The Aga Khan had to wait another
five years before getting started on the Epsom Derby winning
trail - and then it was the 18 to 1 stable outsider Blenheim
(Harry Wragg), rather than the 9 to 2 second favourite Rustom
Pasha. He was as surprised as everyone at the outcome but
that did not dampen his enthusiasm at his win. The following
year he had a near miss Triple Crown colt in Dastur who finished
2nd in the 2,000 Guineas and the Derby.
However, His Highness's most remarkable classic
challenge ever was laid down for the 1931 St. Leger. Four
runners carried his colours and they filled four of the first
five places with Firdaussi beating Dastur while Udaipur and
Taj Kasra finished 4th and 5th respectively, a spread of some
five lengths covering the quintet.
Prince Aly Khan
with Tulyar, after winning the King George VI &
Queen Elizabeth Stakes in 1952.
Because Dastur was out of Friar's Daughter
- the filly that Mumtaz
Mahal had "lost" in that famous home gallop - it would
be natural to assume that her progeny could have no higher
aspirations than to be placed in Classics. Yet only three
years later this mare, who had been a bargain basement 250
guineas yearling, had her name up in lights after her mating
with Blandford produced Bahram, an authentic Triple Crown
hero. Bahram was indeed the only horse between the two World
Wars to win the 2,000 Guineas, Derby and St. Leger. Frank
Butters, who had taken over the Aga Khan's horses
after a falling out with Dick Dawson, said Bahram was the
best he had ever trained. He added, though, that because Bahram
"was very lazy and had never been beaten, not even I knew
how good he was."
The punters had correctly worked out this
Derby with Bahram (Freddie Fox) the 5 to 4 favourite but the
following year, it was again "the wrong one" that triumphed
as Mahmoud (Charlie Smirke) at odds of 100 to 8 got first
run on his 6 to 1 stablemate Taj Akbar, the mount of Gordon
Richards, and won by two lengths. On this very fast ground
there were two records set. Mahmoud's time of 2 minutes 33.8
seconds is the fastest hand-held timing ever clocked while
the late Aga Khan remains the only owner in the
last 150 years to have had his colours carried first and second
in the Derby.
During the war years financial necessity
was behind the Aga Khan's decision to sell his
Derby winners rather than aspire to embellish his record.
In 1940 he parted with Bahram and Mahmoud for a total of £60,000,
a fraction of their value on an open market. Blenheim had
preceded them to the United States where he became champion
sire in 1941. Mahmoud, whose progeny were better suited to
American conditions than those got by Bahram, was champion
in 1946 and the leading broodmare sire in 1957.
When peace returned the Aga Khan
began buying again. His son Prince Aly Khan,
who, like the present Aga Khan was a superbly
good race reader, had espied Epsom potential in My Love after
his Prix Hocquart success. A half-share was acquired from
Leon Volterra for £15,000 with the colt running in the name
and colours of his new part-owner. With a romantic name like
My Love he was an assured public fancy. Rae Johnstone, still
decried for losing a prewar Derby on hot favourite Colombo,
put matters right this time with a stylish ride.
A still more popular Derby winner in these
colours was Tulyar in 1952. His renown was due in large measure
to a cheeky telegram from jockey Charlie Smirke to the Press
Club Derby Luncheon: "Hope on Wednesday at 3:40, I will be
saying 'what did I Tulyar."
The bookmakers did not share Smirke's enthusiasm
for his chances and were still laying odds of 100 to 8 when
betting on the course began. However, a wholesale public gamble
took place and Tulyar went to post the 11 to 2 favourite and
got home by three quarters of a length from Gay Time, ridden
by a teenager named Lester Piggott.
When the Aga Khan decided to
sell Tulyar, he accepted a lesser bid for him from the Irish
National Stud and turned down a much higher offer made by
the American breeder, Mrs. Whitney Tippett. This successfully
stilled much of the controversy over his sale of previous
Derby winners to American breeders and owners.
( Continue )