Thursday 13 November 2003
By Marcus Armytage

Dalakhani is the star

By Marcus Armytage (Filed: 13/11/2003) The Aga Khan's brilliant three-year-old colt, Dalakhani, was named the Cartier Horse of The Year at the annual end-of-season Cartier Awards dinner held in London last night. The horse's list of honours already included the French Derby and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe before he landed the most prestigious racing award in Europe.

His trophies, for Horse of The Year and Three-Year-Old Colt, were picked up by his trainer, Alain de Royer-Dupre and Princess Zahra Aga Khan, who is taking an increasingly-prominent role in her father's breeding empire.

Dalakhani, who ran nine times and suffered his only defeat in the Irish Derby when he was beaten by the Aga Khan's Alamshar, has been retired to his owner's Giltown Stud in Ireland - where he was born - at a fee of 45,000 euros (about 32,000).

Falbrav, whose long season produced four Group One wins, including a stunning success in Ascot's Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and a brave third in the mile-and-a-half Breeders' Cup Turf, was rewarded for his efforts with the Top Older Horse award. He was runner-up to Dalakhani for Horse of The Year.

One of the evening's loudest receptions was reserved for Jeff Smith, when he picked up the Cartier Stayer Award from Arnaud Bamberger, managing director of Cartier, for the 10-year-old Persian Punch. The David Elsworth-trained gelding's four wins this year included the Goodwood Cup, the Doncaster Cup, the Jockey Club Cup and a Listed event at Sandown. Runner-up in this category was Mr Dinos, the lightly raced Gold Cup winner.

The top Three-Year-Old Filly award went to Sir Michael Stoute's Russian Rhythm, who won the 1,000 Guineas, Coronation Stakes and Nassau Stakes and ran a brilliant race in defeat when second to Falbrav in the QEII. The top sprinter was John Gosden's Oasis Dream, following his wins in the July Cup and Nunthorpe. He was comfortably clear on points of Choisir, the first Australian-trained horse ever to figure in these awards.

Ireland often does well at the Cartier Awards, but their only success this year was with the Aidan O'Brien-trained One Cool Cat, who was Top Two-Year-old Colt.

Attraction, bred in Scotland by the Duke of Roxburghe but with such crooked legs they didn't bother sending her to the sales, continued her rags-to-riches story when she was named Top Two-Year-Old Filly. She was trained by Mark Johnston but is currently recuperating from an injury at her owner's stud near Kelso.

The Daily Telegraph Award of Merit, the only award given at the dinner for human achievement, went to Lord Oaksey, one of the greatest post-War racing writers. The award was given to him as much for his setting up of the Injured Jockeys Fund as for his amateur riding and professional writing, mainly for The Daily Telegraph and his weekly racing round-up in the Horse & Hound.

At this time of year he is often to be found with his wife, Chicky, raising funds for the Injured Jockeys by selling Christmas cards and diaries - regardless of the weather. This year he is interspersing that with signing copies of his entertaining autobiography Mince Pie for Starters.

Daily Telegraph readers' votes contributed to 25 percent of the total points for the horses and the lucky reader, who won a Cartier watch and a trip to the awards at the Four Seasons Hotel last night, was Mrs Georgina Dollar, of Newmarket.