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).