Princess Zahra: Owner of Mandesha and Darjina, breeder of Almanzor’s dam

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More than 180 broodmares are detailed in the current edition of the studbook belonging to the Aga Khan Studs. But closer inspection shows that not all of them are in the ownership of His Highness the Aga Khan himself. Seven of the mares are property of the Aga Khan’s daughter Princess Zahra, and most of those received a significant update to their pedigrees in 2016 as relatives of the colt who became the best three-year-old in Europe, Almanzor.

Princess Zahra herself owned the best three-year-old filly in Europe in 2006. That was Mandesha, a daughter of the Green Desert stallion Desert Style, who showed a rare degree of versatility to win Group 1 races in France that season at a mile, a mile and a quarter and a mile and a half. Mandesha came to hand too late to be a classic filly, but from the summer onwards, she hit top form. In the Prix d’Astarte over a mile she accounted for the first three in the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches, over a mile and a half in the Prix Vermeille she had too much speed for the subsequent Prix Royal-Oak winner Montare, and back at a mile and a quarter in the Prix de l’Opera she had the Oaks winner Alexandrova back in third. Mandesha stayed in training as a four-year-old when her only win came in the Prix Corrida and she ended her racing career in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, finishing seventh to Dylan Thomas.

Mandesha is the senior member of Princess Zahra’s septet of broodmares. She visited American stallions in her first six seasons at stud and her first foal, by Smart Strike, was the listed winner Mandour who was Group 1-placed in the Prix d’Ispahan. Her other winners to date are the Bernardini filly Mandheera, successful over an extended mile and a half, and the nine-furlong winner Mandalaya (by Elusive Quality). Mandalaya is now another of Princess Zahra’s broodmares and had her first foal, a Dalakhani filly, in 2016 before visiting Pivotal in 2017.

Of  Mandesha’s foals yet to race, there is two-year-old filly Mindena (her last US-bred foal, by Giant’s Causeway) and a yearling colt by Australian champion sire Redoute’s Choice (who stood a second season at the Aga Khan’s Haras de Bonneval in Normandy in 2014), while Mandesha’s 2016 foal was a colt by Pivotal. She visits the Aga Khan’s own son of Pivotal, Siyouni, in 2017.

Darjina
Princess Zahra Aga Khan’s Darjina in the parade ring at Sha Tin

A year after Mandesha’s excellent three-year-old season, Darjina kept Princess Zahra’s green and brown colours in the spotlight as she too developed into the top three-year-old filly of her generation. By Zamindar, who a year later was to supply the Aga Khan with one of the best fillies he has ever owned, the unbeaten Arc winner Zarkava, Darjina was a specialist miler. She beat the 1000 Guineas winner Finsceal Beo in the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches, emulated Mandesha by winning the Prix d’Astarte and then beat top male opposition, including older horse Ramonti and the previous season’s 2000 Guineas winner George Washington, in the Prix du Moulin. Like Mandesha, Darjina was kept in training at four when she had the frustrating record of finishing second in all six of her races. Her narrowest defeat came when beaten just a head by Haradasun in the Queen Anne Stakes, while she was denied repeat wins in both the Astarte and the Moulin by top-class younger rival Goldikova.

Darjina was a granddaughter of Princess Zahra’s very first winner in her colours Daralbayda, a daughter of her father’s 2000 Guineas winner Doyoun. This has been a very successful family for the Aga Khan, providing him with his most recent Prix du Jockey Club winner, Darsi in 2006, who was out of a half-sister to Daralbayda. This is also the wider family of Dariyan who won the Prix Ganay this year and has been retired to stand at the Haras de Bonneval in 2017.

Darjina disappointed as a broodmare but no fewer than three of her half-sisters now form part of Princess Zahra’s broodmare band, namely Darbaza, Darjana and Darenjana. The last-named, by Sea The Stars, only had her first foal earlier this year (a filly by Siyouni), but Darbaza and Darjana have each produced winners in 2016. Darbaza, a daughter of Verglas, is the dam of Dazari (by Paco Boy) who won twice over a mile in France, while Darjana (by Invincible Spirit) also had a three-year-old winner in the latest season, Darinja (by Shamardal), successful over six furlongs. Of these three broodmares, only Darjana was a winner, successful over seven and a half furlongs and a mile. Darbaza’s unraced two-year-old colt Darbuzan, incidentally, is by Zamindar, making him a three-parts brother to Darjina.

The other two Princess Zahra-owned broodmares are out of Darjina’s half-sister Darkara, a daughter of Halling who won over as far as fifteen furlongs but whose biggest win came in the listed Prix des Tourelles at Chantilly over a mile and a half. The twice-raced Darvaza and the unraced Darkazinia were both bred in the USA (by Smart Strike and Arch respectively) but Darvaza is now part of the Aga Khan Studs’ Australian-based team of mares. So far, she has produced fillies (who were a yearling and a foal in 2016) there to Animal Kingdom and Dundeel. Meanwhile, Darkazinia is yet to produce a live foal but visits Almanzor’s sire Wootton Bassett in 2017.

The resulting foal will be bred on very similar lines to the latest season’s Prix du Jockey Club, Irish Champion Stakes and Champion Stakes winner. Both Darkazinia and Darvaza are half-sisters to Almanzor’s dam Darkova, another US-bred daughter of Darkara, by Maria’s Mon. The unraced Darkova was sent to Arqana’s Breeding Stock Sales at Deauville in December 2011 where she was bought by the Haras d’Etreham for €16,000 as a mate for their new stallion Wootton Bassett.

[Images: Princess Zahra Aga Khan’s colours – JockeyColours, Darjina – Felamu]

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