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World Of Breeding: Celebre proving his worth again with impressive Enchantee; pedigree assessment.

Byline: Tony Morris

THE compilers of the International Classifications will shortly be finalising their assessments for 2003, and there can be little doubt that events in Hong Kong at the weekend will cause some revision of the ratings.

There may be no need for reconsideration where such as Falbrav and Rakti are concerned, but any doubts about Silent Witness's right to figure among the leading sprinters have now been quashed, and Vallee Enchantee's performance must surely put her in contention for leadership of the three-year-old filly middle-distance division.

Vallee Enchantee had looked a first-rate prospect when she won a Listed contest in the Saint-Cloud mud at the back-end of 2002, so her failure to enhance her reputation in the early months of this season had to be counted a disappointment. A modest sixth as hot favourite for the Prix Penelope was followed by a just-respectable third in the Prix Cleopatre, and those defeats at Group 3 level made a bid for the Prix de Diane seem over-ambitious. Her seventh place in the Chantilly Classic, albeit only four lengths behind the winner, seemed to confirm that she belonged some way down the pecking order.

However, a two-month break, and the chance on her return to tackle a longer trip, had profound effects. She trounced older fillies by six lengths and more in the 13-furlong Group 2 Prix de Pomone, ran to that improved mark again in the Prix Vermeille, when fourth to Mezzo Soprano, before showing further progress with her victory over older rivals of both sexes in the Group 2 Prix du Conseil de Paris.

That form still would not have been good enough for a win in the Hong Kong Vase, but that is what she achieved in splendid style, her triumph over game older males Polish Summer and Warrsan indicating significant improvement on all that she had shown before. Accelerating impressively in the last of the 12 furlongs, she left no doubt that she is now a genuine Group 1 performer, and chances are that she will underline that fact at the top level in Europe in 2004.

Vallee Enchantee is a small, leggy, wiry type, certainly no oil painting, and she would not have made much of an impression if she had been subjected to the conformation critics at a yearling sale. But that was never going to be her destiny; she is a home-bred, produced by a breeder who knows that handsome is as handsome does, and who was so confident of the quality in her equally insubstantial-looking dam that he sent her to a son of her own grandsire. It was not hard to guess what the outcome would look like.

It might well be asserted that it was not hard for Alec Wildenstein to choose his father's great Arc winner Peintre Celebre as a mate for Verveine, but don't assume this was just a marriage of convenience. His matings are invariably carefully considered - if not always readily understood by others - and the extraordinary degree of success he has achieved over the years bears eloquent testimony to his mastery of the art.

I have alluded here before to the remarkable results that the Wildensteins have obtained from the use of stallions routinely ignored, or not used to best advantage, by other breeders, and there are a couple of examples in Vallee Enchantee's background. Sodium, the 1966 St Leger winner, was roundly condemned by most during his stint at stud in France, and Japanese breeders later obtained nothing of any quality from him. The Wildensteins bred his best product, Virunga, who won the Group 3 Prix de Malleret, ran second in the Prix Saint-Alary and Yorkshire Oaks, and was a fine third in the Prix de Diane.

And that was not the end of it. At stud, mated with stallions from a variety of backgrounds, Virunga produced a Group 1 winner in Vin de France, a Group 2 winner in Vacarme, the dam of a Group 1 winner in Victoire Bleue, and even a tip-top hurdler in Video Tape. Now she features as third dam of Vallee Enchantee, who was delivered by Verveine, one of the best daughters of the widely neglected, but worthy, Lear Fan.

Vallee Enchantee is not quite a carbon-copy of Verveine, as she is clearly more at home over a mile and a half than her dam, who got the distance well enough, but seemed not to relish it.

But mother and daughter have the same bay coat, are similar in stature, with the same wiry frame, and they are pretty much on a par in terms of racing class. It is worth bearing in mind that Verveine was a constant improver, reaching her peak as a four-year-old.

Verveine was more forward than her daughter as a juvenile, winning at Group 3 level and reaching third place in the Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac. At three she failed to win in six tries, but that record belied progressive form, indicated by third places in the Prix Saint-Alary and Prix de Diane, and a fourth in the Vermeille. Although Group 1 glory continued to elude her at four, she belonged in that league, and after her facile Group 2 win in the Prix de l'Opera she was beaten a length and a half in the Yellow Ribbon Invitational and a length in the Hong Kong International.

Vallee Enchantee's sire, one of the best of all Arc de Triomphe heroes, is now making a significant impression as a sire. Peintre Celebre was unfortunate to suffer injury on the eve of his intended return to racing at four, did not begin at stud until a year later, and spent his third breeding season in Japan - a venture that meant there were no yearlings by him on offer in Europe this autumn.

They would surely have done well, because he has star performers from each of his first two crops. Vallee Enchantee joins German champion Dai Jin (now based at Gestut Zoppenbroich) as a Group 1 celebrity among his three-year-olds, while Pearl Of Love struck for the juvenile team with his top-level success in Italy, and Castledale kicked off in America with a Grade 3 score.

Peintre Celebre is upwardly mobile. Who says genuine mile-and-a-half horses can't make stallions these days?

Sire: Peintre Celebre

Bred by Allez France Stables Ltd in Kentucky. Won 5 (8-12f) of 7 races, viz. 1 out of 2 at 2 years, 4 (inc. Prix Greffulhe-Gr2, Prix du Jockey-Club-Gr1, Grand Prix de Paris-Gr1, Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe-Gr1) out of 5 at 3 years. Earned Ff8,240,000. Timeform 137 at 3.

Not an outstanding physical specimen, but quite well-made, medium-sized individual.

Tip-top performer at 10-12f, who tended to start sluggishly, but developed high cruising speed and could produce exceptional acceleration. Effective on any ground. Unlucky in both defeats. Career ended by injury in training shortly before intended return at four.

The best son of his outstanding sire, with more stamina than most, a factor he has in common with Theatrical, Nureyev's best son at stud to date. Dam Listed winner in France and Gr2 winner (12f on grass) in US, impeccably bred, by top-class runner and leading sire out of a Gr3 winner in England who was half-sister to outstanding racemare Pawneese (Oaks, Prix de Diane, King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes, etc).

Stands at Coolmore Stud, Fethard, Co. Tipperary, Ireland, at a (2004) fee of EUR30,000. Sire of 2 crops of racing age, including: Dai Jin (Deutsches Derby-Gr1, Aral Pokal-Gr1), Vallee Enchantee (Hong Kong Vase-Gr1), Pearl Of Love (Gran Criterium-Gr1).

Dam: Verveine

Bred by Allez France Stables in Kentucky. Won 3 (7-9f) of 13 races, viz. 2 (inc. Prix du Calvados-Gr3) out of 3 at 2 years, 0 out of 6 at 3 years, 1 (Prix de l'Opera-Gr2) out of 5 at 4 years. Also placed 2nd in Prix Gontaut-Biron and Hong Kong International, 3rd in Prix Marcel Boussac, Prix de la Grotte, Prix Saint-Alary and Prix de Diane, 4th in Prix Vermeille and Yellow Ribbon S. Earned Ff2,441,032. Timeform 108p at 2, 117 at 3, 120 at 4.

Smallish, quite attractive sort. High-class, consistent performer, competitive with the best throughout her career. Stayed 12f, but considered better over shorter trips. Owned a fine turn of foot.

Very well bred. One of the best daughters of a top-class miler and under-rated sire. Half-sister to Gr2 winner Vetheuil (by Riverman) and to the dam of Gr3 winner La Sylphide.

Dam (half-sister to Gr1 winner Vin de France, Gr2 winner Vacarme, and Gr1-placed Vosges) unraced daughter of a top-class miler and sire out of a Gr3 winner, also 3 times Gr1-placed.

Excellent family, tracing to 1,000 Guineas winner Campanula.

To stud at 5 years and dam of Group winners Victory Cry (1996 f by Caerleon; Gr3), Volga (1998 f by Caerleon; Gr3), Vallee Enchantee (2000 f by Peintre Celebre; Gr1). Due to Rock Of Gibraltar in 2004.

Conclusions

Top-notch performance by a beautifully bred filly who will be a factor in Group 1 open-sex company in Europe in 2004.

CAPTION(S):

Vallee Enchantee (14) swoops late to win the Vase under Dominique Boeuf
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Dec 16, 2003
Words:1525
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