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Sprinter Overdose belies his breeding; Abbaye the big test for Hungarian superstar.

Byline: TONY MORRIS

IN the summer of 1878 a four-year-old filly, bred in Hungary, turned up in Britain and lodged for a while at Newmarket. The work-watchers were intrigued to see her, having been informed that she remained unbeaten after 36 races on the continent, and when they did see her, they were mightily impressed.

They praised her conformation, her action, her demeanour, and they noted with amazement that, for all her exertions - competing in what is now the Czech Republic, Austria and Germany as well as in her own country - there was not a blemish on her. They reported enthusiastically on how she worked with rare zest in her prescribed daily two-mile gallops, and by the time she left the town to fulfil her one racing engagement in Britain, every sporting paper had carried stories of her prowess, proclaiming her a worthy successor to Kisber, the Hungarian-bred, but English-trained, colt who had won the Derby two years earlier.

But the public were not convinced, and when Kincsem lined up against just two rivals for the Goodwood Cup, she was the outsider of the party. The backers of Chester Cup winner Pageant and St Leger runner-up Lady Golightly had only themselves to blame when the invader, who had been used to carrying 10st 12lb in her races on the continent, made light of her 8st 7lb burden and won in a canter.

On her journey home, Kincsem stopped off to win the Grand Prix de Deauville and Grosser Preis von Baden, and eventually retired, still undefeated, after 54 races. Hungary has been awaiting another international superstar ever since.

As 95 per cent of the nation's thoroughbreds were destroyed in World War II, it was remarkable that Hungary was able to produce a runner as distinguished as Imperial in 1960.

He won all the races he contested at home and in Austria, was successful as well in Sweden and in both East and West Germany, and represented his country in that memorable Washington International when Mongo thwarted Kelso. In all, he won 20 of his 25 races, and, aside from the Soviet Union's Anilin, he was probably the best racehorse produced in Eastern Europe since the war.

Hungary now has a new champion, making his mark on the international scene, and I suppose it is only natural that some of his keenest supporters at home are now daring to compare him with the mighty Kincsem.

The accolade is surely premature, as Overdose's unbeaten run has only just reached double figures, and he is a very different type from the one who conquered all-comers at every distance from 5f to 2m4f, but to date he has displayed a similar capacity to rout his rivals with contemptuous ease.

It might be unwise to make too much of the fact that Overdose won each of his first seven races in Eastern Europe by six lengths or more, but when he treated Listed rivals with similar disdain at Baden-Baden in May, trotting up by nine lengths, the thought that he might be the real deal could not be dismissed.

Trainer Sandor Ribarszki apologised for the fact that Overdose was not in peak condition for his next test, a Hamburg Group 3 on July 5, but it was only the winning margin - a length and a half - that was different at the end of a 6f race that he dominated throughout.

Back at Baden-Baden on Sunday he had no trouble in raising his game again to make all the running in Germany's most important sprint, the Group 2 Goldene Peitsche, with British raiders Starlit Sands and Intrepid Jack among his vain pursuers.

How good is Overdose? There is a well-worn saying to the effect that we never know how good any horse is until it has been beaten, and it has some validity. We never did discover how good Kincsem was.

Let's not wish defeat on Overdose, while applauding his connections for committing him to Europe's sternest 5f test, in the Prix de l'Abbaye de Longchamp. He has done with parochial pot-hunting now, so it's Premier League or bust.

Kisber was born in Hungary of British parentage, while Kincsem had a British sire - Cambuscan, bred by Queen Victoria, no less - and was out of a mare whose dam was imported to Hungary from Britain. Overdose is Hungarian only by adoption, having been conceived in France and foaled in Britain of Anglo-Irish parentage. He left our shores at a bargain 2,000gns from Tattersalls December yearling sale.

There is enough about Overdose's pedigree to explain why he should be a successful racehorse in spite of his meagre auction price, but it is something of a surprise that he has found his niche as a sprinter. He seemed to have been programmed to need 1m, and if his connections on the distaff side had held sway, to flourish over middle-distance and staying trips.

LIKE his sire, he thrives on bowling along in front, but Starborough really wanted 1m to be fully effective and won a Group 1 over 1m1f.

Moreover, in his somewhat uneven and largely unexciting innings at stud, Starborough (who died in December 2006) was previously best represented by a pair of full siblings, Whortleberry and Appel Au Maitre, who both won Pattern events at 1m4f. His only other sprinter of any note was Star Valley, and he was equally at home over 1m.

Overdose's dam, Our Poppet, has now delivered four winners from as many runners to prove more productive as a broodmare than she had been as a runner. Sixth of 16 on her debut at Lingfield offered some promise of better things to come, but Rae Guest was unable to get her on a racecourse again, and she was at stud as a three-year-old.

How far Our Poppet might have stayed is anybody's guess. She came from the last British-conceived crop by Warning, whose sprinters outnumbered his stayers, but who did get some with no stamina inhibitions when mated with mares from staying backgrounds.

Upend was certainly one who appreciated distance. She used the first 1m2f to warm up, and ideally wanted a strongly run 1m4f on soft ground; that is what she got when she scored her best win in the Group 3 St Simon Stakes.

Staying factors abound elsewhere in the background. Upend's half-sister produced Royal Gait, who was scandalously robbed of a Gold Cup, but did win a Prix du Cadran and a Champion Hurdle, and their dam was out of Merry Mate, successful in an Irish Oaks.

Merry Mate's parents were the stable companions who fired the enthusiasm of the teenage me in 1958 - Ballymoss as hero of the Eclipse, the King George and the Arc, and Gladness as gallant winner of the Gold Cup and imperious heroine of the Ebor by six lengths under top weight.

SIRE STARBOROUGH

Bred by Sheikh Mohammed in England. Won 4 (6f-1m1f) of 12 races, viz. 1 out of 3 at 2 years, 3 (inc. Prix Jean Prat-Gr1, St James's Palace S.- Gr1) out of 6 at 3 years, 0 out of 3 at 4 years. Also 2nd in Sussex S., 4th in 3 other Gr1 races. Earned pounds 269,803. RPR 109 at 2, 124 at 3, 114 at 4.

Well-made, medium-sized individual. High-class, front-running miler as a 3-y-o, noted for honesty and tenacity. Best form on good to firm ground. Deteriorated after transfer to Godolphin.

Very well bred. By a top-class sprinter-miler. Half-brother to Gr1 winners Aristotle and Ballingarry (both by Sadler's Wells) and to Gr3 winner Spanish Falls (by Belmez). Dam Gr1 winner at 2 years, sister and half-sister to 3 other winners.

Grand-dam minor stakes-winner, Gr3-placed in US, half-sister to 4 other winners. High-class American family.

Deceased. Stood at Haras de la Reboursiere et de Montaigu, Nonant le Pin, France. Last fee (2006) EUR3,500. Sire of 7 crops of racing age, inc. notable winners: Star Valley (Gr3), Whortleberry (Gr2), Appel Au Maitre (Gr3), Overdose (Gr2).

DAM OUR POPPET

Bred by Peter & Mrs Player in England. 16,000gns Tattersalls October yearling. Ran only once, 6th of 16 over 7f in Lingfield (turf) maiden auction race at 2 years. RPR 53. No earnings.

Well bred. By a top-class miler and successful sire out of a Gr3 winner over 1m4f who was the best daughter of her sire on the racecourse and at stud, dam of 6 winners, inc. Musicanna (Listed, Gr1-placed). Granddam winner, half-sister to dam of top-class stayer Royal Gait.

Next dam won Irish Oaks, daughter of outstanding racemare Gladness.

To stud at 3 years and dam of: Noble Mount (2001 g by Muhtarram; winner), Poppet's Bounty (2003 f by Bahamian Bounty; winner), Poppets Sweetlove (2004 f by Foxhound; winner), Overdose (2005 c by Starborough; Gr2 winner), Poppet's Lovein (2006 f by Lomitas; unraced to date). Her yearling is a filly by Dansili, and she has a filly-foal by Bertolini. Barren to Danzero in 2002.

CONCLUSION

A superstar in his adopted homeland, and at least a star in Germany. A stiffer test to come in France, but not to be underestimated.

CAPTION(S):

Overdose's sire Starborough (above) was a Group 1 winner over 1m1f and not known as a sire of sprinters
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Sep 4, 2008
Words:1533
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