The Pretty Polly Stakes, run at Newmarket’s Guineas meeting, has a rich history of producing top-class runners and breed influencers. Many have been worthy of Pretty Polly, the 1904 fillies' Triple Crown heroine who the race celebrates.
The roll of honour includes future Classic winners Dunfermline and Indian Skimmer as well as the magnificent broodmares Reprocolor and Wind In Her Hair.
Darley stallions have played their part and been a prominent influence on this century's winners, taking over a third of the 20 runnings.
The new Millennium Grandstand was in its infancy when Melikah, a daughter of Derby hero Lammtarra, won the 2000 event on her career debut. A younger sibling to both Galileo and Sea The Stars, she went on to place in both the English and Irish Oaks during what was a light career on the track.
However, it was in the breeding sheds that her influence has been most keenly felt. Melikah produced four Stakes winners, including Masterstroke, Royal Line (Dubawi), and Moonlight Magic (Cape Cross). Yet it is through her winning Selkirk-daughter Villarrica that she will be best remembered.
Villarrica’s first runner was the Cape Cross filly Khawlah, who won three of her first five starts including the G2 UAE Derby and G3 UAE Oaks in 2011. Retired to the paddocks, Khawlah’s second cover was with Champion New Approach, and the result? Derby hero Masar.
New Approach enjoyed more Classic success when his first-crop daughter Talent won the Oaks in 2013 by nearly four lengths. Despite not being one of the leading candidates pre-race, she had won her first Stakes race in the Pretty Polly Stakes earlier that month.
Talent’s influence may well be seen for years to come as the first of her foals to race, Ambition, the 2016 filly by Dubawi, gained a valuable first Group victory in November 2019 in the G3 Prix Fille de l’Air at Toulouse.
Some 10 years before Talent, another filly completed the Pretty Polly/Oaks double. Ouija Board, the great Cape Cross mare owned and bred by Lord Derby, would go onto win six G1s including the English and Irish Oaks plus two victories at the Breeders’ Cup.
And that racing class was repeated by Ouija Board in the breeding sheds, producing Derby winner Australia and the classy Frontiersman (Dubawi), runner-up in the G1 Coronation Cup at Epsom.
European Champion juvenile Too Darn Hot covered his first book of mares at Dalham Hall Stud in 2020 and his year younger full-sibling Lah Ti Dar won the 2018 running of the Pretty Polly. Making her second career start at Newmarket, the daughter of Dubawi missed the Oaks through illness before placing in both the St Leger and British Champions Fillies And Mares Stakes.
Cape Cross has sired a further two winners of the Pretty Polly with Saphira’s Fire in 2008 and Horseplay three seasons ago, while Mtoto was responsible for the winner in 2001 with the Ed Dunlop-trained Mot Juste.