Flying Fillies: Lady Aurelia and Mumtaz Mahal

Horsesprint

The most impressive performance at Royal Ascot surely came from two-year-old American filly Lady Aurelia who was a spectacular seven-length winner of the Queen Mary Stakes after showing terrific speed throughout. Her trainer Wesley Ward also trained the 2015 Queen Mary winner Acapulco who, incidentally, on firm ground recorded a time of 60.03 seconds for the five furlongs. Remarkably, Lady Aurelia’s time was only a fraction slower (60.14 seconds) despite racing on much softer going.

Lady Aurelia and Acapulco have more than just their trainer in common. They are both also daughters of the late Coolmore stallion Scat Daddy who died last December. Given that he’s been represented by just a handful of two-year-old runners at Royal Ascot, Scat Daddy’s success rate at the meeting is impressive. His first winner there was another of Wesley Ward’s successful raiders No Nay Never who set the current juvenile five-furlong track record when winning the Norfolk Stakes in 2013. Lady Aurelia took Scat Daddy’s Royal Ascot tally to four wins after the success of Caravaggio in the Coventry Stakes for Aidan O’Brien twenty-four hours earlier.

Scat Daddy ended his career finishing well beaten in the Kentucky Derby after winning the Florida Derby but he began his career showing the sort of speed and precocity displayed by his Royal Ascot winners. He made a winning debut at Belmont in early-June of his two-year-old season over five and a half furlongs before stretching out to a mile there later in the year in the Champagne Stakes and then finishing fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

Scat Daddy’s sire Johannesburg had a very similar profile, though with the important difference that he was trained in Europe and therefore performed mainly on turf. Trained by Aidan O’Brien, Johannesburg also failed in the Kentucky Derby after a highly successful two-year-old season in which he started out as an early, speedy type – winning the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot – and went unbeaten in seven starts that year culminating in a successful dirt debut in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

Lady Aurelia was therefore following in the footsteps of her grandsire when winning over Ascot’s five furlongs. But she was performing in a very different environment to her dam and grandam.

Both D’Wildcat Speed and Velvet Panther were prolific winners and champions in Puerto Rico. Lady Aurelia’s grandam Velvet Panther was twice champion imported older mare and won 31 races there, while her daughter D’Wildcat Speed was the 2003 horse of the year in Puerto Rico and champion imported three-year-old filly. She ran up a sequence of 14 wins in Puerto Rico before being sent to Florida where she won twice more, including the Grade 2 Rampart Handicap at Gulfstream over nine furlongs as a five-year-old. At Keeneland that November she was sold for a million dollars to Jess Jackson, soon to be owner of Curlin and Rachel Alexandra.

Lady Aurelia’s winning margin in the Queen Mary was impressive but not a record for the race. That still lies with the 1923 winner Mumtaz Mahal, the Aga Khan’s ‘flying filly’ who won it by ten. Interestingly, both Mumtaz Mahal and Lady Aurelia had given notice of their speed before going to Royal Ascot, each having achieved the notable of feat of breaking track records on their debuts, Mumtaz Mahal over five furlongs at Newmarket and Lady Aurelia over four and a half at Keeneland.

In A Century of Champions, John Randall and Tony Morris describe Mumtaz Mahal as simply ‘the fastest filly of all time’ and rated her the Horse of the Year in Britain as a three-year-old in 1924 when she won the Nunthorpe Stakes by six lengths. Some of Mumtaz Mahal’s races may have barely lasted sixty seconds, but thanks to her stud career her fame has lasted the best part of a century. Along with Pretty Polly, Randall and Morris rate Mumtaz Mahal as one of the two most influential broodmares of the twentieth century.

Mumtaz Mahal has proven a hugely important foundation mare for the Aga Khan as ancestress of the likes of Shergar, Petite Etoile and Zarkava, while Golden Horn is another of her direct descendants.

But Mumtaz Mahal’s name recurs frequently in pedigrees throughout the breed as a whole, largely as a result of her daughters Mah Mahal and Mumtaz Begum being respectively the dams of Nasrullah and Mahmoud. Besides his own sireline (grandsire of Secretariat, for example), Nasrullah was the grandsire of Mr Prospector’s dam Gold Digger, while Mahmoud sired Northern Dancer’s grandam Almahmoud.

Almahmoud_(USA)
Mahmoud’s daughter Almahmoud, grandam of Northern Dancer

It would be fanciful to suggest that Mumtaz Mahal, from so far back, has anything to do with the speed shown by Lady Aurelia. On the other hand, to show how pervasive Mumtaz Mahal is in modern thoroughbreds, it’s an interesting exercise to take Lady Aurelia’s pedigree and trace any links of her fourth-generation ancestors back to Mumtaz Mahal. How many will we find? Three? Six? A dozen? The answer is surprising.

Here then are Lady Aurelia’s 16 great great grandparents listed as they appear top to bottom in her pedigree. The number in brackets refers to the number of strains of Mumtaz Mahal that that horse carries. See above for the relationship between Mumtaz Mahal and each of NORTHERN DANCER, MR PROSPECTOR and SECRETARIAT.

 

STORM CAT (2): grandson of NORTHERN DANCER and out of a SECRETARIAT mare

ISLAND KITTY (2): inbred 4×4 to MAHMOUD

OGYGIAN (1): 4th dam by MAHMOUD

YARN (4): by MR PROSPECTOR; dam granddaughter of What A Pleasure*; grandam by NORTHERN DANCER’s son Nijinsky

RAISE A NATIVE

GOLD DIGGER (1): granddaughter of NASRULLAH

NIJINSKY (1): son of NORTHERN DANCER

PERSONABLE LADY (2): dam by Gallant Man**

STORM BIRD (1): son of NORTHERN DANCER

TERLINGUA (1): daughter of SECRETARIAT

BOLD NATIVE

ABIFAITH (1): granddaughter of Royal Charger***

LONDON COMPANY

ENAMOR (3): daughter of Drone (a great grandson of Royal Charger***) whose grandam is by MAHMOUD; dam by NASRULLAH

GREAT ABOVE

ANOTHER CAT (1): dam granddaughter of MAHMOUD

 

*What A Pleasure’s two grandsires are Mumtaz Mahal’s grandsons Nasrullah and Mahmoud

**Gallant Man was by 1948 Arc winner Migoli out of a Nasrullah mare and therefore inbred 3×3 to Mumtaz Mahal’s daughter Mah Mahal

***Royal Charger (by Nasrullah’s sire Nearco) was out of Mumtaz Mahal’s granddaughter Sun Princess

So, no fewer than 12 of Lady Aurelia’s 16 great great grandparents have at least one trace of Mumtaz Mahal. The four who don’t are the stallions Raise A Native and Bold Native (father and son), London Company and Great Above.

Yarn (Johannesburg’s grandam) with four has the most instances of Mumtaz Mahal, receiving a ‘double dose’ from What A Pleasure. In total, therefore, Mumtaz Mahal occurs, albeit very distantly, no fewer than 20 times in Lady Aurelia’s pedigree.

[print by Tewing]

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