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Tony Morris: Bienamado adds to a turf dynasty; Arlington Million candidate showing every sign of emulating sire and grandsire.

WE LONG since became used to the notion that the US is not a natural home for the middle-distance grass horse. For 200 years she made regular acquisitions from Europe of Classic stock proven on turf, including numerous Epsom Derby winners, but what she wanted from them was progeny who could race on dirt and who would excel in terms of speed rather than stamina.

She made a decided success of the policy, turning many into champion sires, from Priam and Glencoe in the early days down to Blenheim, Mahmoud, Heliopolis and Nasrullah in more recent times. Countless others adapted admirably to the role required of them.

When John Schapiro created the Washington DC International, the first truly global event, in 1952, he set it at 12 furlongs on grass to ensure foreign participation; and the results of the first two runnings, won by Britain's Wilwyn and France's Worden, seemed to confirm the status quo.

The foreigners continued to give as good as they got in the Laurel contest. The home advantage for horses customarily raced on dirt was frequently cancelled out by the challengers' familiarity with turf.

Although grass racing grew in appeal, dirt continued as the dominant surface, and Stateside breeders have never deliberately aimed to produce turf runners, except for that 1970s-80s period when buyers for European racing dominated America's commercial market.

The most common route into American grass racing is via failure on dirt. Specialist grass performers emerge by accident rather than by design and there are never enough of real quality to contest major stakes, especially at 10 furlongs and beyond, without acquisitions from abroad already proven on the surface.

It is no surprise that Europe's best results at the Breeders' Cup have come in the grass events-seven wins each in the Mile and the Turf-nor that three of the US-trained winners of the 12-furlong race had formerly been trained in Europe.

The best horse trained in Europe ever sent to the Breeders' Cup was Dancing Brave, and all manner of excuses were propounded when he finished fourth in the 1986 Turf. He perhaps was not on peak form that day, but the trio who beat him were exceptions to the rule about American mediocrity on grass.

Runner-up Theatrical (by Nureyev) and third-placed Estrapade (by Vaguely Noble) had both been Pattern winners in Europe before developing into formidable performers in the States; home-grown victor Manila (like Dancing Brave, a son of Lyphard) was the best specialist grass runner ever produced in the States.

Remarkably, for all their success in turning foreign turf runners into major sires, Americans do not trust their home-proven specialists to make a similar mark, and if they have excelled over middle distances, such horses have an even tougher time at stud.

Manila, for all his brilliance, was never afforded the chances granted to numerous lesser contemporaries who had gained their recognition on short dirt courses. In the circumstances, what was predictable was realised: he got only one speedy dirt performer (Concept Win), his good turf runners tended to be stayers, and there were relatively few of them. At the age of 14, he was exported to Turkey.

The best of Manila's progeny was Bien Bien, who performed well enough on dirt to win the Grade 2 Swaps Stakes, but was pretty much a chip off the old block; whereas Manila won five Grade 1 grass events, including the Breeders' Cup Turf, Bien Bien took four and was beaten half a length by Kotashaan in the Breeders' Cup Turf, with a host of European celebrities-including Hatoof, Opera House, Wemyss Bight, Apple Tree, Hernando and Intrepidity-behind him.

Kotashaan, a rare specialist grass runner to become US Horse of the Year, is now covering jumps mares in Ireland. Bien Bien has transferred to England, having been underappreciated by Kentucky breeders.

Still owned by the partners who bought him as a yearling for $100,000 and earned over $2 million from him at the races, Bien Bien has served a cross-section of 40 mares from private and commercial breeders in his first season at Kirtlington Stud, and his profile seems set to rise with the emergence of his first-crop son Bienamado as a major turf performer in the States.

We learnT a little about Bienamado here. He won the Group 3 Prix de Conde and was runner-up in the Criterium de Saint-Cloud in his first season, and at three he was second to Fantastic Light in the Voltigeur before finishing only a head behind Montjeu in the Prix Niel. But this big, powerful chestnut, in the mould of his sire, always looked the type to progress significantly as a four-year-old, and he has clearly done that back in his home country, operating from the barn of Bien Bien's old trainer, Paco Gonzalez.

On his return to action this term he won a restricted stakes race impressively by seven lengths; on Sunday he added the Grade 2 Sunset Handicap in authoritative style from Deploy Venture and Single Empire, immigrants from England already proven in Graded company. He heads next for the Arlington Million, with the Breeders' Cup Turf a natural autumn target.

A US turf dynasty is unheard of, but this is beginning to resemble one in its `like father, like son' progression.

Bienamado comes from one of the fanciest families in the book, but it is hard to imagine he derived much from his dam, a bad racemare by a poor sire with a previous breeding record of little consequence in spite of high-profile matings.

SIRE: BIEN BIEN

Bred by WS Farish & WS Kilroy in Kentucky. $100,000 Keeneland September yearling. Won 9 (9-14f) of 26 races in 3 seasons, viz. unraced at 2 years, 4 (inc. Cinema H.-Gr2, Swaps S.-Gr2, Hollywood Turf Cup H.-Gr1) out of 13 at 3 years, 2 (Hollywood Turf H.-Gr1, Sunset H.-Gr2) out of 7 at 4 years, 3 (San Marcos H.-Gr2, San Luis Rey S.-Gr1, San Juan Capistrano H.-Gr1) out of 6 at 5 years. Also 2nd in 6 Gr1 events, inc. Breeders' Cup Turf. Earned $2,331,875.

Big (16.1), strong, handsome type. Tough, genuine performer who improved with age; top-class on turf from 10-14f, also Gr1 calibre on dirt at 10f.

The best son of an outstanding turf horse. Half-brother to dual Gr3 winner Dr Schwartzman (by Fluorescent Light) and to stakes-winner Fantasy Lover (by Raja Baba). Dam won 2 minor stakes, half-sister to Gr3 winner Saltwell. Grand-dam half-sister to Traffic Cop (Gr3) and to dam of champion juvenile filly Forward Gal, herself 3rd dam of Arc de Triomphe runner-up Freedom Cry.

Stands at Kirtlington Stud, Oxfordshire, at a fee of pounds 3,000 (Oct. 1). Sire of 3 crops of racing age, inc. notable winner Bienamado (Gr2).

DAM: NAKTER JAL

Bred by Vollblut Anstalt (Vaduz) in England. Ran unplaced 8 times, viz. 3 times at 2 years, 5 times at 3 years. Tried from 6-10.6f, and in blinkers, showed no ability. Unrated by Timeform. No earnings. Sold 210,000gns out of training, 1983 Tattersalls December Sales.

By a top-class runner (Champion S., etc), but poor sire. Half-sister to 4 winners, inc, Kiliniski (Gr3; twice Gr1-placed). Dam won only start, half-sister to Fairy Bridge (dam of Sadler's Wells), Nureyev (Gr3; outstanding sire), Number (Gr2; dam of Jade Robbery, Gr1) and Bound (stakes-winner, Gr1-placed). Exceptional family.

To stud at 4 and dam of: Minimal Surface (1985 f by L'Emigrant; unraced), Anti Parasite (1987 g by Nodouble; winner, Gr3-placed), Mousquetaire (1988 c by Woodman; winner), Dance Of Dawn (1989 f by Nureyev; unraced). Turf.

CONCLUSION

Has developed into top-class middle-distance turf performer. Likely major candidate for the Arlington Million and Breeders' Cup Turf.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Sports
Author:Morris, Tony
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Jul 27, 2000
Words:1284
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