The winner of the 1984 Prix du Jockey Club, beating Sadler’s Wells and Rainbow Quest, Shirley Heights’s son Darshaan, was a very successful stallion and, similarly to majority of stallions of the Mill Reef Line, an excellent damsire. Among his sons, Dalakhani, last year pensioned successor of his sire at Aga Khan’s studs, was the most successful of them at stud, having produced so far 49 black-type products, 8 Gr.1 winners, including the winner of the Prix du Jockey Club Reliable Man or two-time Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Conduit. Among damsires, however, some other horse is the most successful – Mark of Esteem.
When the six-year old Sandiva defended her last year’s triumph in the Gr.3 Marshua’s River Stakes at Gulfstream Park this Saturday, it was the fiftieth group victory of a horse out of Mark of Esteem's daughter. Since August 2005, when the two-year old Amadeus Wolf won the Gr.2 Gimcrack Stakes and became the first black-type winner out of a dam by Mark of Esteem, his daughters have travelled a long way.
Mark of Esteem, whose pedigree was based on the connection of the stayer Darshaan with the unraced daughter of the champion sprinter Ajdal, was an excellent miler. He won the 2,000 Guineas, in which he beat the later sire of Cirrus des Aigles, Even Top, but he got even more glory in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, in which he beat the 1,000 Guineas Bosra Sham and, mainly, became a part of Dettori’s Magnificent Seven.
In 1997 he went to the Sheikh Mohammed’s Dalham Hall Stud in Newmarket, where he stayed for ten seasons until he was pensioned over decreasing fertility rate in 2007, two years after he had suffered the loss of a testicle following colic surgery. Besides that, he spent a single season in Brazil in 2005 as a shuttle stallion.
He started his stud career successfully – in the very first crop he produced the classic winner Ameerat, the winner of the 1,000 Guineas. Even more glory was brought to him five years later by Sir Percy, who took the Epsom Derby with his excellent finish. The current stallion at Lanwades Stud, England, was the classiest of Mark of Esteem’s thirty black-type winners.
Although a considerable part of his daughters still have a chance to improve his record, Mark of Esteem is today, as far the number of black-type winners is concerned, a more successful damsire than he was a sire. The first major winner out of his daughters was the above mentioned Amadeus Wolf, who holds the primacy of being his not only the first stakes winner but also the first Gr.1 winner. After the triumph in the Gimcrack Stakes he triumphed in the Middle Park Stakes and at four he won the Duke of York Stakes (Gr.2). An excellent sprinter, who inherited the speedy genes from his sire Mozart but also from the second July Cup winner in his pedigree, Ajdal, is the only sprinter among six Gr.1 winners out of Mark of Esteem’s daughters, a perspective on careers of the others shows that even as a damsire he produces progeny with a wide distance scope.
Similar to his sire Darshaan, Mark of Esteem, or rather his daughters, perform excellently in combination with Galileo. Three black-type winners of eleven runners from this combination make up not just a rather high percentage of black-type winners, even more impressive are their names. Treasure Beach won two Gr.1 races including the Irish Derby and was second in The Derby, Mikhail Glinka, three-time group winner, finished second as a two-year old in the Gr.1 Criterium de Saint-Cloud, and Kite Wood, the winner of the Gr.2 Prix Vicomtesse Vigier, finished second in the Saint Leger. Kite Wood’s brother Odeon was group placed too – he was third in the Gr.2 Voltigeur Stakes.
The Galileo nick produces stayers and the same can be said about the Montjeu one. Of thirteen runners there was a single black-type winner but none other than the winner of the St Leger (Gr.1) and the third in the Coronation Cup Masked Marvel. Stamina and class were also characteristic of Repeater, third in the Gr.2 Doncaster Cup, while the two-time Dubai listed Montpellier was most successful over mile distances.
Besides Galileo and Montjeu, Le Havre, the rising star of breeding in France, produced also a classic winner with Mark of Esteem’s Daughter. Le Havre is the sire of the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches and Prix de Diane winner Avenir Certain, who is just one of two runners of this nick and six foals of racing age.
Mark of Esteem’s daughters are successful with a wide spectrum of stallions – their current thirty-eight black-type winners have been produced with a total of thirty-two sires. The best among them is Galileo with three black-type winners. More four stallions produced with Mark of Esteem’s daughters two stakes winners. Two belong to Danzig's line – Exceed And Excel is the sire of the two-year old Gr.3 winner Rouleau and sprinter Excelette, Oasis Dream produced two listed winners with Mark of Esteem’s daughters, the sprinter Anne of Kiev and the mid-distance filly Waldtraut, third in the German 1,000 Guineas and German Oaks. The first had two stakes winners of thirteen foals of racing age (nine runners), the latter of ten (ten runners). An excellent share of black-type winners out of Mark of Esteem’s daughters are achieved by Mr Prospector's grandsons Lemon Drop Kid and Sunday Break. The first produced two stakes winners, even successful in Gr.2 (Bronze Cannon) and Gr.3 (Valiant Girl) races of mere three progeny (three runners), the latter achieved the same number of black-type winners of four progeny, three runners. In the latter’s case, however, it has to be mentioned that both winners are out of the same dame, Tropical Mark, who produced with Rail Link the four-time listed winner and Gr.2 placed Trip to Rhodos.
Ten years after pensioning Mark of Esteem is indeed very successful through his daughters. The current record of his daughters is excellent and Mark of Esteem can thus serve as another proof that the stallions of the Mill Reef line are successful as damsires.