Maximum Security will represent a lineage that traces directly back to one of racing’s founding fathers when he lines up for the $20 million Saudi Cup.

When leading contender Maximum Security breaks from the gate at the start of the world’s richest race, he will be representing a lineage that began 318 years ago no more than a Falcon’s flight away from the King Abdulaziz Racetrack in Riyadh.

Born, raised and trained in the United States, Maximum Security’s decedents can be traced back to just 1,000 miles northwest of Riyadh where, in Aleppo, 350 years previously a Purebred Arabian colt was born of such influence that around 95% of the Thoroughbreds owe their fleet of foot got his blood.

The story begins some twenty-five generations ago in 1702, when a failed merchant in Aleppo, Thomas Darley, purchased a two-year-old Purebred Arabian colt from Bedouin tribesmen. Wanting to export the colt back to England to stand at stud at his brother’s Aldby Hall, in Yorkshire, Darley asks for the assistance of his friend, the Honourable Henry Brydges.

Brydges had been chaplain to some Aleppo merchants and was returning to England, so Darley asked him to help smuggle the colt aboard HMS Ipswich, a ship bound for England. Sadly, Thomas Darley died a few months later and never returned to England to see his Darley Arabian.

It is believed that Darley Arabian started covering mares in 1706 and one of his early successes was Childers, foaled in 1715, who was known as the “Flying” Childers. However, it is Childers’ elder, unraced brother who was to have the greater influence. Named Bartlett’s Childers, he went on to sire Squirt, who although a moderate racehorse in the 1730s, produced Marske who, in turn, sired Eclipse, one of greatest thoroughbreds of all time.

Foaled in 1764, Eclipse was bred by the Duke of Cumberland, the third son of King George II. Cumberland died a year later and was purchased by the meat dealer William Wildman for 75 guineas (around $25,000 today). Eclipse did not race until he was five, but soon showed that he was special. Much of Eclipse’s history is also linked to his eventual, and colourful, owner Dennis O’Kelly but Eclipse proved an extraordinary horse and an undisputed champion of his generation, winning all his 18 starts.

Retired to stud in 1771, Eclipse became a leading sire of his era, producing more than 240 winners, including Epsom Derby winners Young Eclipse, Saltram and Sergeant. Such is Eclipse’s influence on the modern day thoroughbred, that all but four Epsom Derby winners since 1950 are directly descended from him.

Through Pot-8-Os, another son of Eclipse, the line descends seven generations to Stockwell, an influential sire of his age credited for continuing the Eclipse line. Stockwell, a 12-time winner, was leading sire seven times between 1860 to 1867. It was his Epsom Derby winner, Doncaster, who was carry on the biggest influence via his son Bend Or.

Bend Or won ten of his 14 starts between 1879 and 1881 for his owner Hugh Grosvenor, 1st Duke Of Westminster. Unbeaten at two, which included the Richmond Stakes at Goodwood, Bend Or went on to win both the St James’s Palace Stakes and the Epsom Derby the following year, before winning the Champion Stakes at Newmarket at four years old.

Although Bend Or’s leading son was the Triple Crown winner Ormonde, it was his 2,000 Guineas winner Bona Vista who was to have the greater influence today as the great grand-sire to Phalaris.

Bred and raced by Edward Stanley, the 17th Earl of Derby, Phalaris was foaled in 1913 and proved to be a smart two-year-old winning twice. Failing to stay the 1916 2,000 Guineas, Phalaris proved to be dominant sprinter, winning 16 of his 24 starts, although racing was restricted due to the Great War.

Phalaris began his stud career in 1919 at Cheveley Park Stud, before moving to Lord Derby’s Side Hill Stud, where he was the leading sire of juveniles in England between 1925-27 as well as Champion sire in 1925. Phalaris’s influence on the modern thoroughbred is through three strains. Firstly, through the Eclipse Stakes winner Pharos, whose branch has produced Nearco, Nasrullah and Northern Dancer. The other two come from full-brothers Sickle and Pharamond II, who proved key influences in America.

Sickle, who like Pharos, was bred on the 1920’s all-conquering Phalaris/Chaucer cross, proved to be a smart colt despite only winning three of his ten starts, but was third in the 1927 2,000 Guineas. Although retired to stud in England in 1929, Joseph Widener approached Lord Derby to export him to his Elmendorf Stud in Kentucky. It is there that Sickle’s influence on the thoroughbred cannot be overstated as the direct ancestor to Native Dancer.

Native Dancer’s grandsire, Unbreakable, was raced in England for Widener, where he ran in both the Derby and the 2,000 Guineas, before returning to Kentucky where he was a sire of similar levels. However, he did sire Polynesian, a smart tough horse who won the 1945 Preakness Stakes and sired 37 stakes winners, which included Native Dancer.

Bred and raced by one of America’s prominent figures of the time, Alfred G. Vanderbilt Jr., Native Dancer was foaled in 1950 and proved to be a true champion, being crowned Horse of the Year twice as well as winner of both the Preakness and Belmont Stakes.

Native Dancer retired to Vanderbilt’s Sagamore Farm in Maryland, where his stud career followed similar fortune with 44 stakes winners, including the Kentucky Derby winner Kauai King, the brilliant two-year-old Raise A Native as well as Dancer’s Image, who joins Maximum Security in being the only colts in history to lose their Kentucky Derby victories on disqualification.

A tendon injury prevented the 1963 Champion two-year-old colt, Raise A Native, from racing at three so entered stud Spendthrift Farm. Although he did sire a Majestic Prince to win a Kentucky Derby, he was mostly a speed influence with 78 career stakes winners; Mr Prospector being one.

It was Leslie Combs II’s Spendthrift Farm that was the birthplace for this thoroughbred emperor. Mr Prospector, like his sire, suffered soundness issues. Despite being tried as a ‘Derby’ horse, Mr Prospector followed his immediate forefathers in showing tremendous speed to win the Whirlaway and Gravesend Handicaps.

Mr. Prospector started his stud career in Florida where he made an immediate impact. Within his first crop was the Champion two-year-old filly It’s In The Air. This led to Seth Hancock, of the Claiborne Farm, to purchase him for the 1981 breeding season where he dominated American breeding for the next 25 years producing more than 180 stakes winners. The Mr Prospector sire-line is dominant today via many of his sons, including Afleet, Fappaino, Gone West, Kingmambo, Seeking The Gold and Smart Strike.

Maximum Security stems from Mr Prospector’s son, Machiavellian. A beautifully bred colt, Machiavellian was Champion two-year-old in France in 1989 before beginning his next career at Sheikh Mohammed’s Dalham Hall Stud in Newmarket. Machiavellian sired 71 stakes winners including Street Cry, winner of the 1999 Dubai World Cup. Street Cry stood at Jonabell Farm, becoming his sire’s most successful son with over 130 stakes winners. These include Champions Winx, Zenyatta and Street Sense, as well as New Year’s Day, winner of the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and subsequently the sire of Maximum Security.

Thomas Darley must have seen something very special in Darley Arabian all that time ago to want to ship him such a distance. But even Darley could not have imagined the impact the colt would make on the thoroughbred breed over the next 250 years, or that his direct descendent would one day be lining up to race for $20 million in the first running of the Saudi Cup.

By Clive Webb-Carter