Merchant Navy, a stallion in the making

Merchant Navy winning the Group One Coolmore Stud Stakes.                        Image: Bruno Cannatelli 

“The mare has done it again. It is a match made in heaven with Fastnet and Legally”. On Tuesday, Segenhoe Stud General Manager Peter O’Brien introduced us to the full-brother of recent Coolmore Stud Stakes (1200m) winner Merchant Navy (3yo colt by Fastnet Rock x Legally Bay). Indeed the great producer Legally Bay (Snippets) has done it again – nearly down to the minute, with her foal born this year also sharing the same birth date (November 14th) and birth weight (64kgs) as its Group One winning full-brother Merchant Navy.

Legally Bay’s talent was evident from her first race start as a juvenile when she won at Canterbury by three lengths. She would have three more starts as a 2yo, with her biggest win that season coming in the Group Three Sweet Embrace Stakes (1200m).

First-up at three she was a close second in the Group Two Shadow Stakes (1200m) to the highly talented and subsequent multiple Group One winner Regimental Gal. That season Legally Bay went on to win the Listed Brian Crowley Stakes (1200m) and her Group placings included a third in the Group One Australia Stakes (1200m), behind Regimental Gal and Our Egyptian Raine, and a narrow second in the TJ Smith Stakes (1200m), which was then a Group Two.

Legally Bay raced on as a 4yo, placing first-up in the Group Three The Shorts (1100m), before going on to place a very game third in the Group One Oakleigh Plate (1100m) – won that year by Merchant Navy’s sire Fastnet Rock.

Legally Bay retired to stud in 2005 after amassing an impressive record on the track and with earnings exceeding $600,000. When trainer Ciaron Maher purchased Merchant Navy at the 2016 Inglis Easter Yearling Sale, the mare had already proven herself as a more than useful producer. From six foals to race she had had five winners and one place-getter, with the best of those the Group Two Roman Consul Stakes (1200m) winner Jolie Bay. A full-sister to this colt, Jolie Bay had also placed 2nd in the Group One Coolmore Stud Stakes, the race that Merchant Navy wowed us in just the other week. Some things really do run in the family.

It seems astonishing really that a yearling colt of his quality, with such a proven, speed-oriented pedigree, did not sell for more than his $350,000 price tag. Some may argue that 2016 was not one of Fastnet Rock’s better sales’ years, however his progeny at that year’s Inglis Easter Yearling Sale did average nearly $330,000, and he had two yearlings surpass the $1 million mark.

One thing we do know is that this colt made a big impression on those that had had anything to do with him from the time of his conception through to sale time and they were happy to back him. Notably, his breeders Chris and Jane Barham elected to retain a share in him, as did Peter O’Brien, the General Manager of Segenhoe Stud where Merchant Navy was foaled and whose yearling draft he had sold through. Also in the ownership group is Coolmore, who of course stand Merchant Navy’s sire.

Now gone for a much deserved spell, Merchant Navy is arguably one of the most exciting stallion prospects of recent years. While his race record (it should be noted that the Coolmore Stud Stakes is now recognised as one of the premier stallion-making races in Australia) speaks for itself, it is his pedigree that really sets him apart.

Firstly, there is the fact that he is a regally-bred Group One-winning son of proven sire of sires Fastnet Rock, a sire who already has seven Stakes-producing sons at stud, led by the proven Group One sires Foxwedge, Hinchinbrook and Stryker.

Next there is the Snippets factor – Merchant Navy’s broodmare sire Snippets is also the broodmare sire of the previously mentioned Hinchinbrook, his three-quarter brother Snitzel (Redoute’s Choice), and Magnus (Flying Spur) – all of whom are also proven Group One sires.

Legally Bay (Snippets) is out of the Last Tycoon mare Decidity. In Australia, Last Tycoon features prominently in the pedigrees of Written Tycoon, Casino Prince and Star Witness – again all proven Group One sires.

One of the best fillies of her generation, Legally Bay was a precocious and speedy juvenile who trained on to become a top-class sprinter able to mix it with the best of them. She, and Fastnet Rock, as Peter O’Brien stated earlier this week, is a match made in heaven. From four foals to race by this sire she has produced two Group One horses (Merchant Navy and Jolie Bay), the Stakes-placed Zara Bay, and the city-placed 2yo Bayrock.

Legally Bay’s dam Decidity (Last Tycoon) was another blue hen mare, whose six winners from seven runners  included the Group One Myer Classic (1600m) winner Bonaria (Redoute’s Choice) and the Group Three winning juvenile Time Out (Rory’s Jester). Decidity is the second dam of the Group Three winning juveniles Tessera (Medaglia d’Oro) and Montsegur (New Approach), as well as Light Touch (Charge Forward) – 2nd by 0.2L in the Listed Dequetteville Stakes at 2 when ridden by Mark Zahra – the same jockey who has partnered Merchant Navy in each of his six starts to-date.

While this really is a female family laden with precocity and speed, it has also produced some quality milers and middle-distance runners. Decidity’s three-quarter sister Vestey (Last Tycoon) was a Stakes winner over 2400m and she went on to produce the Listed winning miler Rutherford Eagle (Favorite Trick). Decidity’s half-brother Classy Fella (Kenmare) was a multiple Stakes winner from 1600 to 2000m.

This is also the immediate family of the Group Two Breeders’ Plate (1400m) winner Twirled (Turf Ruler) and the Stakes winning sprinter Noted (Vain).

Further back we see that Decidity is a grand-daughter of Pirouette (Planet Kingdom). Pirouette is a full-sister to the Group One Queensland Derby (2400m) winner Our Planet and the Group Two Warwick Stakes (1400m) winner Gypsy Kingdom. Ideal Planet (Planet Kingdom), winner of the Group One Doomben 10,000 (1350m) is a three-quarter brother in blood to Pirouette. At stud, Ideal Planet sired the Group One Epsom Handicap (1600m) winner From The Planet, and the Group One Stradbroke Handicap (1400m) winner Rouslan.

This colt really is a stallion in the making.

As Peter O’Brien stated on Tuesday following the birth of Merchant Navy’s full-brother; “we just hope he’s got half the amount of ability as his brother, but Legally Bay has done a great job. Again.”

Trainer: Aaron Purcel. Jockey: Mark Zahra. Owners: Seymour Bloodstock, Halo Racing Services Pty Ltd, Mr B G Taylor, Mr P T O’brien, Mr C J Barham, All Cast, Coolmore, Dr D L O’byrne, Rockhart, Mr M J Kirwan, Mr K D Barry, Mr D S Grimley, Mr S J Pellegrino.