Past Blandford’s Fame Remembered

He has produced a single black-type winner (although successful in a classic race) and his first black-type winner as damsire did not arrive until last Friday when he was dead for fourteen years. These details might imply a rather non-attractive and unsuccessful sire. They belong, however, to the winner of the most important race in the world (from the perspective of breeders), a horse belonging to a dynasty that once dominated thoroughbred breeding. His name was Shaamit.

The Swynford line, to which Shaamit belonged, was the leading thoroughbred line until the arrival of Phalaris. Swynford’s most successful son at stud, Blandford, sire of four Epsom Derby winners and four-time champion sire in England and Ireland, managed to fight back Phalaris but his death in 1935 can be, symbolically, seen as the moment when the dominion was handed over. Nearco was foaled in the same year.

Blandford’s line was and is the bearer of classic values and maintained its dominant position over a mile and a half long after the death of its founder. After all, the 1935 Epsom Derby was won by Blanford’s son Bahram (a year before him it was Windsor Lad) and the next year by Mahmoud, son of Blanford’s second Epsom Derby winner Blenheim.

It needs to be said though that Mahmoud became for the long nineteen years the last Epsom Derby winner of the Blandford line – until 1957 when the most important piece of wood in the racing world – the finish post at Epsom – was reached as first by Crepello. The long gap was caused by the export of best Blandford’s sons to the United States. Gradually Blenheim, Bahram (later exported to Argentina) and Mahmoud left for the U.S. Another factor was the premature death of Windsor Lad while the fate of another excellent son of Blandford, the Triple Crown winner Brantome, was marked by WWII.  

In the United States, Blenheim produced two Kentucky Derby winners (1941 - Whirlaway and 1947 - Jet Pilot), but the importance of the line for further development of thoroughbred lay already elsewhere. As has been said already, the whole Blandford line was under pressure from Nearco and his sons, but even in this expansion of Nearco’s line Blandford has a major share. He contributed to the development of both key branches of Nearco’s line – in his first crop, already in Europe, Blenheim produced Mumtaz Begum, dam of Sun Princess, who later produced the excellent Royal Charger, but was, above all, the dam of the two-year English champion and elite sire Nasrullah. Mahmoud is the sire of Almahmoud, a founder of an excellent family and the granddam of Northern Dancer.

The rich history of the Blandford line and its chief representatives is a material for a book. The development of the whole Swynford line has been excellently described by Franco Varola in The Functional Development of the Thoroughbred. Describing the current condition of the line is a rather sad affair, as its survival is virtually dependent on a single name - Monsun. The German champion sire was an exceptional stallion, however, non of his sons at stud has been able to replicate his achievements at all. Moreover, from the perspective of global development, Monsun is not helped by the huge attractiveness of his sons among the breeders of jumpers which pushes his sons into NH breeding. But some of his sons are at the very beginning of their careers and the most promising ones, German Maxios and Japanese-based Novellist, have their first crop this year.

But let us return into 1957 when the line succeeded, after a long pause, to win the Epsom Derby again thanks to Crepello. Crepello was equally successful at stud and in 1969 he even became the champion sire in England and Ireland and, five years later, he became the champion broodmare sire. His most successful horse was Busted, the Horse of the Year in England, exceptional sire, the sire of the champion Bustino, American star Erins Isle and the winner of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes and two-time winner of the Eclipse Stakes Mtoto. The English champion Mtoto, whose pedigree is marked by 3x4 inbreeding to Donatello II, produced, in his third crop, Presenting, who was third in the Epsom Derby and later became the NH champion sire. Next year, however, the Epsom Derby was won by another son of Mtoto when Shaamit beat the favourite Dushyantour by 1 ¼ lengths.

It was the last victory in the Epsom Derby for the Blandford line and the first one after the triumph of Parthia in 1959. Shaamit, for whom the Derby was his seasonal debut and who won one of his maiden races as a two-year-old, ran only three more races. In the King George he finished third behind Pentire and Classic Cliche, in the Irish Champion Stakes fourth and he ended his career in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, where he was seventh.

He launched his stud career in 1997 at National Stud and a year later he became the first European stallion to become a shuttle stallion in South Africa. The sire whose pedigree is based on the combination of classic values and precocity (his damsire was Habitat, his granddam was sired by Mill Reef) spent three seasons at National Stud from where he moved to Scarvagh House Stud, Ireland, where he died prematurely at eight. As we said at the beginning, he produced a single black-type winner – the winner of the Saint Leger Bollin Eric, who was by far the most successful of all his progeny. Shaamit’s daughters have so far produced three black-type horses and the last one, the winner of the Ibhayi Stakes (L) at Fairview on Friday Charles Lytton, was the first who has managed to win a black-type race – fourteen years after the last breath of the last Epsom Derby winner of the line which once had dominated the thoroughbred world.       

Miloslav Vlček

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