Shane Loughnane pays tribute to His Highness the Aga Khan

BREEDING INSIGHTS: The Greatest Breeder of All Time: The Aga Khan

Gold medal winner Shane Loughnane was the star of this year’s Irish National Stud Management Course graduation, and among the awards he received was The Irish Field Blue Hen Essay trophy for his advocacy of His Highness the Aga Khan and his family as the greatest breeders of all time.

GREEN jersey and cap, red epaulettes. The racing colours of His Highness the Aga Khan which have been carried to victory by a total of 99 Group 1 winners.

Horses such as Dalakhani, Zarkava, Blushing Groom, Shergar and Siyouni are exceptional examples of horses bred and raced by His Highness.

This success doesn’t just lend itself to luck, but stems from years and generations of developing bloodlines, some of which have been owned by the family for nearly a century, and are ultimately the reason for the immense success being enjoyed today.

Game of chess

This industry has extraordinary examples of successful breeders, including, Darley, Coolmore, Juddmonte, and Niarchos Family, yet the manner in which this operation has bred and continues to breed horses is what makes the Aga Khan arguably the greatest of all time.

Originating with the success in the 1922 Queen Mary Stakes at Royal Ascot with Cos, the family continues to have success at the highest level, with a brace of classic-winning fillies this year alone, Rouhiya in the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches and Ezeliya in the Epsom Oaks.

Famously described by His Highness the Aga Khan as “playing a game of chess with nature”, breeding thoroughbreds is about working with nature and trying to understand it. In a world that is governed by unpredictability, nature has a way of correcting you all the time. It is this mindset, and an innate love for the horse, that sets the Aga Khan apart from the rest.

The Mumtaz Mahal legacy is the epitome of what the Aga Khan breeding operation is all about. An eye-catching daughter of The Tetrarch, she was dubbed “The Flying Filly” for her profound efforts on the track. However well she will be remembered for the success of her racing career, it is for Mumtaz Mahal’s extraordinary exploits as a broodmare that she will be remembered for many generations to come.

A true breed shaper, her dynasty includes horses such a Nasrullah, Shergar, Petite Etoile, and the five-time Group 1-winning filly Zarkava. The latter was deemed the perfect outcome for the Aga Khan breeding operation. A family that had been nurtured and developed for generations, Zarkava is a ninth-generation descendant from the great Mumtaz Mahal, and she has gone on to produce a Group 1 winner and classic-producing sire in Zarak, who His Highness stands at Haras de Bonneval.

Poignant success

This year’s Epsom Oaks heroine, Ezeliya, was a poignant success for a multitude of reasons for His Highness the Aga Khan.

Not only was Ezeliya his first Epsom Oaks winner, but she was also his 99th individual Group 1 winning homebred.

To add to this wonderful success, the filly is a direct descendant from the renowned ‘’E’ family, and His Highness’ remarkable broodmare Ebaziya.

Not only did Ebaziya produce four Group 1 winners, but to produce an Irish Oaks winner in Ebadiyla, a Moyglare Stud Stakes winner in Edabiya, and two Ascot Gold Cup winners in Enzeli and Estimate, is nothing short of extraordinary.

This bloodline stems from the Marcel Boussac line of Tourzima, which was acquired by the Aga Khan in 1978, but remarkably she is the same bloodline that His Highness’s other blue hen mare Darara stems from, tracing back to Albanilla. The likes of Mumtaz Mahal, Ebaziya, and Darara are fruits of this operation’s labour over generations.

If breeding thoroughbreds is like a game of chess with nature, the Aga Khan is the grandmaster.

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