It's January, all of the thoroughbreds in this part of the world are officially a year older, and with the breeding season soon to begin again it is also a time when fans of the flat start to look ahead to the new turf campaign and speculate as to which of the previous year's juveniles will play a prominent role in the classics.
It is entirely possible that one or more of those who will become Group 1 classic winners in Europe in 2017 have not yet done anything more than run in or win a maiden. Maybe they have not even step foot on a racecourse. Some, if not most, will already have names already well known to us because of their excellent juvenile form.
Every year there are some major winners and even classic stars who have somewhat humble pedigrees, but should H H the Aga Khan's homebred Eziyra hit the top then she would be the opposite of that, an example of equine royalty achieving what she was bred to do. She was also a highly talented performer at two.
The daughter of Kildangan Stud's leading international sire Teofilo (by Galileo) has five Group 1 stars in her immediate family and four of them are siblings of her stakes-placed dam Eytarna (by Dubai Destination).
She holds entries in both the Group 1 Tattersalls Irish 1000 Guineas and Group 1 Darley Irish Oaks, she is available at around 20/1 for the Group 1 Investec Oaks at Epsom, and she was among the leading juvenile fillies in Ireland last season.
The Dermot Weld-trained chestnut was runner-up on her debut over seven and a half furlongs at Tipperary in early July and then beat the subsequently dual Group 1-placed Hydrangea by two lengths in a seven-furlong maiden at Galway before losing out by a neck to her debut conqueror Sea Of Grace in the Group 3 Flame Of Tara Stakes over a mile at the Curragh.
A month later, and wearing a hood for the first time, she justified favouritism with a two-length score in the Group 3 C.L. & M.F. Weld Park Stakes over seven on heavy ground at that same venue.
Weld said, in post-race interviews, that he sees her as a miler and as an Irish 1000 Guineas candidate. She has already run well over that course and distance so we know that neither will pose her any difficulty if she lines up for that classic in May.
We also know that she is bred to achieve anything and that the Curragh race is a classic that her sire has won before: Pleascach beat Found by half a length to land the spoils in 2015. Both those standout fillies went on to excel over 10 and 12 furlongs and there is every chance, on pedigree, that Eziyra could follow suit.
The Australian dual Group 1 stars Kermadec and Palentino are milers, as was the Group 1 Prix Jean Prat scorer Havana Gold, but Teofilo's other top-level winners also include the afore mentioned Yorkshire Oaks and Irish 1000 Guineas heroine Pleascach, Irish St Leger winner Voleuse De Coeurs, last season's Prix du Cadran scorer Quest For More, and also the ill-fated Irish Derby hero Trading Leather.
Dubai Destination (by Kingmambo), who was a miler, is well-established as a leading broodmare sire and the Derby and Arc champion Golden Horn (by Cape Cross) is just one the major winners his daughters have produced. Like Eziyra, that colt represents a family that contains some notable middle-distance horses.
Eytarna was unraced at two, won her maiden over nine and a half furlongs in July of her three-year-old season and rounded off her career with a third-place finish in the Listed Finale Stakes over 12 furlongs on soft ground at the Curragh.
Her first foal is the hurdles-placed gelding Enzani (by Cape Cross), who won over 12 furlongs at Dundalk just over two years ago, and her second is the lightly-raced Eshera (by Oratorio) whose two wins from just three starts included a mile listed contest at Cork.
Eytarna is out of the Group 2-placed triple middle-distance stakes winner Ebaziya (by Darshaan) and that makes her a half-sister to the Group 1 Gold Cup winners Enzeli (by Kahyasi) and Estimate (by Monsun), to Group 1 Irish Oaks heroine Ebadiyla (by Sadler's Wells) and to the Group 1 Moyglare Stud Stakes scorer Edabiya (by Rainbow Quest).
Ebadiyla is the dam of three blacktype earners and grandam of the Group 2 Prix de Royallieu winner Ebiyza (by Rock Of Gibraltar), and those out of her unplaced half-sister Elbasana (by Indian Ridge) include the lightly-raced Group 3 Give Thanks Stakes winner Edelmira (by Peintre Celebre).
Ebazyia's daughters also include a thrice-raced maiden called Ebaza (by Sinndar), dam of the Group 3 Athasi Stakes winner Emiyna. That filly was also Group 3-placed over a mile and never asked to try farther, but she is a daughter of US classic sire Maria's Mon (by Wavering Monarch), a horse whose best tend to be in the seven to 10-furlong range. That is also the range in which Ebadiyla's son Eyshal (by Green Desert) earned all of his blacktype.
Another indication that Eziyra may stay the Oaks trip is that Ezilla, an unraced full-sister to Ebaziya, is the dam of Ezima (by Sadler's Wells), the Listed Savel Beg Stakes winner and Group 2 Lancashire Oaks runner-up whose star daughter is 2014's champion Taghrooda (by Sea The Stars).
She won both the Group 1 Oaks at Epsom and Group 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot, was runner-up in the Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks and third in the Group 1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. Her first foal is a Kingman (by Invincible Spirit) filly born last February and she was then bred to Dubawi (by Dubai Millennium).
If Eziyra has inherited a speed influence from Teofilo and through Dubai Destination then she may indeed be a miler in the making, but the odds are slightly more in favour of her getting at least 10 furlongs.
If she does indeed prove good enough to win or be placed in the first fillies' Irish classic of the year at the Curragh then she may also be capable of following the example of her sire's Pleascach by excelling over middle-distances too.