Breeders Corner \ Fall Aspen
This week's subject is the amazing 'blue hen' Fall Aspen.
Descending from a family that Joseph Roebling had developed for generations, Fall Aspen justified the care that had gone into her breeding by becoming a Grade I winner at two. Nonetheless, that accomplishment paled beside what she was to achieve as a broodmare.
Joseph M Roebling, a descendant of the Roebling family and grandson of Ferdinand Roebling, was the original owner and founder of “Harmony Hollow”. The Roebling Story is a classic American tale of immigration, innovation, hard work, and entrepreneurship.
The Roeblings designed and built, or installed the cables for several of the world’s greatest suspension bridges, including the Brooklyn Bridge, the George Washington Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge. Roebling wire rope helped make possible some of the most important technological achievements of the industrial age: telegraphs and telephones, electrification, deep mines and big ships, elevators and airplanes (The Roebling Museum).
The main house on the property of Harmony Hollow Run was built in 1931 and designed by Kaplan Architecture. The large barn on the hill to the right of the house and the small barn on the right of the driveway, are both original structures used to house Mr. Roebling’s racehorses and prized stallions.
An American mare, Fall Aspen is one of the most influential broodmares of recent times, and became grandam to one of the best horses of the last twenty years.
Although an American dirt performer herself, Fall Aspen’s influence as a broodmare over the last forty years has extended worldwide to include top performers on turf as well as dirt, and includes a number of big-race winners in Britain. She was given the best opportunities to succeed at stud, visiting such stallions as Northern Dancer, Sadler’s Wells and Danzig during her broodmare career and, once she began to make a name for herself, her foals attracted some of the biggest names in bloodstock, including Sheikh Mohammed, Sheikh Hamdan and the Coolmore partners who each had winning offspring of hers in their colours.
Fall Aspen changed hands several times, and Coolmore’s John Magnier was her final buyer, paying $2.4m for her when she was an 18-year-old in 1994, in foal to Danzig.
Fall Aspen won eight of her twenty starts, with her biggest win coming as a two-year-old in the Grade 1 Matron Stakes at Belmont. The Experimental Free Handicap, America’s official two-year-old rankings, rated her just 4 lb behind the joint-top two-year-old fillies.
At stud, Fall Aspen went on to produce 14 foals, and 12 winners from the 13 who raced. There was no single foal which stood out from the rest, but only because the main feature of her broodmare record was the consistently high quality of the horses she produced. No fewer than nine of her foals achieved a Timeform rating between 117 and 125. They included four Group/Grade 1 winners and another four who won at Group 2 or Group 3 level.
Besides her offspring’s class, the other striking feature of Fall Aspen’s broodmare record is the variety of the foals she produced, not just both turf and dirt performers, but also everything from sprinters to a stayer.
Mated with speed influence Danzig, she got the July Cup winner Hamas and his brother the Diadem Stakes winner Bianconi, the foal she was carrying when John Magnier bought her. But sent to stamina influence Alleged, Fall Aspen produced the Goodwood Cup winner Mazzacano, successful when the race was still run over 21 furlongs.
Trained by Aidan O'Brien, Bianconi stood for four seasons at Ashford Stud in Kentucky but remained in Australia permanently from 2005 where he was a successful sire in Australia from his base at Swettenham Stud.
Across the Atlantic, Fall Aspen’s best foal on dirt was Timber Country, named champion two-year-old colt in North America in 1994 when he won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He also won the Preakness Stakes the following year after finishing third in the Kentucky Derby. A year after Timber Country, another of Fall Aspen’s sons Prince of Thieves also finished third in the Kentucky Derby.
Fall Aspen’s very first foal, the Northern Dancer filly Northern Aspen got her dam’s stud career off to a flying start by winning the Grade 1 Gamely Handicap at Hollywood as a four-year-old when trained by John Gosden, then based in California. Fall Aspen’s other top-level winner was Sheikh Mohammed’s Grand Prix de Paris winner Fort Wood who later enjoyed a very successful stallion career in South Africa siring 78 stakes winners - 15 of these Group 1 winners - including the outstanding Horse Chestnut.
But it has been Fall Aspen’s daughters rather than her sons who have done most to carry her legacy into the twenty-first century. Chief among them are Colorado Dancer and Elle Seule who each gained their biggest successes in Group 2 contests at Deauville, Colorado Dancer winning the Prix de Pomone and Elle Seule emulating her half-sister Northern Aspen by winning the Prix d’Astarte (nowadays the Prix Rothschild).
Colorado Dancer earned fame in her own right as the dam of Dubai Millennium, the outstanding Dubai World Cup winner and the best horse to carry the Godolphin colours. Dubai Millennium’s stallion career was tragically short but he did leave behind Godolphin’s flagship sire Dubawi.
Dubawi is among the leading sires worldwide and has made a significant presence in Australasia. Even though he stood in this part of the world for such a short time, his Australian 'tour of duty' saw Dubawi sire the likes of Secret Admirer, Srikandi, Tiger Tees, Shamal Wind, Catkins, Arabian Gold, Ball of Muscle and many more quality performers.
In recent years sons of Dubawi are also making a huge impression globally with Champion Miler Makfi standing at Westbury until taking up stud duties in Japan. From his time in New Zealand, Makfi has sired two Champions in Bonneval and Sofia Rosa, in addition to Group 1 winner Marky Mark and stakes horses Imposing Lass, Ho Ho Khan, Run Naan, Ruby Armani, Cotedor, Hursley, Tribal Wisdom, Savile Row, Massa Lu, Omineca, Comeback, Selica, Familia, Miss Fi, Pop Star Princess and Platinum Rapper.
Makfi's Group 1 winning son Make Believe has made a great start to his stud career at Ballylinch Stud with four stakes winners from his first crop (now 3YOs) including Group 1 French Derby winner Mishriff.
Sons of Dubawi are now becoming more frequent in this part of the world with Akeed Mofeed and Night of Thunder achieving good success in Australia, while Time Test and Too Darn Hot are also standing at stud in this part of the world.
Elle Seule established an even more flourishing branch of the Fall Aspen family, with her own contributions being the family’s second July Cup winner Elnadim (he also won the Diadem Stakes, like Bianconi) and Mehthaaf, winner of the Irish 1000 Guineas.
Elnadim also stood at Westbury Stud for the southern hemisphere duration of his career, siring the quality performers Culminate, Pendragon, Accardo, and Elblitzem; while his daughters have produced WS Cox Plate winner Adelaide, Champion filly Jennifer Eccles, and Group 2 winner Zousain to date.
Coolmore Stud sire Adelaide was terrific when winning the WS Cox Plate and since retiring to stud has produced the Group 1 winner Funstar.
Mehthaaf has since become the great grandam of Ribchester who enjoyed a top-class miling career in the Godolphin colours for Richard Fahey, while Mehthaaf’s grandsons, the half-brothers Bangkok and Matterhorn, have already won good prizes in 2020. Bangkok has been one of the top all-weather performers of the winter, while Matterhorn was a leading contender for the cancelled Dubai World Cup after his Group 1 win at Meydan last month.
Occupandiste, a granddaughter of Elle Seule and a dual Group 1 winner in France, is another mare from the family to have excelled both on the track and at stud. The winner of the Prix Maurice de Gheest and Prix de la Foret, Occupandiste produced Mondialiste, winner of the Arlington Million for David O’Meara, and she is also the grandam of the Prix du Jockey Club winner Intello.
The Racing Post Trophy winner Medaaly and his half-brother Charnwood Forest, a high-class miler, were out of another of Fall Aspen’s daughters, the unraced Dance of Leaves, while Richmond Stakes winner Harbour Watch is the grandson of yet another of Fall Aspen’s daughters Sheroog.
Fall Aspen died in February 1998 at the ripe old age of 22 but there is no doubt her presence is very much alive today, and is set to continue for many a generation to come due to the success of her descendants in the modern world of thoroughbred racing.
Credit \ Timeform Horseracing & John Ingles
Pictured \ Fall Aspen during her racing career