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Morris on Ezzoud: Still time for sire to shine; Lancashire Oaks winner Ela Athena is her deceased sire Ezzoud's best to date.

WITH Interlude and Film Script to represent her in Saturday's Lancashire Oaks, the Queen must have had high hopes of victory in the Group 3 Haydock contest. Fourth and sixth places was a disappointment, with added irony in that the winner, Ela Athena, has Royal Stud connections in both halves of her pedigree. The filly's sire Ezzoud spent his brief stallion career at Sandringham, and her family is the one which delivered notable performers such as Alexander and High Veldt for Her Majesty in the 1950s.

Under a clever Philip Robinson ride, Ela Athena scored an emphatic victory that suggested she would again be a serious candidate for the Yorkshire Oaks.

She will go to the Knavesmire with more friends than in 1999, when she started at 33-1 before finishing second to Ramruma. That was her first run at a mile and a half and easily her best effort.

Ela Athena is the first Pattern-winning representative for Ezzoud, who served four seasons at Sandringham before his untimely death at the age of nine in August 1998. By the end of that year his first crop of two-year-olds had produced nine individual two-year-old winners, suggesting that he could be regarded as a serious loss to the industry.

In fact, his record to date remains more notable for the quantity, rather than the quality, of his winners. Apart from Ela Athena, only Best Grey-third in last year's Derby Italiano-has registered so much as a place in Pattern company.

But there is plenty of time yet for perceptions to change. His last crop will not reach the races until 2001, and we should not forget that Ezzoud was a constant improver, registering his best performances at five.

Ezzoud was the last yearling offered at the Tattersalls 1990 Highflyer sale, and he brought the curtain down with a flourish, fetching 360,000gns from Michael Stoute. The half-brother to Distant Relative was destined for a colourful career, during which he was frequently vilified for faults actual and imagined, and finally appreciated for proven merit of a high order.

Always a tricky ride, and for a long time considered less than wholly honest, he could hang, veer off a true line and throw up his head in his races. He usually wore a visor, was sometimes mulish in the preliminaries, and in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes as a five-year-old he ditched his jockey after leaving his stall, before causing havoc as he ran riderless.

Nevertheless, his natural talent was hard to deny. He gave the first inkling of his class over a mile, as runner-up to Rodrigo de Triano in the Irish Guineas, and third in the St James's Palace Stakes. But he really needed further, truer to the heritage of his dam's staying family than to his sprinter-miler sire, Last Tycoon.

He failed to establish the point in the Irish Derby, and an ensuing muscle problem delayed proofs of his stamina until the following year, when his shock win over Sabrehill in York's International and his second to Hatoof in the Champion Stakes confirmed him as one of the best at a mile and a quarter.

At five he surpassed himself by conquering winners of the St Leger (Bob's Return) and the Derby (Erhaab) in the Eclipse, and by lifting his second International. Furthermore, he proved his capacity for 12 furlongs with a close-up fourth to Carnegie in the Arc.

The family to which Ela Athena belongs rose in status with Malva, who bred a winner of the Derby in Blenheim and two winners of the Coronation Cup in King Salmon and His Grace. Frankly, half-sister to that trio, became grand-dam of the outstanding New Zealand-based sire Summertime and established a branch through her daughter Open Warfare that flourished for a while in the Royal Studs.

For sheer class the best of the clan was High Veldt, runner-up to Ribot in the 1956 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes, but he was a temperamental sort and at the end of three seasons had won nothing more exciting than the 2,000 Guineas Trial at Kempton.

He became a leading sire in South Africa and was champion there at the age of 19-an altogether different fate from that of his dam's half-brother Alexander, winner of the Royal Hunt Cup. Alexander's stud career in that country ended when he fell off the first mare he covered and was killed.

Alexander's half-sister Mulberry Harbour collected three wins in the Royal colours, including one in the Cheshire Oaks, and she was to produce a leading NZ sire in Crest Of The Wave, whose sister Crenelle features as Ela Athena's fourth dam.

Unfortunately, the good-looking Crenelle proved to be a frustrating performer, obviously talented but unenthusiastic about racing. She was unruly before the Ribblesdale, and still appeared less than honest after she had acquired a hood.

Sold out of Cecil Boyd-Rochfort's stable, she proceeded to distinguish herself as a broodmare in Italy, where her son Cerreto (by Claude) won the 1973 Derby and daughters Croda Rossa (Premio Lydia Lesio) and Croda Alta (Premio Chiusura) featured among seven other scorers.

It is probably more a matter of coincidence than significance, but Ela Athena is connected with both of Cerreto's parents, having Claude as her sire's maternal grandsire and Crenelle as her dam's third dam.

Ela Athena

Bred by TJ Monahan. 360,000gns Tattersalls Highflyer yearling. Won 6 (7-10f) of 22 races in 4 seasons, viz. 1 out of 2 at 2 years, 1 out of 5 at 3 years, 2 (Earl of Sefton S.-Gr3, York International S.-Gr1) out of 7 at 4 years, 2 (Eclipse S.-Gr1, York International S.-Gr1) out of 8 at 5 years. Also 2nd in Irish 2,000 Guineas, Champion S., 3rd in St James's Palace S., 4th in Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. Timeform 87p at 2, 120 at 3, 123 at 4, 126 at 5. Earned pounds 753,174.

Robust-looking, quite attractive. A character (usually visored) who could be a difficult ride and sometimes looked irresolute, but a high-class performer, effective on any ground who improved with age and ultimately stayed 12f.

One of the best sons (along with Marju, Bigstone and Mahogany) of a high-class sprinter-miler. Half-brother to dual Group 1 winner Distant Relative, out of an 8-time winner (up to 11f) in Ireland and Italy. Grand-dam half-sister to noted runner and broodmare Natashka (Alabama S.; dam of Arkadina, Blood Royal, Gregorian, Truly Bound, grand-dam of Dark Lomond, Gold And Ivory).

Dead. Stood at Sandringham Stud, last season 1998 at a fee of pounds 6,000. Sire of 3 crops of racing age, inc. notable winner Ela Athena (Gr3).

Bred by John L Moore. Won 1 (91/2 f) of 10 starts, viz. 0 out of 3 at 2 years, 1 out of 7 at 3 years. Earned Fr42,800.

Modest performer, only worthwhile form in French provinces, seemingly unsuited by soft ground.

Quite attractive. Half-sister to 5 other winners, inc. Danish Field (Listed), Femme Grise (Gr3-placed in France), and Ianomami (Gr2-placed in US). Dam Listed-placed winner of 3 races.

Grand-dam champion 3-y-o filly in Italy, half-sister to Cerreto (Derby Italiano) and to the dam of Dancing Rocks (Nassau Stakes, dam of Glatisant).

To stud at 4 and dam of: Craven Hill (1994 g by Pursuit Of Love; unplaced), Forever Young (1995 c by Indian Ridge; placed), Ela Athena (1996 f by Ezzoud; Gr3 winner), Sundenter (1997 c by Owington; sent unraced to Italy). Her yearling is a colt by Night Shift (entered in Houghton Sales), she has a colt-foal by Hernando, and is in foal to Linamix.

The best of her sire's stock to date, and a worthy candidate for the Yorkshire Oaks.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Author:Morris, Tony
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Jul 11, 2000
Previous Article:Medicean going doubt; John Smith's Cup favourite unlikely to run if it is soft.
Next Article:Gorse and Tomba tackle Group 3.

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