Al Kazeem Fit for a Queen
Photo: AP Photo
Al Kazeem

Thoroughbred racing and British royalty have been linked since the days of Charles II, who remains the only reigning monarch to have personally ridden a winner in an officially sanctioned race (he was the winning rider in the inaugural running of the Town Plate at Newmarket). The Royal Studs are the oldest Thoroughbred breeding establishment in the world. And the racing calendar at Ascot glitters with royal names:  Queen Anne, Queen Mary, King Edward VII, and of course, the reigning monarch Queen Elizabeth II, who is an active breeder and owner.

On Sept. 19, it was announced that three-time group I winner Al Kazeem would stand at Her Majesty's Sandringham Stud following what is expected to be his final race in the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I)—a major coup for the Royal Studs since Al Kazeem, who races as a homebred for John Deer, is one of the few top sire prospects in England not owned by either Coolmore or the Dubai royal family. As the first new sire to come to Sandringham since 2005 Vodafone Epsom Derby (Eng-I) hero Motivator (now standing at Haras du Quesnay in France), Al Khazeem offers the Royal Studs both a sire line that is an outcross to the Sadler's Wells and Danehill sire lines now dominant in Europe and a female family of transatlantic interest.

A male-line descendant of Mr. Prospector, Al Kazeem is a great-grandson of multiple grade I winner Seeking the Gold. One of the best runners produced by Ogden Phipps' breeding program during the 1980s, Seeking the Gold was produced from the Buckpasser mare Con Game, a half sister to the good racehorse and sire Reviewer. Seeking the Gold kept up the family tradition, siring 91 stakes winners from 965 foals before being pensioned in 2008.

The best runner sired by Seeking the Gold was Dubai Millennium, who also came from a notable family as his dam, French group II winner Colorado Dancer, was a half sister to eight other stakes winners (four of them grade/group I winners) produced from the great matron Fall Aspen. Racing as a homebred for Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum's Godolphin operation, Dubai Millennium won nine of his 10 starts, including the 2000 Dubai World Cup (UAE-I), and was ranked as the best racehorse in the world that year on the International Classification at 134 pounds.

Sadly, Dubai Millennium died of grass sickness before finishing out his first season at stud. Nonetheless, he managed to sire a successor in 2005 Boylesports Irish Two Thousand Guineas (Ire-I) winner Dubawi. Produced from the 1998 Oaks d'Italia (Ity-I) winner Zomaradah (by Deploy), whose dam, Jawaher, is a Dancing Brave half sister to 1998 Epsom Derby winner High-Rise, Dubawi was rated the top 3-year-old miler in both Ireland and France in 2005. Al Kazeem is the most accomplished of his runners to date, but Dubawi has sired 10 other grade/group I winners since retiring to stud at the end of his 3-year-old season.

On the distaff side, Al Kazeem traces back to the War Relic mare Iltis, a product of Harry Isaacs' breeding program at his Brookfield Farms. While not a particularly classy racemare, Iltis was a tough one, winning five of 53 starts and placing on another 17 occasions.

Iltis had seemed promising as a juvenile but spent her last two years at the track running mostly in claiming events. Her first few years at stud were also unremarkable, as she produced two foals by Prince Quest and then slipped twins. But then her fortunes turned. Her first foal, Tiswar, had been stakes-placed as a juvenile, and by the standards of Florida breeding in the 1950s, that was pretty good—good enough, apparently, for Iltis to be acquired by Ocala Stud, the state's premier breeding operation.

Bred repeatedly to Ocala Stud's foundation sire Rough'n Tumble, Ilitis produced three noteworthy fillies. The first and best as both a racer and a broodmare was 1959 champion juvenile filly My Dear Girl, whose seven stakes winners included the important racer and sire In Reality (by Intentionally) and grade I winner Superbity (by Groshawk). The next, Me Next, never raced but produced two stakes winners and became the granddam of 1985 Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner Tank's Prospect.

Treasure Chest, the third of Iltis' daughters by Rough'n Tumble, was not in My Dear Girl's class but was still quite useful, her 10 wins from 49 starts including two stakes victories. Her produce included the grade/group III winners Diomedia (by Sea-Bird; dam of group III winner Media Starguest) and Kanz (by The Minstrel), and multiple stakes winner Gold Treasure (by Northern Dancer). Treasure Chest also produced group III-placed Crown Treasure (by Graustark), who proved the best broodmare among her daughters. The dam of 1981 Derby Italiano (Ity-I) winner Glint of Gold, a champion in Italy and Germany, and multiple group I winner Diamond Shoal (both by Mill Reef), Crown Treasure is also the granddam of German group I winner Catella (Generous—Crystal Ring, by Kris).

Al Kazeem is out of Kanz's daughter Kazeem (by Darshaan) and so brings to a climax a Cinderella story for a female line that just four generations ago started out with a claiming mare in a relative backwater. Whether Al Kazeem can add a "happily ever after" to the tale has yet to be seen, but his rise to royalty reflects two themes that have recurred in the story of the Thoroughbred ever since the breed arose:  the wisdom of breeding the best to the best, and the hope that greatness can emerge even from humble origins.

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