Thursday, August 04, 2016

Good buy, good day

A horse does not have to have been inexpensive to prove to have been a bargain.  Robert Sievier, one of the greatest brahmameisters of turf history, smashed the world record for a yearling when paying 10,000 gns to buy a filly by Persimmon from Ormonde's sister Ornament from the executors of the Duke of Westminster at Tattersalls' July Sale in Newmarket in 1900.  That was an unimaginable sum but, named Sceptre, she proved to be a bargain because, having made her seasonal resumption in the Lincoln, she contested all five Classics in 1902 and won them all bar the Derby.  He subsequently sold her for £25,000.

No price came close to that 10,000 gns until the Honourable George Lambton paid 9,100 gns on behalf of the Aga Khan III for a grey filly by The Tetrarch from the 1916 Coventry Stakes winner Lady Josephine at Tattersalls' St Leger Yearling Sale in Doncaster in 1922.  Named Mumtaz Mahal and nicknamed The Flying Filly, she proved to have been a real bargain, being first a champion racehorse and then a champion broodmare.  She has proved a treasure trove for the Aga Khan's studs, her brood throwing up champions for the Aga Khan III, his son Prince Aly Khan and his grandson (the current) HH Aga Khan IV including Mahmoud, Nasrullah, Petite Etoile, Shergar and Zarkava.  When fillies from the family have fallen into others' hands they have often done wonderfully well, a perfect illustration being Eight Carat, who can be regarded as certainly the best broodmare to have been imported into New Zealand since the war, and arguably the best ever.

Another of the great bargains has been Alruccaba, a great-great-great-great-grandaughter of Mumtaz Mahal.  She was one of the two-year-olds whom Michael Stoute trained for the Aga Khan in 1985 (along with Shahrastani, who beat Dancing Brave in the following year's Derby and then won the Irish Derby very easily) and she won at Brighton before ending the season by finishing fifth in a nursery at Catterick.  Her final engagement of the year was at Tattersalls' December Sale in Newmarket, where she was bought for 19,000 gns by Kirsten Rausing and Sonia Rogers.

Alruccaba has proved to have been a wonderful bargain and is now posthumously ancestress of some great horses, many of them with names beginning with the letter 'A'.  One of her daughters (Alouette) bred the Champion Stakes heroine Alborada and her triple Group One-winning full-sister Albanova, as well as Alakanda, dam of Dragon Dancer who finished second in Sir Percy's Derby.  Another of her daughters (Last Second) won the Nassau Stakes and the Sun Chariot Stakes and then bred the top-class miler Aussie Rules.  Another daughter (Alleluia) won the Doncaster Cup and then bred Allegretto, winner of the Goodwood Cup, Park Hill Stakes, Prix Royal-Oak and Lancashire Oaks.  Another daughter (Arrikala) was placed in the Irish Oaks.  Another daughter (Jude) has bred several Aidan O'Brien-trained stars including Yesterday and Quarter Moon (who is now the dam of Diamondsandrubies).

Fillies from Mumtaz Mahal's family are gems, and ones from the branches of either Alruccaba or Eight Carat are true diamonds.  Earlier this year, Emma brought it to my attention that there was a member of Alruccaba's tribe in the catalogue for Tattersalls' February Sale.  Her name was Hope Is High, a three-year-old filly by Sir Percy from Alborada's winning Green Desert half-sister Altitude.  This seemed to me to be information of academic interest only because she would surely fetch a lot of money.  The filly, who had been sold for 28,000 gns as a yearling and who had spent her two-year-old season in David Simcock's stable, had, admittedly, raced three times as a two-year-old and shown no worthwhile form; but her pedigree was strong enough for anyone to want to breed from her even if she never did win a race.

Furthermore, she was still young and lightly raced, so there was no reason to assume that she wouldn't improve as she got older, notwithstanding that she was not being sold from David's stable but had come to the sale from a stud and was being sold 'Out of Training', which could be seen as a suggestion that she was not a racing prospect.  Whatever - a breeder would surely buy her for quite a lot more than Emma would have to spend.  I didn't go up to Park Paddocks to have a look at her, merely cautioning Emma to bear in mind that she had been with a good trainer as a two-year-old and not to kid herself into thinking that the filly could be improved merely by a change of stable.  I thought no more about it, until receiving a text from Emma in the middle of the morning a couple of days later to tell me that she had made the opening bid of 800 gns for the filly, and that that had surprisingly turned out to be the only bid.

It made no sense that anyone could have sold this filly for that amount at that stage as she surely ought to have been worth a lot more than that; but even so, from a trainer's point of view it was hard to see that there was much cause for celebration.  However, the one ray of hope came from the fact that we had previously had a fairly small unremarkable bay Sir Percy filly (ie a doppelganger of Hope Is High) called Grand Liaison who had shown no ability whatsoever at two (and she was trained by me then as well as in later years) but had then made massive improvement, ending up a very decent middle-distance handicapper and the winner of five races.  So we might as well see what would transpire.

Anyway, Emma has thrown double sixes.  God only know what now lies ahead for Hope Is High, but in the six months since Tattersalls' February Sale she has done exactly what Grand Liaison started doing at a similar stage of her life, ie making startling physical improvement.  We have clearly been helped by the fact that she has started out at the right end of the handicap (she arrived with a rating of 40) but the wonderful thing is that she has been able to put this mark to good use: two weeks ago she had her first run of the year when finishing second at Yarmouth and yesterday she won at Bath, giving us a terrific thrill.  With livestock one never knows what is around the corner, and whether she will ever win another race is unknowable.  Similarly, whether she will ever breed a winner is unknowable.  But, at things stand at present, Emma's purchase of her for 800 gns is looking an act of inspiration, and she would fetch a lot more than that if she were put up for sale tomorrow (which she won't be).

What made the day so very, very special, though, was that yesterday was the first time that Emma's colours have ever found their way to the winner's enclosure.  It was a truly magical moment.  Included among the credits in addition to Hope Is High and Emma, incidentally, are both Josephine Gordon and Jana Trnakova.  Hope Is High is actually one of the horses in the stable whom I know least well as I only ride her very infrequently (basically just if she needs to go out on a Sunday - such as on the one last month pictured in Emma's photograph in the previous paragraph - and it is Jana's weekend off) as Jana rides her every day (and you can see her on her in this paragraph, on Monday morning).

But that suits me fine as the filly is in very safe hands: Jana rode Rizeena pretty much every day for three years and that worked out well enough as Rizeena won two Group One races during the period and came close to recording the special feat of winning at Royal Ascot in three consecutive years (winning the Queen Mary at two and the Coronation Stakes at three, and finishing second in the Windsor Forest at four).  And Josephine?  Well, basically, if you book her, you are minimizing the chance of anything going wrong in the race and maximizing the chance of your horse winning it.  And that would apply even if she weren't claiming her allowance (and will still apply once she is no longer claiming it).

So that's our racing week done: one runner, one winner.  Roy was meant to go to Brighton today, but it turns out that he had a tough time at Epsom seven days ago and isn't ready to run again this soon.  It was disquieting how tired he was after the race last week, and he's been subdued since then.  You would never usually see him lying down in his stable during the day (why go to sleep when there's always an opportunity to cause mischief?) but I twice found him like this during the day on Saturday (as you can see in the previous paragraph).  So regretfully we have had to abandon the plan for him to contest the Brighton Cup today.  He's having the rest of the week off (as you can see in this photograph which shows him hanging out on Monday with his half-brother White Valiant) and he should be right to run in the amateurs' Derby at Epsom at the end of the month, with or without a run beforehand.

Even if Roy had been fine, it would still have been an act of faith to declare him as Brighton had received 30mm of rain overnight (when between 4 and 8 mm had been forecast) and further rain was forecast (another 7mm fell) and the ground was good to soft, soft in places, which he would have hated.  However, as often happens there, it has dried up to good - but he's not fit to run, so that's academic.  It was a similar situation at Bath, where a similar amount fell two nights before racing.  Hope Is High wouldn't like soft ground, but again all the deluge meant was that, as I had been hoping, we ran on good ground yesterday rather than hard.  So that was very good - as, incidentally, is Bath's new grandstand (pictured) which has made a lovely racecourse even nicer.


neil kearns said...

should make a film of the story - hope she goes on to have more success both on and off track - congratulations to all - particular praise for to me the young rider of the season who looks a star of the future - perhaps even tomorrow where it will be really interesting to see how she goes in the Shergar Cup

RP McArdle said...

What a wonderful story and congratulations to all especially Emma. I shall trawl through the hit catalogues myself now and try and seek out a Sir Percy 2yo with the great broodmare as the 9th dam! Fingers crossed for the filly and who knows what may happen but for sure I hope now to follow her progress with great interest. I guess that not many people at the Sale noticed the 9th dam. It pays to do your homework.