Guineas Weekend Marks Juddmonte Milestone

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Known Fact (rail) crosses the wire second in the 1980 2000 Guineas, but is promoted to first with the disqualification of Nureyev | Getty

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In Part I of a two-part series on the 40th anniversary weekend of Known Fact’s 2000 Guineas win, John Berry takes us through the first decade of Prince Khalid Abdullah’s racing and breeding dynasty.

Under normal circumstances, the European Classic year would be springing into life this weekend with Newmarket staging the G1 2000 Guineas and G1 1000 Guineas. Forty years ago the Guineas meeting looked a particularly special one, the main trials having set the stage perfectly. Subsequent Irish Derby hero Tyrnavos (GB) (Blakeney {GB}) had beaten Chesham S. winner Star Way (GB) (Star Appeal {Ire}) in the G3 Craven S. at Newmarket. Final Straw (Ire) (Habitat) had led home the Dewhurst winner Monteverdi (Lyphard) in the G3 Greenham S. at Newbury with Posse (Forli {Arg}) third and the Middle Park winner Known Fact (In Reality) fourth. In France, the unbeaten (and unextended) blue-blood Nureyev (Northern Dancer) had strolled home in the G3 Prix Djebel at Maisons-Laffitte. The scene was set for a vintage 2000 Guineas.

The 1980 2000 Guineas did indeed go down in the history books as a special one, primarily for featuring a rare case of a Classic winner being disqualified. Britain’s interference rules were far less permissive in 1980 than they are now, and Nureyev’s disqualification was a formality after he nearly brought Posse down approaching the Bushes when his jockey Phillipe Paquet decided unnecessarily to barge his way out of a pocket. (This manoeuvre, incidentally, cannot be seen on the BBC film of the race as the camera angle changed at the crucial moment, but it was all too clear in the evidence provided by the stewards’ patrol-camera footage). With Nureyev disqualified and placed last, Known Fact became a fortunate winner after passing the post in second place. Posse, winner later in the season of the G2 St. James’s Palace S. and the G1 Sussex S., was promoted to second and the Vincent O’Brien-trained Night Alert (Nijinsky) moved up to third. The latter had beaten Posse in the Houghton S. at Newmarket the previous autumn, with subsequent G1 Oaks heroine Bireme (GB) (Grundy {GB}) third.

Known Fact may have been a fortunate Classic winner, but he went on to confirm himself a top-class 3-year-old with victories later in the season in the G2 Waterford Crystal Mile at Goodwood, the G3 Park S. at Doncaster and, memorably, the G2 Queen Elizabeth II S. at Ascot, in which he became one of only two horses to lower the colours of the mighty Kris (GB) (Sharpen Up).

In the subsequent 40 years, however, that 2000 Guineas has become ever more notable for another reason: we now know it as the start of Juddmonte’s story of Classic success.

Known Fact represented a trainer/jockey combination made up of two seasoned Classic stars. His trainer Jeremy Tree had saddled Only For Life (GB) (Chanteur {Fr}) to win the 2000 Guineas 17 years previously, while Willie Carson had ridden High Top (GB) (Derring-Do {GB}) to victory in the race in 1972 before becoming a regular Classic winner following his appointment as stable jockey to Major Dick Hern in 1977. Known Fact’s owner, though, was a much less familiar figure: ‘Mr. K. Abdullah’ had owned his first winner less than 12 months previously. This race, though, threw him into the spotlight when he became the first Arab owner to win a British Classic. Forty years on, we now recognise him as one of the most successful and most respected owner/breeders the sport has ever seen.

Prince Khalid Abdullah had enjoyed the thrill of his first winner only the previous May when Charming Native (Princely Native) won a maiden race at Windsor. Not that we knew him as Prince Khalid Abdullah at the time. The innate diffidence and characteristic modesty of the Saudi prince had first come to light the previous year when he had sent horses to Jeremy Tree’s Beckhampton stable in Wiltshire and applied to register as an owner. Eschewing the option of a justifiably grander title, he had indicated on the registration form that ‘Mr. K. Abdullah’ was the name under which he would like his horses to run.

When Prince Khalid Abdullah had decided to race horses, he had asked the former Newmarket trainer Humphrey Cottrill, who had retired a few years previously, to act as his advisor. Cottrill was already in his 70s by this time and James Delahooke was recruited to help select the horses and subsequently to oversee the operation. These proved to have been inspired appointments: the acorns which Cottrill and Delahooke planted on the Prince’s behalf immediately began to grow into the forest of mighty oaks which Juddmonte has become.

The Prince started 1979 with his string in Tree’s stable including a bunch of 2-year-olds which Cottrill and Delahooke had bought on his behalf the previous autumn, plus the unraced 3-year-old filly Alia (Ire) (Sun Prince {Ire}). The emphasis on quality which has become the Juddmonte hallmark was evident from the start. The team included the two most expensive yearlings from the previous autumn’s Tattersalls’ Houghton Sale in Newmarket: Sand Hawk (GB) (Grundy {GB}), who had set a new record price at 264,000gns, and Enchantment (GB) (Habitat), who had cost 186,000gns. Neither turned out to be particular stars (although they both won as 3-year-olds) but the yearlings recruited from America more than made up for that.

Charming Native was a smart colt, even if bred to be even smarter: a $43,000 purchase, he was a half-brother to My Charmer (Poker), who had already bred 1977 U.S. Triple Crown hero Seattle Slew (Bold Reasoning) and would subsequently breed 1983 2000 Guineas winner Lomond (Northern Dancer). Known Fact was more expensive, but proved a real bargain at $225,000. He too was well bred. His dam Tamerett (Tim Tam) was a half-sister to Sharpen Up’s sire Atan and was already the producer of two high-class colts by In Reality’s sire Intentionally: 1970 Tremont S. winner Tamtent and Tentam, a Grade I winner who had broken the world record for nine furlongs on turf when winning the Bernard Baruch H. at Saratoga in 1973. Known Fact outran even that lineage with his top-class form at both two and three. He then became his owner’s foundation stallion, firstly for Juddmonte’s British operation at Juddmonte Farm near Wargrave-upon-Thames in Berkshire and then, in 1987, for its American division in Kentucky, where the Prince had bought Belair Farm (now Juddmonte Farm) just south of Lexington in 1982.

Known Fact was not the sole star of that squad of juveniles in 1979. Abeer (Dewan), a $50,000 yearling, won a maiden race at Salisbury, the G3 Queen Mary S. at Royal Ascot and the G2 Flying Childers S. (which had been a Group 1 race up until that year) at Doncaster. With arguably the best sprinting 2-year-old colt and the best sprinting 2-year-old filly carrying his silks, it was a sensational season for the rookie owner. Furthermore, Alia won five races, starting with a maiden race at Windsor and ending with the G3 Princess Royal S. at Ascot. She had the makings of a lovely foundation mare for her owner’s stud and Abeer (who became an excellent matron, breeding 10 winners) would follow her to the paddocks at Wargrave a year later.

It is noticeable that many of the best horses which Prince Khalid Abdullah is breeding and racing nowadays descend from the initial batches of fillies and mares which he bought in those early years. Last year’s G1 St Leger hero Logician (GB) (Frankel {GB}) is a classic example: he is the sixth generation of his family in Juddmonte ownership, his fifth dam Monroe (a regally-bred filly by Sir Ivor out of Best In Show) having been bought from Robert Sangster to be one of the operation’s foundation mares. She had been a very smart filly when trained by Vincent O’Brien, winning the G3 Ballyogan S. over five furlongs at Leopardstown as a 3-year-old in 1980. Monroe now ranks as ancestress of numerous Juddmonte stars including Xaar (GB) (Zafonic), Bated Breath (Ire) (Dansili {GB}), Cityscape (GB) (Selkirk}) and Close Hatches (First Defence).

Another young mare whom Juddmonte bought at the time from Robert Sangster was Sookera (Sir Ivor), who had won the G1 Cheveley Park S. in 1977 when trained by Dermot Weld. She too has repaid her purchase price many times over thanks to the achievements of numerous descendants including the remarkable Hasili (Ire) (Kahyasi {Ire}), dam not only of five individual homebred Group/Grade I winners but also, equally remarkably, of three stallions, the Danehill full-brothers Dansili (GB), Cacique (Ire) and Champs Elysees (GB), who at one time all stood on the Juddmonte roster at Banstead Manor simultaneously.

Both of Juddmonte’s most recent superstars also trace back to this period. The Jeremy Tree-trained Rockfest (Stage Door Johnny), runner-up in the Lingfield Oaks Trial in 1982, was bought from Tree’s longstanding American patron ‘Jock’ Whitney. For the Prince, she bred the Henry Cecil-trained 1993 G3 Lancashire Oaks victrix Rainbow Lake (Rainbow Quest) who is now best known as the grand-dam of Frankel (GB) (Galileo {Ire}). A handful of mares were included in the deal when the Prince bought Belair Farm. One of them was Fleet Girl (Ire) (Habitat) who was returned to Europe where she bred 1987 Oaks place-getter Bourbon Girl (GB) (Ile De Bourbon) who now ranks as third dam of Enable (GB) (Nathaniel {Ire}).

While the seeds of Juddmonte’s breeding operation were sown very early on, the Prince was obviously still relying on yearling purchases through the first half of the ’80s. His advisors continued to do him proud, unearthing a string of high-class horses. The batch of yearlings bought in 1979 included Bel Bolide (Bold Bidder), a $310,000 yearling who, trained by Jeremy Tree, won the Gimcrack S. at York as a 2-year-old in 1980 as well as being placed in the G3 Coventry S. at Royal Ascot, the G3 Richmond S. at Glorious Goodwood and the G1 Middle Park S. at Newmarket. The following year he finished third to To-Agori-Mou (Ire) (Tudor Music {GB}) in the G1 2000 Guineas.

As Prince Khalid Abdullah’s string grew, he naturally began to send a few horses to other trainers. The veteran Classic-winning Yorkshire-based Bill Elsey received some, as did Ron Smyth in Epsom and the multiple Classic-winning jockey Frankie Durr, who had recently retired from the saddle to start training in Fitzroy House in Newmarket. Another to join the roster was Barry Hills, who came on board in 1982. Early in the spring, Hills saddled Slightly Dangerous (Roberto) to win the G3 Fred Darling S. at Newbury for her breeder Alan Clore, who subsequently accepted an offer from the Prince for the filly, who was being set for the 1000 Guineas and the Oaks. Slightly Dangerous naturally remained under Hills’s care and went on to finish fifth at Newmarket and runner-up at Epsom. At the end of the year she joined the Juddmonte broodmare band, visiting the 1975 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Star Appeal (Ire) in her first season. She subsequently became one of the best broodmares the Prince has ever owned.

The Prince’s association with Barry Hills was further cemented shortly afterwards. Hills had trained Mofida (GB) (Right Tack {GB}), a terrific sprinter (whom he had bought for 4,000gns as a yearling) who was sold to his great friend Robert Sangster at the end of her racing career in 1978. Three years later, the Prince bought Mofida from Sangster, in foal to Sangster’s 1977 Derby winner The Minstrel. Naturally, he asked Hills to train the resultant foal, named Zaizafon, when she was ready to go into training in the autumn of 1983. Like Slightly Dangerous, Zaizafon did very well on the racecourse and then even better at stud, most obviously by producing the top-class Gone West full-brothers Zafonic and Zamindar.

The most notable appointment to the roster of trainers, though, was Sussex-based Guy Harwood, who at the time was enjoying a phenomenal run of success, largely with yearlings bought (often very inexpensively) on the advice of James Delahooke, including Ela-Mana-Mou (GB) (Pitcairn {GB}) and To-Agori-Mou. Those two horses, both originally raced by London-based restauranteurs Max and Andry Muinos, were champions, but before long Harwood would enjoy even more plentiful top-level success thanks to the Prince’s patronage.

Delahooke’s raid on the American yearling sales in 1982 was particularly fruitful, yielding three Group 1 winners for the Prince. Alphabatim (Verbatim) turned out to have been extremely well bought for the $23,000 which he cost at Keeneland’s secondary yearling sale in September. Trained by Guy Harwood, he won the G1 William Hill Futurity in England as a 2-year-old before heading to California where, trained by John Gosden, he won the G1 Hollywood Turf Cup in both 1984 and ’86. Rousillon (Riverman) cost $100,000 at Fasig-Tipton before, also trained by Harwood, showing high-class form at three and developing into a champion at four, when he won the G2 Queen Anne S. at Royal Ascot, the G1 Sussex S. at Glorious Goodwood and the G1 Prix du Moulin at Longchamp. And then there was the mighty Rainbow Quest (Blushing Groom {Fr}).

Rainbow Quest was an obvious target for James Delahooke when he showed up at the Fasig-Tipton July Yearling Sale in 1982. Not only was his dam a half-sister to the Prince’s Oaks place-getter Slightly Dangerous, but he was also a beautiful individual. Inevitably he was high on plenty of others’ lists too. Delahooke had to go to $950,000 to secure him, the second highest price in the sale. It didn’t take long for him to prove himself a bargain.

Rainbow Quest joined Jeremy Tree’s string at Beckhampton and was a high-class 2-year-old in 1983 who improved to be a Classic-placed Group 2 winner in 1984 before progressing further still in 1985. As a 4-year-old that year he was majestic. He won the G1 Coronation Cup with his head in his chest before being placed in vintage editions of the G1 Eclipse S. and the G1 King George VI And Queen Elizabeth II Diamond S. Finally he ended his career in a blaze of glory at Longchamp, promoted to first place in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on the demotion of Sagace (Luthier {Fr}).  Timeform gave him a mighty accolade when he became the first horse since Mill Reef and Brigadier Gerard (GB) in the early ’70s to have been awarded a rating of at least 130 at ages two, three and four.

Just as Known Fact had been the foundation stallion at Wargrave, so Rainbow Quest (having retired to Wargrave in 1986) was given the honour of starting the Juddmonte roster at Banstead Manor, near Newmarket, which the Prince bought in 1987. Right from the start he proved himself an outstanding stallion. His first book of mares in 1986 included the 1980 G1 Poule d’Essai des Pouliches heroine Aryenne (Green Dancer) whom the Prince had bought at the end of her Classic campaign so that she could visit Known Fact in his first season. That mating failed to yield a superstar but her first visit to Rainbow Quest hit the jackpot because the resultant colt Quest For Fame (GB) carried the Prince’s colours to victory in the Derby in 1990.

Quest For Fame was merely one of three first-crop 3-year-old Group 1 winners for Rainbow Quest, who was also represented that year by G1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe hero Saumerez (GB) and G1 Irish Oaks victrix Knight’s Baroness (GB), the latter bred and raced by the Prince’s relative Prince Fahd Salman. Rainbow Quest ended the season in fifth place in the General Sires’ Table for Great Britain and Ireland, a magnificent achievement for a stallion with only two crops running for him. Thereafter, Rainbow Quest remained one of the most successful stallions in Europe, regularly featuring in the upper strata of the general sires’ table and being champion broodmare sire of Great Britain and Ireland in both 2003 and ’04, in both years starring as the maternal grandsire of the Derby winner.

Rainbow Quest provided Prince Khalid Abdullah with some terrific thrills, but even greater glory lay just around the corner. James Delahooke had bought Dancing Brave (Lyphard) for $200,000 at the Keeneland July Sale in 1984, the stocky colt’s parrot mouth seemingly having deterred many potential bidders. As Dancing Brave was a late foal (born in the second week of May) Guy Harwood gave him a deliberately easy campaign as a juvenile in 1985, merely running him in minor conditions races at Sandown and Newmarket, both of which he won easily. Harwood trained a Group 1 juvenile winner for Prince Khalid Abdullah year with Bakharoff (The Minstrel) taking the G1 William Hill Futurity at Doncaster and, although Bakharoff (whom Delahooke had bought for $450,000 as a yearling) topped the Free Handicap, those close to the stable made no secret of the fact that they regarded Dancing Brave as superior.

This opinion was fully justified in 1986 when the seed burst into flower. Dancing Brave was imperious in winning six races including the 2000 Guineas, Eclipse S., King George VI And Queen Elizabeth S. and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. A controversial and seemingly luckless defeat in the Derby disrupted his winning sequence, but neither that defeat nor his lacklustre performance in the GI Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita on his swansong could prevent him from being hailed as an all-time great. His European curtain call at Longchamp was particularly majestic when, facing one of the strongest fields ever assembled for an Arc, he sprinted past the leaders in the final furlong like a racing car overtaking tractors. Needless to say, he was unanimously voted Horse of the Year.

For anyone other than Prince Khalid Abdullah, Dancing Brave would have been not only Horse of the Year but also Horse of a Lifetime. The Prince had only been owning horses for less than a decade but already had raced a horse who, surely, would be the best he would ever have. No higher praise can be given to the eminence which Juddmonte has now reached than the fact that we can now look back on Dancing Brave’s annus mirabilis in 1986 and say that it was only the beginning.

See tomorrow’s TDN Europe for Part II of this series.

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