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World Champion highlights Zabeel-Danehill cross

Vengeance of Rain (Zabeel-Danelagh by Danehill) closed out 2005 in the best possible way for the New Zealand breeding industry with a tremendous victory in the $HK18 million Hong Kong Cup 2000m G1 on Sunday evening.

The win confirmed the five-year-old gelding as the World Racing Series Champion and underlined – in case anyone had forgotten – that his sire Zabeel and damsire Danehill are truly world-class.

The careers of Zabeel and Danehill, foaled seven months apart in 1986, are entwined in Hong Kong as much as they are in Australia. Danehill remains on top of the current Hong Kong sires' list with progeny earnings of $HK20.6 million, ahead of Zabeel with $HK15.6 million. However, Zabeel's strike rate is better, with five (33.3%) winners from only 15 starters, compared with Danehill's 13 winners (20.6%) from 63 runners.

In all, there are eight sires that stand or have stood in New Zealand among the Hong Kong top 20: Zabeel, Cape Cross (largely because of his splendid European daughter Ouija Board's win in the Vase), Maroof, O'Reilly, Bahhare, Towkay, Danasinga and Stravinsky.

It's not surprising that Australasian breeders would combine Danehill and Zabeel in pedigrees, but how well are they working together?

The Zabeel-Danehill cross has produced 37 foals to date for 27 runners, 17 winners including four stakeswinners (10.8% SW/foals), the best of which are Vengeance of Rain and his Group One-winning sister Dizelle. This is markedly better than Danehill's overall damsire performance to date of 40 stakeswinners (3.5%) from 1144 foals.

Danehill, who died in May 2003, produced only 15 foals to Zabeel mares. Thirteen of them have started, and ten have won, among them three stakeswinners (20% SW/foals). The best of these so far is the dual Group One winner Darci Brahma. Again, that's considerably better than Zabeel's overall record to date as a broodmare sire: 16 stakeswinners (3.7%) from 434 foals.

Interestingly, Danehill's figures are very similar to those posted by Stravinsky with Zabeel mares: 15 foals, ten runners and eight winners, among them three stakeswinners, the best of them being Group 3 winner La Sizeranne. No other sire has had more support from Zabeel mares than Stravinsky and Danehill.

What can we conclude from this brief analysis? So far, each stallion has been very good for the other, but Danehill has been more successful with Zabeel's daughters, than Zabeel has been with daughters of Danehill.

This may reflect nothing more, or less, than the edge Danehill has on Zabeel as a sire: an extraordinary 13.5% SW/foals, against Zabeel's terrific 8.5% SW/foals (excluding his current two-year-olds, none of which has yet run).

Zabeel's edge is that he's still with us and has 24 yearlings catalogued in the 2006 New Zealand Premier Sale. They include two colts from the Danehill mares Pretty Buttons and Tennessee Midnight.


Thanks as always to Arion Pedigrees for pedigree, performance and statistical data.

- Susan Archer