The Grey Panel

La Storia Dei Colori

The 1933 Derby winner will always rank as one of the greatest stallions in history. His task in establishing a dynasty was helped by the fact that he lived a long life, eventually dying in 1960 at the age of 30. Many of the most influential Hyperion-line stallions also lived long, which helped things further. However, Hyperion’s male-line is now struggling – and its survival has been hindered by the early demise of the likes of and in England and in Australia. As was recently emphasised by the recent Hong Kong Classic Mile victory of , another very good stallion from the line to die young was , who died in 2008 at the age of eight after only three seasons in Ireland at Rathbarry Stud, writes John Berry.

The irony of the continued existence of the Hyperion sire-line is that it persists mostly through sprinter/milers. Such an observation can’t be made about the lines of many St Leger winners - but then Hyperion was no ordinary St Leger winner, having won the New (now Norfolk) Stakes over five furlongs at Royal Ascot as a two-year-old in 1932. As a stallion, he was an influence for class over all distances, but nowadays his male-line influence is mainly confined to short-distance races. Le Vie De Colori’s profile does nothing to contradict this generalization, being a miler whose sire and grand-sire both excelled at a mile or shorter.

Le Vie Dei Colori descends from Hyperion straight down the male line, but geographically the trail covers plenty of ground. As Hyperion was the most respected stallion in the world in the middle of the 20th century, his sons and grandsons inevitably ended up spread all around the world. His domination was far from a purely European phenomenon: at one stage a large proportion of the best stallions in North and South America, Australasia and South Africa were from his line. In South America, three of Hyperion’s sons – , and – became champion sire in Argentina. Gulf Stream stood out in that he was a top-class racehorse, winning the Eclipse as a three-year-old in 1946 after finishing a close second in the Derby, but in general the horses who made their way to the former colonies were those who weren’t the best racehorses – such as Le Vie Dei Colori’s great-great-grandsire Aristophanes.

Aristophanes was bred be a champion, being by a Derby winner out of an Oaks winner. However, his eight victories did not come in races which we would nowadays classify as Pattern races, although his minor placings at Royal Ascot in the Jersey Stakes and the Royal Hunt Cup showed that he was a decent performer. A stud career surely beckoned, but it turned out to be in Argentina rather than England, which would have remained his home had he been slightly more talented than he was. Based at Haras Ojo de Agua, Aristophanes lived until the age of 24 before dying in 1972, having topped the sires’ premiership in Argentina in 1960. His best son, though, was not born until 1963, when the subsequent Horse of the Year was foaled on the property.

Forli dominated South American racing to such an extent that he was purchased by Arthur Hancock of Claiborne Farm in Kentucky for nearly a million dollars (a huge sum in the mid ‘60s). He duly headed north for his stud career, via a stint in training with Charlie Whittingham in California which yielded two victories from three starts, including breaking the 8.5-furlong track record at Hollywood Park when winning the Coronado Stakes. Best remembered as sire of the three-time US Horse of the Year , Forli also bred several colts who did well in Europe, including 2,000 Guineas winner , Ascot Gold Cup winner (both horses, incidentally and coincidentally, being promoted to victory on the disqualification of a superior rival), Sussex Stakes winner , Irish Champion Stakes winner (who won that race under the champion jumps jockey Tommy Carberry when it was known as the Joe McGrath Memorial Stakes), Diadem Stakes winner , Jersey Stakes winner and Wokingham Handicap winner Boone’s Cabin. Of those horses, all bar Posse and Sadeem (who were trained by John Dunlop and Guy Harwood respectively) were trained by Vincent O’Brien, whose stable for a few years in the ‘70s seemed to revolve as much around sons of Forli as around sons of . Ultimately, of course, Northern Dancer won that particular battle – in part thanks to his O’Brien-trained son , whose second dam (Thatch’s full-sister , the dam of ) was a daughter of Forli.

Among Forli’s other good colts in Europe was the Peter Walwyn-trained , winner of the Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket as a two-year-old in 1977. He turned out to be a prolific sire of winners at Lavington Stud in England, as one might expect of a stallion who himself had been a Group One-winning two-year-old sprinter. Among a mass of lower-grade winners, Formidable sired the high-class sprinters , and . All three went to stud in England with Efisio faring best, thanks to the Classic-winning filly , Prix Vermeille winner , the Group One-winning sprinters , , and Pips Pride – and Le Vie Dei Colori.

Despite having won several Group races (partially thanks to the enterprise of his trainer John Dunlop, who had dispatched him on several trips to Italy, where his owners lived and where ‘black type’ could be earned relatively easily in the ’80s) Efisio did not start out as a particularly fashionable stallion. However, he was a very good stallion, as was shown by the fact that his stud fee continued to climb throughout his career, reaching its zenith of £12,000 in 2005 when, remarkably, he was aged 23! His fee had climbed to £8,500 by 1999 when Le Vie Dei Colori was conceived. As this figure implied, Efisio was not covering the most obviously valuable mares, with a good example of his mates being Le Vie Dei Colori’s dam , who had recorded two of her three victories in selling races on the all-weather track at Wolverhampton.

Mystic Tempo, though, came from a family which had thrown up plenty of good horses (including 1971 Prix du Moulin de Longchamp and Prix de la Foret winner , 1978 Oaks, Irish Oaks and Yorkshire Oaks winner , 1979 Craven and Dante Stakes winner , and 1986 Prix Ganay and Prix d’Ispahan winner ) and which has continued to do well, courtesy of the likes of 2002 Prix d’Ispahan winner and 2011 Prix du Jockey-Club winner , a grandson of Fair Salinia. Efisio, like so many Hyperion-line stallions over the years, was adept at upgrading his mares; and he duly brought the best out of Mystic Tempo, as her son Le Vie Dei Colori ranks up there with the family’s best.

With Efisio having been Italian-owned and having won several good races in Italy during his younger days, it was understandable that he should have been patronized by Italian breeders throughout his career at stud in England. One of these was Mystic Tempo’s owners Scuderia Archi Romani, who retained her Efisio colt and put him into training in Italy with Roberto Brogi. Under the trainer’s care, Le Vie Dei Colori soon proved himself to be a top-class racehorse. Easily Italy’s best two-year-old of 2002, he won five out of five in his homeland (including the Group Three Premio Primi Passi over 1200m) before being sent to Paris in the autumn, where his two starts yielded victory in the Group Three Prix la Rochette over 1400m at Longchamp and, three weeks later, second place over the same course and distance in France’s premier two-year-old race, the Grand Criterium (now Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere), beaten only half a length by the Aidan O’Brien-trained in a 14-runner field.

Brogi brought Le Vie Dei Colori home to Italy after the race. When the colt resumed in the spring of 2003, it was clear that he was at least as good as he had been the previous year. Disappointingly, Le Vie Dei Colori only raced five times (and never outside Italy) as a three-year-old but his form was excellent – barring a shock defeat in a Listed race in Milan when he was turned over as the 1/4 favourite. Apart from that setback, though, he was undefeated, with his wins including the best mile race in the country for three-year-old colts (the Group Two Premio Parioli in Rome, in which he defeated by two and a half lengths) and the best weight-for-age mile race in the country (the Group One Premio Vittorio di Capua in Milan, in which he beat the Saeed bin Suroor-trained by half a length).

In 2004, Le Vie Dei Colori’s connections were more adventurous, having been prompted by Rathbarry Stud principal Liam Cashman (who had bought a share in the horse at the end of 2003) to re-adopt the international aspirations which they had held two years previously. The horse remained in Italy for his first three starts of the year (which yielded two wins and a fourth place behind and in the Group One Premio Presidente della Repubblica, in which he clearly found the 2000m too far) before heading to England to join the Newmarket stable of Brogi’s compatriot Luca Cumani.

It was an established pattern that good horses trained by the Brogi family might head to Newmarket to try their luck on the international stage. In the ‘70s Luigi Brogi had trained the top-class Carlo D’Alessio-owned (Hyperion-line) colt , whom he sent over to Newmarket to join Henry Cecil’s stable for his Classic campaign in 1975, when Luca Cumani was working there as assistant. Victory in the 2,000 Guineas had ensued - and when Cumani started training the following season, left Brogi’s stable to join Cumani’s fledgling operation. The colt ran well in a light campaign in England in 1976, including when finishing a very good fifth behind the champion sprinter in the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot. Now, 28 years on, Le Vie Dei Colori followed in Madang’s footsteps.

While Madang had failed to win in Cumani’s care, Le Vie Dei Colori did better. He raced three times for the stable that year and then had another six starts in 2005 as a five-year-old. He ran well throughout, posting two good Group One placings in 2004 (third to in the Sussex Stakes over a mile at Goodwood and third to over 1400m in the Prix de la Foret at Longchamp) and winning two stakes races, both over seven furlongs, at five. His seasonal debut in 2005 – a win in a Listed race at Leicester – was good, but his swansong at the end of the year was even better: victory in the Group Two Challenge Stakes at Newmarket (which his sire had won 20 years previously when it had carried Group Three status) with 14 good horses, headed by and , chasing him home. He retired to Rathbarry Stud shortly after that race with the hugely creditable record of having retired sound after four seasons of regular racing and with 14 wins and four minor placings from 24 starts .

Sadly, Le Vie Dei Colori was dead by the time that he had his first runner. He covered for three seasons at Rathbarry Stud, but sadly then died in an accident towards the end of the third season (2008) when his oldest sons and daughters were still yearlings. He had retired to stud at a fee of 10,000 euros, which was higher than the market could justify at the time and which had consequently been lowered to 7,500 euros at the end of his first season. Given no help by the high cost of his nominations, he was not particularly well patronised – but it is now plain that that fee represented a bargain, as he was clearly a very good stallion. Many of those breeders who used him bred nice horses, and many of those who bought his yearlings secured great bargains.

Le Vie Dei Colori had had a first-crop two-year-old stakes winner by mid-summer of 2009, courtesy of ’s victory in the Golden Fleece Stakes at Fairyhouse. Perfect Symmetry had been picked up for 20,000 euros as a yearling, while the stallion’s first Group winner (the Richard Hannon-trained , victorious in the Horris Hill Stakes at Newbury that autumn) had cost £53,000 as a yearling. Further first-crop stakes winners emerged for Le Vie Dei Colori when , (bred, owned and trained by Roberto Brogi) and won black-type races as three-year-olds (in England, Italy and France respectively). , who had cost only 6,000 euros as a yearling, then became the sixth stakes winner for this crop when landing an Italian Listed race as a four-year-old.

Until recently, Le Vie Dei Colori’s best horse had looked to be the star of his second crop, the Andrew Balding-trained , a 20,000-gn yearling who to date has landed one Group Three race (the Sovereign Stakes over a mile at Salisbury) and two Listed races. That crop has also thrown up the likes of , an 11,000-euro yearling who was twice Listed placed (and who is now, sadly, dead). More bargains came from his third crop (including , who was twice Group-placed in France as a two-year-old after fetching 25,000 euros as a yearling) but the best bargain of all has been his third-crop son , who is likely to remain Le Vie Dei Colori’s best horse. Picked up as a yearling for 10,000 guineas by Perfect Symmetry’s trainer Ger Lyons, Gold-Fun raced in Ireland as Strada Colorato and won a mile three-year-olds’ maiden race at Naas in the spring of 2012 under that name. He was sold privately after the race to join Richard Gibson’s stable in Hong Kong, and now ranks as one of the most promising young gallopers in the territory, having landed the Group One Hong Kong Classic Mile last month before following that up with another good run in the second leg of the Triple Crown, the HK Classic Cup (in which he finished fourth to ).

Le Vie Dei Colori was very different from his famous forebear Hyperion, being a large dark bay horse who excelled up to a mile. However, his size and colour didn’t stop him from turning out a credit to that celebrated little chestnut – and it is just terribly sad that he is no longer around.

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