Racing: Favourites with a Special connection: Sue Montgomery traces the bloodline of a famous family

Click to follow
The Independent Online
THERE'S something Special about Mehthaaf, favourite for today's 1,000 Guineas. Not to mention King's Theatre and Turtle Island, market leaders for Saturday's 2,000 Guineas.

The trio are closely related with the colts being sired by, respectively, Sadler's Wells and Fairy King, and the filly by Nureyev. All three stallions are sons of the great Northern Dancer, but there is more to their relationship than that.

Sadler's Wells (also represented by Dance To The Top in today's race) and Fairy King (represented by Fairy Heights) are brothers, Nureyev their 'uncle'. The link, apart from their father, is a mare called Special, Nureyev's dam and, through his half-sister Fairy Bridge, grand-dam of the other two.

Special was foaled in Kentucky, but her great-great-grandmother, Dalmary, was trained in Newmarket by Cecil Boyd- Rochfort. Dalmary won the 1934 Yorkshire Oaks, but her daughter Rough Shod had to go to now defunct Bogside to score.

However, Rough Shod was later one of the inspired purchases by Bull Hancock, of Claiborne Farm, Kentucky. He picked up the mare for 3,500gns at the 1951 Newmarket Sales, and she became one of the great broodmares of modern times. Seven of her foals won 53 races between them, and included three top-class US performers in Ridan, Lt Stevens and the champion filly Mocassin.

Their sister Thong won five of her 22 starts. Her first foal, by the Argentine champion Forli, was Special. Her second, by the same sire, was Thatch, trained by Vincent O'Brien, a great admirer of the blood of Dalmary, to become an outstanding sprinter and miler.

As a runner, Special did not live up to her name. She had just one run, in which she broke a blood vessel, but made up for that failure in the paddocks.

Fairy Bridge, an Irish two- year-old champion, was her second foal and the disqualified 2,000 Guineas winner Nureyev her third.

Special had but one tryst with Northern Dancer; Fairy Bridge had six, but nature being what it is, there was a different result each time. Sadler's Wells was tough and top-class, Fairy King underwent a structural failure (damaged a bone in his foot) the first time he was tested, Tate Gallery lacked resolution and a fourth brother, Classic Music, at 2.4m guineas the most expensive yearling sold in Britain, failed to make the track at all.