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A TRIBUTE TO KNOW HEIGHTS: Negro da Gaita wins the Derby in Sao Paulo :: Racing in Brazil - The Brazilian Group 1 Races!

A TRIBUTE TO KNOW HEIGHTS: Negro da Gaita wins the Derby in Sao Paulo

by Eduardo Ratto de Freitas Guimarães
(Published at: APFT -

The Gods of Horseracing so wished that, in the same week of Know Heights’s death, his son, Negro da Gaita, would win the São Paulo Derby. This was the only one of the country’s four most important races under a selection perspective, all held over 2,400 meters on the turf course – the other three of which are the Grande Premio Brasil, the Grande Premio Cruzeiro do Sul and the Grande Premio São Paulo –, which he hadn’t sired a winner to.

Considering that Know Heights produced sixteen winners of selection races in ten crops, and that he left three full crops which are still to race, chances point to the probability that Negro da Gaita will not be his last son to win a Group 1 race (in fact, a week after this article was written and published in its original Portuguese version, in Nov.12, 2008, Know Heights’s Reraise won the G1 Gran Premio Dardo Rocha, at La Plata Racetrack in Argentina).

Within the circumstances, however, Negro da Gaita’s Derby Paulista this will be the most emotionally charged victory for those who are able to understand that horse racing is much more than exotic bets, mercantilism and social climbing, and that the horses are the true stars of this show.

Destiny has given us the privilege of getting to know the story of Know Heights – in our opinion one of the best sires ever to bred in Brazil–, which we now start to tell.

The São José and Expedictus Studs are the Brazilian version of the Aga Khan elevage, due not only to its longevity and success, but also to the virtually unique fact that they developed female families which count eight, nine and even ten generations, many of which still active and thriving, mainly in Brasil, but also in the U.S.A. to where a few fillies were exported in the last decade. In the mid-90’s, these Studs sought a sire to bred both, the daughters of Felicio (Shantung, by Sicambre, from the Prince Rose sire line) and his son the triple crown winner Itajara.

It was not an easy task, since they weren’t simply mares in a Stud, but they represented the most valuable thoroughbred heritage in Brasil.

Lineu de Paula Machado, who has a special eye for horses, was looking for a “brilliant” sire, neither in the sense advocated for many years by F. Varolla and nor in its distorted conceptions marketed by S. Roman. He wanted a mid-sized to small, well balanced horse, which possessed speed, and the guts and courage to carry it to 1,800 to 2,000 meters, at least. The description would appropriately match Felicio – also among the best sires in the country –, which our dear F. E. de Paula Machado, Lineu’s uncle -, has imported back in the 60s.

Reading Courses & Elevage, Lineu found out that there was a son of Shirley Heights out of a mare by Hoist the Flag, racing in the French countryside, whose physical structure was precisely what he was looking for. The renowned publication even described Know Heights as très petit, which proved to be a bit of an exaggeration. Defending the colors of H.R.H. Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, Know Heights, who had never raced in Paris, had won eight (including 5 listed races) races in 12 starts, in distances between 1,800 and 2,200 meters.

Shirley Heights Lineu was drawn by the fact that Know Heights was sired by Shirley Heights and, therefore, was a grandson of Mill Reef, by Never Bend. This is another point in which the Paula Machado’s policies in breeding coincide with the ones of S.A.Aga Khan. Both praise a lot the sire line of Never Bend, a son of the Aga Khan Stud’s very own Nasrullah.

Informed that Know Heights had been sold and was to continue racing in the U.S., Lineu asked an adviser to follow the horse’s campaign and to evaluate his quality and physique. His father, Linneo Eduardo, recommended that the adviser should try to assess whether the horse was valiant and brave, which the Paula Machados considered essential attributes for any stallion prospect.

Under the care of Californian trainer Bob Hess Jr., Know Heights raced five times in the U.S., having won two of them, run second twice and third once. He won the Sam Houston Handicap [LR – 2400mT] – in record time, in the small European style Kentucky Downs Racetrack, which at the time was called Duelling Grounds –, and then wire-to-wire, the Carleton F. Burke Handicap [G2 – 2400mT, Santa Anita]. However, his true qualities could be evaluated at the Hollywood Turf Cup [G1 – 2400mT, Hollywood Park]. After battling for the lead for almost 2,000 meters with the Canadian horse Explosive Red [Explodent], winner of the Hollywood Derby [G1 – 1800mT, Hollywood Park], Know Heights took a clear the lead at the stretch, when Fraise (a Strawberry Road that had beaten Sky Classic and English derby Quest for Fame in the previous year Breeders Cup Turf), came strongly from behind. Fraise passed him, but despite signs of exhaustion, Know Heights resisted firmly and tried to react. Fraise, which was almost 200 pounds heavier and almost four inches taller, won, but had to be pushed to the limit. Dr. Linneo Eduardo’s question about the horse’s heart and courage had been answered.

Know Heights was strained so hard that a chronic problem in his ligaments was worsened, and actually determined the end of his racing career, prompting his placement in the market as a stallion prospect. Lineu didn’t waste any time and purchased him, subject to a physical inspection.

Beto Figueiredo, the general manager for the Paula Machado’s racing and breeding operation, traveled to California to inspect Know Heights. He found a small, well-balanced , very proportioned horse, with somewhat prominent withers – a characteristic commonly seen in descendents of Never Bend –, the short back and deep shoulder which Mill Reef passed on to his offspring, slightly open front legs, longer pasterns and stronger hocks than his size would suppose, even though a bit closed together and sickled – which, according to master J. Aiscan, was a trait spread internationally by Djebel and his granddaughter, Lalun (by Djebel’s son Djeddah), who produced Never Bend (sire of Riverman, who had sickled hocks and passed them on as well) and Bold Reason, Sadlers Wells’s maternal grandsire, who spread this hocks conformation more than any other sire in international breeding. The head had quality attributes one can expect among the Shirley Height’s [by Mill Reef] descendants.

His racing career was over and Know Heights was for sale. Slightly sorrowful and thin, he had winter coat and his back muscles had been softened by inactivity and the confinement imposed by the injury. He hadn’t lost the masculine look of Hoist the Flag’s descendants though. Not everyone would have approved him, but Beto didn’t hesitate. Besides liking the horse, he knew very well the kind of conformation would please Lineu. He also knew in full details what to expect from a descendent of Mill Reef, which Lineu himself had many times described in detail to him.

Although small in number, the first six crops sired by Know Height (16 foals in average) displayed great quality from the beginning. We were invited to inspect his first crop at Haras São José (in Araras, State of São Paulo), when the foals were still sucklings. At the time, the legendary Angelo Spatti – in whose hands more than 50 crops of the São José and Expedictus Studs were born – told us that he hadn’t been impressed that way by the first crop of a stallion, since the first foals of the great Felicio were born, back in the sixties.

From those years, it is important to mention that in his second crop of only 14 foals Know Heights has sired two fillies which can be counted among the best race mares ever to have been born in Brazil: Coray [Grande Premio Diana, G1 – 2000mT, the Oaks in Rio de Janeiro, Grande Premio Marciano de Aguiar Moreira, G1 – 2400mT – equivalent to the Prix Vermeille - and Grande Premio Cruzeiro do Sul, G1 – 2400mT – the Derby in Rio de Janeiro, in record time] and Queen Desejada [Grande Premio Brasil, G1 – 2400mT]. The fact that Itajara is the broodmare sire of the first and Felicio is the broodmare sire of the latter, says a lot about Lineu’s intuition about sires and matings.

We saw Queen Desejada for the first time when she was a 3 year old, in the last race on a Sunday twilight racing program at the Gávea Racetrack, in Rio de Janeiro. Lineu himself showed her to us as a perfect example of the mating he had envisioned, when he decided to purchase Know Heights. Although that evening she lost a maiden race held over 1,300-meters on the dirt, Lineu revealed his impression that, in due time, she would be a top-class racemare. She was refined, delicate and had a lot of influence from the Pure Bred Arabians, from which all Thoroughbreds descend.

Throughout these years, Know Heights also produced Aviación [dam by Liloy, by Bold Bidder, who won the GP. Zélia G. Peixoto de Castro, G1 – 2000mT, Gávea], Amor de Cisne [dam by Woodman, winner of the Grande Premio General Couto de Magalhães, G2 – 3218mT, Cidade Jardim] and Xiririca da Serra [dam by Grimaldi, by Executioner, from the The Axe branch of the Mahmoud sire line, winner of the Grande Premio José Guathemozin Nogueira, G1 – 2400mT, the São Paulo version of the Prix Vermeille].

Leased for one season by Haras Ponta Porã, Know Heights sired 104 products in 2002, four of which won graded stakes of selective value: Nakaba [dam by Falcon Jet, by Ghadeer, by Lyphard; winner of the Grande Premio Antonio Teixeira de Assumpção Netto, G2 – 1800mT, the São Paulo version of the Prix Saint-Alary], Nayara Gold [dam by Punk, from the Caro sire line; winner of the Grande Premio José Bonifácio Coutinho Nogueira, G2 – 2400mT, the São Paulo equivalent race to the Yorkshire Oaks], Nepotista [dam by Kenético, from the Princequillo sire line; winner of the Grande Premio Consagração, G1 – 3000mT, the São Paulo equivalent to the St.Leger Stakes] and Northern Pan [dam by Exile King, by Exclusive Native; winner of the Grande Premio Conde De Herzberg, G2 – 1600mT a sort of Champagne Stakes ] and three other three graded stakes winners.

Back to Haras São José, in 2003 Know Heights produced a vintage crop which included Colina Verde [dam by Purple Mountain, by Grey Dawn from the Herbager sire line], who won the fillies triple crown in São Paulo, Ivoire who won the Derby in Rio de Janeiro, Indianette [dam by Itajara; winner of the Grande Premio Oswaldo Aranha, G2 – 2400mT, Rio de Janeiro’s equivalent race to the Yorkshire Oaks and four other group races, two of which beating the colts], and Obliquo [dam by Itajara; winner of the Grande Premio General Couto de Magalhães, G2 – 3218mT].

The following crop, foaled in 2004, was equally important, since it includes Jeune-Turc [dam by Machiavellian, who this season has won the Grande Premio São Paulo], Princess Carina [dam by Fitzcarraldo; possibly the best mare currently in training in Argentina, where she has won six races already, including the very traditional Gran Premio Ignacio y Ignacio F. Correas, G1 – 2500m, Palermo Racetrack], Audacious [dam by Ghadeer, by Lyphard; winner of the Grande Premio Consagração] and Bain Douche [dam by Choctaw Ridge; which crossed in front, the finish line of last season’s Grande Premio Ipiranga, G1 – 1600mT, the São Paulo version of the 2000 Guines, and was later disqualified to second in a very controversial decision].

The 2005 crop – the first sired by Know Heights after having been relocated to Stud TNT, in Bagé, in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul – includes the above-mentioned São Paulo derby winner Negro da Gaita (dam by First American, by Quiet American and second dam by Bowling, from the Bold Ruler sire line; who at two was runner up to Estrela do Oriente in the Grande Premio ABCPCC, G1 – 1600mT, Rio de Janeiro’s equivalent to the Criterium International) and Last Bet (dam by Ghadeer, runner up to the leading 3-y-o filly Bubbly Jane in the Grande Premio Henrique de Toledo Lara, G1 – 1800mT), both bred by Stud Mega.

Know Heights’ daughters currently represent great outcross prospects for sires descending from Northern Dancer and Mr. Prospector, which currently saturate the international breeding genetic pool. The acquisition of Ivoire (dam by Hampstead, from the Djebel sire line; who last season won both the Grande Premio Francisco Eduardo de Paula Machado, G1 – 2000mT, Rio de Janeiro’s version of the Prix Lupin and the Grande Premio Cruzeiro do Sul, G1 – 2400mT, Rio de Janeiro’s Derby in record time] for traditional Haras São Luiz is excellent news. Should he be supported by the Paraná State breeders accordingly to his race record, conformation and pedigree, he might help Know Heights to conquer the ultimate title a great stallion deserves, to be recognized as a sire of sires and establish its own sire line.

One of the many things that we can learn from the Irish of Coolmore Stud is that, after ignoring for years, stallion prospects which succeeded over classical distances, they have been incorporating one typically classic horse every breeding season. Peintre Celebre, Montjeu and Galileo have been giving them a lot of reasons not to repent.

Finally, the most important lesson in Know Heights’s successful story is that there is nothing more important in the breeding of racehorses than the combination of intuition, knowledge and courage. To spot a sire like Know Heights, who last week left life to enter the history of Brazilian breeding by reading the Courses & Elevage, isn’t a task for many. We congratulate Lineu, to whom we send our dearest regards, he who, most surely, misses Know Heights more than anyone else.

em portugues:


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