2016 year in review: Dawn Of Hope for BDS as Decorated Knight leads the way
2016 was a year when homebred Decorated Knight blossomed into a Group winner with Group 1 pretensions and two generations of Blue Diamond Stud breeding came to the fore through Dick Hern Stakes winner Aljazzi.
They were just two of eight homebred winners for the stud throughout 2016, a year which also featured high-profile victories recorded by Ayrad, Dawn Of Hope and Gwafa, all of whom were purchased as yearlings by Tony Nerses.
But as with any season, 2016 ended by promising much for the future. There will be 54 older horses in training in 2017, including Decorated Knight, who it is hoped will be a force at Group 1 level. A return to stakes level could also beckon for Yuften, who signed off his year by cruising to victory in the Balmoral Handicap at Ascot. Stalwarts Justineo and Ayrad, both of whom struck at Listed level in 2016, also return for more as does Dawn Of Hope, who capped her year with a victory in the Prix Petite Etoile at Deauville in November.
Fadillah’s productive but light campaign in 2016 also promises much for 2017 while it will be fascinating to see how far this season’s two-year-old winners Gulliver, Gorgeous Noora, Choumicha, Hilario and Arwa among others can climb at three.
The excitement doesn’t end there. Our homebred Gimcrack Stakes winner Ajaya begins his stud career at Rathbarry Stud; as a fast son of Invincible Spirit from the immediate family of Redoute’s Choice and Bated Breath, he promises to be popular.
Meanwhile, our other stallion Sayif enters 2017 with promising first crop members such as Gulliver and Sayem to fly the flag.
JANUARY – 2016 opened amid much excitement with the arrival of a special foal, a filly out of our Princess Margaret Stakes heroine Princess Noor on January 11. The filly, a daughter of New Approach, is the first foal out of her dam, a brave performer for Roger Varian who also ran second in the Cheveley Park Stakes. The filly has developed into a fine stamp of a model and Princess Noor was later covered by Australia.
As the month drew to a close, Blue Diamond welcomed another smart youngster in a Dubawi filly out of Listed winner Soon. Soon, a daughter of Irish 1,000 Guineas heroine Classic Park, was covered by Lope De Vega in 2016.
Our colours aren’t normally associated with jumpers but GWAFA ensured that our rare foray into the winter game was an enjoyable one with a series of smart runs over hurdles.
The son of Tamayuz, a foal purchase by Tony Nerses, had been a smart handicapper for Marco Botti on the Flat, where he had risen to a rating of 95. Switched to Paul Webber, Gwafa returned following a lengthy absence to win his second start over hurdles, a maiden event at Fakenham, in facile style by 15 lengths on January 28.
FEBRUARY – the birth of a Kingman half-sister to Sayif and Hunter Street, both high-class two-year-olds now at stud, was one of the highlights of a busy month at Blue Diamond. The filly (right), out of Sewards Folly and from the first crop of her sire, was born on February 4 and was followed by an Iffraaj filly out of our good homebred Lady Nouf, a Listed-placed half-sister to Listed winner Nouriya, on February 13 and a Dream Ahead sister to classy sprinter Raucous out of our Queen Mary Stakes runner-up Shyrl on February 25.
February is generally quiet time for our string but there were still several wins to celebrate. PATENTAR, a smart performer during his time with Marco Botti, scored impressively for Simon Callaghan at Santa Anita while GWAFA followed up his Fakenham win with a similarly impressive success at Huntingdon.
At the stud meanwhile, the foaling season was in full swing. Fairy Bridge Stakes winner Lady Wingshot produced her second foal, a filly by Declaration Of War, while Maid To Master, a sister to Mastercraftsman, foaled a striking colt by Lope De Vega (pictured above). Mastercraftsman himself was also the sire of two other new arrivals in colts out of Crystal Swan and Island Dreams.
APRIL – a productive start to the European Flat season with YUFTEN and BAADI pulling off a homebred double within minutes of each other at Dundalk and Windsor on April 18. Then several days later, the regally-bred FADILLAH made the perfect start to her career with a smooth win at Haydock.
YUFTEN, who was second past the post in the 2013 Prix Jean Prat, showed plenty of his old zest to win the Dundalk Stadium Race hard held by nearly five lengths and lower the colours of Sir Isaac Newton. BAADI, meanwhile, got off the mark in maiden company at Windsor on his first start for Charlie Fellowes.
Particularly exciting, however, was the winning debut made by FADILLAH, a €1.2 million yearling purchase by Tony Nerses. Partnered by Pat Cosgrave, the daughter of Monsun defied her inexperience to win a mile maiden at Haydock going away by three-quarters of a length.
Much promise could also be gleaned by DAWN OF HOPE’s winning performance in the mile conditions race at Ascot on April 27. The Roger Varian-trained filly, a €220,000 yearling purchase by Tony Nerses and half-sister to our stakes stalwart Ayrad, won cosily by a length from Raaqy.
There was also a first winner for Sayif in SAYESSE, who scored at Brighton for Mick Channon, while at the stud, a number of exciting foals joined the fold. They included an Australia half-sister to Aljazzi out of Nouriya, an Oasis Dream half-sister to Ajaya, a Kingman colt out of Turama, an Oasis Dream brother to Justineo and a pair of foals by the ever popular Dark Angel.
MAY – exciting homebred DECORATED KNIGHT stepped up on his encouraging seasonal debut in the Paradise Stakes at Ascot to run out the smooth winner of the Festival Stakes at Goodwood. It was only the colt’s second start for Roger Charlton and marked him down as a progressive colt capable of mixing it at Group level. Regardless, it was also a valuable win for a horse who is a Galileo colt from the immediate family of Giant’s Causeway and Gleneagles.
Just days prior to his win, there had been another exciting performance in our colours courtesy of FADILLAH, who made it two out of two at Nottingham. From the final crop of the late German champion sire Monsun, Fadillah is a sister to the Classic-placed Soberania and half-sister to Group 1 winner Seismos, making her a potentially very exciting addition to the broodmare band at Blue Diamond Stud when the time comes.
Classy handicapper AZRAFF set himself up for a crack at Royal Ascot by scoring in competitive company on the Lockinge Stakes undercard at Newbury while homebred BAADI continued his progression through the ranks with another success at Windsor.
However, for all that the Flat took centre stage, one of the best afternoons of racing came when GWAFA landed the Swinton Handicap Hurdle at Haydock. Making only his fifth start over hurdles and lining up off the back of a nasty tumble in a Grade 1 novice hurdle at Aintree, Gwafa demonstrated some slick hurdling and a brave attitude to repel All Set To Go.
JUNE – homebred JUSTINEO has gained a great following over the years. A speedball whose white face is easily identifable, he often blazes off in front and given the right conditions, can be hard to run down. That’s exactly what happened when Robert Cowell sent him to Deauville to contest the Listed Prix Hampton; partnered by Pierre-Charles Boudot, he made all the running and stayed on well to deny The Right Man and bag his sixth win.
Just two days later, Robert Cowell provided us with another winner when COSMOPOLITAN GIRL bolted up in a 5f maiden at Bath. It was a deserved success for the filly, a breeze-up purchase by Tony Nerses who had shown good placed form as two-year-old.
BLENHEIM WARRIOR, another homebred, got off the mark in gritty style at Salisbury while EUGENIO, bought for 155,000gns by Tony Nerses as a yearling, made the perfect start to his career with a fluent success at Wolverhampton.
JULY – DECORATED KNIGHT had been an unlucky loser when narrowly going down to Tullius in the Diomed Stakes at Epsom but there was no mistake when sent out for his next assignment in the Meld Stakes at Leopardstown. Settled beautifully by George Baker, he showed a withering turn of foot to run down the leaders and win well with something in hand from Portage.
“When I wanted him, he was there and won well,” George Baker told the press. “He couldn’t have done it any more smoothly.”
Decorated Knight was subsequently prepared for the Arlington Million but in a case of desperate timing, suffered a setback on the morning of the race. He will be back in 2017 when a number of Group 1 races will be on his agenda.
His Meld win capped an excellent two weeks for our colours, which had also been carried to victory in the Gala Stakes at Sandown by AYRAD. Trained, like Decorated Knight, at Beckhampton by Roger Charlton, Ayrad repelled all challengers to land his second stakes race by just under a length.
There was also a deserved success for FOL O’YASMINE at Yarmouth. Such a win was particularly valuable for the filly given that she is a Dubawi half-sister to Sayif and therefore a potentially exciting addition to the broodmare band at Blue Diamond Stud.
AUGUST – our golden homebred run continued at Haydock on August when ALJAZZI landed the Dick Hern Stakes. Making her first start since contesting the 1,000 Guineas in May, she picked up well under Andrea Atzeni to run down Mix And Mingle and win a shade cosily.
Her victory was particularly enjoyable in light of the fact that Aljazzi represents two generations of Blue Diamond breeding as the first foal out of Nouriya, another stud homebred who was a dual Listed winner. In turn, Nouriya is a half-sister to the Listed-placed Lady Nouf, also a member of the Blue Diamond band, and the Group 1-placed Yuften.
MAY ROSE, a three-parts sister to Cable Bay, got off the mark at Windsor and a week later followed up in handicap company. Her second win came on the same day that ARWA, a half-sister to Order Of St George also trained by Charlie Hills, broke her maiden at Ripon by a wide margin. Nor did the wins stop there as DOURADO, another two-year-old purchased by Tony Nerses as a yearling, confirmed the high opinion of him with a good win at Lingfield.
SEPTEMBER – as summer turned to autumn, there were a number of promising two-year-olds waiting in the wings to show their hand.
One of the most highly anticipated was HILARIO, a Sepoy half-brother to Deacon Blues and The Tin Man who had been bought by Tony Nerses as a yearling.
After shaping well on his first start for Charlie Hills, he made a fine impression second time around when romping to victory in a Kempton maiden. Considering the manner in which his family progress with age, he must rate a very bright prospect for the future.
There was also a deserved maiden win at Chepstow for MISS LAILA – like Hilario, the Dark Angel filly was a GoffsUK Premier Yearling purchase by Tony Nerses.
OCTOBER – YUFTEN has long ranked as one of the stud’s most accomplished homebreds (he finished second past the post in the 2013 Prix Jean Prat), a status that was enhanced in emphatic style when he cruised to victory in the prestigious Balmoral Handicap, the concluding race on QIPCO Champions Day at Ascot.
Making his second start for Roger Charlton, Yuften was always travelling kindly under Andrea Atzeni before pouncing against the rail and taking command two furlongs out.
Atzeni was impressed with his mount, saying: “He was having a good look at the screens and we could have done with a longer lead. We got there and he thought he had done enough, but he won quite comfortably enough.”
By Invincible Spirit, Yuften is one of three stakes performers out of stud foundation mare Majestic Sakeena, purchased by Tony Nerses for 200,000gns at the 2006 Tattersalls December Sale. Majestic Sakeena is also the dam of Listed winner Nouriya, herself dam of Aljazzi, as well as the Listed-placed Lady Nouf.
While there is plenty to look forward to from Yuften in 2016, similar comments also apply to Choumicha and Gulliver, a pair of two-year-olds who broke their maidens in good style.
CHOUMICHA, bought for £280,000 by Tony Nerses as a yearling, had had her value significantly enhanced earlier in the year through the achievements of her brother Galileo Gold.
In October, she added her own winning bracket to the family when successful in a good maiden at Leicester and should be able to hold her own in black-type company next year.
Also promising is GULLIVER, who ran away with a maiden at York. Also bought by Tony Nerses as a yearling, he looks an exciting flag-bearer for his sire Sayif.
NOVEMBER – DAWN OF HOPE became yet another stakes winner for the year – and the second out of Sweet Firebird after Ayrad – when successful in the Prix Petite Etoile at Deauville. Partnered by Maxime Guyon, Dawn Of Hope challenged a furlong out and drew clear for a length score over Endless Summer. A progressive sort, she is an exciting filly for next year.
Another to keep the winter months warm is two-year-old GORGEOUS NOORA, who became our first winner with Luca Cumani when the impressive six-length winner of her maiden at Wolverhampton. The daughter of Raven’s Pass was yet another successful yearling purchase of the year, having been bought by Tony Nerses for 370,000gns.
HEIBA also got off the mark for Robert Cowell in determined fashion at Newcastle while homebred BLUE REVELATION defied a long absence to win well for Paul Webber at Lingfield.
DECEMBER – with the string wound down by this stage, attention shifts to the current batch of yearlings undergoing their education at Blue Diamond Stud. Each is an exciting, untapped talent and the presence of those by stallions such as Acclamation, Al Kazeem, Dansili, Dubawi, Iffraaj, Invincible Spirit and Oasis Dream only serves to fuel dreams for the upcoming season.
The stud has also welcomed back a number of horses for their winter holidays.
One horse not on holiday, however, is the progressive sprinter HEIBA. Bought by Tony Nerses as a yearling, the strapping son of Starspangledbanner made it two on the bounce for Robert Cowell when successful in handicap company at Lingfield on December 6.