Pedigree notebook: Chez Pierre brings down the house for Mehmas, and Lure

April 18th, 2023

There’s a lot of pedigree coverage for contenders on the Kentucky Derby (G1) trail, but what about all the other divisions in Thoroughbred racing? This is a space to highlight a wider range of pedigree musings.

Chez Pierre – Maker’s Mark Mile (G1)

With his stunning performance in the Maker’s Mark Mile (G1), Chez Pierre became the latest standout for Irish stallion Mehmas. Judging by how he bolted up from reigning Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) champion Modern Games, it’s already tempting to think of a climactic rematch at Santa Anita. Therein lies the sentimental appeal for U.S. racing fans. Chez Pierre is out of a mare by Orpen, who has preserved the legacy of his fertility-challenged sire – two-time Breeders’ Cup Mile star Lure.

Mehmas’s single season of racing

Mehmas raced only at two and entered stud as a three-year-old, by design. His high level of precocious achievement, and speed-oriented profile, intimated that he’d likely reached his peak value. After all, early retirement had been a very lucrative move for Dark Angel, another son of the same sire, Acclamation.

The winner of half of his eight starts, Mehmas captured the 2016 July (G2) and Richmond (G2), toppling Godolphin’s future sprint king Blue Point in the latter. The Richard Hannon pupil placed in his other four outings. He was twice runner-up to Ballydoyle celebrities, succumbing to Caravaggio in the Coventry (G2) at Royal Ascot and to Churchill in the Vincent O’Brien National (G1), and he signed off with a third in the Middle Park (G1).

Mehmas off to a flyer at stud

Mehmas hails from a branch of the Northern Dancer sire line descending from Try My Best, a full brother to dual classic winner El Gran Senor. Try My Best was himself the champion juvenile of 1977 on the strength of his Dewhurst (G1) score.

Chez Pierre belongs to Mehmas’s first crop, foaled in 2018, but others made bigger waves straightaway for their freshman sire. Supremacy landed the 2020 Middle Park and Richmond, and Minzaal took the Gimcrack (G2). Minzaal went on to earn his signature win as a four-year-old in the 2022 Haydock Sprint Cup (G1) in course-record time, proving that Mehmas could get runners with scope to train on beyond their juvenile seasons. Acklam Express, another summertime juvenile stakes winner, collected a handful of major placings at three and four, notably last year’s King’s Stand (G1).

Quattroelle provided an early signal of his progeny’s taste for California, and ability to get a mile, in the 2020 Blue Norther S. Millionaire Going Global established the theme with eight graded wins spanning 2021-22, highlighted by the Del Mar Oaks (G1) and back-to-back renewals of the Goldikova (G2). Although Going Global has been sold off to Australia, a resurgent Quattroelle picked up the baton with wins in the Feb. 4 Megahertz (G3) and March 4 Buena Vista (G2). Look out for Turn on the Jets, last seen blitzing the Dec. 3 Stormy Liberal S. at Del Mar, but back on the worktab.

Mehmas’s second crop features Group 2 winners Malavath and Lusail, both placed at the Group 1 level. Malavath, second in the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) and last fall’s Prix de la Foret (G1), is now stateside with Christophe Clement. She trailed in a disappointing reappearance in Sunday’s Plenty of Grace S. at Aqueduct. Lusail, successful in the 2021 July and Gimcrack (G2), just missed in the 2022 St James’s Palace (G1) and Prix Jean Prat (G1). Trained by Hannon, Lusail is back to enhance his resume at four this season.

In contrast, Hannon’s Persian Force has followed his sire’s trajectory into a stud career at three. The principal flagbearer for Mehmas’s third crop of juveniles, Persian Force was a brilliant debut winner in the 2022 Brocklesby at Doncaster. His biggest score came in the July, but he was a valiant placegetter all season. Close to upsetting Blackbeard in the Prix Morny (G1), Persian Force was best of the rest behind Little Big Bear in the Phoenix (G1). Like Mehmas, he settled for second in the Coventry and third in the Middle Park. Persian Force made a bold move in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G1), only to tire late in fourth.

Now that Persian Force is standing alongside Mehmas at Tally-Ho Stud, it’s up to other foals of 2020 to keep up the sire’s lofty standard. Knight, the three-year-old full brother to Malavath, is an obvious focus of attention. Trained by Simon and Ed Crisford, the unbeaten winner of the Horris Hill (G3) holds entries in a pair of classic trials this week, Thursday’s Craven (G3) at Newmarket and Saturday’s Greenham (G3) at Newbury.

The Danzig connection, this time with Lure

Several of the aforementioned performers – Minzaal, Supremacy, Acklam Express, Lusail, and Turn on the Jets – are out of Danzig-line mares. So is Chez Pierre, although he is unique in having Lure as his link.

Hall of Famer Lure could have become yet another vector of influence for Danzig, whose line proliferates worldwide, especially through his sons Danehill and Green Desert. Thus it’s a gnawing what-might-have been that Lure was “virtually infertile,” as his Claiborne Farm tribute page puts it.

Out of the Grade 1-winning Alydar mare Endear, herself a half-sister multiple Grade 1 hero Tiller, Lure flashed his dazzling speed to set a Gulfstream Park course record of 1:32.90 in the 1992 Breeders’ Cup Mile. He overcame post 12 at Santa Anita to repeat in the 1993 Mile. In 1994, Lure managed to prevail in the 1 3/16-mile Caesars International H. (G1), under top weight, at Atlantic City. He compiled a stellar record of 25-14-8-0, with more than $2.5 million in earnings, while winning or placing in a total of 17 graded stakes.

Aside from his pedigree and ability, the fact that Lure was able to get a son the caliber of Orpen, in the limited time when he could get mares in foal, only adds to the what-if. Orpen captured the 1998 Prix Morny and ranked as Ireland’s highweight juvenile. Third in the 1999 Irish 2000 Guineas (G1), Orpen has salvaged Lure’s genetic heritage as a Northern and Southern Hemisphere stallion, and he’s likely to remain influential as a broodmare sire.

Orpen’s daughter Didia, an Argentine star who’s 3-for-3 stateside after the March 25 Tom Benson Memorial at Fair Grounds, will probably get the “Pedigree notebook” treatment herself. Then we can dive more into Orpen’s record.

Piling up the strains of Natalma’s tribe

In the context of Chez Pierre, it’s worth noting that Orpen is inbred to Natalma, the dam of Northern Dancer. Orpen receives an extra cross from his granddam Raise the Standard, herself a daughter of Natalma. Raise the Standard is also the granddam of noted sire Machiavellian. That’s significant because Mehmas is himself out of a Machiavellian mare.

Thus Chez Pierre doubles up on Raise the Standard, and he gets more Natalma through the repetitions of Northern Dancer on both top and bottom. Moreover, there’s an even deeper angle: Machiavellian’s dam (Coup de Folie) and Orpen’s dam (Bonita Francita) are actually three-quarter sisters (by Halo and Devil’s Bag, respectively). As a result, they are both inbred to Natalma’s dam, Almahmoud, making for a nesting doll of duplications of this potent mare.