By Andrew Caulfield
The UAE 2000 Guineas, to my mind, has always been one of the most confusing races staged during the Dubai Racing Carnival. While this Group 3 contest is confined to 3-year-olds, it is open to horses from both Northern and Southern Hemispheres, with the conditions requiring that the older 3-year-olds from the Southern Hemisphere carry an extra 4.5kg to offset their age advantage.
Despite this penalty, the Southern Hemisphere horses often triumphed in the past and several of them were to add to their laurels. One of them, the South African-born Victory Moon, later finished third behind Pleasantly Perfect and Medaglia d’Oro in the 2004 G1 Dubai World Cup, while the Argentine-bred Asiatic Boy was to chase home Curlin in the 2008 World Cup and finish second in the GI Stephen Foster H. Then there was the South African-bred Soft Falling Rain, who traveled to England to take the G2 Joel S.
Another complication is that the race often features horses switching from turf to dirt, but that hasn’t stopped Northern Hemisphere-bred colts winning the last five editions. The latest to do so was Estihdaaf, an American-bred son of Arch who has shown distinct progress on the Meydan dirt, having won only one of his four starts on turf.
The colt’s pedigree–and his 5 1/2-length winning margin last Thursday–suggest that he could well go on to better things. There’s also the fact that his trainer Saeed Bin Suroor also took the 2017 contest with Thunder Snow. While this son of Helmet inexplicably disgraced himself with his bronco display in the GI Kentucky Derby, he has since confirmed his status as a highly talented dirt performer with his victory over West Coast in the 2018 Dubai World Cup and his third behind Accelerate in the GI Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Estihdaaf still has some way to go before he merits comparison with Thunder Snow, who was already a Group 1 winner on turf before he landed the UAE 2000 Guineas. However, his pedigree is strong enough to encourage the belief that he will prove better than just a Group 3 winner.
Together with Tax, winner of the GIII Withers S. earlier this month, Estihdaaf is a member of the final crop sired by Claiborne’s popular stallion Arch. There was a time, early in Arch’s career, when it looked as though he was going to become another disappointing stallion son of Kris S. Fortunately, he turned his career around to the extent that he has left a legacy of 40 graded/group winners, including 11 winners at the highest level. It has to be mentioned that he did so without covering mammoth books of mares, and his 17 crops averaged 66 foals.
Arch raced exclusively on dirt during his seven-race career, with his finest victory coming in the GI Super Derby. However, with Roberto and Danzig as his grandsires, he was sure to sire some notable turf performers and he enjoyed success in Europe, where his seven group winners were headed by Les Arcs (G1 July Cup and G1 Golden Jubilee), Nyaleti (G2 German 1000 Guineas), Pomology (G2 Lancashire Oaks) and Montgomery’s Arch (G2 Richmond S.).
There were also some very talented turf performers by Arch in North America, including the Grade I winners Arravale, Grand Arch and Prince Arch. He will always be best remembered, though, as the sire of the Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Blame, whose stallion career is mirroring Arch’s in that he has restored breeders’ faith in him after a quiet spell.
There was always a good chance that dirt would prove to be Estihdaaf’s metier. His dam, the American-raced Enrichment, is by Ghostzapper, who raced exclusively on dirt during a career which featured Grade I victories in the Vosburgh S., Woodward S., Breeders’ Cup Classic and the Metropolitan H.
Ghostzapper, like his admirable half-brother City Zip, has proved more versatile when it comes to his progeny’s favored surface. Several of his American graded winners have enjoyed success on turf, one of them being Better Lucky, a sister to Estihdaaf’s dam Enrichment.
Better Lucky did so well that her name figures alongside the champion turf mares Flawlessly, Wandesta, Ryafan and Intercontinental on the GI Matriarch S.’s roll of honor. She landed the 2012 edition by a length and raced for another two years, holding her form well enough to add the GI First Lady S. as a 4-year-old. She also failed by only a head to wear down Judy the Beauty in the GI Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint on her final appearance.
Better Lucky has three young colts by Tapit, the first of whom– Kentucky Wildcat–was runner-up to Well Defined in the GIII Sam F. Davis S. last week.
Better Lucky and Enrichment are granddaughters of Desert Stormer, a GI Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner who once sold for $3.6 million. Desert Stormer was less effective as a broodmare, her best effort being Estihdaaf’s second dam Sahara Gold, winner of the GII Beaumont S. over seven furlongs. There is clearly plenty of speed in this family, but Estihdaaf appeared to stay well enough when he tried 1 3/16 miles on his first appearance on dirt.
Estihdaaf is the latest indication that Ghostzapper is going to develop into an important sire of broodmares. Although his eldest daughters have just turned 12 years old, Ghostzapper already ranks as the broodmare sire of three Grade I winners, including a Triple Crown winner in Justify and a Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner in Drefong. The third Grade I winner, American Gal, was also pretty good, winning both the GI Test S. and the GI Humana Distaff H. Altogether there are eight graded winners out of Ghostzapper mares, each of them by a different stallion, so they are going to have a lot of options.