Dark Angel (by Acclamation) was not an obvious candidate to emerge as a force within the industry, as a stallion who would get Group 1 stars, stallion sons and successful broodmare daughters, but although it is still quite early in his career, the early indications are that he could become a stallion of considerable influence.
He raced only as a two-year-old, winning four of his nine starts, and although successful in the Group 1 Middle Park Stakes and Group 2 Mill Reef Stakes, he was unplaced against stronger opposition in the Group 2 Flying Childers Stakes and in the Group 1 Dewhurst Stakes and his end of year official rating was only 114. Timeform gave him a 113.
His combination of relatively low ratings, a successful though rather unfashionably bred sire, and a distaff side to his family whose few stakes winners achieved that feat just once in somewhat minor company, made him something of a long-shot to become a major player. Stakes winning progeny and smart handicappers, with the occasional pattern horse thrown in? Yes, all but guaranteed. But anything more than that fairly typical profile was less likely a prospect for him than it was for some of his cohorts.
Now, with his oldest progeny aged seven, Dark Angel is firmly established as a leading European sire, commanding a €60,000 fee at Yeomanstown Stud in Ireland.
His 30 stakes winners include 14 who have won at pattern level, four of those being Group 2 scorers and another pair top-class sprinters. Lethal Force won the Group 1 July Cup and Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes, and Mecca's Angel is a Timeform 129-rated Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes heroine.
The former is now a popular member of the stallion team at Cheveley Park Stud in Newmarket and responsible for foals that made 110,000gns, 100,000gns, €135,000, 92,000gns and €120,000 in 2016. The pattern-winning Dark Angel horses Alhebayeb (Tara Stud; first foals), Gutaifan (Yeomanstown Stud; first season) and Heeraat (Mickley Stud; first foals) are also sires, as is Group 1-placed Tough As Nails (Old Meadow Stud; yearlings), and there are others who look likely to be joining them before long.
Markaz is one of those.
The Owen Burrows-trained four-year-old was bred by the partnership of Yeomanstown Stud and Doc Bloodstock, he is a £200,000 graduate of the Doncaster Premier Yearling Sale, and he is a full-brother to the aforementioned sprint star Mecca's Angel.
He was a Group 3-placed winner as a juvenile, won the Group 3 Criterion Stakes and finished runner-up in the Group 2 Park Stakes, both over seven furlongs at three, and at Newcastle today he added a victory in the Group 3 Betfred Chipchase Stakes over six furlongs on the tapeta track. With his looks, pedigree and race record, he seems all but guaranteed to get a place at stud.
Dark Angel's record is strong with sprinters and others who show speed at up to a mile, and also with two-year-olds. Less than an hour after Markaz's latest victory, the Richard Hannon-trained juvenile filly Nations Alexander won the Listed Cambridge Magazine Supporting the AHT Empress Stakes over six furlongs at Newmarket. That, in turn, came an hour before the talented handicapper and previous one-time stakes winner Gabrial won the Listed Sky Bet Midsummer Stakes over eight and a half furlongs at Windsor.
Markaz and his top-class sister Mecca's Angel are out of Folga, a six-times winning daughter of the talented sprinter Atraf (by Clantime). She earned her blacktype when runner-up in a listed sprint at Bath, her celebrity progeny are her first two foals, and her third is a filly named Dirayah (by Dark Angel), who made 825,000gns from Book 1 of the 2015 Tattersalls October Yearling Sale. Number four is their full-sister who arrived in mid-April of last year.
Her dam is the talented sprinter Desert Dawn, one of the best horses sired by Belfort (by Tyrant). She won the Group 3 Prix d'Arenberg as a juvenile, was placed in the Group 3 Norfolk Stakes and in the Listed St Hugh's Stakes that same season, and went on to take the Listed Trafalgar House Sprint Stakes at Sandown.
Her daughters Folga and mile listed scorer Desert Kaya (by Bikala) are the only other blacktype horses in the family until you find a stakes-placed handicapper a couple of generations further back, and although there are high strike-rates of winners to foals born in each layer of the pedigree, this is not a family from which you could have expected horses such as Markaz and Mecca's Angel to emerge.
Yes, their dam and grandam had speed and blacktype ability, but the credit for elevating the family to its current position is largely due to Dark Angel, a stallion who has exceeded all reasonable early expectations and who looks sure to remain a leading sire for years to come.
As for the immediate prospects of Markaz, he holds entries in next month's Group 1 Darley July Cup and Group 2 Qatar Lennox Stakes. But regardless of how he gets on in those, or in any other big-race targets, this dual pattern-winning full-brother to a Group 1 star has probably already done enough to attract interest as a prospective stallion.