Back in 1960, on the sudden death of his father Aly Khan, H.H. the Aga Khan had had little involvement in the family racing and breeding empire. He remembers, « I was very much aware of the fact that this had been a family tradition for many generations and that it had been immensely successful at the time of my grandfather and my father. To be the new young owner who would come in and cause the operation to collapse was not what I wanted!”
The position of the Aga Khan Studs fifty years later in 2010, as one of the most respected bloodstock enterprises in the world, demonstrates the dedication of the Aga Khan to this ongoing project. A lifetime has been spent acquiring knowledge of breeding principles and observing the thoroughbred, and the Aga Khan Studs have reaped the rewards.
During the half-century of H.H. the Aga Khan overseeing his breeding operation, the Studs have purchased outright the bloodstock of some of France’s top breeders: the François Dupré and Marcel Boussac families, and latterly Jean-Luc Lagardère’s successful empire.
These acquisitions, combined with a meticulous attention to detail and to pedigrees, have contributed to the status of the Aga Khan Studs in the 21st century, as an internationally-renowned bloodstock influence.
Celebrations for the 2010 fifty-year anniversary were even able to begin some months early, as in 2009, the Aga Khan’s famous green and red silks were carried to victory an astounding seven times during the important Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe meeting at Longchamp. These five Group 1 and two Group 2 victories brought enormous satisfaction to HH Aga Khan, who noted, « I think the 2009 Arc weekend showed that the structure of the system was as optimal as I was going to be able to make it. That is why every component of the operation had a visiting card during that weekend.”
2010 saw more top-level victories, thanks to Prix de Diane heroine Sarafina and Grand Prix de Paris winner Behkabad, while the stallion ranks took on a new dimension with the arrival of Sea The Stars at Gilltown Stud.
As Princess Zahra Aga Khan, who is enthusiastically and effectively following in her father’s footsteps in the bloodstock world, points out, this latest development for the Aga Khan Studs is a logical one which fits perfectly with the operation’s ideology. “Our position is neutrality; we are non-commercial and we don’t breed for any purpose other than simply improving the families and the racing stock. The fact that Sea The Stars is standing at Gilltown is proof of that. We are neutral, traditional and non-commercial.”
The advent of new ideas and influences, while maintaining the precious traditions and quality, should ensure the Aga Khan Studs enjoy many anniversaries to come.