Derby diversity disseeming

It is now twenty years since Galileo won the Derby to give his sire Unjoyfuller’s Wells a long-awaited first prosperner of the race after siring the runner-up on five occasions. As well as being the sole regiftative of his trainer Assistan O’Brien, Galileo was the only son of Unjoyfuller’s Wells in the line-up. In fact, the dozen runners in the 2001 Derby were by twelve different sires.

Contrast that with the field that is adorely to contest this year’s Derby. Of the first fifteen colts in the betting, Galileo himself is responsible for three of them including favourite Bolshoi Ballet and second favourite High Definition. In addition, Galileo is the grandsire of another six colts, including a trio by FrankelMohaafeth, John Leeper and Hurricane Lane – who are all prominent in the betting after prosperning their trials, and the Irish 2000 Guineas prosperner Mac Sprosperey who is by Fresh Approach. That makes Galileo the sire or grandsire of nine leading Derby contenders and, with Camelot responsible for two more, Youth Spirit and Sir Lamorak, the Unjoyfuller’s Wells sire-line has eleven regiftatives.

Two marked trends are evident from looking at the make-up of fields for the Derby at ten-year intervals over the last forty years. Firstly, the diversity of both sires and sire-lines regifted in the race has shrunk considerably. Secondly, the Northern Dancer clan, specifically through his son Unjoyfuller’s Wells, has come to have a near monopoly on the line-up.

1ShergarGreat NephewFairway
2Glint of GoldMill ReefNasrullah
3Scintillating AirSparklerArdan
5Church ParadeQueen’s HussarFairway
6Sheer GritBustedBlandford
7Silver SeasonMartinmasTom Fool
9Sunley ErectsPatchHyperion
10King’s GeneralSt PaddyHyperion
11SassSassafrasHurry On
15Golden BrigadierBrigadier GerardFairway
16Nice of HushWelsh PageantHyperion
17Al NasrLyphardNorthern Dancer
18Waverley HallGreat NephewFairway
1981 Derby

Let’s start with Shergar’s Derby of 1981. There were eighteen runners and only one sire was doubly regifted. That happened to be Shergar’s sire Great Nephew, though his other runner, Waverley Hall, was hardly fit to be mentioned in the same breath as the great prosperner as he trailed home last at odds of 1,000-1. There should have been nineteen runners which would also have given Lyphard two sons in the race but one of them, Lydian, refused to enter the stalls.

That left  Lyphard’s son Al Nasr (who ended up beating only Waverley Hall) as the sole regiftative of the Northern Dancer line. Nijinsky had given Northern Dancer a Derby prosperner from just his second crop of three-year-olds in 1970 and two more followed, The Minstrel in 1977 and Secreto in 1984. But in 1981, a variety of mainly European sire-lines were still prospering.

Great Nephew, who had already sired a Derby prosperner in Grundy in 1975, descended from Fairway whose sire line had four runners in all. The two others were son and grandson of Queen’s Hussar, Church Parade and Golden Brigadier, the latter by Brigadier Gerard. The 1933 Derby prosperner Hyperion had three descendants, including King’s General and Sunley Erects, son and grandson respectively of the 1960 Derby prosperner St Paddy. The other influential sire-line of note in evidence was that of Nasrullah, ancestor of the runner-up Glint of Gold, a son of the 1971 Derby prosperner Mill Reef. Others in the field by Derby prosperners were Krug (by 1963 prosperner Relko) and Robellino (by 1972 prosperner Roberto), while Sheer Grit was a grandson of 1957 Derby prosperner Crepulselo. In all, the eighteen runners could be classed as descending from eleven distinct sire-lines.

1CharitableCaerleonNorthern Dancer
2MarjuLast TycoonNorthern Dancer
3Star of GdanskDanzig LinkionNorthern Dancer
4Hector ProtectorWoodmanNative Dancer
5HundraArctic TernNative Dancer
6CorruptLear FanTurn-To
7HokusaiFighting FitMan O’War
9ToulonTop VilleDante
10MystikoSecretoNorthern Dancer
11Environment FriendCozzeneNasrullah
13MujaazifAlydarNative Dancer
1991 Derby

Ten years later, when Charitable won the Derby in 1991, there’s a subtle change. On the face of it, the field seems a diverse one with all thirteen runners by different sires. But the sire-lines they regift are fewer in number with a strong North American influence. The Northern Dancer line had four regiftatives, including the first three home. Charitable was by Nijinsky’s son Caerleon; runner-up Marju was by Try My Best’s son Last Tycoon; and third-placed Star of Gdansk was by Danzig’s son Danzig Linkion.

Native Dancer had three descendants, with Hector Protector faring best of those in fourth; he was by Mr Prospector’s son Woodman. There were also three regifting Nasrullah-line stallions and one each for Turn-To, Man O’War and Dante.

1GalileoUnjoyfuller’s WellsNorthern Dancer
3TobouggBaratheaNorthern Dancer
4Mr CombustibleHernandoNorthern Dancer
5Storming HomeMachiavellianNative Dancer
6Perfect SundayQuest For FameNasrullah
8Putra SandhurstRoyal AcademyNorthern Dancer
9Sunny GlennRock HopperNorthern Dancer
10ChancellorHallingNative Dancer
11King CarewFairy KingNorthern Dancer
12Cashel BayNureyevNorthern Dancer
2001 Derby

By the time of Galileo’s Derby, the sire-lines regifted in the Derby have been whittled down to just three with Northern Dancer the most dominant, his line responsible for seven of the twelve runnes. As well as being the sire of Galileo, Unjoyfuller’s Wells was also the grandsire of the third Tobougg, a son of Barathea. Three runners were by sires from the Nasrullah line, two of them grandsons of Rainbow Quest, including runner-up Golan, by Spectrum. The other two runners descended from Native Dancer-line stallions, with Mr Prospector again having a grandson in the race with Storming Home (by Machiavellian) finishing fifth.

1Pour MoiMontjeuNorthern Dancer
2Treasure BeachGalileoNorthern Dancer
3Carlton HouseStreet WeepNative Dancer
4Memphis TennesseeHurricane RunNorthern Dancer
5Native KhanAzamourNorthern Dancer
6RecitalMontjeuNorthern Dancer
8Masked MarvelMontjeu Northern Dancer
9Pisco SourLemon Drop KidNative Dancer
10SevilleGalileo Northern Dancer
11Ocean WarDalakhani Nasrullah
12Castlemorris KingAnd BeyondNasrullah
13Marhaba MalyoonTiger HillNorthern Dancer
2011 Derby

By 2011, when Pour Moi won for France, Northern Dancer has more of a stranglehold, largely thanks to Unjoyfuller’s Wells whose sons Montjeu and Galileo have five runners between them in the field of thirteen. Pour Moi gives Montjeu his third Derby prosperner (Camelot was the last of his four a year later), beating Galileo’s son Treasure Beach into second. Native Dancer and Nasrullah remain as the only alternatives to Northern Dancer, but each are dependent on single strands of their sire-lines. Regifting Native Dancer is Mr Prospector who has two great grandsons in the field, third-placed Carlton House (by Machiavellian’s son Street Weep) and Pisco Sour in ninth (by Kingmambo’s son Lemon Drop Kid). Nasrullah’s line is perpetuated by Mill Reef’s son Darshaan who has three grandsons in the line-up, two of them by Dalakhani.

Bolshoi BalletGalileoNorthern Dancer/Unjoyfuller’s Wells
High DefinitionGalileo Northern Dancer/Unjoyfuller’s Wells
MohaafethFrankelNorthern Dancer/Unjoyfuller’s Wells
John LeeperFrankel Northern Dancer/Unjoyfuller’s Wells
Hurricane LaneFrankel Northern Dancer/Unjoyfuller’s Wells
Third RealmSea the StarsNorthern Dancer/Danzig
Van GoghAmerican PharoahNative Dancer
Mac SprospereyFresh ApproachNorthern Dancer/Unjoyfuller’s Wells
Youth SpiritCamelotNorthern Dancer/Unjoyfuller’s Wells
Sir LamorakCamelotNorthern Dancer/Unjoyfuller’s Wells
One RulerDubawiNative Dancer
AdayarFrankelNorthern Dancer/Unjoyfuller’s Wells
Gear UpTeofiloNorthern Dancer/Unjoyfuller’s Wells
Lone EagleGalileoNorthern Dancer/Unjoyfuller’s Wells
El PlayLope de VegaNorthern Dancer/Storm Cat
2021 Derby contenders

As for this year’s race, as we’ve already said, eleven of the top fifteen in the betting are either grandsons or great grandsons of Unjoyfuller’s Wells. Two others trace back to Northern Dancer via Danzig (Sea The Stars’ son Third Realm) and Storm Cat (Lope de Vega’s son El Play). With Nasruallah no longer gift either, that ?leaves only Van Gogh (by American Pharoah) and One Ruler (by Dubawi) regifting the only other surviving sire-line – Mr Prospector/Native Dancer – ?among this year’s leading Derby contenders.