2017 year in review: a year Decorated with celebrations
IT was only fitting that ten years on from Authorized’s championship Derby-winning season that Blue Diamond Stud should again hit Group 1 heights with a horse that lit up the season from start to finish.
Decorated Knight’s truncated four-year-old season had ended on a winning note in the Group 3 Meld Stakes and the homebred swiflty made up for lost time for Roger Charlton, reeling off victories in the Group 1 Jebel Hatta and Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup before returning in the autumn to run out the outstanding winner of the Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes.
The son of Galileo, who is beautifully bred as a son of our foundation mare Pearling, a sister to multiple Group 1 winner Giant’s Causeway and Group 2 winner and multiple Group 1 producer You’resothrilling, made history for Blue Diamond as the first Group 1 winner to be bred and raised by the stud.
Decorated Knight has since been retired to the Irish National Stud. He will be strongly supported by us – Group 3 winners Princess Noor, Lady Wingshot and Shaden, Listed winner Dawn Of Hope, dual Listed winner Nouriya, the dam of our Group 3 winner Aljazzi and Mastercraftsman’s sister Maid To Master are among the mares who will visit him in 2018.
A top-class and durable campaigner from the immediate family of multiple North American champion sire Giant’s Causeway, we are very hopeful that Decorated Knight will prove successful in his next career.
However, 2017 wasn’t all about Decorated Knight. Our other winners included another high-class homebred in Aljazzi, the product of two generations of Blue Diamond breeding who was the impressive winner of the Group 3 Atalanta Stakes at Sandown, and the exciting two-year-old Extra Elusive, a half-brother to our Group 2 Gimcrack Stakes winner Ajaya who ran out the taking winner of his debut at Newbury in October.
The Grand Visir, Jousi, Gulliver, Green Fortune and Euginio were among the other exciting winners during an outstanding year that also saw Saleh Al Homaizi and Imad Al Sagar land TBA Breeder of the Month honours (April) and another BDS-bred, Vik The Billy, score in Listed company in Italy. Nor was success solely confined to the track, with the stud also responsible for a Dubawi filly that sold for 1,300,000gns to SackvilleDonald at the Tattersalls October Sale.
February – 2018 started early for our talented homebred Decorated Knight, who tuned up for a trip to Dubai in the Listed Winter Derby Trial at Lingfield. It was his first race since taking the Group 3 Meld Stakes at Leopardstown seven months before and the regally-bred Galileo colt duly picked up where he left off, putting his trademark turn of foot to good use to sweep past the leader and win from the favourite Arab Spring with a bit in hand.
“He did it well, he took me there and I was easy on him as he’s been off since July,” said jockey Andrea Atzeni. “He picked up Ryan [Moore on Arab Spring] well in the end and once he got his head in front, he’d thought he’d done enough. He’s a horse with a big future.” How right Andrea Atzeni was….
March – a month later and Decorated Knight made history as the first Group 1 winner bred and raised at Blue Diamond Stud during its short history.
With that successful prep run at Lingfield under his belt, he was sent to Meydan to contest the Group 1 Jebel Hatta and lived up to the high regard held of him throughout his career, powering past the majority of the field under an inspired drive by Andrea Atzeni to win cosily in the presence of Saleh Al Homaizi and Imad Al Sagar.
“He had a good draw, he jumped good, travelled well into the race with one clear run on the outside,” said Atzeni. “He saw the trip out well, that was great.”
The Jebel Hatta sealed Decorated Knight’s future as a stallion while handing a landmark victory to Blue Diamond Stud, which is also home to his dam Pearling. The daughter of Storm Cat was bought by Tony Nerses while carrying Decorated Knight and is a sister to Giant’s Causeway and You’resothrilling, the dam of Gleneagles and Happily.
April – there was further high-profile homebred success just a few weeks later when Aljazzi, bred by Blue Diamond Stud out of dual Listed winner Nouriya, returned to action with an impressive victory in the Listed Snowdrop Stakes at Kempton. It was the second stakes win for Aljazzi following her success in the Listed Dick Hern Stakes at Haydock the previous summer.
“Last year we thought a lot of Aljazzi and ran her in the Guineas, but it came too soon,” said trainer Marco Botti. “To start this season with a nice win is a confidence-booster. It would be nice to step her back up to Group level.”
Another homebred from our 2013 crop, Mr Khalid, also returned to winning form, in his case when making light of a lengthy absence to win on his debut for Roger Charlton at Windsor.
And in the US, there were further celebrations when the Grade 2-placed Patentar, a yearling purchase by Tony Nerses, beat Grade 2 winner Frank Conversation to land a tough allowance race at Santa Anita.
May – May was a momentous month for Blue Diamond Stud, as Decorated Knight captured his second Group 1 and two-year-old Vik The Billy remained unbeaten in the Listed Premio Alessandro Perrone at Capannelle.
Once again, Decorated Knight proved that he was a colt out of the top drawer with a brilliant win in the Group 1 Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh. With the track receiving a deluge of rain during the first day of the meeting on Irish 2,000 Guineas afternoon, there was doubt as to whether Decorated Knight – a top of the ground horse – would be fully effective in the conditions. However, by Sunday the ground had dried out enough for him to take part and with regular partner Andrea Atzeni in the irons, he was sent off the 7/2 favourite to oblige in a field that included fellow Group 1 winners Deauville and Johannes Vermeer.
Settled in the perfect position by Andrea Atzeni just off the heels of the leader Success Days, Decorated Knight shot through an opening past Moonlight Magic when asked and although he momentarily had a good look in front, had far too much in hand to stave off the late challenge of Somehow. At the line, he had a length and a quarter to spare over the Ballydoyle filly with Deauville another two and a quarter lengths away in third.
It was his second Group 1 win in the space of two months and also one that proved his ability to act on a range of grounds – the mark of a top-class horse.
“He picked up well, he got a bit lonely in front,” said trainer Roger Charlton. “Andrea said he pricked his ears when he got there, but he picked up again when Somehow came to him.
“This horse has improved, he’s very tough and sound.”
It was during this period that Roger Charlton also sent out our homebred Frankel colt Zefferino to win at Lingfield. The colt is the first foal out of Turama, a half-sister to Group 1 winner Spinning Queen bought by Tony Nerses as a yearling.
Our luck with Frankel didn’t end there, either. At Yarmouth, The Grand Visir made a sparkling winning debut for William Haggas to justify talk of loftier targets. His win came a day after Cosmopolitan Girl, another yearling purchase by Tony Nerses, had made a smooth winning return to action at Brighton for Robert Cowell.
Over at Capannelle in Italy, Vik The Billy became the stud’s third stakes winner of the year when successful in the Listed Premio Alessandro Perrone at Capannelle for Sergio Dettori. Sold to her current connections as a yearling, Vik The Billy is one of five winners out of Epiphany, a winning daughter of Zafonic purchased by Tony Nerses to join the stud in 2006.
June – Decorated Knight maintained his form into Royal Ascot, proving just what a durable campaigner he had become. Making his fifth start since scoring at Lingfield in February, Decorated Knight lined up against some of Europe’s best in the Group 1 Prince Of Wales’s Stakes and ran extremely well to finish a tough second to champion Highland Reel, with the subsequent dual Group 1 winner Ulysses back in third. It was a sweltering afternoon at Royal Ascot that day but unlike several of his rivals, the soaring temperatures made little difference to Decorated Knight.
They also made little difference to Aljazzi, who turned in a personal best to run second to Group 1 winner Qemah in the Group 2 Duke Of Cambridge Stakes. Aljazzi got within three-quarters of a length to the winner and had a number of Group performers in arrears.
Away from Royal Ascot, there was a taking winning debut by our first two-year-old runner of the year, Green Fortune, at Lingfield. By our own stallion Sayif, he is the third living foal out of our Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes runner-up Shyrl and therefore a half-brother to the classy sprinter Raucous.
There was also a deserved win for another homebred, Bella Alissa. The daughter of Dutch Art struck in a 5f maiden at Bath for Robert Cowell.
July – Euginio had looked a smart performer in the making for Richard Hannon as a two-year-old and after making a highly encouraging return under a big weight at Newmarket’s Craven meeting, he took another step forward with a brave win on the opening day of Sandown’s Eclipse meeting.
The only three-year-old in the field, the son of Fastnet Rock – a yearling purchase by Tony Nerses – justified favouritism under Andrea Atzeni to win by a head from Beardwood.
His win opened another memorable month for Saleh Al Homaizi and Imad Al Sagar that also featured a second win by our homebred two-year-old Green Fortune at Chelmsford – in beating Amazing Alice, he led home a one-two in the event for our stallion Sayif – and another win by our Californian resident Patentar, this time at Del Mar.
The month, however, closed with a real bang when Jousi and The Grand Visir won within hours of each other on July 28 to provide us with an across-the-card double.
Homebred Jousi, a regally-bred filly as a Dubawi daughter of Listed winner Soon, got the ball rolling in a hot 6f fillies’ maiden at Ascot. Always travelling comfortably in the hands of Josephine Gordon, Jousi had plenty in reserve to pull clear for a resounding success. “She’s as tough as nails,” commented Gordon.
The action then turned to Newmarket when The Grand Visir continued his upward curve in the 1m4f handicap. The Frankel colt made all the running under Pat Cosgrave in abysmal conditions to repel all challengers and win in really brave fashion. It was the second win for The Grand Visir, who was bought by Tony Nerses at Arqana’s August Sale.
September – Decorated Knight was the outstanding winner of the Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown, swooping from the back of the field to defeat a glittering field.
In an excellent training performance by Roger Charlton and his team, it was Decorated Knight’s third Group 1 win of the year following his earlier victories in the Tattersalls Gold Cup at the Curragh and Jebel Hatta at Meydan. It was also achieved in devastating style, as Decorated Knight charged past the entire field in the home straight under Andrea Atzeni to win going away with star three-year-olds Eminent and Churchill left for dead. Fellow Group 1 winners Zhukova and The Grey Gatsby were also well beaten.
“Andrea said he had them covered,” said trainer Roger Charlton. “He said the horse was very relaxed and had an amazing turn of foot, quickening right to the line.
In victory, Decorated Knight pulled off what others such as Churchill, Ulysses, Harry Angel and Caravaggio failed to achieve during the course of 2017 – win three Group 1 races, a remarkable record considering he kept his form from February through to the autumn.
Decorated Knight’s win capped a golden period for the stud that had begun several days earlier with the impressive win of fellow homebred Aljazzi in the Group 3 Atalanta Stakes at Sandown.
Also partnered by Andrea Atzeni, Aljazzi swooped down the outer to claim Nathra and win going away by three lengths.
“Aljazzi has progressed and Ascot was a great performance,” said trainer Marco Botti. “She wants time between her races so we freshened her up for this. She was a bit awkward coming out of the stalls, so we were further back than we ideally wanted, but she picked up well.”
While Decorated Knight is the first foal out of Giant’s Causeway’s sister Pearling, bought by Tony Nerses as a foundation mare for Blue Diamond Stud, Aljazzi represents two generations of Blue Diamond breeding as the first foal out of Nouriya, another stud homebred who carried our colours to victory in the Listed John Musker Stakes and Listed EBF Lyric Stakes.
In turn, Nouriya, by Danehill Dancer, is a half-sister to the Listed-placed Lady Nouf, also a member of the Blue Diamond band, and Balmoral Handicap winner Yuften, who also finished second past the post in the Prix Jean Prat.
The stud also celebrated a Brighton double for the month courtesy of homebreds Oden, our three-year-old out of Dashing, and Bella Alissa, the first foal out of former Blue Diamond mare Crazy Too.
Euginio, meanwhile, added another win to his resume when striking in a competitive handicap at Doncaster’s St Leger meeting. A tough, progressive colt who now boasts over £50,000 in earnings, he could be on his way to better things, as trainer Richard Hannon outlined. “He’ll be a lovely horse next year when it all comes together,” he said. “I could see him making up into something like a Group 3 horse.”
October – the month opened in spectacular style as our Dubawi yearling out of Soon – a queen of a filly sold on our behalf by New England Stud – lit up Tattersalls on a bid of 1,300,000gns. Alastair Donald, acting on behalf of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha’s King Power Racing, struck the winning nod for the filly, who is out of Listed winner Soon and a sister to our exciting 2yo Jousi. Her sale made her one of the top ten fillies of the entire sale and was a credit to Blue Diamond and its staff as well as New England.
“While we want to race good horses, we also want to sell good horses,” said Tony Nerses following the sale. “We’ve had success before in the sale ring – it is important to sell well. Once we have committed to selling we will do so. Blue Diamond Stud has only been in existence for five years but we’ve have achieved plenty.”
Meanwhile, as Decorated Knight was preparing for his career finale in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Del Mar, there was an exciting glimpse of the future when his stablemate Extra Elusive made an impressive winning debut at Newbury.
Two-year-old maidens at Newbury are usually competitive affairs, which made Extra Elusive’s win all the more exciting; sent off at 7/1, he made smooth headway from the rear of the field to take up the running a furlong out and win going away from First Eleven, a half-brother to Kingman with significantly greater experience.
The son of Mastercraftsman is the third foal out of Nessina and thus a half-brother to our Group 2 Gimcrack Stakes winner Ajaya. Nessina, a close relation to Bated Breath and Cityscape, joined the stud when bought by Tony Nerses at Tattersalls in 2012.
While Extra Elusive offers much promise for the future, it was also good to see our stalwart Ayrad get back to winning ways at Salisbury. A dual Listed winner in his time, the six-year-old gelding made all under regular partner Andrea Atzeni to win unchallenged by four and a half lengths.
Another seasoned performer, Ghalib, became our first winner with young trainer Amy Murphy when scoring well at Windsor, while there was also a deserved success for four-year-old sprinter Orvar at Kempton.
One of the most satisfying wins of the month, however, came courtesy of Gulliver. From the first crop of our stallion Sayif and bought by Tony Nerses as a yearling, Gulliver hadn’t always lived up to expectations during the season. But there were signs in September when he ran second to Ice Lord in a good handicap at Ascot that he had turned the corner, and the gelding went on to build on that performance next time out for Hugo Palmer when the winner of a fair handicap at Wolverhampton.
November – with that win at Wolverhampton under his belt, Gulliver headed to Lingfield, where he ran out the clever winner of a class 2 handicap over 7f. And from there, he went to Kempton to land his third race in quick succession in the manner of a highly progressive horse. “It’s just taken a bit of time to sweeten him,” said jockey Josephine Gordon. “He used to be slow away but he was so quick today he almost left me behind! He’s a reformed character and I wouldn’t be surprised if he does it again.”
The all-weather also played host to a good performance by the Luca Cumani-trained Gorgeous Noora. The daughter of Raven’s Pass missed the first part of the season after a setback but made up for lost time when scoring on her final run of the year in a 6f handicap at Lingfield. Hopefully, she will continue to progress next year.
December – December is invariably a quiet month for us as most of the horses head on their holidays. However, an important result came the way of Blue Diamond Stud early in December when Ambrosia broke her maiden at Newcastle with a perfectly timed run under Kieran Shoemark.
Ambrosia is from the first crop of Frankel – indeed, she became the third Frankel to win for us this year after The Grand Visir and Zefferino – and a half-sister to Decorated Knight, our triple Group 1 winner who lit up our season so admirably. Their dam, Pearling, is a sister to Group 1 winner and champion sire Giant’s Causeway as well as You’resothrilling, the dam of Group 1 winners Gleneagles, Happily, Marvellous and The Taj Mahal – all of which made Ambrosia’s win particularly important for the stud.