It’s unlikely that Al Husn will be disregarded again by the market the next time she lines up for a Group 1. Sent off at 9/1 ahead of last week’s Nassau Stakes at Goodwood, despite having previously lowered the colours of Nashwa in the Hoppings Stakes at Newcastle, the Shadwell homebred proved that assessment all wrong to land her third consecutive race for Roger Varian, overcoming the well-ridden leader Above The Curve to score in game fashion with Nashwa and Blue Rose Cen not far away in third and fourth. Goodwood was blighted by bad weather for much of the week and the ground suffered as such. However, Al Husn went through it well, perhaps not surprisingly for a filly whose immediate background is a fusion of Dubawi, Sea The Stars and Linamix.

It was a victory that capped an important week for Shadwell Estate Company, for whom she was a second quick Group 1 winner after the King George hero Hukum. As has been well documented, Shadwell has undergone a significant reduction in recent years following the death of Sheikh Hamdan – Al Husn’s dam Hadaatha was among those sold in December 2021 – but there’s no doubt that the operation is currently in fine fettle if the recent top-flight performances by Baaeed, Minzaal, Mostahdaf, Hukum and now Al Husn are anything to go by. 

Gerry Oldham took pride in developing families over time, so he would likely take great satisfaction in the way his Primula family continues to thrive for other breeders

Al Husn’s family has been in Shadwell hands for just over 20 years but credit for the foundations of its success lie very much at the door of the noted breeder Gerry Oldham.

Oldham took pride in developing families over time, so he would likely take great satisfaction in the way his Primula family continues to thrive for other breeders. The daughter of Nearula, whose wins included the Premio Besnate, Premio Federico Tesio and Premio Federico Tesio, was acquired by Oldham out of Italy in the mid-1960s and duly became the backbone of one of his most successful families. Al Husn, who descends from Primula via Maresca and Kildaragh Stud’s successful producer Zivania, is the latest in a long line of Group 1 performers to descend from the mare alongside the likes of Meditate, Ectot, Most Improved, Golden Reef, La Pelosa, Bocca Baciata, Daban and Oldham’s own Romildo. Recent Marble Hill Stakes winner Givemethebeatboys, who topped the Goffs London Sale at £1.1 million, is another descendant.

Al Husn, partnered by Jim Crowley, denies Above The Curve to win the Nassau Stakes. Photo – Bill Selwyn

Oldham’s early entry into the sport was aided by Peter Wragg, whose brother Harry sent out the owner’s Lucero to win the 1956 Irish 2,000 Guineas and the siblings Talgo and Fidalgo to win the 1956 and 1959 renewals of the Irish Derby. But it was through his association with Francois Boutin in France that he enjoyed his most rewarding years as an owner, campaigning the likes of triple Ascot Gold Cup hero Sagaro, who was by another Oldham runner in dual Grosser Preis von Baden winner Espresso, and the 1980 2,000 Guineas winner Zino.

Oldham died aged 87 in April 2013 and his stock was dispersed through Kildaragh Stud and Knocktoran Stud at Goffs later that year, where they turned over approximately €2.5 million. Among them was the subsequent the Kilboy Estate Stakes winner Bocca Baciata, bought by the Niarchos family’s Flaxman Stables Ireland for €230,000, and Prix Quincey winner and Group 1-placed Johnny Barnes, who realised €310,000 to John Warren. (As an aside, Bocca Baciata remains the most expensive yearling ever sold by former Irish National Stud resident Big Bad Bob, who stood for €6,000 at the time).

Prolific producer Maresca, a Mill Reef granddaughter of Primula, naturally played an influential role in the dispersal. Her dam, Caprera, had won the 1970 Falmouth Stakes for Oldham and went on to provide her owner with two high-class Boutin-trained siblings in Romildo, winner of the 1984 Prix Ganay, and Group 3 winner Pevero. Meanwhile, Caprera’s Crepello daughter, Listed winner Starina, is responsible for the line that provided Bocca Baciata as well as the 2012 Poule d’Essai des Pouliches third Topeka.

What is consistently apparent is that Oldham was willing to utilise supposed unfashionable stallions with an eye on what that approach could achieve on the racecourse

Maresca was reportedly highly regarded in training but knee problems hindered her career on the track and she was retired as a non-winner. Yet that regard ultimately proved well-placed due to a stud career highlighted by the 1991 Prix Gontaut-Biron winner Muroto and Listed scorers Vellano, Vanya and Mahalia. Muroto and Vanya were both by the staying influence Busted, who had defeated Oldham’s Salvo in the 1967 King George, while Vellano was a son of the disappointing Mr Prospector stallion Lycius.

Meditate: top-class 2yo is another descendant of Maresca. Photo – Bill Selwyn

By contrast, Mahalia, who won the 1996 Prix Imprudence, was a daughter of Danehill and in time herself became an important producer as the dam of Johnny Barnes and Listed winner Albisola (the granddam of last year’s Prix de Sandringham winner Purplepay). Daughters of Mahalia are also responsible for Meditate (out of the Dalakhani mare Pembina), last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf and Debutante Stakes heroine, the Criterium International and Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Stakes winner Ectot (out of the Linamix mare Tonnara), St James’ Palace Stakes hero Most Improved (another out of Tonnara) and 1,000 Guineas third Daban (out of the Whipper mare Malaspina).

What is consistently apparent is that Oldham was willing to utilise supposed unfashionable stallions; after all, he was breeding for the racecourse, not the sale ring. Shernazar, Shergar’s Group 2-winning half-brother by Busted, is one such example. He had his moments during his innings at the Aga Khan’s Ballymany Stud, notably as the sire of Kartajana and Houmayoun, but ended his days as a National Hunt stallion and he is rarely seen in pedigrees nowadays. Zivania, Maresca’s daughter of Shernazar, however, is an exception.

Zivania raced for Peter and Antoinette Kavanagh, whose Kildaragh Stud boarded a number of Oldham mares alongside Knocktoran Stud. Extremely tough, she won four races as a two-year-old in 24 days for Jim Bolger in 1990 and trained on to run Listed-placed on three occasions at up to 1m3f as a three-year-old. At stud, she produced no fewer than ten winners, starting with a pair of multiple Group performers in Zero Problemo and Ivan Luis to Priolo and Lycius. Later seasons yielded the French Listed winner Amathia, by a far better stallion in Darshaan who has since maintained the family momentum for the Kavanagh family as dam of the Winter Hill Stakes winner Winter Memories as well as Listed scorers Mutatis Mutandis (also Grade 1-placed in the US) and Mohedian Lady.

By the time Zivania’s yearling filly by Linamix came up for auction at the Tattersalls Houghton Sale in 2002, the mare’s stud record read four stakes horses from six foals. With Linamix then gaining traction as a sire of note outside of France, the filly made 320,000gns to Shadwell Estate Company and named Hathrah, added further to her dam’s record by winning the Masaka Stakes for John Dunlop. She was also third to Attraction in the 2004 1,000 Guineas on her final start, leaving a suspicion that her full potential was never fulfilled.

Hadaatha: pictured before her sale at Tattersalls in 2021, she was a smart filly herself who was Group 1-placed for Roger Varian. Photo – Tattersalls/Shadwell

Despite her ability and pedigree, patience was required as far as Hathrah’s stud career was concerned. Of her six winners, her fifth foal Hadaatha was the only one to land black-type but against that, the Sea The Stars filly was not far off top-class, with a win in the John Musker Fillies Stakes and a narrow third in the Prix de l’Opera part of a light five-race career for Roger Varian.

Seven years later in December 2021, as Shadwell restructured worldwide, Hadaatha was one of 93 fillies and mares catalogued by her breeder to come under the hammer at the Tattersalls December Mares Sale. The catalogue shows a produce record of one minor winner from four foals of racing age but in the lead-up to the sale, her two-year-old Al Husn won well at Kempton (leading to her own sale withdrawal) to turn a different spin on the package. As it was, Hadaatha was also in foal on an early cover to Siyouni and she duly went on to be a highlight of that Tuesday morning sale session, selling for 400,000gns to Barronstown Stud in conjunction with Hubie de Burgh. She has a yearling filly on the ground by Siyouni and a filly foal by No Nay Never.

In addition to Al Husn and Eldar Eldarov, the Dubawi – Sea The Stars cross has also thrown Group 2 winner My Oberon and Listed scorer Soft Whisper from a group of just 15 foals and 11 starters

Al Husn becomes the 54th Group or Grade 1 winner for Dubawi and his second out of a Sea The Stars mare after last year’s St Leger hero Eldar Eldarov. Dubawi’s affinity for Galileo blood (think Night Of Thunder, Ghaiyyath and Dartmouth) is well known (as it is for Galileo’s son Frankel) but his record also points to a fine relationship with mares by his half-brother Sea The Stars; in addition to Al Husn and Eldar Eldarov, the cross has also thrown Group 2 winner My Oberon and Listed scorer Soft Whisper from a group of just 15 foals and 11 starters. 

Of course, not to be forgotten in all this is Sea The Stars’ own record as an emerging broodmare sire. Aspects to the horse such as his immense talent, blue-blooded pedigree and high-powered books of mares have lent support to the idea that he would become a successful broodmare sire, and last year marked a turning point in that regard as Onesto and Eldar Eldarov developed into leaders of their generation. Al Husn aside, Israr, Missed The Cut and Unquestionable have also flown the flag this season and so it doesn’t take too much imagination to envisage Sea The Stars consolidating his place as a top ten European broodmare sire going forward.

Connections, including Sheikha Hissa (right), celebrate Al Husn’s win in the Nassau Stakes. Photo – Bill Selwyn