Excellence automatically tends to become diluted as the years pass in any superior equine family, but new foundation mares tracing to magnificent matriarchs of decades ago can and do turn up. One of the best examples in the modern era is Alruccaba, who has Mumtaz Mahal – a mare to be dealt with later in this series – as her sixth dam.

Genetically, that distance means Mumtaz Mahal’s influence on Alruccaba is minuscule in percentage terms, but such mathematical niceties are unlikely to worry TBA Chairman and Lanwades Stud owner Kirsten Rausing, who bought Alruccaba with her friend Sonia Rogers of Airlie Stud for 19,000gns in 1985.

Alruccaba has had a phenomenal influence on the sport and on bloodstock, featuring in the bottom line of six Group 1 winners foaled between 1995 and 2003.

Rausing’s interest in breaking into the Mumtaz Mahal family had been with her since her teens, when in 1967 she was involved in purchasing an out-of-training filly named Ayesha, who foaled a stakes-placed filly Ayah, the second highest-rated juvenile filly in the Irish two-year-old ratings of 1975.

By 1985, Ayesha was a distant memory, with no major success having come from buying her, but the enthusiasm remained and the appearance of two-year-old Alruccaba at the December Sales spurred Rausing on.

She was convinced that Alruccaba, who had won at Brighton for Sir Michael Stoute but was no longer able to race, “would be one of the highest-priced lots of the entire sale, such was her appeal”. In the event, the appeal was limited to just two and she obtained the filly with Sonia Rogers for only 1,000gns more than the reserve.

This was slightly surprising given that there were two recent big-race winners from the immediate family, in the shape of 1978 Poule d’Essai Poulains victor Nishapour and high-class turf horse Nassipour, who had landed the Rothmans International only a month or so before the sale. Both were out of Alama, a half-sister to Alruccaba’s dam Allara. Nishapour stood at Lanwades from 1987.

The potential bargain took very little time becoming a tremendous bargain. One of the crucial credentials for a foundation mare is the ability to produce fillies and Alruccaba did that in no uncertain manner, foaling 11 fillies and two colts. All of these had Rausing and Rogers as the named breeders and the mare alternated between Lanwades and Airlie until her death in 2002, spending two years at each stud each time.

There was a wide variety in stamina among the stallions responsible for Alruccaba’s progeny, since they included Green Desert (two), Alzao, Selkirk, Caerleon, Darshaan (three) and Niniski (two) – Selkirk and Niniski were both based at Lanwades.

The potential bargain took very little time becoming a tremendous bargain

Eight of the foals won, with four successful in stakes races. One of those, Last Second (by Alzao), was sold for Ir£120,000 as a yearling in 1994. Other Alruccaba offspring sold at that age included Jude (by Darshaan) for Ir£150,000, Requesting (by Rainbow Quest) for 360,000gns and Masnood (by Selkirk) for €350,000.

Last Second was very smart, notching two races that now hold Group 1 status, the Nassau Stakes and Sun Chariot Stakes, and being beaten only a neck in the Coronation Stakes. She made a big mark at stud through her colt Aussie Rules (Poule d’Essai des Poulains, Shadwell Turf Mile) and filly Approach (Ballymacoll Stud Stakes). Approach is the dam of Midas Touch, winner of the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial and runner-up in the 2010 Irish Derby.

With Jude, of whom more later, also proving a big hit at stud for other breeders, and Arrikala (by Darshaan), who won the Curragh Cup and ran third in the Irish Oaks, doing little in the paddocks it was down to Alouette and Alleluia to keep the flag flying for the Lanwades-Airlie combination. Alleluia (by Caerleon) was the better runner, showing plenty of staying power and grit to land the Doncaster Cup. She was also the most prolific winner Alruccaba produced, hitting the target in five other races.

Her daughter Allegretto, sold for 415,000gns as a yearling in 2004, proved even better and equally well endowed with stamina, winning the Prix Royal-Oak, Lancashire Oaks, Park Hill Stakes, Henry II Stakes and Goodwood Cup.

Alouette (by Darshaan) was bought by Rausing for 21,000gns as a yearling at Tattersalls to dissolve the Airlie-Lanwades partnership. The story of Lanwades would have been rather different had Alouette been bought to go elsewhere. She was a smart filly, running third in the Moyglare Stud Stakes on her debut and landing the Listed Oyster Stakes over a mile and a half on her penultimate start.

At stud she surpassed herself, getting eight winners from 11 foals including three in stakes, all from Northern Dancer line stallions. To Sadler’s Wells she produced Alma Mater, a Listed scorer in France, and to Alzao, who had already done a great job for the mare’s owners in getting Last Second, she foaled Alborada and Albanova.

Both raced in Rausing’s colours and were trained by Sir Mark Prescott. Alborada landed the Champion Stakes twice, the Nassau Stakes and the Pretty Polly Stakes, and was official world champion distaffer in 1998. Albanova developed into a star turn in Germany, winning the Rheinland-Pokal, Deutschlandpreis and Preis von Europa, which led to her being named German Horse of the Year in 2004.

So far neither mare has hit the heights at stud, though Alborada is dam of a Listed winner. However, another daughter of Alouette’s, Alakananda, foaled narrow Derby runner-up Dragon Dancer.

The Alruccaba mares have been a goldmine at the sales too. Alouette had three yearlings sell for around £1m in total, Alleluia’s five sent to auction fetched 2.3m gns, and Albanova had a yearling fetch €2.4m in 2007, a year after Alakananda had one sell for €2m.

Last, but not least, the one that got away. Jude. After being sold for 92,000gns as a three-year-old to Premier Bloodstock, a John Magnier and Richard Henry partnership, she was mated intensively with Sadler’s Wells, having ten foals by him before moving on to Galileo in 2008.

The results have been spectacular: Quarter Moon won the Moyglare Stud Stakes and ran second in three Classics, and Yesterday took the Irish 1,000 Guineas and finished runner-up in the Oaks. Additionally, Jude has produced the Classic-placed All My Loving, and other daughters Because and Song have sold for $2.8m and 1.7m gns respectively.

In short, wherever one looks, Alruccaba’s name tends to turn up with quality the watchword. Not a bad result for a price tag of just 19,000gns.


Group 1 winners descended from Alruccaba:

f 1995 ALBORADA – Champion Stakes (2)
f 1999 ALBANOVA – Rheinland-Pokal, Deutschlandpreis, Preis von Europa
f 1999 QUARTER MOON – Moyglare Stud Stakes
f 2000 YESTERDAY – Irish 1,000 Guineas
f 2003 ALLEGRETTO – Prix Royal-Oak
c 2003 AUSSIE RULES – Poule d’Essai des Poulains, Shadwell Turf Mile