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Aga Khan's Australian foray comes to fruition 2017-02-02

Thursday, 2017, February 2
Princess Zahra Aga Khan and Prince Karim Aga Khan with Christophe Soumillon (winner of the Arc de Triomphe)
Nancy Sexton

THE initial breeding venture between John Messara's Arrowfield Stud and the Aga Khan Studs, whereby the Aga Khan maintains a group of Australian-based mares at Arrowfield, comprised just six mares back in 2008. But like plenty of the decisions that the Aga Khan has taken over the years to enhance his bloodstock, the results have been far reaching and now, a little under a decade later, this is one with international consequence.

In Australia, several of the resulting produce out of those Australian-based mares have sold for high-flying prices at auction. Various foals, including recent Listed-winning juvenile Azazel, have also acquitted themselves well on the track.

In Europe, meanwhile, the partnership allowed breeders to gain access to Arrowfield's champion sire Redoute's Choice, who shuttled to Haras de Bonneval for two seasons in 2013 and 2014. That first European crop are now three-year-olds and include Goldikova's Listed-placed half-sister Gold Luck.

On Saturday at Kenilworth in South Africa, the venture broke into Grade 1 territory when Whisky Baron captured The Sun Met at the expense of South African Horse of the Year Legal Eagle. Owned by Craig and Ross Kieswetter, whose family recently purchased prominent South African farm Highlands Stud from Antony Beck, and trained by Brett Crawford, the gelding was winning his fifth race in a row, a sequence that also includes the Grade 2 Peninsula Handicap at Kenilworth in early January.

In victory, Whisky Baron became the first top level winner for Arrowfield's Manhattan Rain, an Encosta De Lago half-brother to Redoute's Choice who landed the Group 1 AJC Sires Produce Stakes during his time with Gai Waterhouse. Naturally, expectations were sky high when he retired to Arrowfield in 2010 at a fee of A$45,000 (£27,100/€31,600). Four crops of racing age have yielded nine stakes winners in total, among them recent Group 2 winner Wild Rain in addition to Whisky Baron. But they are two of only four Group winners by the stallion and in turn, his fee for 2016 was A$16,500 (£9,900/€11,600).

Whisky Baron's dam, Tazkara, was among the first batch of mares sent by the Aga Khan to Arrowfield in 2008.

"We selected females that we intended retaining for breeding but that were also from families that were well represented in our stud book already," says Pat Downes, manager of Gilltown Stud. "The number of mares has remained more or less constant at 10-12 mares. The year we sent Tazkara to Australia, the family was doing very well with [Group 3 winner] Tashelka and [Group 1-placed] Tashkandi and we felt it would be a nice family to try in Australia."

An unraced daughter of Sinndar, Tazkara hails from the Francois Dupre stock acquired by the Aga Khan in 1977.

Francois Dupre developed Haras d'Ouilly into one of the most prominent studs of its time. It was there that his dual Arc hero Tantieme was crowned the champion French sire of 1962 and 1964 and sired the excellent brothers Match (winner of the 1962 King George) and Reliance (1965 Prix du Jockey Club) alongside the Dupre-bred Grand Prix de Paris winner Tanerko among others.

Another successful resident of Haras d'Ouilly, the imported American runner Relic, provided Dupre with his 1957 Prix de l'Abbaye heroine Texana, the sixth dam of Whisky Baron.

Dupre died in 1966 and Mme Dupre maintained the stud until her death in 1977. At the time, the stud comprised of approximately 80 horses, including 39 mares, all of whom were catalogued to sell at Longchamp on the day after the Arc. However, before they could come under the hammer, the Aga Khan swooped to purchase the lot and thus came into possession of a Prix du Jockey Club winner in Top Ville, then a yearling, Val Divine, who was carrying 1981 Champion Stakes winner Vayrann, and Niece Divine, dam of the 1987 Prix du Jockey Club winner Natroun.

Whisky Baron's fourth dam, the Silver Shark mare Tremogia, was part of the package and went on to foal three Group 3 winners for the Aga Khan in Tassmoun (Prix Messidor), Tashkourgan (Premio Carlo Porta) and Tashtiya (Princess Royal Stakes). Later, she also became granddam of the Prix Royal Oak winner Tiraaz and Phoenix Stakes winner Damson, in turn dam of another quick two-year-old in Requinto. Gilt Edge Girl, Arcano and Sword Fighter also descend from Tremogia.

Tashtiya, from the sole 43-strong crop of Shergar, left behind one stakes runner, the Group 3-placed Tashiriya, by Kenmare. Her best foal was Tashelka, whose win in the 2007 Prix de la Nonette was emulated by her daughter Tasaday for Godolphin six years later.

Tashelka is also the dam of last year's Desmond Stakes winner Tribal Beat, making her a valued member of the Godolphin operation.

However, Tazkara, one of four Group 1-producing daughters of Sinndar alongside Shawanda (dam of Encke), Night Visit (dam of Trading Leather) and Louvain (dam of Flotilla), isn't too far behind her elder sister. Whisky Baron is the best of four winners from as many runners out of the mare, who returned to France while carrying to Snitzel northern hemisphere time in 2014. The resulting filly is now with Jean-Claude Rouget. Tazkara also has a yearling colt by Excelebration and was covered last year by Muhaarar.

The Aga Khan Studs partnership with Arrowfield continues to remain productive. At the recent Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale, they sold a pair of yearlings - a Snitzel filly out of Sananda and a Not A Single Doubt colt out of Allariza - for A$500,000 (£300,000/€350,000) apiece and have another five yearlings catalogued to the Inglis Easter Yearling Sale in April. Among the youngsters already firing on the track is Azazel, the Snitzel two-year-old out of Allariza who won on his debut at Moonee Valley and recently ran second in the Listed Blue Diamond Preview at Caulfield.

"We sold some very nice yearlings last year that we are looking forward to seeing on the track," says Downes. "We are also very happy with the two we sold at Magic Millions and those that will sell at the Inglis Easter Sale."

Fruitful on and off the track, this looks set to remain a partnership that gains more traction.


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