Niarchos Draft: 'We're Not Cutting Ties With Any of the Top Families'

Alpha Centauri with Maria Niarchos-Gouaze and Electra Niarchos | Racingfotos

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One of the reasons that the Racing League has struggled to catch on is that the organisers have underestimated the attachment that regular racegoers and viewers have to certain sets of silks. We all have our favourites, often depending on when we were born and who the leading lights were at the time. 

Some have now faded from everyday use, and for this fan the Ballymacoll Stud colours are much missed. Certain silks have such resonance that one almost doesn't need to have a race card handy to have an educated guess at the standard of certain races about to happen, and if the colours of the Niarchos family are spotted in the parade ring then it's a safe bet that there's a classy maiden or Pattern race in store. 

Happily, those distinctive colours are not about to disappear, though the restructuring of the family's bloodstock operation has brought about a proper 'bloodstock event', and one which offers a mouthwatering opportunity for other breeders to buy into some of the best Niarchos pedigrees. 

Forty of their fillies and mares will be offered at Goffs next week. Friday's session is likely to be the liveliest of the November Breeding Stock Sale since the Wildenstein Stables dispersal of 2016 or the Paulyn dispersal a decade ago when Chicquita (Ire) (Montjeu {Ire}), sold for €6 million to Coolmore, became the most expensive horse ever to sell in Ireland.

“We had a big draft last November at Goffs but this one is exceptional because the offerings include three homebred Group 1 winners,” says Alan Cooper, who has been the Niarchos family's racing manager for almost 40 years.

He adds with no little understatement, “It's a very special gathering of the family's stock.”

Before we run through some of the bluebloods on offer, it is worth emphasising that the Niarchos family will still be developing these equine families through the young stock being retained. More than 100 horses, including those in training, remain within their ownership.

“It's not a dispersal,” says Cooper. “These are going to auction but from each of the core families, we've got several fillies who are either foals, yearlings, or two-year-olds of this year going forward. We're not cutting the tie with any of the top families. That is important because Maria and her father and her brothers have built this up, and it's still ongoing.”

Stavros Niarchos, the Greek shipping tycoon, made a significant impact on the world of Thoroughbred breeding in the second half of the twentieth century, and his passion for the sport was shared by his daughter Maria Niarchos-Gouaze, one of his five children, who took on the running of the bloodstock sector of her father's empire following his death in 1996. 

Earlier this year, Haras de Fresnay-le-Buffard, the Normandy farm bought by Stavros Niarchos in 1979, was put up for sale. It had previously been home at different times in their lives to such luminaries of the turf as Nureyev, his incredible daughter Miesque, and her influential son Kingmambo (Mr. Prospector). Other top names include Hernando (Ire) (Niniski) and his son Sulamani (Ire), both of whom were winners of the Prix du Jockey Club, and the Breeders' Cup Mile victrix Six Perfections (Fr) (Celtic Swing {GB}).

Members of those families and more are included in the draft for next week's sale. As referred to above, three Group 1 winners form the cornerstone of that elite group. 

Albigna (Ire) (Zoffany {Ire}), the Prix Marcel Boussac winner whose first foal by Wootton Bassett (GB) sold for €460,000 as a yearling this season, is offered as Lot 1212 from Baroda Stud and is in foal to St Mark's Basilica (Fr). She also has a weanling filly by Dubawi (Ire) on the ground. 

Later, as Lot 1240 from Kiltinan Castle Stud, comes Alpine Star (Ire) (Sea The Moon {Ger}), the G1 Coronation S .winner who was runner-up in the G1 Prix de Diane, G1 Jacques Le Marois ad G1 Prix de l'Opera. She is in foal to Frankel (GB) and had a colt foal by the same stallion.

It remains to be seen which of the draft becomes the jewel of the crown in broodmare terms, but as a racehorse it is easy to argue the case for Alpha Centauri (Ire) (Mastercraftsman {Ire}), who sells last of all as Lot 1263 from Norelands and is in foal to Sea The Stars (Ire), carrying what will be her fourth offspring. On the track she was both the European champion three-year-old filly and champion three-year-old miler of 2018, when her wins included the Irish 1,000 Guineas, Coronation S., Falmouth S., and Prix Jacques Le Marois, which ran under the long-term sponsorship of the Niarchos family. 

Alpine Star and Alpha Centauri are half-sisters and daughters of the Rahy mare Alpha Lupi, representing the family which has become synonymous with the name Niarchos. Their granddam was another Jacques Le Marois winner and dual Classic heroine, East Of The Moon (Private Account), herself a daughter of one of the most revered mares of the modern era, Miesque. The latter's many Group/Grade 1 triumphs included back-to-back wins in both the Jacques Le Marois and Breeders' Cup Mile, as well as victories in the 1,000 Guineas, Poule d'Essai des Pouliches, Prix Marcel Boussac, Prix de la Salamandre, and Prix d'Ispahan. And that was just the entree to Miesque's celebrated career at stud.

The Hall of Famer produced the aforementioned Classic winners Kingmambo and East Of The Moon, as well as the Group 3 winners Miesque's Son (Mr. Prospector) and Mingun (A.P. Indy), Listed winner Moon Is Up (Woodman) and stakes-placed Inventing Paradise (Mr. Prospector). Another daughter, Second Happiness (Storm Cat), is the dam of  the Prix du Jockey Club winner and young sire Study Of Man (Ire) (Deep Impact {Jpn}), while another, Kingmambo's full-sister Monevassia, is the dam of Group 1 winner Rumplestiltskin (Ire) (Danehill).

Along with the aforementioned Group 1 winners, Miesque's direct line is also represented in the three-year-old Frankel filly Humankind (Lot 1104). Meanwhile, another branch of the family appears through Miesque's half-sister Yogya (Riverman), the dam of Six Perfections whose daughter Raja Ampat (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) features as Lot 1259 and is carrying a member of the first crop of Baaeed (GB). 

Six Perfections's unraced four-year-old granddaughter See (War Front) is Lot 1105, and that filly's full-sister La Fiamma is Lot 1181, and is sold in foal to Mehmas (Ire).

Another family which has stood the operation in great stead is that of Coup De Folie, the Halo mare bought from her breeder EP Taylor as a yearling who went on to win the G3 Prix d'Aumale. She later become the dam of Machiavellian (Mr. Prospector), his fellow Group 1 winner and full-sister Coup De Genie, and Exit To Nowhere (Irish River {Fr}), who was yet another winner of the Jacques Le Marois in the Niarchos silks.

That line thrives still, notably through Coup De Genie's daughter Moonlight's Box (Nureyev), the dam of Arc winner Bago (Fr) (Nashwan), dual Group 1 winner Maxios (GB) (Monsun {Ger}) and Listed-placed Malicieuse (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}), whose Deep Impact daughter Bold As Love (Ire) gets the ball rolling when offered as Lot 1102, the first of the draft.

Worldwide influences loom large among the Niarchos broodmare band, which has ties beyond Europe, to America, South Africa, and Australia. Significantly the family has long had strong links to Japan, before other major owner-breeders caught on to this fertile source of class. 

“Maria was definitely a precursor of the modern age on that,” says Cooper. “And thanks to the good relations we built up with Teruya and Chizu Yoshida, which came through Hector Protector going over [to stud in Japan]. We sent him mares and then sent mares to Sunday Silence and then Deep Impact as well. And we branched out every now and again, we took mares to Bago, of course, and Lord Kanaloa, Daiwa Major.”

He continues, “And we've even got some Australian influence in the draft, with Dawn Wall [by Fastnet Rock] in there and Provocateuse by Pride of Dubai. It's truly global.”

One of those mares sent to the Classic-winning homebred Hector Protector, who was later sold to Zenya Yoshida of Shadai Farm for his stallion career, was Lingerie (GB) (Shirley Heights {GB}), a daughter of another important founder of a dynasty in Northern Trick (Northern Dancer), winner of the G1 Prix de Diane and G1 Prix Vermeille. 

Lingerie's daughter Shiva was foaled in Japan and exported to Europe where she won the G1 Tattersalls Gold Cup. Her half-sister Light Shift (Kingmambo), also trained by Henry Cecil, later won the Oaks. Five members of Lingerie's family are catalogued, including Shiva's Listed-winning daughter That Which Is Not (Elusive Quality), the dam of Group 3 winner Piz Badile (Ire), who is by another Niarchos-bred stallion in Ulysses (Ire).

The 40 mares are spread between the drafts of Norelands, Baroda and Kiltinan Castle Studs, and are also dotted evenly through the Friday of the catalogue in groups of five or six. 

“All those studs have boarded mares for us,” Cooper explains. “With this number of horses we thought it was best to divide them up between these teams, who all do a wonderful job. We thought it was very manageable that way for us, too. It would be too much for everybody to sit and watch 40 horses go through together.”

Cooper arrived at the Niarchos family's London office in February 1984 to work as assistant to Sir Philip Payne-Gallwey, the former racing manager to Stavros Niarchos who played such a key role in the operation's success through his purchase of Miesque's sire and dam, Nureyev and Pasadoble, as well as Northern Trick, as yearlings in Kentucky.

“He went back to the BBA in 1987 and I've been here ever since,” says Cooper. “Karen Clark was here before me, and she's still very much part of the original team.”

Of the draft itself, he adds, “It goes back to the yearling fillies purchased in the 80s: you've got Pasadoble, the dam of Miesque; Coup De Folie, the dam of Coup De Genie, and so much has come down from those two alone. But then you spread out and another branch of Miesque's family was Yogya, the dam of Six Perfections, another family goes back to Rare Mint, and we've got a great-granddaughter of hers, Celestial Lagoon, represented through several of her daughters. Then you've got Lyrism, the dam of Whakilyric, who is the third dam of Nature Spirits.

“So there's a lot of families that we've had for generations. It's quite a history.”

 

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