Great broodmares unlike great sires, cannot produce hundreds of horses. However, truly superior broodmares are often responsible for more great horses than the average sire through the continuing gifts of their daughters and granddaughters.
Today, the Aga Khan’s beautiful little bay Buchan filly Qurrat-Al-Ain is the taproot dam for no less than 15 horses who have won or placed in classic races. From *Gallant Man’s record-setting 1957 Belmont Stakes to Law Society’s more recent 1985 Irish Derby, this is a family of true historic importance. Its presence was felt at the first Breeders’ Cup in the form of Lashkari who deprived 1983 Horse of the Year All Along of her biggest triumph in the Turf as surely as it was when Maudlin sprinted to victory in the Forego Handicap at Saratoga in 1982.
International impact and versatility along with longevity is what we have come to expect from the Aga Khan’s foundation mares. He bought the best bloodlines available and their continuing gifts are testament to the excellence of the matrons to whom they trace.
In the early stages of building his racing empire, the Aga Khan bought a yearling filly by Buchan-Harpsichord by Louvois from her breeder, J. J. Maher. His Highness paid 12,500 guineas for the attractive filly, then the second-highest price ever paid for a yearling filly in the British Isles.
The youngster’s sire, Buchan, was a double Eclipse Stakes winner and champion sire of 1927 whose greatest impact would be as a broodmare sire. He also carried the blood of the immmortal Sceptre. The dam, Harpsichord, was the best two year old filly of 1920 in Ireland and also foaled Eclipse Stakes winner *Royal Minstrel and Coventry Stakes winner *Hairan.
But it was the filly’s looks as much as her pedigree which attracted the Aga Khan, and he gave her the Arabic name Qurrat-Al-Ain, meaning “Apple of My Eye”. The name would prove a good one, as the handsome bay filly was later described as “a filly in whom it was difficult to find a fault” as well as a runner of “perfect balance” who was a “lovely mover”.
Qurrat-Al-Ain was not a classic winner, though she ran close up in classics, finishing fourth in Fair Isle’s One Thousand Guineas. Her two most notable wins were the Coronation Stakes in which she defeated Oaks winner Rose of England and Reine-de-Course Theresina, another Aga Khan representative and a half sister to *Alibhai, and the Queen Mary Stakes at two when she handled eventual One Thousand Guineas winner Fair Isle, a full sister to Pharos and Fairway.
Perhaps her most memorable performance, however, came in defeat. In the July Cup at Newmarket, Qurrat-Al-Ain finished with a rush to run second to champion sprinter Sir Cosmo, later broodmare sire of the mighty Round Table. At two in 1929, she was second highweighted filly on the English Free Handicap to Fair Isle and the following season she was ranked third on the same Handicap to Rose of England and her old nemesis, Fair Isle. In all, she ran 12 times, winning half and placing in four others.
As good as she had been as a racehorse, Qurrat-Al-Ain was that much better at stud. Though she produced only five foals, three of which were fillies, she has made an enormous impact on the breed.
Her best racing daughter was undoubtedly champion Majideh by *Mahmoud, winner of the 1942 Irish One Thousand Guineas and Irish Oaks. She is best known to Americans as the dam of *Masaka, champion three year old filly in England in 1948 when she won the Epsom and Irish Oaks, and *Gallant Man, winner of the 1957 Belmont, Travers and Jockey Club Gold Cup.
*Gallant Man’s name is forever intertwined with those of Round Table and Bold Ruler, who made up the 1957 triumverate known as “the big three”. Between them, the three horses had the most remarkable three-year-old seasons seen to this day.
Bold Ruler was the speedy weight carrier, winner of the Wood Memorial, Flamingo and Preakness and a great handicapper the following year at four. In their 1957 year-end title match, the muddy Trenton Handicap, Bold Ruler conquered his two main rivals, earning Horse of the Year honors. Round Table, who won 11 stakes in a row in 1957, 43 of 66 overall and was three-times grass champion, was the world’s greatest money winner upon his retirement. *Gallant Man, however, was the true classic horse.
Best at distances at 1 1/4 miles and beyond, he reversed his racing career at stud, becoming a sire of quick winners due to his inbreeding to another of the Aga Khan’s prized broodmares, Mumtaz Mahal. Today his sire line lives on through the offspring of Elocutionist and there is no doubt it is in trouble. The most famous produce of his daughters is undoubtedly 1980 Kentucky Derby winner Genuine Risk, who produced only two foals.
*Gallant Man stands out in another respect. While Bold Ruler and Round Table won Horse of the Year titles in 1957 and 1958 respectively, *Gallant Man is generally acknowledged to be the best racehorse of modern times who never earned a championship. It was rather in the breeding shed for *Gallant Man to earn a title – that of “Chef-de-race“. (Round Table and Bold Ruler also became Chefs in their lifetimes, but *Gallant Man’s brilliant/intermediate classification was the most unexpected. As a horse of European ancestry who himself preferred a route of ground, he was not predicted to sire offspring who virtually reversed his own running style).
Apart from *Gallant Man, Majideh’s descendents include the aforementioned Law Society and champion Top Knight (who descend from *Gallant Man’s full sister *Mehrabi), Derby and Preakness placed The Scoundrel and St. Leger winner Son Of Love.
Qurrat-Al-Ain’s other major daughter is 1940 Irish Oaks winner Queen of Shiraz, by Triple Crown winner Bahram. Queen of Shiraz is very familiar to Californians as the dam of Santa Anita Handicap winner Poona II, long a sire in California. But her contribution in Europe is probably stronger. Irish Oaks winner Santa Tina, dam of Prix Vermeille winner Young Mother (by Youth), Irish 2000 Guineas winner Atherston Wood and Irish St. Ledger winner Reindeer all trace to her.
Qurrat-Al-Ain’s pedigree is an interesting study if for no other reason than she is a complete outcross within her first four generations. Extend the pedigree to the sixth remove, however, and what riches are to be found!
For starters, St. Simon appears three times – through his daughter St. Reine and through the full brothers Persimmon and Florizel II. Persimmon, it should be noted, is the tail-male ancestor of the Prince Rose/*Princequillo line in America.
Hampton, the Horatio Alger horse who ran without a name in his first start but rose to prominence in the breeding shed, appears three times in Qurrat-Al-Ain’s pedigree, all in the sixth generation through two sons and a daughter. Hampton, who began his career as a claimer and won over hurdles, is the founding sire of the Son-In-Law line (best known in America through *Herbager and his sons *Grey Dawn II and Big Spruce) as well as the male line of the immortal Hyperion.
Isonomy, called “one of the gamest and best horses that ever ran” and who came to his best form at four, is found three times in Qurrat-Al-Ain’s pedigree 6 x 4 x 6 through his two great sons Isinglass and Gallinule and the mare, Arcadia, dam of Cyllene. Isinglass was later responsible in tail-male for 1919 American Triple Crown winner Sir Barton; Gallinule founded no male line of note, but appears frequently in the pedigrees of great sires, namely Pilate and Round Table.
Other inbreeding in Qurrat-Al-Ain’s pedigree includes a triple of Wenlock (broodmare sire of Isinglass); and Bend Or, founding sire of the all-powerful Phalaris line. The Bend Or inbreeding (6 x 6) is supported entirely by Qurrat-Al-Ain’s sire, Buchan, and is balanced son Bona Vista to daughter Ornament. Wenlock appears through daughters only.
Although Qurrat-Al-Ain’s own two sons, Tahir by Tetratema, and Al Quim by Fairway, did little to distinguish themselves at stud, there is plenty of sire-power in Qurrat-Al-Ain’s family. However, her direct male descendents have done their best siring in Europe (with the obvious exception of *Gallant Man). Today, find *Gallant Man in Dixieland Brass; Flying Pidgeon; Genuine Reward (out of Genuine Risk); Lord Avie; Momsfurrari; Richter Scale; The Silver Move and Wayne’s Crane.
Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Lashkari has not been very consistent but has done moderately well; Poona II did do well in California though he failed to establish a sire line; and Kahyasi, though a pure stayer himself, has done well in Europe, even with his two year olds. Law Society led sire lists in Italy, has sired at least 45 stakes winners and now has several sons representing him at stud around the world.
So far as sires who trace to Qurrat-Al-Ain in America, one of the better bred ones was Maudlin, a speedy son of 1975 Kentucky Derby winner Foolish Pleasure. Maudlin not only won the Forego Handicap and Bold Ruler Stakes, he also placed in such major New York sprint events as the Boojum, Sport Page, Gravesend and Vosburg Handicaps and the Tom Fool Stakes. Maudlin sired at least 19 stakes winners and has the highly successful racing son Mecke ($2.4 million in earnings) now at stud.
Mecke, who is off to a decent start at stud, descends from the Reine-de-Course family of Bloodroot, the very first Broodmare of the Year, and is a full brother to Grade I winner Beautiful Pleasure. He stands in Florida for $7,500 and is off to a decent start at stud with seven stakes horses through the end of 2001.
Another sire who traces to Qurrat-Al-Ain was Legal Bid, winner of the 1987 Derby Trial Stakes in England. This son of Spectacular Bid was a half brother to Law Society and stood in Arkansas for $1,000. There may well be some of his daughters about to use for inbreeding.
Also of note is Qurrat-Al-Ain’s half brother *Royal Minstrel, whose blood is sprinkled liberally throughout the pedigrees of American horses. Noteworthy among them are Penroyal, dam of Royal Note; Bransome, dam of Dynamo and second dam of High Voltage; and Drowsy, dam of Sunday Evening and second dam of Home By Dark to name only a few.
Young mares whose families may yet provide sire sons to carry on this female family as a sire source are 1980 Miss Woodford Stakes winner Cerada Ridge (by Riva Ridge), dam of stakes placed Adare and the daughters of Prismatical, winner of the 1981 Alabama Stakes.
With its historical impact firmly in place and with any number of good sires and broodmares to carry on, we have no doubt that Qurrat-Al-Ain will continue to contribute to and improve Thoroughbred pedigrees for many generations yet to come. Welcome then Qurrat-Al-Ain and her descendents Queen Of Shiraz, Reine des Bois, Majideh, *Masaka and *Mehrabi to the Reine-de-Course list. Their arrival is long overdue.