There are no guarantees when it comes to equine genetics but any horse sired by super stallion Galileo, the 2001 Derby winner, out of a dam, Light Shift, who landed the Oaks in 2007, has to have something of a head start.
The result of their liaison was a colt who was christened Ulysses and while he could not emulate his parents at Epsom – he finished 12th in the Investec Derby of 2016 – he did plenty to uphold the family tradition.
As a four-year-old he flourished – proving a model of consistency in some of the year’s biggest middle-distance races and winning two QIPCO British Champions Series prizes.
Owned by the Niarchos family and trained by Sir Michael Stoute, he began his campaign with a smooth success in the Group Three Gordon Richards Stakes at Sandown in April and returned to that track in July to beat Barney Roy by a nose in a thrilling Coral-Eclipse Stakes.
Ulysses had little more than a whisker to spare that day but the strong traveller, in his element on quick ground, was much more convincing when landing the Juddmonte International Stakes at York by two lengths from Churchill in August, with old rival Barney Roy third.
He was also placed in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot (third to Highland Reel), the QIPCO-sponsored King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (4½ length runner-up to Enable) and Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Chantilly (about four lengths third to Enable).
Connections had hoped he would sign off in the Breeders’ Cup Turf – he had been fourth to Highland Reel the previous year – but he was ruled out by a setback a couple of days before.
The previous year, Ulysses had gone off 8-1 for the Derby on the back of a runaway win in a maiden at Newbury but he met trouble in running and faded on the softish ground.
His best effort as a three-year-old was when landing the Group Three Beringice Gordon Stakes at Goodwood.
As a two-year-old he ran once, when shaping promisingly in defeat at Newbury.
In total, Ulysses won five of his 13 races and £1.9 million in prize money. He ended his career with an official rating of 127.
Without doubt his emphatic victory in the £1 million Juddmonte International Stakes at York in the August of 2017.
He travelled powerfully throughout under Jim Crowley and coasted past market leaders Churchill and Barney Roy inside the final furlong after that pair had locked horns a little way out.
Ulysses, sent off at 4-1, did not have to be hard ridden to stamp his authority on proceedings and win by two lengths.
What they said:
After the International Stakes, Sir Michael Stoute said: “It all just went so smoothly and there was never a blip. I think it was his best performance to date. He’s become a very professional athlete.
Comparing Ulysses to some of his previous winners of the race, Stoute said: “He is taking his races so well, he’s got everything. I think he is as good at 12 furlongs, don’t forget the King George was run in a swamp, it wasn’t ideal conditions for him. Today’s performance would put him up there, if not in front of them.”
Jim Crowley said after the same race: “He seems to like being ridden with confidence. He is improving and today is the best feel I have got off him to be honest and he seems to be getting better and better.
“I always had plenty of horse. Today he relaxed so nicely and he just lobbed round. When I got there he got there quite soon, I just had to nurse him along to make sure he got there.”
Where he will stand:
Ulysses will stand at Cheveley Park in Newmarket. It is the oldest stud in existence, with evidence of horse breeding on the site for more than a thousand years. Several monarchs have owned Cheveley Park, including King Athelstan, King Canute, Edward the Confessor, William the Conqueror, Edward I and Edward II.
David and Patricia Thompson purchased it in 1975 when it was in receivership and had dwindled down to 270 acres. Against industry advice, they stood their Gimcrack winner, Music Boy at the stud in 1977. He became leading first season sire and a life size bronze of him stands in a stud that is thriving again and now comprises just under 1000 acres.
The Thompsons acquired a significant interest in Ulysses and his initial covering fee will be £30,000.
What should we expect from his offspring:
Given his regal breeding, not to mention his own ability, the foundations are firmly in place for Ulysses to prove a success at stud.
He should at the very least help produce a decent middle-distance performer or two, shouldn’t he? Underestimate them at your peril if they turn up at Epsom.
Ulysses was blessed with a high cruising speed and that lends encouragement to the idea that he will also produce offspring capable of shining over shorter distances.
If he can stamp his stock with his own attributes, they should also be versatile in terms of ground plus tough and reliable.