Sheikh Hamdan has played a sporting hand with Taghrooda. Instead of running her in last week’s Irish Oaks against her own gender she bids to become the first three-year-old filly for 38 years to win the British mid-summer highlight.
It is not an easy assignment. Telescope, the impressive Hardwicke Stakes winner, vies for favouritism and Eagle Top, another Royal Ascot winner, lies in wait. Godolphin will be represented by Trading Leather, while Romsdal runs in the silks of Princess Haya.
It was Taghrooda’s victory in the English Oaks over Saturday night’s 2,400-metre distance that was the deciding factor for jockey Paul Hanagan, who has ridden Mukhadram in all 13 of his starts. Dane O’Neill deputise Saturday.
Where Taghrooda is a certain stayer, Mukhradram is yet to prove himself at a distance over 2,000m. Where Taghrooda is flashy, Mukhadram is dour. Where Taghrooda could well be the next big thing after her effortless victory at Epsom last month, it took Mukhradram six attempts to win at Group 1 level. Even the blood running through Taghrooda’s veins is of a more purple hue than that of the yeoman Mukhadram.
Taghrooda is by Sea The Stars, a horse who slashed his way through the British programme in 2009 to register six Group 1s in as many months. His standard is not only carried this season by Taghrooda, but by Sea The Moon, his son who is amongst the favourites for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe after his easy victory in the German Derby this month.
Mukhadram is by Shamardal, the French Derby winner, but his chances of being born were slim as Magic Tree, his dam, was one of only 55 horses foaled in the UAE in 2002. Since Magic Tree was born, in Dubai, the breeding of thoroughbreds has declined in inverse proportion to the rise of Purebred Arabians.
There were 294 Purebred Arabians born in the UAE in 2002 but, according to the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities, 668 Purebred Arabians were bred in the UAE a decade later. In contrast, no thoroughbreds were bred at all in the UAE two seasons ago, only one a year before that, and one 12 months prior to that.
It was a fluke that Magic Tree was even used as a brood mare, too. She raced only once, and finished 13th of 16, but was picked up by David Loder, a former trainer for Godolphin, for a mere 2,800 guineas. Loder knew that Alan Kent, his friend and a successful polo player, was on the lookout for ponies and Kent decided to train her for chukkas rather than racecourses.
“I spent two years training her for polo,” Kent said. “She showed a lot of promise, too, but then her relations started winning big races and I had to have a re-think. I was quite upset at the time, but it was a better proposition to have her producing racehorses.”
Magic Tree’s more illustrious relations included Kirklees, who won the 2009 Group York Stakes, and Mastery, who won the English St Leger in the same year.
Kent transferred Magic Tree from his polo farm in West Sussex to Alvediston Stud in Salisbury, where she first produced Entihaa in 2008. Mukhadram followed in 2009 and Woodland Aria, who was last behind Euro Charline in the Listed Valiant Stakes here yesterday, was foaled in 2010. Siblings by Nayef, Sea The Stars and Oasis Dream, have followed.
Mukhadram was sold by Kent and Andrew Wardall, his business partner, for 190,000 guineas, a price which Kent believes to be a solid piece of business. With Alice, his daughter, now working for William Haggas, Mukhadram’s trainer, Kent can scarcely believe the symmetry.
“I was over the moon at his sale price and one of the world’s most powerful owners bought him,” he added. “I still get as much excitement when he runs as if I own him. I am meant to be at the Audi International Polo down the road at the Guard’s Polo Club, but I might just slip out and watch him run at Ascot.
“Both Mukhadram and Woodland Aria have run at the past two Royal Ascots, and I was there this year to see him finish fourth in the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes.
“It is a fairy tale.”
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