Pedigree notebook: Frankel's son Cracksman, venerable family make Ace Impact

June 6th, 2023

In this regular feature, we highlight a wide range of pedigree musings.

Epsom Derby (G1) hero Auguste Rodin was on the short list of possibilities for this week’s pedigree notebook. What’s not to love about the late, great Deep Impact siring a Derby winner in his final crop? Adding to the appeal is Auguste Rodin’s dam, Rhododendron. A multiple highweight by Galileo, she was second as the favorite in the 2017 Oaks (G1), to a certain Enable.

Yet Sunday’s Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) (G1) served up a rejoinder in the form of Ace Impact, now a perfect 4-for-4 after his record-setting conquest at Chantilly. Not connected to Deep Impact, the French “Impact” offers other pedigree angles of significance. He’s from the first crop of Frankel’s outstanding son Cracksman, from the extended family of dual classic queen-turned-globetrotter Ouija Board. The female line is particularly interesting, from its heady days in 19th-century America through French cultivation and Lord Derby’s stud.

Cracksman gets Frankel going as a sire of sires

Unbeaten phenom Frankel ranks as Galileo’s greatest son, instilling some confidence that he would prolong the sire line with sons of his own. But it’s spectacular that Cracksman is already substantiating that hope at the earliest opportunity.

Frankel himself sired top-notchers in his first crop – Cracksman, a European champion at three and four; two-time Japanese champion Soul Stirring, who became Frankel’s first classic winner in the 2017 Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks) (G1); and Mozu Ascot, a rare JRA Grade 1 winner on both turf and dirt in the 2018 Yasuda Kinen (G1) and 2020 February (G1).

Now the sire of 10 Northern Hemisphere classic winners, Frankel has already celebrated a British classic double this season, courtesy of Soul Sister in Friday’s Oaks (G1) at Epsom and Chaldean in the 2000 Guineas (G1). His undefeated filly Jannah Rose has a great chance to make it a triple in the June 18 Prix de Diane (French Oaks) (G1).

Indeed, Frankel has had multiple classic wins for a few years. Anapurna was his first Epsom Oaks winner in 2019, and Logician later handed Frankel a first St Leger (G1). In 2021, Adayar captured the Epsom Derby, and Hurricane Lane took both the Irish Derby (G1) and the St Leger at Doncaster. Frankel had three classic winners in 2022 — Irish Derby romper Westover, French Oaks scorer Nashwa, and Irish 1000 Guineas (G1) queen Homeless Songs.

Frankel’s top earner, Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) heroine Alpinista, collected a total of six Group 1 wins. But she didn’t compete in the classics, instead blossoming with maturity.

Cracksman himself improved over the course of his sophomore campaign. He nearly gave Frankel a first-crop European classic winner when third at Epsom and a neck second in the Irish Derby. Excelling in the second half of 2017, he rattled off three in a row culminating in the Champion (G1) by seven lengths. Cracksman went 3-for-4 as a four-year-old in 2018, with wins in the Prix Ganay (G1), Coronation Cup (G1), and a Champion repeat by six lengths.

Standing under the Darley banner at Dalham Hall Stud in Newmarket, Cracksman initially sired a trio of stakes-winning fillies. Aloa won last year’s Premio Dormello (G2) and Premio Coolmore, and Dance in the Grass likewise landed the Star S. as a juvenile. Cracksmania captured the April 23 Prix Caravelle.

Ace Impact became his first son on the stakes scoreboard in the May 4 Prix de Suresnes. Trainer Jean-Claude Rouget has been known to use that prep at Chantilly for his French Derby hopefuls. His Sottsass famously won the Suresnes en route to a record-setting French Derby in 2019. Ace Impact lowered Sottsass’s about 1 5/16-mile course mark to 2:02.63 on Sunday.

Doubling up on Allegretta, tripling down on Danzig

Ace Impact is out of the multiple stakes-placed Absolutly Me, by Anabaa Blue, who won the 2001 French Derby when it was still about 1 1/2 miles. (The classic was trimmed in 2005.) Anabaa Blue’s top performer, Spirit One, wired the 2008 Arlington Million (G1).

Anabaa Blue is a son of Anabaa, best known as the sire of transatlantic legend Goldikova, the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) three-peater. Anabaa Blue’s dam, Allez Les Trois, is a Group 3-winning half-sister to 1993 Arc victress and blue hen Urban Sea, who produced both Galileo and Sea the Stars.

Because Urban Sea herself appears in Cracksman’s ancestry, via Galileo, Ace Impact’s pedigree features the Rasmussen Factor of duplicating a superior female. In this case, it’s the dam of Urban Sea and Allez Les Trois — Allegretta.

Ace Impact also triples down on supersire Danzig. Cracksman is inbred to Danzig, who factors through internationally-renowned sons Danehill and Green Desert. Danehill appears as the sire of Frankel’s dam, Kind, while Green Desert lurks as the sire of Cracksman’s second dam (maternal grandmother). Ace Impact receives a third cross of Danzig via Anabaa.

Family’s deep 19th-century American background

Ace Impact’s maternal line belongs to the family labeled 12-b, the tribe responsible for breed-shaping patriarch Lexington. The great 19th-century stallion was out of Alice Carneal, who was also the granddam of 1877 Kentucky Derby and Travers winner Baden-Baden.

Supersire Lexington's skeleton with Edward Troye's iconic portrait as backdrop (Photo by Kellie Reilly)

Leonatus, the 1883 Kentucky Derby hero, shares the same remote ancestress as Lexington, but from a different branch that diverged in the 1820s. Hall of Famer Luke Blackburn is another 19th-century notable from the immediate family of Leonatus.

Ace Impact traces his matrilineal descent from their segment of the line, converging in the broodmare Levity (foaled 1845). Luke Blackburn and Leonatus descend from Levity’s daughter Lightsome. Ace Impact’s ancestress is another daughter of Levity, the mare known as Sister to Ruric (foaled 1862).

Cultivation by Couturie and Lord Derby

His female line crossed the Atlantic in the shape of Simper (foaled 1903), who was exported to France by her American owner, William Chanler. She took up residence at Le Mesnil and ended up leaving a terrific legacy, thanks to the insistent charity of her French host.

Le Mesnil’s proprietor, Jean Couturie, intervened to spare a crooked-leg granddaughter of Simper. Chanler believed that she should be euthanized as not fit for purpose, as Peter Willett recounts in Makers of the Modern Thoroughbred. Couturie prevailed upon Chanler to let him take the filly, who was “otherwise attractive and showed a lot of quality.”

That act of mercy saved La Grelee, who rewarded Couturie by becoming a prolific producer. Her offspring included such major winners as Rialto (sire of Wild Risk), Roahouga, and Alcyon. Her classic-placed daughter Phebe is the vital link in the chain, as the dam of Gradisca, who would join Lord Derby’s fold.

Lord Derby’s association with Le Mesnil dates back to his time as ambassador to France. Willett shares many more compelling stories about Jean and Elisabeth Couturie, especially their precarious times during World War II and efforts in the Resistance. “The Sacred Heart badges had worked marvels,” the ardently Catholic Elisabeth declared regarding the divine protection of their home and horses.

Lord Derby was himself involved in an act of mercy that reaped dividends. Gradisca’s daughter, Samanda, was blinded as a foal in a paddock accident. But Lord Derby saved her for stud, a decision that paved the way for a couple of remarkable performers in those iconic silks. Samanda’s descendants include Teleprompter, the 1985 Arlington Million winner, and his “niece” Ouija Board, a multiple European and American champion. Heroine of the 2004 Epsom and Irish Oaks (G1), Ouija Board twice captured the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1), and defeated males in the Prince of Wales’s (G1) at Royal Ascot and Hong Kong Vase (G1).

Ouija Board has left her mark as a broodmare too, as the dam of Epsom/Irish Derby champ and fine sire Australia. Ironically, one of the legends of Australian racing, Kingston Town, himself descends from another Gradisca daughter, Almah.

Ace Impact’s ancestress, Rosia Bay, is a half-sister to Teleprompter and Selection Board, Ouija Board’s dam. Rosia Bay produced 1989 Yorkshire Oaks (G1) scorer Roseate Tern, who placed in the Epsom Oaks and St Leger, and Ibn Bey, a Group 1-winning champion in Germany, Ireland, and Italy who was second to Unbridled in the 1990 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).

Plans call for Ace Impact to point for the Arc, where he will try to improve upon Ouija Board’s barnstorming third in the 2004 edition. If he can win at Longchamp on the first Sunday in October, he’d join another member of the 12-b tribe on the honor roll. Puissant Chef, from the Leonatus portion of the family, garnered the 1960 Arc.