Bren O’Brien



Champions of the track and breeding barn – Top Five mares who shone as racehorses and as broodmares

With two-time Japanese Horse Of The Year Gentildonna becoming a Group 1-winning producer thanks to her daughter Geraldina’s victory in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup on Sunday, we have ranked the Top Five champion racehorses across the world who went on to become star broodmares.

There is a myth in thoroughbred breeding circles that champion racemares don’t make champion broodmares. Statistically it is very hard for even the best credentialled race filly or mare to produce a foal which can equal their achievements on the track, despite having access to the best stallions in the world.

But occasionally there is one who can defy the stats and the scepticism and make one, or two, or three in their image.

We have gathered a list of the Top 5 elite fillies or mares on the track (plus a host of honourable mentions), who were able to produce elite success from the breeding barn and further their legacies through their sons and daughters.

5. Air Groove

Air Groove was a Japanese star in the 1990s, winning the G1 Yushun Himba as a three-year-old before going on to win the Tenno Sho (Autumn) the following year, 1997, when she was voted Japanese Horse Of The Year.

She then retired to Northern Farm and immediately produced multiple Group 1 winner Admire Groove, a dual winner of the Queen Elizabeth II Cup, who would become the dam of Tokyo Yushun winner Duramente. Rulership, the G1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup winner in Hong Kong, was also out of Air Groove, as were the Group winners Forgettable and Gullveig.

4. Marwell

As a racehorse under the eye of Sir Micahel Stoute, Marwell was a sprinting filly of rare talent. She was unbeaten in five starts as a two-year-old culminating in her victory in the Cheveley Park Stakes under Lester Piggott. Her first race defeat came in the 1981 Thousand Guineas but reserved for sprinting trips, she then reeled off wins in the King‘s Stand Stakes, the July Cup and the Prix de L’Abbaye.

Retired to stand as her birthplace, Edmund Loder’s Eyresfield Stud at The Curragh, Marwell would produce eight winners in total, including two standouts. The first was Caerwent, the winner of the Irish National Stakes and the second was the mighty filly Marling, who won four Group 1 races. She emulated her dam by winning the Cheveley Park Stakes in 1991 and the following year won the Irish 1000 Guineas, the Coronation Cup and the Sussex Stakes. Another of Marwell’s daughters, Littlefeather, was Group 1-placed.

3. Cesario

Cesario broke new ground both on the track and in the breeding barn. Her racing career under trainer Katsuhiko Sumii only featured six starts, but in that time not only was she able to win the 2005 Yushun Himba, but she was also able to become the first Japanese-trained horse to win an American Grade 1 race, claiming the American Oaks by four lengths.

As a broodmare she would do even more remarkable things. Her third foal, Epiphaneia, would become a star, winning a Japan Cup and a Kikuka Sho. He then went on to a successful career as a sire. Cesario also foaled Leontes, who won a G1 Futurity Stakes and also became a stallion of note while her third Group 1-winning son to go to stud was Saturnalia, a winner of the Hopeful Stakes and Satsuki Sho.

2. Miesque

As a race filly and mare, Miesque was among the best of the 1980s, winning 10 Grade/Group 1 races across the United States, France and England. Bred in Kentucky by the Niarchos family, she won at the top-level at ages two, three and four, and in 1988 she became the first horse ever to win consecutive Breeders’ Cup races, in her case the Breeders’ Cup Mile.

She retired to the Niarchos’ Kentucky farm where she produced 14 foals, six of them winners. That list included Kingmambo, a triple Group 1 winner who became an influential sire, and her star daughter East Of The Moon, also a winner of three Group 1 races. Miesque remains a hugely important influence in global pedigrees and among her maternal descendants are Japanese-bred Group 1-winning stars Loves Only You, Real Steel and Karakontie.

1. Urban Sea

Urban Sea’s greatest moment of her racing career came in the 1993 Prix de l’Arc Triomphe, when she caused a major upset, shooting through on the inside of White Muzzle and Opera House to claim victory at odds of 37-1 for trainer Jean Lesbordes and jockey Yves Saint-Martin in the colours of her Hong Kong-based owner David Tsui. She won seven races in all, all at stakes level.

Greater things were to come from the breeding barn. Her second foal, Galileo, a son of Sadler’s Wells, won the G1 Epsom Derby, Irish Derby and King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes before going on to become one of the most successful sires of all time. Then followed Sea The Stars, who won six Group 1 races, emulating his dam by winning the 2009 Prix de l’Arc Triomphe, and also having a massive impact from the stallion barn. Urban Sea also produced Group 1 winners Black Sam Bellamy and My Typhoon and through her sire sons has become the most influential broodmare of the 21st century.


The 1993 Arc winner featured high up on our list. (Photo by Pascal Rondeau/Getty Images)

Honourable Mentions:

Relaxing won 13 of her 28 career starts including the G1 Ruffian Handicap and G1 Delaware Handicap for trainer Angel Penna in 1981.

At stud, she produced three elite winners. Easy Goer was a nine-time Grade 1 winner, while her two daughters, Easy Now and Cadillacing, also won Grade 1 races, the latter also becoming a Grade 1 producer.

Going back a way here to the turn of the 20th century, but Wakeful was an undoubted superstar of the Australian turf, winning 11 races which would now hold Group 1 status. All in all she won 25 of her 44 starts despite having not had her first start until she was four.

Her versatility also shone through in the breeding barn, where she produced the 1918 Melbourne Cup winner Night Watch and the Oakleigh Plate, Futurity Stakes and Memsie Stakes winner Blairgour.

Horlicks was a race mare of rare toughness and versatility. Trained by Dave and Paul O’Sullivan. She won the Japan Cup in 1988 in what was then a world record time in the highlight of her six Group 1 victories.

Retained by Graham De Gruchy, her star achievement in the breeding barn was to produce 2000 Melbourne Cup winner Brew, while she also foaled a Group 2 winner in Bubble. Her daughter Latte then produced Australian Derby winner Fiumicino.

Rose Of Kingston
Another mare with a Melbourne Cup flavour, Rose Of Kingston is the most recent horse to have been awarded Australian Racehorse Of the Year who went on to become a Group 1-producing broodmare. She won the VRC Oaks and the AJC Derby as well as the G1 Champagne Stakes.

In 1986 she then foaled a Secretariat colt named Kingston Rule, who would win the 1990 Melbourne Cup in owner David Hains’ colours for Bart Cummings. Rose Of Kingston also produced multiple stakes winner Rose Of Portland.

Glorious Song
Glorious Song emerged as a star as a three-year-old in Canada in 1980 and by the end of her career would win four Grade 1 races.Her success in the breeding barn came chiefly through her son, Singspiel, who was a globetrotting superstar winning a Japan Cup, a Dubai World Cup, a Coronation Cup and two editions of the Canadian International.

Lady Wallace
Lady Wallace was a star of the Australian turf in the early 1900s, winning a Caulfield Guineas, a VRC Derby and a VRC Oaks as well as the AJC and VRC St Legers. She retired to Mungle Bundle Stud where the best of her progeny was her colt Cisco, who won the 1911 AJC Derby and the Rawson Stakes, now the G1 Ranvet Stakes. Lady Wallace also produced the Futurity Stakes winner Balarang and the stakes winner Niscitur.

Miss Finland
Miss Finland proved one of the best Australian fillies of the first decade of the 2000s. In the Arrowfield colours, she won a Golden Slipper. A Thousand Guineas, a VRC Oaks and Australian Guineas and an Arrowfield Stud Plate at the top level.

She has produced six winners. Stay With Me, who emulated her dam when winning the 2015 Thousand Guineas, has been the best of her progeny, while three of Miss Finland’s other foals have been stakes placed.

Biwa Heidi
A Group 1 winner in Japan in her two-year-old season, over no-less than Air Groove, Biwa Heidi was a highly influential broodmare, chiefly through her remarkable daughter Buena Vista, a winner of the 2011 Japan Cup, and the 2020 Victoria Mile and Tenno Sho (Autumn) as well as the Yushun Himba and Oka Sho as a three-year-old. Biwa Heidi also produced G1 winner Joie De Vivre and Group winner Tosen Reve and Admire Aura.

Circles Of Gold 

Circles of Gold won the 1995 Australian Oaks and was runner-up n the 1996 Caulfield Cup. While a top-level filly and mare, she wasn’t strictly a champion on the track, which is why she didn’t make the Top Five, but her record as a broodmare was sensational. Her son Elvstroem won six Group 1 races, while another of her colts, Haradasun was a three-time elite level winner. Both were good enough to win top races on the world stage.




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