The speedy Princely Gift branch of Nasrullah through Tesco Boy is an heirloom sire line, though this was not always the case. Before the advent of the big-time Shadai stallions, which have dominated the leading sire list almost uninterrupted since Northern Taste in 1982 to Deep Impact in 2015, the Nasrullah sprinter Princely Gift’s British-bred miler import Tesco Boy was the leading sire in Japan in 1974 and 1975 and from 1978-1981, a total of six seasons.
The Tesco Boy line reappeared at the highest level yesterday when 5-year-old Big Arthur, an exciting sprinter on the scene in Japan, won the G1 Takamatsunomiya Kinen in course-record time of 1:06.7 for 1200 meters at Chukyo racecourse. It was Big Arthur’s seventh win from 11 starts and his first at G1 level, but the sizzling time wasn’t a fluke, because he’d matched it before in a record-equaling performance at Kyoto last October.
Japanese horses are best known as 2400-meter-and-above types but a notable recent exception was the internationally top-rated Japanese sprinter of 2013, Lord Kanaloa, a son of the leading Kingmambo sire King Kamehameha who also won the Takamatsunomiya Kinen at age 5 in 2013 on his way to Horse of the Year honors. Perhaps Big Arthur will follow the route of Lord Kanaloa, who also won the G1 Sprinters Stakes and the G1 Hong Kong Sprint at 5 — a race at Sha Tin in which he dismissed Sole Power by five lengths — and 13 of 19 overall.
Like Lord Kanaloa, Kingmambo is in Big Arthur’s pedigree, as the sire of his dam — who is from a Sadler’s Wells mare, a sure-fire combo for stamina. But it’s the speed in Big Arthur’s top line of descent from Tesco Boy that’s intriguing.
Big Arthur is by champion Japanese sprinter Sakura Bakushin O, who was the Lord Kanaloa of his day. He died in 2011 at age 22 and Big Arthur is from his penultimate crop. Bred by Shadai from a Northern Taste mare, Sakuro Bakushin O raced during the protectionist era and had no official G1s next to his name, but he won the 1200-meter Sprinters Stakes at 4 and 5 and 11 of 21 altogether. Upon retirement, he stood at Shadai, where he got sprinters and milers. His notable offspring include the fellow Takamatsunomiya Kinen winner Shonan Kampf; Grand Prix Boss, the 2010 champion 2-year-old colt and a multiple G1 winner who was considered good enough to take to Ascot to face Frankel in the St. James’s Palace (eighth of nine); and G2 winner Bel Canto, a 5-year-old mare who took her chances in Dubai this weekend in the 1000-meter G1 Al Quoz. Previously, she’d defeated Big Arthur.
Sakura Bakushin O’s sire was Sakura Yutaka O, a son of Tesco Boy. Sakura Yutaka O was a middle-distance horse who won six of 12 starts, including the Tenno Sho at 2000 meters. Though he got a champion sprinter in Sakura Bakushin O, Sakura Yutaka O also sired Umeno Fiber, a 2400-meter Japanese Oaks winner; Air Jihad, winner of the 1600-meter Yasuda Kinen — now an international G1 race; and Sakura Candle, winner of the Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup over 2400 meters — now an international G1 race at 2200 meters.
The imported Tesco Boy, who had one crop in Europe before he was sent to Japan, won the Queen Anne Stakes at Ascot in 1966. His sire, Princely Gift, was a high-rated sprinter who sired sprinters and milers for the most part. This line, of which several members went to Japan, is essentially nonexistent except in Japan and through the horses mentioned here. And because of that, Big Arthur’s eventual career at stud — and that of Grand Prix Boss, who went to stud in 2015 — will be important for its nurturing.