The Year of Prince Aly Khan

In 1954, Aga Khan III decided French racing made more commercial sense and moved his entire stable to Chantilly. Following the death of his father in 1957, Prince Aly Khan bought out the other family bloodstock interests.

Prior to his tragic death in a motor accident in Paris in the spring of 1960, Prince Aly Khan enjoyed a marvelous year of success at home and abroad. As the British Bloodstock Breeders Review noted, referring to the prince as the first owner in the history of the British Turf to win more than £100,000 in a season and, with a new French record "It is no wonder that 1959 was called ’The Aly Khan’s Year.’"

Of all the horses that contributed to his record winnings in England and France, he was most proud of the grey filly Petite Etoile. Her 1,000 Guineas and Oaks double in 1959 helped put together the family’s record year in the Classics being supported by Taboun (2,000 Guineas), Ginetta (Poule d’Essai des Pouliches) and Fiorentina (Irish 1,000 Guineas).

If that was not enough, Saint-Crespin came out on top in the closest finish ever recorded in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. Having scrutinised the photograph at length the judge ruled a dead-heat between Saint-Crespin and Midnight Sun with Le Loup Garou a short-head away 3rd, Mi Carina a short neck away 4th andPrimera a neck away 5th. That was not the end of the matter - the two dead-heating jockeys George Moore and Jacques Fabre lodged objections to one another. The film patrol camera which had been installed at the start of that season provided the crucial evidence that Saint-Crespin had been bumped twice by Midnight Sun and the Stewards awarded him the race.

It was this extraordinary combination of circumstances that prompted the novelist Ian Fleming to make this entry in his personal notebook: "Gamblers just before they die are often given a great golden streak of luck. They get gay and young and rich and then, when they have been sufficiently flattered by the fates, they are struck down."

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