April 1st will mark thirteen years since the bloodstock of France’s dominant breeder, Jean-Luc Lagardere, officially became the property of the Aga Khan following Lagardere’s death two years earlier in 2003.
Among the three-year-old fillies in the transaction was Sichilla, a Danehill half-sister to Slickly who won the Grand Prix de Paris in Lagardere’s colours before enjoying further Group 1 success for Godolphin. Sichilla won twice for the Aga Khan, ending her career with victory in the listed Prix Amandine at Longchamp over seven furlongs.
In the short term, her exploits were overshadowed that season by the likes of Carlotamix, Vadawina and Valixir who all became Group 1 winners for the Aga Khan from the same batch of Lagardere-bred animals. In the long run, however, Sichilla may well have proven herself the most important of the reported 188 horses included in the deal.
Pivotal was chosen as the sire for Sichilla’s first cover and the mating resulted in a colt whose career highlight, appropriately enough, came in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere. Much more speedily bred than most Aga Khan products, Siyouni had shown unusual precocity by winning his first three races as a two-year-old over five furlongs, including the listed Prix La Fleche, before the end of June, while he finished runner-up in the Prix Robert Papin and Prix La Rochette before ending the year with that Group 1 win which made him champion two-year-old colt in France.
Siyouni failed to win at three, but he gained a couple of Group 1 placings in the Prix Jean Prat and Prix du Moulin. He was also runner-up in the Prix de Fontainebleau on his reappearance when unexpectedly beaten by his own pacemaker Rajsaman. Even so, it was a race whose principals were all to make an impact as future stallions. Rajsaman was responsible for last year’s Prix du Jockey Club winner Brametot in his first crop, while the third, Lope de Vega, who went on to complete the Poule d’Essai des Poulains-Prix du Jockey Club double (Siyouni finished down the field behind him in the Poulains) is the best stallion son to date of his sire Shamardal.
As for Siyouni, he was retired to his owner’s Haras de Bonneval at the rather modest fee of €7,000 for his first season at stud in 2011. His fee remained unchanged for his first four years at stud until his first crop of two-year-olds made him the top sire of juveniles in France in 2014. That excellent start prompted a hike in his fee to €20,000 and its been upwards ever since with further increases to €30,000, €45,000 and, for 2018, €75,000.
You don’t have to look far to find a very similar rise through the sire ranks. Siyouni’s own sire Pivotal enjoyed the same sort of progress, starting out at a modest £6,000 at Cheveley Park Stud before hitting a high of £85,000 at the peak of his stallion career.
Siyouni’s progeny have sold extremely well too. At Goffs November Foal Sale in 2016, a filly foal from the Wildenstein dispersal was bought by Shadwell for €775,000. Now named Maqsad, she’s out of the listed-placed Galileo mare Amerique, herself a daughter of the Prix de Diane winner Aquarelliste.
Siyouni also made headlines at breeze-up sales in 2017. His 400,000 guinea colt at the Tattersalls Craven Sale was followed at Arqana in May by €550,000 colt and a €650,000 filly. All three are now winners. The colt bought at Tattersalls, Commander Han, won a novice event at Chelmsford in February for Kevin Ryan. The Arqana colt joined Charlie Appleby for Godolphin and, named Rastrelli, won twice later at two. The filly, Ghazawaat, was another Shadwell purchase and she made a winning debut at Toulouse on the first of two starts at two for Jean-Claude Rouget.
Rouget also trained Siyouni’s best horse to date, Ervedya, a product of his first crop from the Aga Khan’s own studs. She was a top miler at three in 2015, winning the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches, Coronation Stakes and Prix du Moulin.
Siyouni could be about to have his best season yet. This year’s crop of two-year-olds will be his first conceived following his first jump in stud fee. Among his four-year-olds are Le Brivido, winner of last year’s Jersey Stakes and narrowly beaten in the Poule d’Essai des Poulains. From the same crop is Straight Right, who has already won a handicap at Newcastle this year and looks an improved performer, as does City Light, a recent winner at Chantilly who could run at Lingfield’s All-Weather Championships Finals.
His three-year-olds are headed by his second Group 1 winner after Ervedya, the Fillies’ Mile winner Laurens, who could be aimed at the Prix de Diane as she’s French-bred and therefore eligible for bonuses. He also has the unbeaten French colt Sacred Life, a 2000 Guineas entry, who ended 2017 winning the Prix Thomas Bryon and trained, like City Light, by Stephane Wattel for owner Jean-Louis Bouchard.
Before the European turf season starts, though, Siyouni could already have a big win on the other side of the world despite never having left Normandy during his stallion career.
His son Aylmerton recently won the Group 2 Todman Stakes at Randwick, a trial for the world’s richest two-year-old race, the Golden Slipper. Although foaled in Australia, his dam Aloona was covered by Siyouni in France to southern hemisphere time just before being exported down under. Aloona won a newcomers race at Agen over nine furlongs in the colours of Jean-Pierre Dubois whose son Jean-Etienne trains Aylmerton in Australia*.
Coincidentally, Aylmerton comes from the same Wildenstein family as the filly mentioned above. Aloona is out of Altana, a half-sister to Aquarelliste’s dam Agathe as well as to the Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Arcangues and to the dam of 1000 Guineas winner Cape Verdi. Aloona is herself a half-sister to the dam of the Queen’s Hardwicke Stakes and Yorkshire Cup winner Dartmouth.
As Aylmerton goes to show, the bloodstock industry is a global business. That’s one of the reasons for the fascination of studying pedigrees as topics covered by thebreedingshed regularly make clear. The Australian bloodstock industry has benefited from the import of foreign blood at least as much as any other major racing nation. Winx, after all, is by the Irish-bred Dubai World Cup winner Street Cry who stood in Kentucky and shuttled to Australia. There is nothing more that British racing fans would love than to see Winx competing at Royal Ascot this summer.
But not everyone, apparently, embraces the cosmopolitan nature of modern racing or breeding. According to The Australian ‘it would be the pits for the Australian thoroughbred breeding industry should Aylmerton win the Golden Slipper’ as it ‘would be a severe body blow to the reputation Australia has internationally for the production of high-class speed.’ In the short term, Australian pride may be dented if Aylmerton wins the Golden Slipper; in the longer term, given the race’s reputation for making stallions, there may be much to thank the son of Siyouni for.
*The Dubois family is a very famous one in all aspects of French trotting, and Aylmerton’s trainer himself won well over a thousand races, both driving trotters (notably the 1996 Prix d’Amerique, France’s top trotting race, with the Daniel Wildenstein-owned Coktail Jet) and training them.