Dundeel following in High Chaparral's footsteps

8 min read
John Berry takes a look at the burgeoning career of young Arrowfield stallion Dundeel. Having already sired the G1 winner Atyaab in South Africa, Dundeel has a lot of promising runners coming into his second season, including the recent Inglis Millennium winner Castelvecchio.

The Lexus Melbourne Cup has been merely one of many races in recent years to highlight the paucity of high-class stamina among the ranks of Australasian thoroughbreds. Under the circumstances, stallions who can regularly produce stock who show both speed and stamina are worth their weight in gold to the breeding industry on both sides of the Tasman.

Understandably, several sons of Sadler’s Wells (USA) took high order among the ranks of sires of stayers in recent decades, including Scenic (Ire). Two though, stood out. High Chaparral (Ire) and Montjeu (Ire) were not just among their father’s very best sons, but they became rock-solid pillars of antipodean breeding before dying young. Happily, each has left several good stallions to carry on the good work. It’s early days yet, but High Chaparral’s six-time G1-winning son Dundeel (NZ) might end up the most influential of them all.


"It’s early days yet, but High Chaparral’s six-time G1-winning son Dundeel might end up the most influential of them all. " - John Berry

High Chaparral, who spent his early southern-hemisphere seasons at Windsor Park Stud in New Zealand and his final ones at Coolmore in New South Wales, was responsible for 15 individual G1 winners in Australasia, a dozen of whom registered top-level victories at 2000m or more. Additionally, he sired Enaad, an Aus-bred G1 winner at 3200m in South Africa. All that, of course, is in addition to his significant G1 success in Europe with the likes of Free Eagle (Ire) and Toronado (Ire).

Following suit to a champion

With most stallions, a six-time G1 winner would head their roll of progeny but with High Chaparral the list was topped by a very special horse: the mighty So You Think (NZ) who won five Group One races in Australia followed by five more in the British Isles. So You Think has already shown himself to be a very good stallion. Now Dundeel is following suit.

Ten time G1 winner, So You Think

The age-old formula to breed a Derby contender is to send an Oaks winner to a Derby winner. The downside, of course, is that this doesn’t usually work. Even so, it’s still a good starting point. Dundeel didn’t quite fit the bill, but he nearly did.

"The age-old formula to breed a Derby contender is to send an Oaks winner to a Derby winner. The downside, of course, is that this doesn’t usually work." - John Berry

High Chaparral won both the G1 Derby and the G1 Irish Derby before starting his superb stud career, while Dundeel’s grand-dam Staring (NZ) (Fiesta Star) won the G1 NZ Oaks. Furthermore, his unraced dam Stareel (NZ) was by a perfect stallion to throw into the mix: Zabeel (NZ) (Sir Tristram {USA}), the sire of four Derby winners in Sydney, three in New Zealand and one in Melbourne.

A proper Classic prospect

Dundeel’s breeders Murray and Jo Andersen (who also bred Staring) gave their colt every chance to become the Derby contender that his pedigree suggested that he might be, forming a partnership to race him and putting him into training in Cambridge with Murray Baker, a trainer with a long-standing record of producing Classic winners, including Staring.

His career didn’t start well because he unseated Craig Grylls in a 650m two-year-olds’ trial in December 2011 (when he was less than two years and one month old) but he was a lot wiser by the time that he made his debut four months later in a 1200m maiden at Ellerslie, winning by a length under James McDonald, who ended up riding him in all ten of his victories. Murray Baker had seen enough: this was a proper Classic prospect. His first appearance the following spring was in a trial in New Zealand, but by the time that he was ready to resume he was in Sydney, and he never ran in New Zealand again.

Taking Australia by storm

With his name changed in Australia to It’s A Dundeel, the beautifully muscular and perfectly balanced colt went from strength to strength, taking his record to five-from-five with wins at Wyong and Canterbury followed by the G3 Gloaming S. over 1800m and the G1 Spring Champion S. over 2000m at Randwick.

In retrospect, the only mystery is how he managed to avoid winning either the G2 AAMI Moonee Valley Vase or the G1 Victoria Derby when he went down to Melbourne, but he made up for those lapses in the autumn when dominating the big three-year-olds’ races in Sydney, racking up a sparkling hat-trick in the G1 Randwick Guineas over 1600m, the G1 Rosehill Guineas over 2000m (by 6.75 lengths) and the G1 AJC Australian Derby over 2400m (by six lengths).

Watch: Dundeel winning the G1 AJC Derby

Dundeel further enhanced his reputation in weight-for-age races at four. In the spring he banished any suspicions that he might be less effective racing the Melbourne way of going by beating the outstanding Atlantic Jewel (Fastnet Rock) in the G1 Underwood S. over 1800m at Caulfield.

"In the autumn he brought the curtain down on his splendid career in the best possible fashion." - John Berry

In the autumn he brought the curtain down on his splendid career in the best possible fashion, taking the G1 Queen Elizabeth S. over 2000m at Randwick. This was a very special occasion. He had been beaten by his compatriot Silent Achiever (NZ) (O’Reilly {NZ}) in the G1 Ranvet S. and the G1 BMW Tancred S. but the Queen Elizabeth was the big one, the $4,000,000 crowning jewel of the first year of The Championships and he won it well, beating a top-class field headed by Sacred Falls (NZ) (O’Reilly {NZ}), Carlton House (USA) (Street Cry {Ire}), Silent Achiever and Royal Descent (Redoute’s Choice).

Watch: Dundeel winning the G1 Queen Elizabeth S.

John Messara, who played such a crucial role in the creation of The Championships, had identified Dundeel as a perfect candidate to complement the top-class shorter-distance horses on the Arrowfield roster and had bought into him in advance of that autumn campaign. The horse’s career having ended in a blaze of glory, he headed off to Arrowfield, dropping the ‘It’s A’ and reverting to his original kiwi name, Dundeel.

A promising start

Messara gave his new recruit the ultimate vote of confidence from the outset, supporting him with some of Arrowfield’s best mares including the outstanding Miss Finland (Redoute’s Choice). The result of this mating, incidentally, was the stand-out among Dundeel’s first batch of yearlings, fetching $900,000 when offered in the Arrowfield draft at the 2017 Magic Millions Gold Coast January Yearling Sale, where he topped the first day’s trading.

Miss Finland, pictured winning the G1 Golden Slipper, was among the first group of mares to visit Dundeel in the stallion barn

Last season was promising for Dundeel when his four winners from 18 runners and $245,395 in earnings placed him tenth in the first-season sires’ standings, but this season, his first with three-year-olds, was always going to be the crucial test. A particular bonus of his early results was the fact that he had a first-crop juvenile Group winner when Irukandji, who had fetched $500,000 as a yearling, took the G3 T. L. Baillieu H. over 1400m at Rosehill last March.

Irukandji hasn’t won this season but he has been Group-placed, as has the Chris Waller-trained Dealmaker, a winner last winter at Randwick who subsequently finished one place ahead of his top-class stablemate The Autumn Sun (Redoute’s Choice) when second in the G2 Stan Fox S. at Rosehill in the spring. Most recently Dealmaker finished second to Hawkshot (Fiorente {Ire}) in the G2 Autumn S. at Caulfield on Saturday.

Potential stars

The Murray Andersen-bred Cutadeel is looking like a potential star. Trained by Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman, he ranks as the horse to beat in the G1 NZ Derby following his recent hat-trick of wins which includes a listed victory over 2100m at Ellerslie in December. If Cutadeel can indeed win the NZ Derby, he will top the achievement of Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum’s Atyaab, a son of Dundeel who was bought for $260,000 out of the Arrowfield draft at the 2017 Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale and who, trained in South Africa by Mike De Kock, won the G1 Cape Derby over 2000m at Kenilworth last month. Another ‘Classic’ winner, albeit a lesser one, from Dundeel’s first crop is Tasmanian Guineas hero The Inevitable.

The bonus this season has been the success of Dundeel’s two-year-olds. The win on Saturday of the unbeaten Richard Litt-trained Castelvecchio in the $2,000,000 Inglis Millennium S. at Warwick Farm can take the lion’s share of the credit for the fact that Dundeel is currently sitting in third place not only in the second-season sires’ table but also in the list of sires of two-year-olds, but he isn’t Dundeel’s only good juvenile going round at present.

The other Dundeel colt in the race, the Paul Perry-trained Pandano, had previously won easily on debut at Newcastle; while Yourdeel, an impressive winner at Te Rapa in December, finished third last month in the Karaka Million in New Zealand.

Obviously he is biased, but Arrowfield’s Jon Freyer recently described Dundeel as “the new Zabeel”. That’s a very, very big call - but it might just be true! If it is, that’s terrific news for the Australian breeding industry.