The list of Group 1 stars who got an early winning start on the artificial tracks includes Covert Love, Hawkbill, Jack Hobbs, Seventh Heaven, Silverwave, Winter, and Zelzal and one of the most recent additions to the roll of honour is Nezwaah, the Roger Varian-trained four-year-old who won the Pretty Polly Stakes in style 12 days ago.
She was unraced as a two-year-old but made a winning debut over a mile at Chelmsford in January 2016 and followed that, a month later, with another odds-on success, this time over a half-furlong farther at Wolverhampton.
Her turf debut came two and a half months after that, when she finished third in a 10-furlong listed contest at Newbury, and then she went to Newcastle where she ran out a three-length winner of the Listed Hoppings Stakes on the Tapeta surface. All of her subsequent outings have been over the same trip and on turf, each in a different country, and culminating with her Group 1 success in Ireland.
First was the Group 2 Prix de la Nonette at Deauville, where she finished last of five behind La Cressonniere, and then the Listed John Musker Fillies’ Stakes at Yarmouth, where she was only beaten half a length by So Mi Dar. Then it was on to Canada for the Grade 1 E P Taylor Stakes at Woodbine, and although finishing out of the frame, she was only beaten by two lengths into seventh. Timeform rated her 113 at the end of that season.
Nezwaah made her four-year-old debut in Scotland, easily winning the Listed Tennent’s British Stallion Studs EBF Rothesay Stakes at Ayr in late May, and her second start of the year is her aforementioned three and a quarter-length defeat of Rain Goddess at the Curragh. Turret Rocks was another length and a half back in third, with Grade 1 heroine Zhukova disappointing in fourth, another head behind.
This was not a strong renewal of the race, with all but one of the first six home sporting an official pre-race handicap mark of either 108 or 109, but Nezwaah is improving, talented and yet another Group 1 winner for her outstanding sire, Dubawi (by Dubai Millennium).
She was bred by Darley and she is the first foal out of Ferdoos (by Dansili), a lightly-raced triple winner who began her career with a five-length score over 10 furlongs on the polytrack at Kempton and later took the Listed Pinnacle Stakes over a quarter-mile farther at Haydock.
The mare’s half-brother Brusco (by Rock Of Gibraltar) won the Listed Coppa d’Oro di Milano and a listed contest at Cologne, he was placed many times, including third in the Group 3 Deutsches St Leger at Dortmund, and this talented pair are their dam’s only runners.
Blaze Of Colour (by Rainbow Quest), the grandam of Nezwaah, earned her blacktype when third in the Listed Aphrodite Stakes at Newmarket, her half-sister Blue Dream (by Cadeaux Genereux) was listed-placed at Chester and another sibling, Equity Princess (by Warning), was a multiple blacktype earner who was runner-up in the Group 3 Oettingen-Rennen at Baden-Baden.
The latter is the grandam of a middle-distance listed scorer in France, their own dam was the Listed George Stubbs Stakes winner Hawait Al Barr (by Green Desert), and the only stakes winner among several blacktype earners under Group 2-placed fourth dam, Allegedly Blue (by Alleged), is the Group 3 Prix Messidor winner and dual Group 2 Premio Emilio Turati runner-up Ryono (by Mountain Cat), a son of Hawait Al Barr’s Group 2 Deutsches St Leger-placed half-sister Racing Blue (by Reference Point).
This is a smart family but perhaps not one from which you might expect to see a Group 1 winner emerge, given that it is the first four generations that make the most meaningful contribution to the horse. Indeed, each ancestor in the fourth generation is only contributing 6.25%, little to none of which could be influencing racing talent.
But if you go back another generation or two then you will find that the filly is just the latest representative of her distaff line to succeed or be placed at the top level. These horses are so remotely connected to her that they are making no contribution to her obvious talent, but their presence shows that there is actually no surprise that a major sire like Dubawi could help to revive its former glory.
Allegedly Blue was one of five winners from seven foals out of Meadow Blue (by Raise a Native), an unraced full-sister to Dewhurst Stakes winner Crowned Prince and to dual US classic star Majestic Prince whose only loss in 10 career starts was his second-place finish in the Belmont Stakes, a race that his son Coastal would win 10 years later.
Really Blue (by Believe It), a three-time winner and half-sister to Allegedly Blue, is best known as being the dam of US champion Real Quiet (by Quiet American) who, like his famous relation, also won both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes before being runner-up in the Belmont. He also won the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup, Grade 1 Pimlico Special and Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity, and his offspring include the Grade 1 stars Midnight Lute and Pussycat Doll.
Mining My Business (by Mining), a half-sister to Real Quiet, has done her part for the family’s honour as she is the dam of Grade 2 Fair Ground Oaks winner Real Cozzy (by Cozzene) who was placed in each of the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, Grade 1 Mother Goose Stakes and Grade 1 Acorn Stakes.
Nureyev’s Best (by Nureyev), who won the Listed Prix Finlande and finished third in the Group 3 Prix de Sandringham, was another of Allegedly Blue’s siblings and the most notable of her blacktype descendents is her daughter Andujar (by Quiet American), winner of the Grade 2 Milady Breeders’ Cup Handicap at Hollywood and placed in both the Grade 1 Go For Wand Handicap and Grade 1 Vanity Handicap.
Also notable is dual winner Mangala (by Sharpen Up) as that daughter of Meadow Blue came up with eight winners from a dozen foals, headlined by the high-class miler Allied Forces (by Miswaki). A dual Grade 2 scorer in the USA, he also won the Group 2 Queen Anne Stakes at Ascot and was third in the Group 1 Sussex Stakes at Goodwood.
Although still below being a true Group 1-calibre runner – she was raised to an official mark of 116 (Timeform rated her 120) after this latest success – there is reason to hope that Nezwaah can improve further before she eventually retires to stud for what could be an equally notable career as a broodmare.
She holds entries in the Group 1 Qatar Nassau Stakes, Group 1 Juddmonte International Stakes, and Group 1 Darley Yorkshire Oaks so we may not have long to wait to get another chance to assess her capabilities.
It takes a very good horse to earn an end of year rating of 130 or more from Timeform and exceptional one to achieve the feat more than once. The brilliant Petite Etoile is among those special individuals who reached or passed that mark in each of three seasons on the track and only a handful of fillies and mares have ever been rated more highly than her by that organisation.
Although her two-year-old season showed enough talent that she earned a mark of 120 from them, her glittering career did not start off on a particularly promising note. All four of her juvenile outings were over five furlongs and, as Racehorses of 1958 reported, on her debut in a two-horse race at Manchester that May she was green, slowly away, trounced by eight lengths, then got loose and galloped around for a while before being caught.
But she was eased down to win a Sandown maiden by five lengths next time out, then chased home Krakenwake in the Molecomb Stakes before making all to beat three rivals with ease in the Rose Stakes at Sandown.
Despite this early speed, one could have been hopeful that the Noel Murless-trained grey would stay a mile at three, and possibly even a bit farther, rather than follow in the hoofprints of one of her most famous ancestors.
She was by the Eclipse Stakes winner Petition (by Fair Trial), who was a leading six-furlong juvenile, and she was out of Star Of Iran (by Bois Roussel), who won over a mile in France but was a full-sister to Migoli.
He won the Dewhurst Stakes at two and by the time he retired, with a dozen wins from 21 starts, he had added the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Eclipse Stakes and Champion Stakes, among other races of note.
Their dam, Mah Iran (by Bahram), was out of Mah Mahal (by Gainsborough) – the mare who gave us 1936’s Derby hero Mahmoud (by Blenheim) – and the next dam was “The Flying Filly” Mumtaz Mahal (by The Tetrarch), a sprint champion whose seven wins featured the Nunthorpe Stakes.
Petite Etoile won the Free Handicap, 1000 Guineas, Oaks, Yorkshire Oaks and Champion Stakes as a three-year-old, earning a rating of 134 from Timeform. The following year she retained that mark, winning the Coronation Cup and finishing a half-length runner-up to Aggressor (TFR 130) in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot – from just three starts – and she was awarded a figure of 131 at five when her wins included another edition of the Coronation Cup.
With her pedigree and connections there was every reason to hope that Petite Etoile would excel at stud. There are never any guarantees, of course, but had there been odds offered on the likelihood that she would produce at least one top-level performer then those would have been a shade of odds-on.
Sadly, as is well-known, Petite Etoile produced just three named foals: Afaridaan (by Charlottesville), Kazakstaan (by Never Say Die), and Zahra (by Habitat). The latter was her only daughter, she was placed a few times on the track, and it is through her that this famous Aga Khan family has survived to this day.
Zahra has many blacktype descendants but three of them are horses of particular note and now, for the first time, they include a Group 1-winning colt who could go on to make an impact as a stallion.
Her granddaughter Zainta (by Kahyasi) won both the Group 1 Prix Saint-Alary and Group 1 Prix de Diane (French Oaks) in 1998 and became the dam of the National Hunt Grade 1 stars Zaidpour (by Red Ransom) and Zaynar (by Daylami).
Zarkasha (by Kahyasi), a great-granddaughter of Zahra, is closely related to Zainta and although she did not race she has made a considerable contribution to the breed as she is the dam of the undefeated champion Zarkava (by Zamindar), whom Timeform rated just 1lb behind her great ancestor.
Zarkava was trained by Alain de Royer-Dupre, she won the Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac and champion French two-year-old filly title in 2007, then returned at three to sweep the Group 3 Prix de la Grotte, Group 1 Poule d’Essai des Pouliches (French 1000 Guineas), Group 1 Prix de Diane (French Oaks), Group 1 Prix Vermeille, and Group 1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
Her first foal, a grey filly named Zerkaza (by Dalakhani), did not race, her second – a colt named Zarkash (by Sea The Stars) – died at the age of three, and her third, Zarkar (by Galileo), was unraced, is reported to have covered 64 mares in his first season at stud in Argentina, but then suffered a fatal paddock injury.
Zarkava’s fourth foal, however, is Zarak and the son of Dalham Hall Stud’s outstanding stallion Dubawi (by Dubai Millennium) carried his owner/breeder’s famous green and red colours to victory in the Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud a week ago, beating Silverwave by three-parts of a length.
The Alain de Royer-Dupre trained four-year-old won his only start at two – a mile maiden in heavy ground at Deauville that October – and he was among the better three-year-olds in France last year even though his only success came in a mile conditions race at Maisons-Laffitte in April.
He was fifth to The Gurkha when favourite for the Group 1 Poule d’Essai des Poulains (French 2000 Guineas), then chased home Almanzor in both the Group 1 Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) and Group 2 Prix Guillaume d’Ornano before finishing fourth to Vadamos in the Group 1 Prix du Moulin de Longchamp at Chantilly.
He was only third to Potemkin in the Group 2 Prix Dollar at that same venue on his final start of the year but returned to action at Meydan in February with a one and three-quarter-length score in the Group 3 Dubai Millennium Stakes over 10 furlongs.
Zarak was fourth to Vivlos, Heshem and Ribchester in the Group 1 Dubai Turf over nine furlongs at the same venue five weeks later and failed by just a short-neck to beat Cloth Of Stars in the Group 1 Prix Ganay on his return to Europe. His only outing between then and his recent win was a disappointing last of five behind Mekhtaal in the Group 1 Prix d’Ispahan at Chantilly in late May.
Zarak has a long way to go yet if he is to reach the sort of ratings achieved by his brilliant dam and sixth dam, but he is the latest top-level winner for one of H.H. the Aga Khan’s most famous families and it will be fascinating to see how he fares as a stallion, when the time comes.
Before then there are more good prizes to be won with him, and now that he has shown that he stays 12 furlongs the range of potentially suitable targets has increased.
Zarkava's current three-year-old is an unraced colt named Zarmitan (by Redoute's Choice), her two-year-old filly has been named Zarkamiya (by Frankel), she has a yearling son of Invincible Spirit (by Green Desert) and a colt foal by her owner/breeder's excellent young stallion Siyouni (by Pivotal).