Tuesday, February 2, 2016

European Racehorses in North America: Declaration of War

Declaration of War
From War Front’s (Danzig) second crop, Declaration of War helped to set his sire on a fast track to European success when the Coolmore partners bought into the horse after his 2-year-old season.

Declaration of War started his career in France for breeder Joseph Allen where he made two starts as a 2-year-old, winning both by a combined 11 lengths under Christophe Soumillon. It looked like he was on the fast track to classic success but Declaration of War was sidelined nearly all of his 3-year-old year with his first start of that season coming in September. When he returned back to the track, Coolmore had joined his ownership group and he was based at Ballydoyle with trainer Aidan O’Brien.

His first start back was a fourth by four lengths to Famous Name (Dansili) in the Group 3 Refuse to Bend Solonaway Stakes but he got back to his winning ways three weeks later when dropped out of the group stakes level. A run six days later in the Group 3 Diamond Stakes gave him his first group stakes and showed that he could perform off of a short turn around, an important note for the rest of his career.

While only making five starts in his first two years on the track, Declaration of War made eight as a 4-year-old.

He started the season at Leopardstown in April, winning that race by 2 ½ lengths before putting in a lackluster performance in the Group 1 JLT Lockinge Stakes when stepping up to that level of racing for the first time. But that didn’t discourage his connections from stepping him back up to Group 1 company for the rest of the summer and he annexed the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot in June. While he was winless in his next three starts, he ran credibly with a second and third, respectively in two July races before a fourth in France.

But again, a quick turnaround seemed to reinvigorate Declaration of War when he ran in the Group 1 Juddmonte International States going a little over a mile and a quarter only 10 days later. Taking on a group that included classic winner Trading Leather (Teofilo) and multiple Group 1 winners Al Kazeem (Dubawi) and Toronado (High Chaparral), Declaration of War earned his second Group 1 win by 1 ¼ lengths.

In a move made to help the horse appeal to breeders worldwide when Coolmore shipped Declaration of War to California for the 2013 Breeders’ Cup, they didn’t enter him in any of the turf races. Instead, they had their eye on the biggest race of the Breeders’ Cup card with an entry in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

In one of the most exciting Classics in recent history, Declaration of War any doubt that may have existed about his ability to run on dirt in the race.

Regular jockey Joseph O’Brien settled Declaration of War close behind the front running trio of Moreno (Ghostzapper), Game On Dude (Awesome Again) and Fort Larned (E Dubai) with Mucho Macho Man (Macho Uno) to his outside. When the race started to develop coming into the stretch, Mucho Macho Man took the lead from Fort Larned with Declaration of War in quick pursuit. Will Take Charge (Unbridled’s Song) closed in the final furlong to create a three-way photo finish for the win at the wire. Mucho Macho Man held on to the lead at the wire, passed by Will Take Charge just a few strides later with Declaration of War only a head behind the pair in third.

That was the final race for Declaration of War and although his Classic finish added to his value in North America, he spent his first season at stud in Ireland for a fee of €40,000 (approx. $43,620US/£30,244) as the first son of War Front to stand in Europe.

In 2015, Declaration of War spent his second season at stud in the United States at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud. Standing for the same $40,000US (approx. €36,682/£27,736) fee as he was in Ireland, with the exchange rate he was a little cheaper due to the move.

“Declaration of War has an incredibly similar profile to Giant’s Causeway who also joined us after standing a single season in Ireland,” said Ashford manager Dermot Ryan at the time. “Both were unbeaten at two, both won some of Britain’s key Group 1 races over a mile and a mile-and-a-quarter and both ran incredible races on their first starts on traditional dirt in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. And then of course they’re both by top sires out of daughters of Rahy from great American families. Bred by Joe Allen in whose colors he ran, Declaration of War was one of the best yearlings ever raised here on the farm and we’re delighted to be getting him back.”

Declaration of War in January of 2016
The move to North America seemed to pay off as Declaration of War bred 192 mares in 2015, the seventh most of any North American stallion.

Looking at his pedigree, it isn’t a surprise Declaration of War has been a hit in North America. The stallion was one of only three major sons of War Front to stand in Kentucky in 2015 and the only one to show the ability to successfully go a mile and a quarter on both dirt and turf.

War Front has a reputation as being mostly a turf sire, even though his son The Factor was a graded stakes winner on dirt. So showing that Declaration could compete at the top level in North America on the surface was an important test for the new stallion.

But looking at Declaration of War’s female family, it is easy to see that the horse should have dirt ability. His siblings Vertiformer (Dynaformer) and War Pact (War Front) both earned blacktype on turf with another winning races in France but his dam Tempo West (Rahy) won three races, all at dirt from seven furlongs to 1 1/16 miles.

Tempo West’s dam, Tempo (Gone West), was a winner as well but she is best known as the dam of 2012 Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags (Dixie Union). Union Rags’ first foals will be hitting the track later this year with the stallion having 108 live foals born in 2014. Tempo West is also the dam of the stakes placed Geefour (Dixie Union) and the six-time winner Miss Pauline (Cat Thief).

Union Rags
The most blacktype of Declaration of War’s first three dams can be found under Terpsichorist (Nijinsky). She is the dam of multiple stakes winner Marry Me Do (Blushing Groom) and multiple graded stakes placed Dancing Devlette (Devil’s Bag) among others. 

Dancing Devlette has produced three stakes winners, including Grade 2 winner Satan’s Quick Chick (Sky Mesa) and Grade 3 winner Pratella (Jade Hunter) in addition to multiple stakes winner Satan’s Code (Polish Numbers). Dancing Devlette is also the granddam of graded stakes winner Blue Sky Holiday (Victory Gallop) and stakes winner Angliana (Giant’s Causeway). Continuing the black type in her family Terpsichorist also has stakes producing mares Fortune (Wild Again) and Freshet (Believe It).

One generation farther back in Declaration of War’s pedigree, one can find another Belmont Stakes winner in Colonial Affair (Pleasant Colony) in addition to Grade 1 winner Ball Dancing (Exchange Rate) and Irish champion Prince of Birds (Storm Bird) in the family. It’s safe to say that his pedigree is full of both turf and dirt stars, which bodes well for his future.

Declaration of War’s first foals are yearlings this year but the stallion has already made a big splash. Last year, his weanlings had a median sales price of $103,064 according to Thoroughbred Daily News. The 13 weanlings who sold were led by an $800,000 filly out of Hanky Panky (Galileo), who sold at Keeneland November while a mare in-foal to the stallion sold for $775,000 at the same sale.

Declaration of War is standing his second season at Ashford Stud in 2016 for the same $40,000US (approx. €36,682/£27,736) fee he’s stood at his first two seasons at stud.

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