she bred nothing but winners, but died last year after delivering a dead filly by Royal Applause.
Winners are all well and fine, but a Classic winner is something else again, and Look Here's Oaks comes as a reward for Richmond-Watson's patience. It was back in December 1991 that the filly's granddam, Derniere Danse, joined the Lawn Stud complement at a cost of 47,000gns.
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, the Prix Gontaut-Biron-Gr3 as 4yo and 5yo.
Also 2nd in Irish Derby, Prix de l'Arcde 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, 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 3 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 10 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 (Gr2), Look Here (Oaks S.-Gr1).
DAM LAST LOOK
Bred by Lawn Stud in England. Unraced.
Well bred. By a top-class middle-distance performer, notable sire and broodmare sire. Half-sister to 2 winners, inc. dam of Listed winner Kayah. Dam, placed in French provinces, half-sister to Divine Danse (f by Kris; Gr2 & Gr3 winner, twice Gr1-placed) and Pursuit Of Love (c by Groom Dancer; Gr2 & Gr3 winner, twice Gr1-placed, sire of Gr1 winner Catch as catch can, broodmare sire of multiple Gr1 winner Attraction).
Granddam smart sprinter, won 3 races. Next dam multiple French Pattern-winning sprinter, sister to tough and consistent US performers Ocean Bar (stakes-placed) and Second Bar (stakes-winner, Gr3-placed).
To stud at 3, and dam of Little miss attitude (1999 f by Common Grounds; won 4 races), Ultimata (2000 f by Unfuwain; won 2 races), Look Again (2001 g by Zilzal; winner), Daniel Thomas (2002 c by Dansili; won 3 races), Looker (2003 f by Barathea; won 2 races), Look So (2004 f by Efisio; won 4 races), Look Here (2005 f by Hernando; Classic winner). Barren to Royal Applause in 2006, had dead filly by Royal Applause in 2007 and died.
Another fine advertisement for her sadly neglected sire. Dominated a high-class Oaks field, and now the clear leader of her sex at 1m4f.
Look Here romps away with the Oaks, striking a blow for Classic middle-distance pedigrees