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World Of Breeding: Jean Prat boost for Darshaan's record with Ajdal mares.

Byline: Tony Morris

IT is never easy to assess the significance of a stallion's untimely death. In the case of a prominent horse, every such event evokes general-and genuine-sadness, while providing pause for thought on what might have been. But the loss to the breed cannot immediately be measured to any meaningful extent; only time can enable a proper appraisal to be made.

When Kalamoun succumbed to a twisted gut shortly after he had started his sixth season at stud, it seemed cruel, and a matter for regret. But a never particularly fertile and not very commercial horse who at the time had just a single Group 1 winner to his name, was probably not going to be missed much in the long term.

Contrastingly, the early demise of Golden Fleece, an unbeaten Derby winner commanding a fee of Ir100,000gns, was universally treated as a catastrophe, in some quarters as a tragedy.

Years after Kalamoun's death we could recognise a sire with a truly astounding ratio of stakes winners to runners, who would surely have made a huge contribution to pedigrees, had he been spared. Golden Fleece was different, time revealing that his brief stud innings-cut short in his second season-had been little short of calamitous. His stock cost fortunes and, with scarcely an exception, proved disappointing.

Ajdal had an even shorter spell at stud than Golden Fleece, dying after a single season at Dalham Hall, where he had been keenly patronised at a fee of pounds 35,000. In his case the initial verdict was that the loss represented a disaster, but as the wait for his first Pattern winner became longer, and ended only when Cezanne was five years old, an alternative appraisal seemed appropriate. We had over-rated Ajdal's potential, over-reacted to his death, and he had been a failure.

We would have continued to believe that but for the result of the 1992 mating of his daughter Homage with Darshaan. We possibly still believed it when their product Mark Of Esteem scored an inconclusive victory in the 2,000 Guineas-just a flash in the pan, of no real significance. But the colt's altogether more brilliant subsequent display in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, when he trounced Bosra Sham, was something that could not be ignored.

Ajdal had sired only 18 daughters, all foaled in 1989, and until Mark Of Esteem's smashing Ascot victory in 1996, there was little evidence to suggest that they had anything special to offer as broodmares. That result changed perceptions again, and had extremely significant consequences.

Mares by Ajdal were now not just obviously worthwhile; there was a ready-made formula for how to exploit them. Seven of them made dates with Darshaan for 1997, and just one-ironically, Mark Of Esteem's dam-proved barren. Of the six products, two (Asri and Severina) have yet to run, two (Molakem and Tennessee Moon) are lightly-raced maidens, and the other pair are Group 1 winners.

Dilshaan attained that status in the Racing Post Trophy last autumn, confirmed his class when returning victorious in the Dante, and at the weekend will aim for the highest prize of all at Epsom. On Sunday he was joined by Olden Times, courageous winner over hitherto undefeated King Of Tara in Chantilly's Prix Jean Prat.

Whether or not you choose to believe in nicks as a viable breeding policy, there is no getting away from the facts in this case. By sheer coincidence or by reason of a natural affinity, three Ajdal mares have produced Group 1 winners by Darshaan.

And, almost inevitably, the third successful example, encouraging belief in the formula, comes just too late for breeders to try it again. There are other specimens in the pipeline, of course, which may or may not enhance the record, but Darshaan's lamentable death in May means that the experiments end here.

Remarkably, though he was 20 when he died, Darshaan had no proven sire son at stud until Mark Of Esteem came to the fore with a rash of winners from his first crop this spring, most notably 1,000 Guineas heroine Ameerat. Kotashaan, America's Horse of the Year in 1993, achieved little in Japan and is now covering National Hunt mares in Ireland, where Darnay is employed as a dual-purpose stallion. Josr Algarhoud began at Lavington only this year, so remains an unknown quantity.

Of course, we can only guess whether Ajdal mares might achieve comparable success with a son of Darshaan; if a nick does exist, the degree of the relationship may be crucial. I wonder whether any breeder will be adventurous enough to try one with Mark Of Esteem-a sort of `nephew-aunt' mating that would seem perfectly logical and not at all unusual outside thoroughbred circles.

What we can be sure about in Darshaan's stud performance is that his record with Ajdal mares is far better than his record with other mares of Northern Dancer descent. As could be expected, he was mated with plenty from that background-around 40 per cent of his total visitors-and his results from them conformed almost exactly to his overall averages, in terms of major winners, ordinary winners and non-winners. Ajdal certainly seems to have brought him something significant, possibly his inbreeding to Native Dancer.

As for the trio of Group 1 winners, their similarity in pedigree terms is confined to sire and broodmare sire. There is nothing to link them in the bottom quarter, where Dilshaan comes from a stamina-based Irish Classic root, Mark Of Esteem derives from a female line long established in America, and Olden Times belongs to a branch of the Admiration family.

Indeed, Garah and Abha might almost provide the only possible answer to the question: Name two pure sprinters trained by Henry Cecil.

Pedigree Assessment

Sire: Darshaan

Bred by H.H. Aga Khan. Won 5 (8-12f) of 8 races, viz. 2 (inc. Criterium de Saint-Cloud-Gr2) out of 3 at 2 years, 3 (Prix Greffulhe-Gr2, Prix Hocquart-Gr2, Prix du Jockey Club-Gr1) out of 5 at 3 years. Earned Fr1,847,000. Timeform 121 at 2, 133 at 3. The best 12-furlong 3yo from a very good crop, perhaps unsuited by firm ground. Very well bred. One of the two

best sons of his sire, a dual Derby winner and potent

stamina influence, and one of ten winners out of his dam

(Gr3-placed).

Died May 2001. Stood at Gilltown Stud, last fee Irpounds 75,000 (Oct 1). Sire of 14 crops of racing age, inc. notable winners: Zayyani (Gr3), Arzanni (Gr2), Game Plan (Gr2), Hellenic (Yorkshire Oaks-Gr1), Khalafiya (Gr3), Narwala (Gr3), Satin Wood (Gr3), Kotashaan (San Luis Rey S.-Gr1, San Juan Capistrano Invitational H.-Gr1, Eddie Read H.-Gr1, Oak Tree Invitational H.-Gr1, Breeders' Cup Turf S.-Gr1), Grand Plaisir (Gr2), Kithanga (Gr3), Sueboog (Gr3), Darnay (Gr2), Sharamana (Gr3), Truly A Dream (Gr2), Key Change (Yorkshire Oaks-Gr1), Mark Of Esteem (2,000 Guineas-Gr1, Queen Elizabeth II S.-Gr1), Hibernian Rhapsody (Gr3), Make No Mistake (Gr2), Mutamam (Gr3), Sayarshan (Gr2), Cerulean Sky (Prix Saint-Alary-Gr1), Josr Algarhoud (Gr2), Dilshaan (Racing Post Trophy-Gr1), Olden Times (Prix Jean Prat-Gr1), Perfect Plum (Gr3), Sayedah (Gr2), Time Away (Gr3). Also sire of Aliysa, finished first in Oaks, disqualified.

Dam: Garah

Bred by Nawara Stud Co. Ltd. Won 4 (6f) of 16 races, viz. unraced at 2 years, 3 out of 7 at 3 years, 1 out of 9 at 4 years. Earned pounds 42,087. Timeform 105 at 3, 107 at 4.

Split pastern as 2yo. Smart sprinter. Progressive form at 3 (placed in Listed company), better still at 4 (placed twice in Gr3). Effective on firmish and dead ground.

By top-class performer (Gr1 winner at 6f and 7f, respectable 5th in Derby) who had brief stud career, also getting dams of Mark Of Esteem and Dilshaan (both by Darshaan). Dam high-class sprinter, best at 5f, placed 4th in King's Stand S., half-sister to 3 other winners, inc. Sarissa (by Reform; dam of Pattern-placed middle-distance performer Sabre Dance). Grand-dam won 3 minor races, from family of Tehran (St Leger) and Argur (Eclipse S.). Tracing to Miranda, sister to Pretty Polly.

To stud at 5, and dam of: Idma (1995 f by Midyan; placed), All Good Things (1997 c by Marju; all-weather 12f maiden winner), Olden Times (1998 c by Darshaan; Gr1 winner), unnamed (1999 f by Mtoto). She has a yearling filly by Rainbow Quest, and is due this year to Daylami.

Conclusions

A worthy third Gr1 winner for the Darshaan-Ajdal cross. Should continue to make a mark in top-level company.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Jun 5, 2001
Words:1417
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