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Horse Racing: Pressing helps Soviet Star to shine again; Pedigree analysis Renewed prominence for up-and-down sire.

Byline: TONY MORRIS

THE 2007 European Pattern campaign has less than a week to run, and the final Group 1 event open to older horses is history, with victory for Pressing in Sunday's Premio Roma at the Capannelle underlining the international nature of top-level events these days.

Bred in Ireland, and sold at auction as a yearling in Italy, the four-year-old changed hands again last spring after a rapid hat-trick at San Siro, and following his fine second place in the Premio Presidente della Repubblica, American-based purchaser Gary Tanaka transferred him to Michael Jarvis's stable in Newmarket.

Since that sale Pressing has competed in Britain (fifth in the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot), the US (last of seven, but not beaten far, in the Arlington Million) and Turkey (second to Bussoni in the valuable Bosphorus Cup) before two return trips to his former stamping-ground, where his prep for Sunday's triumph brought him an easy win in the Group 3 Premio Federico Tesio.

The Premio Roma is not one of the most demanding Group 1s on the European circuit, its late date generally ensuring that it is contested by horses in search of a consolation prize. The trio in this year's renewal who had previously been successful at the top level - Godolphin's Cherry Mix and Laverock, and home-trained Distant Way - all indicated only that they have left their best form behind them.

Nevertheless, Pressing won in good style, picking up quickly when Neil Callan popped the question two furlongs from home and the result was never in doubt thereafter. This is a colt who in 2006 had managed just a single victory from ten attempts, so he is clearly much improved. And as he is obviously not averse to travelling, an invitation to the Hong Kong Cup (December 9 at Sha Tin) would no doubt prove acceptable.

In becoming something of a globetrotter, Pressing is emulating his sire, Soviet Star, who was bred in Kentucky, trained in France and has stood at stud in four countries - Britain, Japan, New Zealand and Ireland. Now rising 24 and resident at Ballylinch Stud in County Kilkenny, he has been enjoying something of a new lease on life, regaining some of the respect he earned in the first phase of his career.

As a racehorse Soviet Star was wonderfully consistent, winning eight of 14 races, finishing second four times and fourth twice; five of the wins and two of the seconds came in Group 1 company. Having broken his maiden in his only start at two, he soon established himself among the leaders of his generation at three, when his top-level victories came in the Poule d'Essai des Poulains, the Sussex Stakes and the Prix de la Foret. He was no less effective at four, when he trumped Miesque in the Prix du Moulin de Longchamp, but an even more remarkable performance that year was his emphatic success in the July Cup, which ensured that he would be named Europe's champion older sprinter. That was some feat for a colt who had only that one race at Newmarket over a distance less than 7f.

At the time of Soviet Star's retirement to Dalham Hall in 1989 there was no evidence regarding Nureyev's qualities as a sire of sires.

What was apparent was that Nureyev was an outstanding sire of racehorses and that Soviet Star was the best of his sons to have run in Europe up to that point. In the prevailing market, it was not unreasonable that he should be priced at pounds 30,000 for his first season, and it turned out that in only one of his six seasons there (1993) was he available more cheaply.

Soviet Star never had a book of more than 50 during his spell in Newmarket and his results were good, but the problem was they did not come fast enough. He was exported to Japan in 1994, by which time he had had no winner above Group 3 level.

AS MIGHT have been anticipated, 1995 began with a Group 1 win for one of his offspring, when Soviet Line landed the Lockinge Stakes and went on to double up in the same race the following year. Freedom Cry never did manage a Group 1 win, but he did finish second in Lammtarra's 1995 Arc de Triomphe. In 1996 Ashkalani won the Poule d'Essai des Poulains and the Prix du Moulin; Starborough collected his Group 1 double in the Prix Jean Prat and St James's Palace Stakes in 1997. And in 1998 Limpid took the Grand Prix de Paris.

So much had happened on which Soviet Star might have capitalised, if he had only been around; while some sons of Nureyev were not thriving at stud in Europe, he had proved himself to be one of the better ones. But he was on the other side of the world, and, ironically, achieving nothing.

Perhaps he just did not suit the mares in the Japanese population; the fact remains that in his five seasons there he got nothing above Listed calibre, and the patience of breeders was soon exhausted.

Soviet Star returned to Europe by a circuitous route, taking in a southern hemisphere season in New Zealand in 1999, and there his fortunes changed again. Two Group 1 winners emerged from the crop, more notably the outstanding Starcraft, who claimed top-bracket victories in both New Zealand and Australia before conquering another continent's best milers in the Prix du Moulin and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes in Europe.

The stallion's renewed prominence in 2007 is not just about Pressing's improvement. Boris de Deauville (third on Sunday) had a Group 2 win in the Prix d'Harcourt, juvenile Eva's Request notched a Group 3 win at the Curragh and Lavington Stud's Rosinka scored a Grade 3 success at Saratoga, before failing narrowly in a Belmont Grade 1 against Lahudood, the subsequent heroine of the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf.

Pressing's dam, Rafif, a modest Sandown winner when trained by Alec Stewart as a three-year-old, had quite a long innings as a Shadwell broodmare, never failing to get in foal in nine seasons, but the record of her produce still did not amount to much when she was despatched to Kill at the 2002 November Sales. Her EUR75,000 price tag reflected the fact that one so well bred might yet deliver a runner of some consequence, and so it has proved.

The foal inside her when the hammer came down was Pressing.

SIRE SOVIET STAR

Bred by Kinderhill & Partners. EUR310,000 Keeneland November foal. Won 8 (6f-1m) of 14 starts, viz. 1 (1500m Saint-Cloud maiden) out of 1 at 2 years, 4 (Prix de Fontainebleau-Gr3, Poule d'Essai des Poulains-Gr1, Sussex Stakes-Gr1, Prix de la Foret-Gr1) out of 7 at 3 years, 3 (Sandown Mile-Gr2, July Cup-Gr1, Prix du Moulin de Longchamp-Gr1) out of 6 at 4 years. Timeform 128 at 3 and 4. Earned pounds 626,840.

Medium-sized (16.0hh). Top-class from 6f to a mile, barely stayed 1m1f. Highly strung, but raced gamely and consistently.

One of the best sons of a top-class runner and sire, and typical of the tribe. Half-brother to The Very One (f by One for All; 22 wins, inc. 8 Graded stakes on grass). Dam Listed-placed, from respectable family.

Stands at Ballylinch Stud, County Kilkenny, at a fee of EUR11,000. Sire of 11 European-conceived crops of racing age, inc. Bon Point (Gr2), Soviet Line (Lockinge Stakes-Gr1, twice), Freedom Cry (Gr2), Volochine (Gr2), Wessam Prince (Gr3), Advancing Star (Gr3), Ashkalani (Poule d'Essai des Poulains-Gr1, Prix du Moulin de Longchamp-Gr1), Sensation (Gr2), Clerio (Gr3), Starborough (Prix Jean Prat-Gr1, St James's Palace Stakes-Gr1), Limpid (Grand Prix de Paris-Gr1), Democratic Deficit (Gr2), Boris De Deauville (Gr2), Pressing (Premio Roma-Gr1), Rosinka (Gr3), Eva's Request (Gr3). Also sire, from 1 NZ-conceived crop, of Russian Pearl (Bayer Classic-Gr1), Starcraft (Chipping Norton S.-Gr1, Australian Derby-Gr1, Mudgway S.-Gr1, Prix du Moulin de Longchamp-Gr1, Queen Elizabeth II S.-Gr1) and Stardane (Gr3).

DAM RAFIF

Bred by Carolyn T Groves in Kentucky. Sold privately as a yearling to Shadwell Estate. Ran only at 3 years, won once (1m2f Sandown maiden), also 2nd once from 7 starts. Timeform 68. Earned pounds 4,488.

Modest, raced only from 1m to 1m3+f. Lacked pace. Well bred, by a top-class 1m-1m2f runner, also a notable sire and broodmare sire. Halfsister to Listed winner Matahif (g by Wassl), to Listed-placed Keswa (by Kings Lake) and to 4 other winners. Dam won 3 races, half-sister to Celestial Storm (Gr2 winner; Gr1-placed), Thawakib (Gr2 winner, dam of dual Gr1 winner Sakhee), and to the dam of River Memories (by Riverman; Gr2 winner) and Raise A Memory (Gr3 winner).

To stud at 4 years and dam for Shadwell of: Kadir (1995g by Unfuwain; winner), Azaimah (1996f by Unfuwain; placed), Tabashir (1997f by Cadeaux Genereux; unraced, died at 2), Rajam (1998g by Sadler's Wells; winner, Listed-placed), Al Wadood (1999f by Cadeaux Genereux; unraced), Lady Machiavellian (2000f by Machiavellian; unraced), Land Of Nod (2001f by Barathea; unplaced), Ebaaraat (2002f by Sinndar; unplaced); sold at Goffs November 2002 for EUR75,000, and dam since of: Pressing (2003c by Soviet Star; Gr1 winner), Make Me An Offer (2004c by Fasliyev; placed), Roughting (2005c by Celtic Swing; unraced to date). Her 2006 Celtic Swing colt died as a foal.

CONCLUSION

High-class performer, best suited by distances short of 1m4f.

CAPTION(S):

Pressing: landed final Group 1 of the year for older horses when successful in Rome on Sunday
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Nov 6, 2007
Words:1585
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