Tony Arrold | July 07, 2008

HIS Highness the Aga Khan, arguably the world’s most successful thoroughbred breeder-owner of the past 50 years, is to join Australia’s breeders in the new season.

A joint venture has been struck between the Aga Khan Studs and Arrowfield Group, which runs the major Hunter Valley operation the Arrowfield Stud at Scone, NSW.

The venture is already under way with six mares from the Aga’s European farms currently in quarantine after arriving in Australia one week ago.

The six mares include a half-sister to Zarkava, a three-year-old filly some sound judges rank as potentially the best filly to carry the Aga’s familiar green and red colours.

The unbeaten winner of the French Oaks at her most recent start, Zarkava is the current favourite for the Group I Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (2400m), Europe’s weight-for-age championship, in France in early October.

From September 1, the six mares will be mated with selected stallions on Arrowfield Stud with the resultant progeny to be offered at select yearling sales in Australia.

Arrowfield’s varied selection of stallions includes the nation’s most expensive, Redoute’s Choice, the reigning champion Flying Spur and the Chilean sensation Hussonet, sire of Weekend Hussler, officially the world’s best sprinting three-year-old.

An agreement signed last week by the Aga Khan Studs and Arrowfield has been two years in the making, according to Arrowfield chief John Messara.

“In agreeing to this joint venture, His Highness has left a clear message that Australia is well and truly on the world stage in the thoroughbred business,” Messara said.

“There was a time not all that long ago that Australia would not have rated a second thought.

“But now look at the melting pot we have here – Sheik Mohammed and his vast Darley operation, Coolmore with the owner’s son (Tom Magnier) at the helm of the Australian operation and now one of the most significant figures of breeding for the past 50 years.”

Not for the first time is Arrowfield mounting an international venture.

In its infancy, in the 1980s, it had a partnership with the late Robert Sangster which yielded no less an industry dividend than the multiple champion sire Zabeel.

In the early 1990s, it joined Coolmore to secure and stand Danehill – and the world will never see another dual hemisphere champion like him.

More recently, Arrowfield has had joint ventures with the late Sheik Maktoum bin Rashid al Maktoum, senior brother of the ruling family of Dubai. Together, Arrowfield and Sheik Maktoum’s Gainsborough Stud bred, raised and put to public auction the multiple Group I winning, multi-millionairess Miss Finland (by Redoute’s Choice). Arrowfield bought her back to race and now to breed from.

At the same time, an ongoing business relationship with Japan’s premier stud, the Yoshida family’s Shadai Farms, led to a breeding joint venture with Katsumi Yoshida.

Arrowfield-Yoshida bred and sold Weekend Hussler, multiple Group I winner of nine of his 11 starts and almost $2.4 million in stakes.

Arrowfield will continue to deal with Georges Rimaud and Pat Downes, managers of the Aga’s vast French and Irish farm operations, in relation to the service and maintenance of the trail-blazing sextet of mares.

“Arrowfield will put the stallion recommendations for the mares, but Georges and Pat will also have a big input because they know these families so well,” Messara said.

“The joint venture will be reviewed every year but we hope the numbers will increase by the years.”

At this point, the venture embraces only a southern season with no discussion raised yet on serving mares to northern time.

The Aga Khan, 71, on Friday celebrates his golden jubilee as the spiritual head of the world’s 15 million Ismaili Muslims.

Shergar, the 10-length winner of the English Derby, is the Aga’s best known runner – but one of only a list of classic and major winners that would run the length of the home straight at Longchamp, the premier track in France where the Aga has his racing headquarters.

Another of the Aga’s English Derby winners was the recently deceased Kahyasi. Australian racing acknowledges Kahyasi as the sire of the Aga-bred Karasi, who found his way to Australia to continue racing and to then gain international fame as a three-times winner of the world’s richest jumps race, the Nakayama Grand Jump in Japan.


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