Kabirkhan Helps Put Khassanov, Kazakhstan On The Map

Nadir Khassanov at Keeneland | Photo provided by Nadir Khassanov


DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES — The final day of the Keeneland September Sale is one where you blink and you miss it. It's a leaner session to begin with numbers-wise and the action is fast….as in, lightning fast. It's a real meat-and-potatoes sort of way to wrap up two exhausting weeks of trade.

But, on rare occasions, there are diamonds in the rough to be found. Just ask Nadir Khassanov and while you're at it, talk to the people at Mulholland Springs. On Friday, Sept. 24, 2021, Khassanov, a bloodstock agent from Kazakhstan, paid $12,000 for hip 3831, a chestnut colt with three white socks and a big baldy face who very much resembled his sire California Chrome, who had since departed these shores for Japan.

For a horse on day 11 of the sale, the February foal had a fair amount of black-type on his page. His dam Little Emily (Castledale {Ire}) was a stakes winner of better than $132,000 and was kin to a pair of stakes horses, including a solid black-type producer.

“I think I would have given up to $20,000 for it, it's just that the prices for California Chrome foals fell that year, and I managed to buy Kabirkhan,” Khassanov explained. “There were some minor flaws, but I liked his conformation and I was a fan of California Chrome.”

Mulholland Springs's John Henry Mulholland thought Khassanov was getting a bargain.

“Good-looking colt. Very athletic and carried himself with class,” he said. “Not a thing wrong with the colt. If it had been Book 3 or 4 and the market was hot on California Chrome, he brings $100,000. Just one of those things where the commercial market goes cold and it's the last day of the Keeneland September Sale.”

So, the colt was off to Kazakhstan to race in the colors of Tlek Mukanbetkaliyev. By now, you've probably seen the video–a three-horse race in which Kabirkhan beat Sky Indy (Sky Mesa)–purchased by Khassanov for $10,000 during Session 10 of the September Sale–by about three lengths at a very sloppy Almaty Racecourse in Kazakhstan's most-populous city. The victory was worth the equivalent of about $350.




Two more wins followed at Almaty, including a local Group 1 over 1600 meters, and by the time 2023 had rolled around, Kabirkhan was moved to Russia. There he ran his undefeated streak to eight in the Kabardino Balkaria Derby, good for a $12,000 payday, but he tasted defeat for the first time in $113,000 Russian Derby when beaten by Hero Mo (Mo Town) last September.

Russian-based horses have recently left their mark in Dubai, with Azure Coast (Street Sense) winning the 2022 G3 UAE 2000 Guineas as well as Tuz (Oxbow), who took out this year's G3 Al Shindagha Sprint and is not without his chances in this weekend's G1 Dubai Golden Shaheen. So it was not entirely shocking to see Kabirkhan transferred to the care of perennial leading trainer Doug Watson in the Emirates.

“We Kazakh equestrians have long dreamed of getting to Dubai, and then such a magnificent horse as Kabirkhan turned up, and we decided to try it,” Khassanov said. “At the moment, he is the most famous horse in Kazakhstan, we all love and support him.”

Beyond the agent's wildest dreams, Kabirkhan became arguably the story of this year's Dubai Racing Carnival, turning the tables on Hero Mo in a 2000-meter handicap before following up with another impressive victory in the G1 Al Maktoum Challenge on two weeks' rest.

“We really believed in him,” Khassanov insisted.

And now he has the opportunity to do something even more special in Saturday's G1 Dubai World Cup against a field that includes defending champion Ushba Tesoro (Jpn) (Orfevre {Jpn}), Derma Sotogake (Jpn) (Mind Your Biscuits) and GI Santa Anita H. hero Newgate (Into Mischief).

“We are considered the third favorites in the race and I will cheer and support him, I think we have a chance to write our name in the history of the Cup,” Khassanov said. “I am very proud of him and wish him only victory.”


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