National Assembly – a true legend
In what marks an end of an era, Highlands Farm’s resident stallion, National Assembly, was euthanized earlier in the week.
The stallion, one of the grand old men of the South African breeding industry, was 30 years old, and he had been pensioned from stud duty for the past few years. National Assembly, champion sire of 2yos on three occasions, left behind a tremendous legacy of class and talent, and his influence remains a potent one on the South African turf. With son Soft Falling Rain and grandson Shea Shea both excelling in Dubai, National Assembly has left a mark on international racing as well.
National Assembly was a $2 500 000 yearling purchase. Owned by Robert Sangster, the bay colt was sent into training with the legendary trainer, Vincent O’Brien.
While National Assembly never raced, O’Brien had a high opinion of the colt, and believed he would have made up into a nice horse up to a mile, had he not chipped a bone in his knee, terminating any chance of a racing career.
What National Assembly lacked in racing credentials, however, he made up for in pedigree. His sire, Danzig, was one of the greatest sire sons of Northern Dancer. Danzig, whose sons included world leading sires Danehill, Green Desert and War Front, sired 202 stakes winners, and was Champion Sire three times in North America. His numerous Gr1 winners included Lure, Dayjur, Pine Bluff, Pas De Reponse, Blue Duster, Elnadim, Polish Precedent, War Chant, Dance Smartly, Danzig Connection, and Shaadi.
National Assembly came from an equally distinguished female line. His dam Renounce, by legendary broodmare sire Buckpasser, was unplaced, but did well at stud, producing Baltic Sea (dam of the outstanding sprinter Caller One), and Arraign (dam of champions Cozzenes Prince).
Renounce, in turn, was a half-sister to Gr1 Hollywood Derby winner Intrepid Hero and leading US sire Sovereign Dancer (who sired the Preakness Stakes winners Gate Dancer and Louis Quatorze).
National Assembly’s third dam, Grey Flight, is one of the greatest mares in the American stud book. She bred no fewer than nine stakes winners, including champion filly Misty Morn (herself dam of two champions), and dual champion sire What A Pleasure (sire of Kentucky Derby winner Foolish Pleasure). Exciting young Drakenstein sire, Philanthropist, himself traces back to Grey Flight, through her daughter Clear Ceiling.
This is also the family of legendary American racehorse and sire, Native Dancer.
National Assembly more than lived up to this rich heritage at stud. His first crop gave clues of what was to come – from just 31 registered foals, National Assembly sired 10 stakes horses – including Gr2 Administrator’s Challenge Cup winner Stamford Bridge.
However, it was National Assembly’s third crop of foals which firmly established him as a top class stallion. This crop included three Grade One winners – Bold Thatch (Gilbeys), Secretary General (Germiston November Handicap), and, arguably his greatest son, National Emblem.
National Emblem, who ironically died almost a year to the day before his sire, was an ARCSA Champion, who won feature races from 1000-2000m – and was one of a handful of horses to make a successful return to the track following a bout of stud duties. His 15 victories included the Gr1 Premier’s Cup, and Gr1 Champion Stakes, and National Emblem earned just a shade under R2 000 000. The champion’s tally included no fewer than eight graded races.
National Emblem would emulate his sire, National Assembly, in becoming a Champion Sire of 2yos, and, to date, has sired 10 Grade One winners. National Emblem’s tally of top-flight winners include outstanding sprinters Nhlavini, Rebel King and Dubai sensation, Shea Shea.
National Assembly’s stud career went from strength to strength, and stallion built on a solid start – despite receiving relatively ordinary mares in the first part of his stud career.
Other Official Champions sired by National Assembly included Historic Lady (2yo filly), Forward Filly (2yo Filly), Network Edition (3yo Male Sprinter), National Bay (3yo Female Sprinter), Enchantress (Champion Older Female Sprinter), National Currency (2yo colt, 3yo Male Sprinter), National Colour (Horse Of The Year), and Soft Falling Rain (Champion 2YO Colt).
In total, National Assembly sired 62 individual stakes winners – 16 of which were Grade One winners. Remarkably, he left behind 41 Grade One horses, and he sired Champion colts and fillies alike.
National Assembly’s greatest crop in terms of stakes horses was the 2002 vintage. This foal crop produced 11 stakes horses from 61 foals (18%), including Horse Of The Year National Colour and G1 winner Ndabeni.
Soft Falling Rain is a tremendous remainder of the greatness of National Assembly. An unbeaten Equus Champion at two, Soft Falling Rain, bred by Highlands, won his first seven races in a row, and won three in a row in Dubai last season.
The colt made history when becoming the first 3yo ever to win the Gr2 Godolphin Mile and later went on to land the G2 Nayef Joel Stakes at Newmarket, making Soft Falling Rain a graded stakes winner in three different countries.
He remains a top candidate for major race honours this year.
National Assembly, widely regarded as South Africa’s premier sire of high-class sprinter-milers for much of his stud career, also become a popular horse in the sales ring.
His legacy continues through his son National Emblem and grandson, Rebel King, while another son of National Assembly to be given a chance at stud is the Listed Thukela Handicap winner Announce.
Announce, who is very closely related to the great Danehill, has made a name for himself as a solid sire – despite receiving little outside support. To date, Announce has sired such smart performers as My Jelly Bean, Announce Speed, and Horatio, as well as young KZN sire Call To Combat, from limited opportunities.
National Assembly is an increasingly successful broodmare sire. His daughters have bred 26 stakes winners, at the time of writing, including Equus Champions Vercingetorix and Laverna, as well as the 2013 Gr1 Allan Robertson Fillies Championship heroine, Happy Valentine. Another granddaughter of National Assembly, Sweet Sanette, ran third in the G1 King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot back in 2011.
A truly great stallion, National Assembly will never be forgotten by all who knew him. His presence will be felt on the South African stud book for years to come!