By Anne Peters
During the 1900s North American breeders benefited greatly from stallions sold by the Aga Khan, horses that included Bahram, Blenheim II, Mahmoud, and Nasrullah. Breeders benefited again in 1977, when the current Aga Khan sold his champion Blushing Groom to go to stud in Kentucky.
Blushing Groom, foaled in 1974, was bred by John McNamee Sullivan and sired by Red God, a very fast, handsome horse with a bit too much of the quirky temperament of his sire, Nasrullah. Blushing Groom’s dam was Runaway Bride, a daughter of Wild Risk from the family of Éclair, who came to the Aga Khan’s studs in 1942 carrying a colt named Khaled. Runaway Bride didn’t win, and so was culled by the Aga Khan. She produced Bayraan, a good juvenile in France in 1973, and when Bayraan’s younger full brother went through the foal sale at Tattersalls in 1974, the Aga Khan bought him for 16,500 guineas, retrieving those family bloodlines.
The Red God colt was small, but he had a brilliant turn of foot. He was undisputedly the best of the 2-year-olds in France, winning the Prix Robert Papin (Fr-I), Prix Morny (Fr-I), Prix de la Salamandre (Fr-I), and Grand Criterium (Fr-I). At 3 Blushing Groom won the Prix de Fontainebleau (Fr-III) and Poule d’Essai des Poulains (French Two Thousand Guineas, Fr-I), then ran third in the Epsom Derby (Eng-I) behind The Minstrel and Hot Grove. Later in the season he ran second to the outstanding filly Flying Water in the Prix Jacques Le Marois (Fr-I) and was named champion miler in France.
Blushing Groom stood his first season in 1978 at Gainesway Farm in Kentucky, and success came quickly. He sired 92 stakes winners, an exceptional 18% stakes winners to foals, and his many group/grade I winners on both sides of the Atlantic include Arazi, Nashwan, Runaway Groom, Blushing John, Too Chic, Sky Beauty, Blush With Pride, and Nassipour.
Having stamina limitations and being only 15.3 hands, Blushing Groom was bred to a lot of bigger, leggier mares to size him up and stretch him out, so his offspring showed quite a bit of variation, both in shape and aptitude. He sired good juveniles such as Arazi, sprinters like Mt. Livermore, milers like Rahy, and middle distance stars like Blushing John and Sky Beauty.
Others showed true stamina, including Nashwan in the Ever Ready Epsom Derby, Snow Bride in the Gold Seal Epsom Oaks (Eng-I), Rainbow Quest in the Trusthouse Forte Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I), Runaway Groom in the Travers Stakes (gr. I), and Nassipour in the Rothmans International Handicap (Can-IT).
Happily, several of his sons and daughters have proved successful and influential. Rainbow Quest was a surprisingly good sire despite specializing in stayers. Quest for Fame and Spectrum are his best sons at stud. Rainbow Quest’s daughters have produced Footstepsinthesand, North Light, Kris Kin, and Kind (Frankel’s dam).
Rahy sired many top class winners including Fantastic Light, Serena’s Song, Dreaming of Anna, Tranquility Lake, and Noverre. While his sons have disappointed as sires, Rahy mares are jewels, producing runners like Giant’s Causeway, Megahertz, Life At Ten, Posse, and Parranda.
Mt. Livermore, another Gainesway stallion, sired sprint champions Housebuster and Orientate, plus Canadian champions Peaks and Valleys and Mt. Sassafras. Mt. Livermore is also becoming a good broodmare sire.
Runaway Groom’s best were champion sprinter Cherokee Run, Wekiva Springs, and Down the Aisle. Cherokee Run was an even better sire, with juvenile champions War Pass and Chilukki. War Pass sired only two crops but they include Java's War and Revolutionary .
Candy Stripes was a major success in South America, and his best include North American champions Invasor and Leroidesanimaux. “Leroy” sired classic winner Animal Kingdom while a daughter of Candy Stripes produced Candy Ride .
Nassipour became a leading sire in New Zealand and Australia. Nashwan’s best were Swain, Bago, Wandesta, and One So Wonderful. Groom Dancer sired Pursuit of Love. Arazi, otherwise a disaster, sired Congaree.
Blushing Groom’s daughters have been influential broodmares, producing Awesome Again , Macho Uno , Goldikova, Lammtarra, Kahyasi, Stravinsky, Carson City, Better Than Honour (dam of Belmont Stakes, gr. I, winners Rags to Riches and Jazil), and Felicita (dam of Take Charge Lady).
Blushing Groom was brilliant on the track and one of the greatest international sires ever brought to America.
Hopefully, his name remains prominent in pedigrees for years to come.