IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Will the son be another Ronaldo?

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Jan 18, 2014

IF CRISTIANO Ronaldo was horse instead of man, we might put greater store in his genes, and care less about his behaviour on the Fifa catwalk.

CR7 took his three-year-old son, Cristiano Jr, onto the stage to share the moment when, at last, Papa won back the title of world player of the year.

It is rare for Ronaldo to want to share his publicity with anyone.

Sightings of the mini-Cristiano have been strictly rationed from the day he brought the child home - asking the media to respect that "as agreed with the baby's mother, who prefers to have her identity kept confidential, my son will be under my exclusive guardianship".

We can at least see that the child is as dark and handsome as the father.

Whatever else might be handed down, we must wait and wonder.

But this is where human and equine breeding differ.

Three days before Ronaldo pipped Lionel Messi to the post to win the Ballon d'0r, a foal was born in a stable in Co. Tipperary, Ireland.

Not just any foal, either.

This as-yet-unnamed, week-old colt has already been quoted at 66-1 (down from 100-1) to win the 2017 Derby, Britain's most-coveted horse race.

It is all in the breeding and, in racing, they try to make an exact science of such matters.

The tiny foal is the very first offspring of the great Frankel, who was unbeaten in 16 races before he was retired to stud some 15 months ago.

In that time, he has mated with 133 mares, at £125,000 (S$260,000) a throw.

The colt born last Saturday to a six-year-old mare called Chrysanthemum has very particular connections.

His sire is one of the greats; his dam won five races, including two well-respected gallops.

So with turbo pace on one side of his lineage and quite valued pedigree on the other, a lot is invested in what happens three years down the track.

Three years. That's the lifespan so far of Cristiano the younger, and the time at which racing thoroughbreds peak.

Whereas, so far as we know, most human pairings happen by chance, the inner game of horse-race breeding goes long and deep into the science of genetic match-making.

Those odds on the Frankel foal winning a Derby will, of course, shorten or lengthen once anyone sees the colt standing on his own feet, never mind when he goes into training.

There is even an attempt at anonymity as to the colt's owners.

The racing book shows who owned the mare Chrysanthemum up until a month ago.

But at that point, once scans proved that she was in foal, the horse was sold for a million dollars at an auction in December.

The buyers were an American bloodstock agency whose clients (like Cristiano Jr's mother) wish to preserve their anonymity.

We know the date, the time (8.30 in the morning) and the pedigree of both the mother and father of this young horse.

But over the next few weeks, there could be 128 other Frankel foals because only four of the 133 mares covered last year appear not to have conceived.

Apparently, if the American owners put the first colt of Frankel on the market tomorrow, there would be a purchaser, most likely a sheikh or a prince, willing to give US$10 million (S$12.7 million) for its potential.

It is not a sure thing, of course.

Students of the Turf have a saying: "Breed the best to the best, and hope for the best."

In my time, I've known thoroughbred specialists who think of nothing else and who each has his own spreadsheet on the strengths and characteristics of inter-breeding horses.

However, while Gallileo, Mill Reef and Nijinsky, past Derby winners, all did sire great champions winning classics both in Britain and the United States, other legendary stallions, Brigadier Gerard and Grundy, were less-successful stud animals.

Now, back to the top soccer studs.

Both Ronaldo and Messi, who lost the Ballon d'Or for the first time in five years largely because he managed to get injured last year, have sons.

Messi and his girlfriend Antonella left their boy Thiago at home on Monday (the child, after all, has only recently had his first birthday).

Ronaldo's girlfriend, Irina, was in the audience, doing her level best to completely blank Antonella.

Maybe that is something personal.

Maybe it is something Irina, a Russian model, picked up from her man because Ronaldo has set the tone for brooding on the Fifa platform when Messi is about.

The one thing we know is that Thiago Messi knows who both his parents are, and that whatever he inherits by way of bloodlines is rooted in Argentina.

Cristiano Jr might never be told one half of his parentage.

The speculation that is most repeated, despite Ronaldo's request for privacy, is that the child's mother is an American surrogate.

The boy already knows what it feels like to be cuddled by Pele and lifted up by Diego Maradona.

All that gold dust might rub off and, if 15 years from now, a second CR7 emerges, we might ask the age-old question.

Nature or nurture?

He could inherit greatness or he could be picking it up from the company his dad keeps.

stsports@sph.com.sg

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Jan 18, 2014

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