Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum enjoyed a red-letter day at Epsom on Friday when his fillies Taghrooda and Tarfasha landed a memorable one-two in the Investec Oaks, which was run in memory of Sir Henry Cecil.
As well as being an Oaks victrix, the homebred Taghrooda also became the first Classic winner for her sire, the 2009 Derby winner Sea The Stars with her facile three and three-quarter length strike. She was also the first winner in the Oaks for John Gosden, who has already tasted Classic success this season with Kingman in the Irish 2,000 Guineas, and a first Classic win for jockey Paul Hanagan, who dedicated the victory to the late John Hills.
Tarfasha, trained for Sheikh Hamdan by Dermot Weld, got the better of early front-runner Volume in the battle for secodn, finishing just a nose in front of Luca Cumani’s filly.
Gosden was full of praise for Hanagan’s handling of his filly around Epsom’s switchback course, saying: “Paul rode her perfectly, although she got a bump that put her onto the wrong leg and meant she was leading on her off-fore coming down Tattenham Corner, which is where you don’t want to be doing that.
“Cleverly, Paul got her back onto her near fore and she did it well. Two good fillies were second and third so it looks like a good Oaks. I always thought she was a nice filly, but I felt the extra two furlongs was right up her alley, which is why he had her handy. Richard [Hughes, on Volume] was in front trying to ride the race to suit himself and his filly won a trial in that way, so we knew if he was playing with the pace we wanted to be where we could do something about it and use our filly’s class. Paul did just that and it was a very smooth performance.”
Twice the champion jockey in 2010 and 2011, Hanagan took up his role as Sheikh Hamdan’s retained jockey in 2012 but remained typically modest in the aftermath of his biggest success to date.
He said: “This is what I’ve worked hard for all my life. I’m so pleased for the team – Sheikh Hamdan, John Gosden and Angus Gold. They have shown so much faith in me and this feels like I’ve given them something back.
“Of course, we’ve had bad news this week that John Hills died and he was also an important part of the team – this one’s for him.
“I’m not really surprised that she ran like that. I’ve always had plenty of faith in this filly as I ride her out in work most mornings and I knew she had quality. She’s just a pleasure to ride.”
Taghrooda hails from the Aga Khan family which includes Gold Cup winners Enzeli and Estimate and Irish Oaks heroine Ebadiyla, the dam of Derby contender Ebanoran. Angus Gold, bloodstock advisor to Sheikh Hamdan, bought Taghrooda’s dam Ezima for 320,000gns at the end of her racing career.
He said: “It doesn’t get any better. We bought Taghrooda’s dam, Ezima, as a filly out of training at the December Sales, while Stephen Collins [general manager at the Sheikh’s Derrinstown Stud in Ireland] bought Tarfasha as a foal [€200,000 at Goffs] so full credit to him.”