Laminitis, heart attack claim leading thoroughbred sires in their prime

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The racing world is mourning the loss of two leading thoroughbred sires in recent weeks, with Preakness winner and Eclipse Champion Bernardini succumbing to laminitis and 2008 European Champion two-year-old Mastercraftsman dying of a heart attack.

Bernardini was euthanized at Jonabell Farm in Lexington, Kentucky, on July 30 after suffering complications from laminitis. He was aged 18. Bred by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, in the early days of Darley’s ownership of Jonabell Farm, Bernardini won six races in a row during a dazzling 2006 campaign, earning Eclipse Champion three-year-old honors and being rated World Champion three-year-old.

Jimmy Bell, President of Godolphin USA, said the farm was “blessed to have him”.

“A beautiful horse, and a lovely character, we are lucky to have so many of his daughters on the farm to continue his legacy.”

Bernardini was by A.P. Indy and from Cara Rafaela, by Quiet American. He won six of his eight starts, all in his three-year-old year. He broke his maiden in his second start in March 2006 by almost eight lengths before capturing the G3 Withers at Aqueduct in April. He then won in the G1 Preakness, giving Sheikh Mohammed his first victory in a US Triple Crown race.

Michael Banahan, Director of Farm Operations for Godolphin USA, described Bernardini as one of a kind. “From the day he was born, he exuded class. He was that crop’s best foal, best yearling and best racehorse. His brilliance was only surpassed by his wonderful character. He will be sorely missed by all on the farm but especially by his handler for the past 15 years, Philip Hampton. It was an honor to be a custodian of this classic winning stallion whose legacy will live long as a broodmare sire.”

Bernardini won the G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup against older horses at Belmont Park, and finished his racing career a month later with a runner-up finish to Invasor in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs.

Bernardini retired to stud at Jonabell Farm for the 2007 breeding season and sired four Group One winners in his first crop: Travers and Cigar Mile winner Stay Thirsty, Woodward and Cigar Mile winner To Honor and Serve, Frizette winner A Z Warrior, plus Italian Gran Criterium winner Biondetti.

Bernardini also shuttled to Australia for eight seasons between 2008 and 2015, siring G1 winners Boban, Ruud Awakening, and Go Indy Go. In total, he has sired 80 Black Type winners, 48 Graded Stakes winners, and 15 G1 winners worldwide.

In May 2021, Bernardini became the youngest stallion ever to reach 50 Black Type winners as a broodmare sire. To date, Bernardini has 54 Black Type winners, 32 Graded Stakes winners, and 11 G1 winners as a maternal grandsire, including Maxfield, Catholic Boy, Serengeti Empress, Dunbar Road, Colonel Liam and Paris Lights.

Mastercraftsman 2006-2021.
Mastercraftsman (2006-2021). © NZ Thoroughbred Marketing

Irish 2000 Guineas winner Mastercraftsman died at Castlehyde Stud in Ireland on August 13 following a suspected heart attack.

The 15-year-old son of Danehill Dancer, bred by Lynch-Bages Ltd, was European Champion two-year-old of 2008 having won the G1 National Stakes, G1 Phoenix Stakes and G2 Railway Stakes.

The Aidan O’Brien-trained colt then won the G1 Irish 2000 Guineas and the G1 St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot before running a game second to Sea The Stars in the G1 Juddmonte International the following season.

An immediate success at stud, his first two-year-old crop included Group 1 Racing Post Trophy winner Kingston Hill who went on to win the G1 St Leger Stakes and was runner-up in the  Epsom Derby. Also from that first crop were Irish Champion Stakes and Prix du Jockey Club winner The Grey Gatsby along with Falmouth Stakes and Prix Rothschild heroine Amazing Maria.

Arguably his best performer came in the shape of the Niarchos Family’s brilliant filly Alpha Centauri. She landed four straight Group 1 races as a three-year-old.

Mastercraftsman sired 16 individual G1 winners and left 6.4 percent stakes winners to runners. On August 11, he sired his 82nd stakes winner when Lilac Road defeated Technique by a head in the Listed Upavon Fillies’ Stakes at Salisbury.

Mastercraftsman shuttled to Windsor Park Stud in New Zealand for the first time in 2010, and returned for another three seasons in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

His progeny in the southern hemisphere included Group One winners Danzdanzdance, The Auld Floozie, Saint Emilion and Valley Girl, while he could be poised to make an impression as a broodmare sire, having been the damsire of top-class galloper Loving Gaby (I Am Invincible).

NZ Thoroughbred Marketing

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