The Aga Khan has never made any secret of his desire to achieve a wide genetic base in his breeding operation, so it’s no surprise that his latest stud book records that he used more than 40 different European stallions in 2013. In addition, six American stallions – City Zip, Giant’s Causeway, Harlan’s Holiday, Kitten’s Joy, Mizzen Mast and More Than Ready – were used on ten Kentucky-based mares, with Mizzen Mast receiving three mares.
Inevitably it was the stallions based at Gilltown Stud and Haras de Bonneval which received the most support. The Gilltown contingent of Azamour, Sea The Stars and Dalakhani all covered more than a dozen of the Aga’s mares, while over in France the Australian champion sire Redoute’s Choice covered 17 mares, which was four more than Sinndar and six more than the promising Siyouni.
However, His Highness also used a wide range of outside stallions, with plenty of fast and precocious horses figuring alongside Classic influences, such as New Approach, Motivator and Pour Moi. The Aga showed plenty of foresight in sending six mares to Dark Angel.
One thing which shines through an analysis of these 40-odd stallions is the Aga’s admiration for the Danzig male line in general and for the Danehill branch in particular. Redoute’s Choice, of course, is a son of Danehill, and other sons which received patronage were Clodovil (2 mares), Dansili (1), Exceed And Excel (4), Holy Roman Emperor (8) and Rock Of Gibraltar (5). Then there were the grandsons Bated Breath, Bushranger, Excelebration, Mount Nelson and Myboycharlie, plus the likes of Teofilo, Sepoy and Siyouni, who are all out of Danehill mares.
Rock Of Gibraltar will likely remain a favourite with the Aga Khan’s team, as he has thoroughly justified the earlier support he received. When Raydara quickened nicely to land the Debutante Stakes at the Curragh in August, she became Rock Of Gibraltar’s third Group winner carrying the Aga’s famous silks.
She was following the example of Ebiyza, who was deservedly promoted to first after a head defeat in the Group 2 Prix de Royallieu at the 2013 Arc meeting, and Varenar. This son of Rock Of Gibraltar enjoyed his finest moment when he snatched victory in the Group 1 Prix de la Foret in 2009.
Then there’s the brother-and-sister team of Ashkiyr and Ashiyla. Ashkiyr was placed at Group 2 and Group 3 levels in France before being sold to Hong Kong, while Ashiyla became a Listed winner after finishing a fine fourth to Midday after setting the pace in the Group 1 Prix Vermeille. Rock Of Gibraltar also sired the multiple Group winner Eagle Mountain from a mare bred by the Aga.
It is going to be fascinating to see what rewards the Aga will reap from the decision to bring Redoute’s Choice to France in 2013 and 2014. This initiative is all the more exciting now that Redoute’s Choice is making a name for himself as a sire of sires. His son Snitzel finished runner-up to him on the 2013-14 Australian sires’ list, with two other sons – Stratum and Not A Single Doubt – also finishing in the top 20. I don’t have full details of the Aga Khan’s 2014 foals, but two potential stallions among the Redoute’s Choice foals could be the colts out of the Group 1 Prix Saint-Alary winner Sagawara and the brilliant Arc winner Zarkava.
Of course Sea The Stars represents the Green Desert branch of the Danzig male line. In addition to the 14 Aga Khan mares which visited him in his fourth season, another four visited his sire Cape Cross. Invincible Spirit’s son Lawman also received support.
The Aga must be delighted with the way Sea The Stars’s career has blossomed during 2014, especially when his own colour-bearers have played a significant part in this success story. Among them are Vazira, who was awarded victory in the Prix Saint-Alary on the disqualification of We Are; the progressive Zarshana, successful in the Group 3 Prix Minerve; and Shamkiyr, runner-up to The Grey Gatsby in the Prix du Jockey-Club. This surely bodes well for their owner, who has eight Sea The Stars two-year-olds and eight yearlings.