I’m Engaged is now being bred in 2017 to Declaration of War (War Front x Tempo West, by Rahy; $35,000 LFSN at Ashford)
Following the announcement that her proposed mate for 2017, Lord Nelson, is going to miss the 2017 breeding season after developing laminitis, I’m Engaged will instead visit the court of War Front’s champion son, Declaration of War.
After Declaration of War went unbeaten in two juvenile starts over all-weather surfaces in France for trainer Jean-Claude Rouget, the Coolmore partners acquired an ownership interest in the colt from breeder Joe Allen, and Declaration of War shipped to the United States to be trained by Todd Pletcher. Unfortunately, the horse sustained an injury and never started for Pletcher, instead returning to Europe and taking up residence in Aidan O’Brien’s Ballydoyle Stables.
Following a 4th-place finish in his first start for O’Brien (and first in nine months), Declaration of War scored in a ten-furlong turf race at the Curragh before wheeling back just five days later to score impressively in the Group 3 Diamond Stakes over Dundalk’s all-weather surface, despite a troubled trip. Put away for the winter after that, Declaration of War returned to the races as a 4-year-old and ran his record to five wins in his first six starts when taking the Heritage Stakes over a mile on heavy ground.
Declaration of War was campaigned exclusively in Group/Grade 1 events for the remainder of his career. After a disappointing 5th-place finish in the one mile Lockinge Stakes-G1, he bounced back with a gutsy victory over that distance in the Queen Anne Stakes-G1 at Royal Ascot, having to force his way into the clear a furlong from home before drawing clear to win over a strong field that included Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom. Subsequently 2nd in the ten furlong Coral-Eclipse-G1 to Al Kazeem and 3rd in the mile Sussex-G1 to Toronado, Declaration of War shipped to France and was 4th, beaten just two lengths, in the Jacques le Marois-G1. Returned to action just ten days later at an extended mile-and-a-quarter for the Juddmonte International-G1, Declaration of War put forth the best effort of his career to turn the tables on Al Kazeem and Toronado, as well as Group 1 winner Trading Leather, and win going clear in the final furlong.
After seven efforts in just over four months – demonstrating his “unbelievable constitution” – Declaration of War got a breather prior to making his dirt debut in the Breeders’ Cup Classic-G1 at Santa Anita. Up against a top class field that day, Declaration of War raced in touch with the pace throughout before rallying wide off the turn to battle between horses in the final furlong, ending up a gallant 3rd and beaten just a nose and a head for the win by Mucho Macho Man and Will Take Charge; those behind him included dirt Grade 1 winners Fort Larned, Palace Malice, Flat Out, Game on Dude and Moreno.
Retired after the Classic to Coolmore Stud in Ireland for the 2014 breeding season, Declaration of War covered 172 mares in his first year at stud for a fee of 40,000 euros. Moved to Coolmore’s American base of Ashford Stud for his second season, Declaration of War covered 192 mares that year at a $40,000 fee, and 154 in his third book, in 2016.
Thirteen weanlings from Declaration of War’s first crop sold for an average of $147,413 in 2015, including a filly that brought $800,000 at Keeneland November. In 2016, 77 of Declaration of War’s first-crop yearlings averaged $119,785, and among them were individuals that brought 475,000 euros and 350,000 euros at Goffs, plus $400,000 and $350,000 at Keeneland September.
Declaration of War’s first 2-year-olds will reach the races in 2017 and will be in excellent hands, with a handful to be trained at Ballydoyle, plus some in the States for the likes of Glen Hill Farm, the Zayat Stables, and GMB Racing. Juddmonte also purchased one, and Justin Casse has bought three members of Declaration of War’s first crop.
The mating of I’m Engaged to Declaration of War creates inbreeding of 4x5x5 to Northern Dancer (with another cross in the sixth generation and one in the seventh), 5×4 to Fappiano, 5×5 to Fappiano’s sire Mr. Prospector (there is a third cross of Mr. P in the sixth generation, also), 4×5 to Blushing Groom (“sex-balanced,” through a son and a daughter), and 5×4 to Nijinsky II (with another cross of Nijinsky II in the sixth generation). Nijinsky II’s close relative Storm Bird (both are by Northern Dancer, the former out of a Bull Page mare, the latter out of a mare by Bull Page’s son New Providence) appears in the fourth generation. This foal will also have no fewer than nine lines of La Troienne throughout its pedigree.
TrueNicks rates the match of Declaration of War and I’m Engaged as an “B.” Breeding Declaration of War’s sire War Front to Unbridled-line mares like I’m Engaged has already produced Group 3 winners Intelligence Cross and War Dispatch, plus stakes winner Warning Flag (who also won a Group 1 in Hong Kong under the name Sweet Orange), as well as the promising Spirit of Valor, who was Group 3-placed for Aidan O’Brien as a 2-year-old in 2016 and is nominated to the American Triple Crown.
As we noted last year, in addition to a successful nick between sire-lines, War Front and other Northern Dancer-line stallions have successfully crossed with the female family of I’m Engaged. This affinity was demonstrated most recently by Air Force Blue, the champion European juvenile of 2015, who is a son of War Front out of a mare named Chatham; both Chatham and I’m Engaged have Starlet Storm as their second dam. Another granddaughter of Starlet Storm named Wild Poppy (out of Eclipse Champion Flanders) was responsible for a $500,000 yearling son of War Front at the 2015 Keeneland September Sale who was subsequently named Sportsmanship and was a 2-year-old winner for the Coolmore group in 2016.
A brawny, masculine horse with plenty of length to him, Declaration of War was described by Aidan O’Brien as “tough and hardy” and “a powerhouse.” He was compared to Coolmore’s Giant’s Causeway during his racing days because of how well he took his racing, and the Coolmore literature has played up the similarities between the two since his retirement (including the fact that both are by Northern Dancer-line stallions out of Rahy mares). Declaration of War’s dam also happens to be a half-sister to Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags, who was the second-leading first-crop sire of 2016 with two Grade 1 winners to his credit – one of which is out of a Storm Cat mare (Storm Cat is by Storm Bird from a Secretariat mare, just like I’m Engaged’s third dam, Cinegita), while the other is from a Mr. Prospector-line mare with Damascus, Buckpasser and Northern Dancer in her female family (like I’m Engaged).
As a medium-sized, feminine mare who has thrown good-sized foals, I’m Engaged should be a nice “like-to-like” physical match for Declaration of War, who will hopefully contribute plenty of bone and substance to their foal.