The rise of the filly Sarah Lynx from a cantankerous, hard-to-handle thoroughbred into a Grade I winner did not occur overnight.
Described as ‘tricky as a bag of snakes’ by one of Europe’s most accomplished trainers, John Hammond, Sarah Lynx went six consecutive races without a top three placing following her maiden win early in 2010. Patience by Hammond and his stable team and jockey Christophe Soumillon brought out the best in the Irish-bred four-year-old in the fall of 2011. Oh, and a set of blinkers didn’t hurt either.
On October 16, Sarah Lynx stunned a full field of top turf males in the 74th Canadian International (GI), the richest race of the Woodbine racing calendar.
The four-length romp by the daughter of Montjeu (Ire) – Steel Princess (Ire), by Danehill was yet another win by a filly in a major race. It had been just two weeks earlier than Danedream powered past colts in the famous Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp in France, following Havre de Grace’s trouncing of the boys in the Woodward Stakes (GI) at Saratoga in the summer.
The International was no easy task, however, as 15 of the better grass horses from around the globe descended on Woodbine for the 1 1/2 mile event. Among the entrants were the top three finishers from last year’s race, Joshua Tree, Mores wells and Redwood, plus Grade I winners Treasure Beach and Arctic Cosmos .
Owned by Mrs. Robert Erhnrooth, Sarah Lynx had just two wins in 10 races including the Group II Prix de Pomone-Haras d’Etreham at Deauville in August. ‘It was okay,’ said Hammond of the filly’s Deauville victory. ‘It wasn’t the strongest Group II there’s ever been.’ In her most recent start, the filly was fourth in the prestigious Prix Vermielle (GI) behind Galikova, a half sister to superstar Goldikova. ‘She got left in the stalls, she gave them an eight-length start, which wasn’t great. But it wasn’t a very fast run race. Maybe it didn’t matter in the end.’ It turned out that the blinkers that Hammond fitted on the filly for the Deauville race had a lot to do with adding focus to the difficult filly.
And even when she began to act up during the post parade for the International, Hammond’s assistant Kate Bradley, who accompanied the filly to Canada, was not worried. ‘That’s just her,’ said Bradley. ‘It didn’t bother me at all.’ Woodbine fans were not convinced and let the jetblack filly go off at 23 to 1; after all, a gal had not won the race since Infany did it in 1988.
Soumillon, recognizing that his filly liked to race inside of horses, was happy when he could place her near the back of the field along the rail early in the race. ‘The great thing is that she has a good turn of foot. She really relaxed in the race. This is the third time she’s had blinkers on because before she was a bit lazy. So with those on, I saw she was not pulling at all in the race. I was quite confident.’
While Canadian-based longshot Kara’s Orientation led for more than half the event over a turf course that was very soft from almost a week’s worth of rain, he was soon swarmed off the turn for home by no less than seven rivals. Arctic Cosmos was one of the first to move, followed by Redwood, Treasure Beach and Mores Wells but Soumillon simply waited until the field fanned out and a huge gap opened up the rail path. The filly took off and left the boys reeling. Joshua Tree came from out of a large group to be second, two lengths clear of Treasure Beach and Arctic Cosmos. The time of 2:34.90, more than nine seconds off the course record, but was worth a whopping 108 Beyer Speed Figure from Daily Racing Form. The 108 Beyer Figure was what St. Nicholas Abbey posted when he won the Breeders’ Cup Turf on Nov. 5, a race Sarah Lynx by-passed. The $900,000 winner’s share boosted the filly’s earnings to over $1.1 million.
Sarah Lynx was bred by Grangecon Stud in Ireland and she is the first foal of the winning mare Steel Princess (Ire). Danehill is grandson of Northern Dancer through Montjeu’s Sarah Lynx, winner of the Canadian International, is out of a Danehill mare, like Frankel. Danehill is grandson of Northern Dancer through Danzig. And in the case of Sarah Lynx, the four-year-old’s second dam is the Caerleon mare Champaka. Caerleon is a classic winner by Northern Dancer’s son Nijinsky, winner of the English Triple Crown in 1970.
That gives Sarah Lynx three lines of Northern Dancer, and these repetitions are going to proliferate.
ROGER’S ROLL BEGINS
John Hammond may have fine tuned the tough Sarah Lynx, but Canada’s own Roger Attfield has conquered many of his own filly trainees. Miss Keller (Ire), the champion turf female in Canada of 2010, has been a special project for Attfield, a member of Canada’s Horse Racing Hall of Fame. A notoriously tough student, Miss Keller has to be cared for, and ridden with, kit gloves to get her to do her best.
After her championship campaign, it had been a frustrating 2011 season for Miss Keller. Attfield, who sent out the 5-year-old five times in 2011 only to watch her struggle. The daughter of Montjeu (Ire) – Ingozi (GB), by Warning (GB), owned by Three Chimneys LLC, Lordship Stud and Clodagh McStay, had been plagued by a number of minor physical issues all season and had made just $25,800 on the year.
The Hall of Fame trainer did not give up, however, and she put it all together to win the $1 million E.P. Taylor Stakes (GI) on the International day card. ‘I have been so emphatic about how she needs to be ridden, covered up, and I was delighted with the way John (Velasquez) rode her today. Look, she’s a very tough filly, if you ask her to do something, she will not do it,’ said Attfield.
Miss Keller, who was second in last year’s Taylor to longshot Reganne, was towards the back of the field early in the Taylor as a slow pace was set by Strawberrydiaquiri (GB). Sensing the slow pace, several runners made early moves to the lead including Group III winner I’m A Dreamer (Ire), who led late before being joined by Miss Keller and favoured Dream Peace, an Irish-bred, Group II winner. On the wire, there were three gals fighting for the lead but it was Miss Keller the winner by a head at 11 to 1.
It was the sixth career win for the champion in her 24th career start. Bred by Hascombe and Valiant Studs in Ireland, Miss Keller raced for Three Chimneys Racing LLC last year but was sold at the 2010 Keeneland November sale for $700,000 to the winning parnership.
Miss Keller was sent to England soon after her win and was scheduled to be sold at the December Tatteralls sale in Newmarket. She retires with earnings of $1,253,284.