Monday 20 February 2012
The Aga Khan Studs are well-known for the top-level successes of their graduates over jumps and following the exploits of ZARKANDAR, ZAIDPOUR and MOURAD in England and Ireland this weekend the breeding operation is set to be well-represented at the forthcoming Cheltenham Festival.
Absent from the track since picking up the Gr 1 Anniversary 4YO Juvenile Hurdle in April, ZARKANDAR made a spectacular winning return to action with success in the Gr 3 Betfair Hurdle at Newbury on Friday. Last year’s Gr 1 Triumph Hurdle hero made light of the top weight in this handicap contest, which was also the first time he had raced against his elders. After racing in midfield, ZARKANDAR was asked to accelerate two hurdles out and responded well, staying on gamely in the final stages to score by one and a quarter lengths from Get Me Out Of Here. Paul Nicholls’ charge is now unbeaten in four outings over hurdles, and he was the first horse in 40 years to win this contest on his seasonal debut. The Azamour half-brother to the exceptional Zarkava will now head for Cheltenham and the Champion Hurdle.
A day later, this time in Ireland, ZAIDPOUR maintained his unbeaten record in four appearances during the 2011/2012 jumps season. A Group 1 winner as a novice, the Willie Mullins-trained six-year-old has not put a foot wrong this winter during which he has collected three Group 2 victories. The latest of these was the Gr 2 Trial Hurdle at Gowran Park, which he dominated easily to win by six and a half lengths from fellow Aga Khan Studs-bred Kalann (Barathea). This was a third runner-up spot for Kalann in Group company, and the gelding has also won a conditions hurdle at Cheltenham. ZAIDPOUR (Red Ransom) is from an Aga Khan Studs family which has enjoyed great success under both codes, as he is out of Prix de Diane victrix Zainta, a half-sister to top French hurdler Zaiyad (Sadler’s Wells), and already dam of Triumph Hurdle scorer Zaynar (Daylami). He was demonstrating his versatility in the two-mile event at Gowran Park as his wins this season have now come over distances ranging from two to three miles. He has entries in both the Champion and World Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
The Aga Khan-bred hat-trick was completed on Sunday by MOURAD who ran out the easy winner of the Gr 2 Boyne Hurdle at Navan. The ultra-consistent son of Sinndar has never finished out of the first four in twenty attempts over hurdles and he was winning his fourth Graded contest. He cruised home six lengths clear of the useful Mikael d’Haguenet in the two mile five furlong Boyne Hurdle and is now likely to be aimed at the World Hurdle, in which he finished third in 2011. MOURAD is a half-brother to Melbourne Cup third Mourilyan (Desert Prince) and Irish Derby third Mourayan (Alhaarth) who has also placed second in three Australian Group 1 contests.
Updated on 20/02/2012.