By Andrew Caulfield
One of the bitterest lessons a racehorse owner must learn is that a brilliant racemare isn’t necessarily destined to become a brilliant broodmare. Fortunately some do. Personal Ensign, a Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner who was undefeated in 13 starts, produced three GI winners headed by My Flag (Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies) and one of Personal Ensign’s sons sired a Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner. Similarly, the great European mare Dahlia – a veteran of 48 races – showed no ill effects from her demanding career, producing four Group I winners and a pair of Group II scorers in a career which saw her produce her final foal at the age of 26. But there have been a few horror stories too. The 1980 Kentucky Derby winner Genuine Risk was 16 years old before she produced the first of her two live foals, while Coronation V, winner of the 1949 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, was barren in each of her ten years as a broodmare.
Cast your eyes down Horse Racing Nation’s list of the top 250 Fillies & Mares of All Time and you will find Horse of the Year Lady’s Secret in seventh place. A winner of 25 of her 45 starts, this daughter of Secretariat had no problems producing foals – she had 12 in the space of 15 years – but none of them managed to earn black type. Coronation V wasn’t the only Arc-winning filly who experienced problems. The great Allez France was ten before she produced a foal and only two of her five foals were winners (but one, the Nureyev filly Action Francaise, won at Group 3 level). Of the other Arc-winning fillies, Ivanjica proved very disappointing but Three Troikas and All Along respectively produced the Group 3 winner Three Angels and the Group 2 winner Along All. On a much more positive note, the 1980 Arc winner Detroit produced three Group winners headed by Carnegie, who followed in his dam’s Arc-winning footsteps in 1994. The 1981 winner Gold River produced three stakes winners from four foals before being struck by lightning in Kentucky. One of them, Riviere d’Or, became a Group 1 winner, and Gold River would surely have become a blue hen had she lived. And then, in 1993, the Arc fell to Urban Sea, the exceptional broodmare who gave European racing the gift that keeps on giving in the form of her outstanding sons Galileo and Sea The Stars.
Even so, the Aga Khan will have known not to take anything for granted when Zarkava, his brilliant 2008 Arc winner, retired as an unbeaten winner of seven races, including the G1 Poule d’Essai des Pouliches and G1 Prix de Diane. The Aga, after all, had lost his previous Arc-winning filly Akiyda at the age of nine, after she had produced only two foals in six years, and he had also seen his father’s 1,000 Guineas and Oaks winner Petite Etoile struggle throughout her career. Petite Etoile produced the last of her three living foals at the age of 18. None of the three won but that last foal – the Habitat filly Zahra – left a rich legacy of nearly 30 stakes winners. Coincidentally, Zahra and Petite Etoile rank as the fourth and fifth dams of Zarkava.
I’m pleased to say that Zarkava has proved totally free of the problems that beset Petite Etoile. The Siyouni filly pictured in Monday’s TDN is her eighth foal in as many years. It is normally part of the Aga Khan’s policy that his mares visit a stallion only once, the exceptions usually being when a mare has been barren or slipped on her first visit. Consequently, Zarkava has visited Dalakhani, Sea The Stars, Galileo, Dubawi, Redoute’s Choice, Frankel, Invincible Spirit and Siyouni. Even so, she didn’t make a flying start. Her 2010 Dalakhani filly Zerkaza never raced but is now the dam of a two-year-old Exceed And Excel filly and a yearling Oasis Dream colt. Next came the Sea The Stars colt Zarkash, who fractured a hind leg on the gallops in the October of his three-year-old season, when still unraced. In the report on Zarkash’s death, Georges Rimaud, the manager of the Aga Khan Studs in France, commented that Zarkava’s Galileo colt Zarkar “is going very nicely.” However, he too was retired unraced and he too succumbed to a fracture, after he had stood his first season at Haras La Numancia in Argentina.
Fortunately, it has been a very different story with Zarkava’s fourth foal, her Dubawi colt Zarak. Her Redoute’s Choice three-year-old, Zarmitan, was entered early this year for the Prix du Jockey-Club and Grand Prix de Paris but has yet to race for Alain de Royer Dupre, who also has care of her two-year-old Frankel filly, named Zarkamiya. Zarak’s potential has been apparent since the moment he made his debut in a newcomers’ race at Deauville in late-October, 2015. A hot favourite, he won so comfortably that he was named a ‘TDN Rising Star’ and his connections must surely have begun to think of him as a potential future stallion at Haras de Bonneval or Gilltown.
However, it wasn’t until two days ago that Zarak finally attained Group 1-winner status, when he landed the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud. In between these two winning efforts there have been a second to Almanzor in the G1 Prix du Jockey-Club, a Group 3 victory at Meydan and a narrow defeat by Cloth of Stars in the G1 Prix Ganay. His Grand Prix victory at Saint-Cloud came on his first attempt at a mile and a half, which clearly suits him. Like many a Dubawi, he handles soft ground very well. Zarkava was also very much at home over a mile and a half, even though her sire Zamindar was generally an influence for speed. The source of her stamina was surely her dam, the unraced Zarkasha. Her sire was the dual Derby winner Kahyasi, whose progeny have an average winning distance as high as 12.8 furlongs. Zarkava’s first two dams were daughters of Doyoun and Shernazar, who respectively had average winning distances of 10.3 and 11.4 furlongs.
Of course Zarkava isn’t the only daughter of Zamindar to have produced a major winner. Her fellow Poule d’Essai des Pouliches winner Zenda is dam of the Cartier Horse of the Year Kingman, while the Listed winner Cinnamon Bay is the dam of Prix du Jockey-Club winner New Bay. New Bay shares the same sire, Dubawi, as Zarak and the cross has a further representative in Zenda’s 2017 colt. Remarkably, Dubawi now has two Group 1 winners from his three foals of racing age out of Zamindar mares. The pedigrees of both New Bay and Zarak feature two lines to Mr Prospector, Northern Dancer and Mill Reef (in fact New Bay’s has three lines to Northern Dancer). Dubawi has also been in excellent form with daughters of Dansili, another Juddmonte stallion. This combination’s Nezwaah also became a Group 1 winner over the weekend, taking the Pretty Polly S., and this nick has also done well with Time Test, a multiple Group winner who was recently second in the GI Woodford Reserve Manhattan S.
Another Dubawi colt with a Dansili dam is Glorious Journey. This 2,600,000-guinea yearling, out of the Group 1 winner Fallen For You, made a winning debut at Newmarket last month. Another 2-year-old representative of this cross is Zalzalah, a filly in training with Andre Fabre who is out of the smart Strawberrydaiquiri. Further reason for holding high hopes of this cross is the presence among Dubawi’s 2017 yearlings of youngsters out of those very talented Dansili mares The Fugue, Giofra, Zibelina and Ferdoos, with Ferdoos being the dam of Nezwaah.