by Avalyn Hunter
While the only dramatic element in Big Brown’s Preakness (gr. I) victory was the ease with which he streaked away from his rivals, plenty of drama was to be found on the Preakness undercard thanks to thrilling stretch duels in several of the races. One of those exciting finishes was in the Gallorette Handicap (gr. IIIT), in which Ben McElroy’s 5-year-old mare Roshani stood off both a testing challenge by Lady Digby and a stewards’ inquiry to claim a half-length victory. With $320,550 in earnings so far at ages 4 and 5, Roshani has been a profitable investment for McElroy, who purchased her as a racing/broodmare prospect from Mary Ryan for $135,000 at the 2007 Keeneland January mixed sale. Prior to being sold, Roshani had made her first start in May of her 3-year-old year. She finished second her first time out and only made one other start that year. She went on to win her first three starts at 4.
Now a multiple grade III winner after taking last year’s Taylor Made Matchmaker Stakes (gr. IIIT), Roshani is by 2001 European Horse of the Year Fantastic Light. A true globetrotter who raced in England, France, Ireland, North America, Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates, and Japan during his racing career, Fantastic Light collected six grade/group I wins including the 2001 Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT).
Fantastic Light began his stud career at Darley’s Dalham Hall Stud in England in 2002, also shuttling to Darley’s Collingrove Stud in Australia. But true to his roving nature, he has stood the last two Northern Hemisphere seasons at Darley Japan. So far, he has not lived up to either his own racing quality or his pedigree. While 11 stakes winners have emerged so far from his first crop (foals of 2003), as a group they have been disappointing in terms of quality. Besides Roshani, the best of them have been group III winners Prince of Light (IRE) and Turning Light (GER). Since then, Fantastic Light has begotten 2007 Gran Criterium (Ity-I) winner Scintillo (GB), 2008 Whakanui Stud International Stakes (NZ-I) winner Mission Critical (AUS), 2008 Ford Wakefield Challenge Stakes (NZ-II) winner Captain Fantastic (NZ), and 2008 C.S. Hayes Stakes (Aus-III) winner Playwright (NZ), but these results are still underwhelming given the quality and quantity of Fantastic Light’s opportunities.
A clue to Fantastic Light’s failure to dazzle at stud may be found in his pedigree. A son of the fine Blushing Groom (FR) stallion Rahy, who as of this writing is still active at Three Chimneys Farm, Fantastic Light is out of the Nijinsky II mare Jood, making him a full brother to English listed stakes winner Hi Dubai (GB). Jood, in turn, is a half-sister to 1984 Canadian champion 3-year-old male Key to the Moon, multiple grade I winner Gorgeous, 1990 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) winner Seaside Attraction, and 1986 Princess Margaret Stakes (Eng-III) winner Hiaam, all produced from 1990 Broodmare of the Year Kamar.
A Canadian champion in her own right, Kamar is by the fine sire and broodmare sire Key to the Mint and is one of four stakes winners produced from the Quadrangle mare Square Angel, also a Canadian champion. This is a female family that has an excellent record for producing runners and broodmares but a weak one for producing sires, and it is perhaps worth noting that Fantastic Light is bred very similarly to Swain (IRE), another top-class runner who has struggled at stud. Swain is by Blushing Groom’s Ever Ready Epsom Derby Stakes (Eng-I)-winning son Nashwan out of grade I winner Love Smitten, a full sister to Kamar.
Of course, Fantastic Light’s quality as a sire was completely unknown when Mill Ridge Farm Ltd. and Jamm Ltd. sent their mare Sahibah to the stallion for the union that would produce Roshani. An unraced daughter of Deputy Minister and the Alydar mare Begum, Sahibah is a half-sister to two listed stakes winners, Songlines (by Diesis (GB)) and Binalong (by Known Fact). To date, Sahibah has produced eight foals of racing age.
Blind from birth, Begum never raced but is a half-sister to three stakes winners, the best of which is 1975 Golden Rod Stakes (gr. III) winner Old Goat (by Olden Times). The siblings’ dam, the Nasrullah mare Rullah Good, was twice stakes-placed at 3. Her dam, the Case Ace mare Case Goods, won three stakes races as a juvenile and was produced from Damaged Goods, who despite her strange name (which she received because she had been injured in a stable fire as a yearling) had enough quality to win the 1940 Coaching Club American Oaks.
Roshani is inbred 4 x 4 to Northern Dancer via Nijinsky II and Vice Regent, sire of Deputy Minister. The last-named stallion was the leading broodmare sire of 2007 and currently stands atop the 2008 broodmare sire list thanks largely to 2007 Horse of the Year Curlin, who accounts for over half of Deputy Minister’s 2008 total of $6.9 million in progeny earnings as a broodmare sire. To date, daughters of Deputy Minister have produced 134 stakes winners from 2,126 foals of racing age, including Curlin and 2007 champion 3-year-old filly Rags to Riches. Roshani, however, is one of only three graded winners produced by crossing stallions carrying Nijinsky II to daughters of Deputy Minister; the others are multiple grade II winner Private Vow and 2003 Bonnie Miss Stakes (gr. II) winner Ivanavinalot. Still, quality is quality however it comes to be, and there is no question that Roshani has inherited some of the best qualities to be found in her heritage.