by Alan Porter
Having had a hand in the mating that produced him, we have to admit that we were disappointed to see Bribon (FR) finish third in last year’s Hill ‘n’ Dale Cigar Mile (gr. I). It wasn’t that one could fault the quality of his run – he flew through the stretch to finish third, beaten less than a length by Tale of Ekati and Harlem Rocker, after being stopped in his tracks when the luckless Wanderin Boy broke down in front of him – but the fact that he was a 5-year-old who was currently in the form of his life (he’d run a 118 Beyer earlier in the year, and came into the race off a 5 1/4-length win over the course and distance), and who might never again have such a good chance for grade I glory.
Our fears seemed to be confirmed when on his next outing Bribon could do no better than tenth in the Hal’s Hope Stakes (gr. III), a race for which he started favorite. Bribon did return to form win an allowance/optional claiming event over a mile at Gulfstream Park, but once again failed to fire his best shot in stakes company, finishing fourth in the Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr. II). Back in New York, Bribon finally broke through to gain his first stakes triumph, taking advantage of a pace meltdown to take the April 29 Westchester Handicap (gr. III). This performance was good enough to see him sent out as favorite for the Shadwell Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) on Memorial Day, but victory in the storied event would require Bribon to do something he had never managed before, put together back-to-back victories. Happily the feat was achieved, Bribon tracking solid fractions before delivering a five-wide challenge that saw him to the wire ½ length to the good of Smooth Air.
It would have been hard to predict that Bribon would achieve his most prestigious victory at age 6 on American dirt when he made his juvenile debut in a seven-furlong event at Saint-Cloud in France. Beaten a nose there, he won a maiden at the provincial track Clairefontaine-Deauville on his next outing. Off the board on soft ground in a seven-furlong listed race at Vichy, Bribon put up a better effort in the restricted Prix des Yearlings at Deauville, finishing third, beaten 2 3/4 lengths. His next two efforts saw him contest conditions races over a mile at Chantilly, finishing second in the first and capturing the second. Following his Chantilly win, Bribon was purchased privately by Christophe Nouvellet and Eric Puerari, on behalf of Marc Keller. In the colors of Keller, Bribon completed his French career in the Criterium International (Fr-I), run over a mile on soft ground at Saint-Cloud. There, he led for three-quarters of the journey before fading from contention to finish fifth, beaten 10 3/4 lengths.
Shipped to the U.S., Bribon made only one start at 3, finishing fifth, but beaten only three lengths in the A in Sociology Stakes over a mile on turf at Saratoga. Returning at 4, Bribon was switched to the dirt after two additional outings on the grass, and until his breakthrough 9 3/4-length win at Belmont last June, appeared to be just a solid allowance horse.
Bribon was bred by Madrid-based businessman Dario Hinojosa (in the name of Darpat SL) at his Haras de Saint-Isidro near Deauville. Hinojosa is a keen student of pedigrees and has bred or raced graded stakes winners Pharatta (IRE), Ronda (GB), Istan (a son of Ronda), Andujar (who was purchased for the equivalent of around $31,500 as a yearling, but who was sold privately prior to her graded stakes campaign), and grade I-placed stakes winner Alozaina (IRE) (who was purchased for the equivalent of just over $15,000 as a yearling), all of whom had some very clever pedigree patterns.
Hinojosa purchased Bribon’s dam, Rowat Arazi (GB), as a 4-year-old. Bred by Sheikh Ahmed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the daughter of Arazi was unraced, and the only black type winner under first dam Rowa (GB) was the Mtoto (GB) mare Laila Alawi(IRE), who was a champion, but achieved that honor as highweighted older mare in Scandinavia. Those shortcomings were compensated for by the quality of Rowat Arazi’s female line, which boasted a string of top-quality producers all the way back to her sixth dam, the legendary “Flying Filly” Mumtaz Mahal (GB). Rowat Arazi’s dam, the Great Nephew mare (GB) Rowa, didn’t win, but did gain black type with a third in the Pretty Polly Stakes. That made her one of seven black type performers (and five stakes winners) for her dam, the Graustark mare Oh So Fair. The others included Oh So Sharp (IRE) (winner of an English Filly Triple Crown and subsequently dam of group I winner Rosefinch and graded winner Shaima, and granddam of Shantou, winner of three group I events, including the Pertemps St. Leger (Eng-I)); Roussalka (GB), a four-time group winner who produced four black type winners and is also third dam of Sagitta One Thousand Guineas (Eng-I) victress Ameerat (GB) and of Collier Hill (GB), whose international triumphs include the Pattison Canadian International Stakes (gr. I), Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Vase (HK-I), and Irish Field St. Leger (Ire-I); and the Jersey Stakes (Eng-III) winner Etienne Gerard.
As might be expected, Rowat Arazi’s pedigree also contained some interesting patterns, with Nasrullah and his sister Malindi 4 x 4 at the top and bottom of the pedigree; line-breeding to the important mare Eclair (GB) through the similarly-bred Aimee (GB) (granddam of Blushing Groom (FR)) and Khaled; and Nearctic and his close relatives Sybil’s Niece (GB) and Sybil’s Sister (GB) (dam and granddam of Rowat Arazi’s broodmare sire, Great Nephew).
At the time of her purchase, Rowat Arazi was carrying a Kris (GB) colt that was similarly bred to Rosefinch but possessed only a fraction of his relative’s ability, failing to win in 12 starts in France. Rowat Arazi’s second mate was Mark of Esteem (IRE), a son of Darshaan (GB) (by Mill Reef’s leading stallion son Shirley Heights (GB)), who in his day was an exceptional miler and who had won the Pertemps Two Thousand Guineas (Eng-I), Tripleprint Celebration Mile (Eng-II), and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Eng-I). The result of this mating was Bribon’s older sister, Tafalla (GB), a winner twice in France. In 2002 Rowat Arazi produced an unnamed Polish Precedent foal, and the following year she returned to Mark of Esteem for the mating that produced Bribon. At the time of Rowat Arazi’s first assignation with that horse, Mark of Esteem was an unproven sire represented by his first yearlings. However, when she returned to him in 2002, the mating was given added impetus by the fact that Mark of Esteem’s first crop included classic winner Ameerat from the same female line.
Of course, there was a lot more to the mating than the passing similarity between the pedigree it created and that of Ameerat. In fact the most interesting feature – absent from Ameerat’s pedigree – is a 3 x 3 inbreeding to the genetic relatives Ajdal and Danseur Fabuleux (Ajdal being the broodmare sire of Mark of Esteem and Danseur Fabuleux being dam of Rowat Arazi’s broodmare sire, Arazi). Behind this are a number of other intriguing factors, including a 6 x 6 x 5 x 5 cross of Nasrullah and his sister Malindi and two crosses of Nearctic’s son Northern Dancer along with Sybil’s Sister/Sybil’s Niece.