Being in Deauville in August is always a great way to start a season that you know will include plenty of cold, wet days in far less appealing locations.
This year, the Aga Khan Studs took the opportunity to thank their clients with a party to celebrate the success of their stallions in France and Ireland at Haras de Bonneval prior to the start of Arqana’s August Sale. It was reasonable to expect a pretty lavish shindig but I’m not sure many would have predicted the welcoming committee for the guests as they filed into the marquee. The ‘hallway’, which is more usually the foaling unit through the breeding season, was lined not with empty foaling boxes but with deep straw-filled stables containing five of the Aga Khan’s best mares, including the outstanding Arc winner Zarkava and her Frankel filly foal.
Also in attendance was Elva with her Elusive City filly foal. Elva’s fourth foal, Ervedya, has been one of the Aga Khan’s shining lights this season with Group 1 wins in France and England, though she has played a much more important role than simply adding to the organisation’s impressive haul of big-race victories. Her swooping run in the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches means she will go down in history as the first Classic winner for her young sire Siyouni, a homebred addition to the stallion roster at Bonneval in 2011.
At €70,000 his fee was way beyond that commanded by any other stallion available in the country at the time
Siyouni is playing an important part in the resurgence of the French stallion market, which, at the time of his retirement to stud, was in a pretty parlous state.
The last five years, however, have seen the unlikely emergence of Kendargent followed by the retention and great support of Prix du Jockey-Club winner Le Havre. Prior to the realisation of the nascent talent within its own stable of Siyouni, the Aga Khan Studs made a bold move, in partnership with Arrowfield, to bring the then-17-year-old Redoute’s Choice to stand in France. At €70,000 his fee was way beyond that commanded by any other stallion available in the country at the time and the announcement of his reverse-shuttling of Australia’s three-time champion sire was greeted initially with more than a few raised eyebrows.
However, the Aga Khan supported the son of Danehill with some of his own top-class mares, not least Zarkava, who now has a yearling colt by him, and plenty of other good breeders were keen to use him. The result is that his first crop of European yearlings, now going head to head with Frankel and co in the sales ring, have been very warmly received.
Redoute’s Choice’s biggest backer at Arqana was John Ferguson, who paid just over €2 million for three of his sons and helped to propel his August Sale average to €366,500 for ten sold, second only to Frankel on the freshman list, with his six selling for an average of €566,667.
Three more Redoute’s Choice yearlings feature in the Orby Sale at the end of this month, including the first foal of Kirsten Rausing’s Group 3 winner Alla Speranza, while eight are set to go under the hammer during Book 1 of Tattersalls’ October Sale. Newsells Park Stud consigns two of the octet, with star billing going to the three-part-sister to this year’s 1,000 Guineas and Nassau Stakes winner Legatissimo.
Now 19, Redoute’s Choice did not return to Bonneval for the 2015 covering season. He was replaced by Makfi, who helped to provide a memorable double for first-crop sires when his son Make Believe won the Poule d’Essai des Poulains on the same afternoon Ervedya struck for Siyouni.
There are further changes to the line-up for next season following the recent announcement that Dalakhani is to relocate from the Aga Khan’s Gilltown Stud to the country where he was unbeaten in eight starts (only fellow Aga Khan flag-bearer Alamshar ever got the better of him, by half a length in the Irish Derby).
News of his move could not have been better timed, coming as it did in a week when his son Second Step won the Group 1 Grosser Preis von Berlin, followed by Candarliya’s Group 3 victory at Deauville during the August Sale.
Dalakhani, Siyouni and the grand old stalwart Sinndar will be joined at Bonneval by Qatar Bloodstock’s Charm Spirit, who will certainly be well partonised given his race record and the extraordinary success of his sire Invincible Spirit, both on the racecourse and in the sales ring.
These are not only exciting times for the Aga Khan Studs but for the French breeding industry as a whole.