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Awzaan - Mill Reef Stakes - Newbury - 19.09.2009

Awzaan quickened smartly to win the Mill Reef Stakes at Newbury

  PICTURE: Mark Cranham  

Awzaan: stamina not guaranteed

Awzaan
Alhaarth - Nufoos (Zafonic)

SENIOR racegoers with a vivid memory of Mill Reef's extraordinary performances will need no reminding of the remarkable turn of foot that the little son of Never Bend seemed always able to produce. It helped him to win 12 of his 14 races in a three-season career notable also for the versatility he displayed, in terms of both going and distance.

Whether over 6f, in the Coventry and the Gimcrack, or 1m4f in the Derby, King George and the Arc, he dominated his competition, and his powers of acceleration marked him down as exceptional. So it was fitting that, in the Group 2 race named in his honour at Newbury on Saturday, the winner triumphed by dint of a superior turn of foot.

Just what the future holds for Awzaan we must wait and see, but it seems a fair bet that his proven ability to quicken will stand him in good stead when he comes to tackle Group 1 opposition.

Awzaan has now run three times and won three times, all over 6f.His introduction came at Hamilton Park in an ordinary mid-June maiden, when he was always prominent and came home with a length to spare over the well-backed favourite, Paradise Spectre. That run told us little enough about his potential, but we learned rather more when he returned for a conditions event on the Newmarket July course three weeks later.

All ten of the runners there had won their most recent start, allowing the belief that it was at least an above-average heat for that type of race, and when Awzaan burst clear for an emphatic five-length victory, he impressed many observers as a colt who would go on to better things; he clearly had that crucial ability to quicken off a fast pace that separates a good horse from his inferiors.

On Saturday we saw that telling acceleration again in better company. Held up at the back, always travelling smoothly, he quickened readily when Richard Hills asked the question, assumed command approaching the last furlong, and though he idled and hung left once he had gained a clear advantage, he kept going powerfully and was never in danger of defeat.

That was a very taking display after more than two months away from the racecourse, and there seems little doubt that he will improve for it. The Middle Park Stakes, on Friday of next week, is set to be his next objective, and he will surely take some beating in his first top-level test.

Awzaan comes from the ninth crop by Derrinstown Stud's Alhaarth, who was the unbeaten champion two-year-old of 1995, when his five wins, all over 7f, included the Vintage, Solario, Champagne and Dewhurst Stakes.  As a son of Unfuwain, the half-brother to Nashwan who excelled over 1m4f, he was widely expected to prove effective over middle distances as a three-year-old, and before his return in the Craven Stakes he was quoted as ante-post favourite for the Derby.

Alhaarth's second season did not go according to plan. He pulled too hard in the Craven, winding up second, a neck behind Beauchamp King, but that reverse did not deter punters, who sent him out as 2-1 market leader for the Guineas. He could manage only fourth there, which just seemed to confirm that what he really needed was a longer distance.

It could hardly be said that he failed to last home in the Derby, because he was staying on in fifth place at the death, so he was allowed a second shot at 1m4f in the Irish Derby,with blinkers applied. The headgear had reportedly improved his work at home significantly, but it did not have that effect at the Curragh, where he ran far too freely and was a spent force long before the finish.

The colt who had notknown how to lose as a juvenile was now finding winning a problem, and the failures did not end there. Returned to 1m for the Sussex Stakes with the blinkers on, he finished third; back at Goodwood again for the Celebration Mile, without blinkers, he ranthird again.

He finally got his head in front on his last start of the season, taking the Group 2 Prix du Rond-Point on the Arc day undercard; months earlier most would have expected him to be contesting the main race at the fixture, so that victory seemed rather poor consolation.

Alhaarth left Dick Hern to join Godolphin after that, spent his winter in Dubai, and came back to competition with a creditable effort in the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot; the brilliant Bosra Sham defeated him decisively, but he was a respectable second, and clearly got the 1m2f.

But he never was to win over that distance, his two successes as a four-year-old coming at Group 2 level, first in the 1m International Stakes on the Curragh and, on his final appearance in Longchamp's Prix Dollar, contested at an extended 1m1f.

Although Alhaarth did not live up to the high promise held out for him at the end of his first season, he was clearly more than worthy of a berth at stud, and he began in 1998 at a fee of Ir7,000gns. His fortunes have fluctuated somewhat, illustrated by his rise to Euros 30,000 for the 2005 season and his more modest 2009 fee of Euros 8,000.

The early crops did him credit, with major winners over a variety of trips, Dominica excelling at 5f in the Cornwallis and King's Stand, while Maharib needed 1m6f for his prestige victory in the Curragh Cup. Bandari was regularly competitive at Group 2 and Group 3 level at middle distances, and the globe-trotting Phoenix Reach surpassed him for Group 1 victories in Canada, Hong Kong and Dubai.

What Alhaarth needed was a top-level winner at home, and he got that in his third crop son Haafhd, who exhibited his class with fine victories in the 2,000 Guineas and Champion Stakes.

But if we supposed then that his stud career was about to take off, we were mistaken; Awzaan's win on Saturday was the first in a European Pattern event since Haafhd took the Champion in October 2004.

The fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth crops have yet to deliver a major star, though his three-year-old Mourayan, a decent fifth in the St Leger, clearly has the ability to land a prize ofreal consequence.

Awzaan is the first foal of his dam Nufoos, a daughter of Zafonic who showed smart form, winning a 7f Listed event as a three-year-old and collecting a couple of second places at Group 3 level. She barely got 1m, which was perhaps unsurprising, given that her family has long been recognised for speed rather than stamina.

Awzaan was quoted as low as 12-1 for the Guineas after his performance on Saturday, but that hardly seems an attractive price. On his breeding, and what we have seen of him thus far, there can be no guarantees that the Rowley Mile will suit him.


PEDIGREE ASSESSMENT

Sire: Alhaarth

Bred by Shadwell Estate Co Ltd in Ireland. Won 8 (7-9.8f) of 17 races, viz. 5 (inc. Vintage S.-Gr3, Solario S.-Gr3, Champagne Stakes-Gr2, Dewhurst S.-Gr1) out of 5 at 2 years, 1 (Prix du Rond Point-Gr2) out of 7 at 3 years, 2 (Curragh International S.-Gr2, Prix Dollar-Gr2) out of 5 at 4. Also 3rd in Sussex S. and Champion S. Earned £374,467. RPR 124 at 2, 121 at 3, 121 at 4.

Strong, well-proportioned, handsome individual, 16.0hh. Excellent mover, fluent and powerful in action. Champion European 2-y-o who did not rise to predicted heights, but acquitted himself well in high-class company. Wore blinkers 3 times at 3. Visored and heavily bandaged last (winning) start at 4. Appeared to stay 12f, but best form over shorter distances.

By a top-class 12f performer, a half-brother to Nashwan who did well at stud and died in January 2002. Half-brother to Gr3 winner Green Pola (by Nijinsky) and 2 lesser winners. Dam unplaced half-sister to top-class runner and good sire Green Dancer (by Nijinsky), Gr2 winner Val Danseur (by Nijinsky), Gr3 winner Ercolano (by Sir Ivor) and Listed winners Pink Valley (by Never Bend; dam of Gr3 winner Pink), Sir Raleigh (by Sir Ivor) and Soviet Lad (by Nureyev).

From long-established successful family.

Stands at Derrinstown Stud, Co. Kildare, Ireland, at a fee of Euros 8,000. Sire of 9 crops of racing age, inc. notable winners: Bandari (Gr2), Dominica (Gr2), Misterah (Gr3), Hoh Buzzard (Gr3), Maharib (Gr3), Phoenix Reach (Canadian International S.-Gr1, Hong Kong Vase-Gr1, Sheema Classic-Gr1), Haafhd (2,000 Guineas-Gr1, Champion S.-Gr1), Hallowed Dream (Gr3), Awzaan (Gr2).

Dam: Nufoos

Bred by R. & Mrs Watson & Mrs A.J. Ralli in England. 100,000gns Tattersalls December foal. Won 3 (5-7f) of 13 races, viz 2 out of 7 at 2 years, 1 (Listed) out of 6 at 3 years. Also twice Group 3-placed. RPR 102 at 2, 107 at 3. Earned £73,361.

Leggy individual. Smart performer, acted on good to firm and soft ground, probably best at around 7f.

Well bred. By a top-class miler and successful sire. Half-sister to 4 other winners. Dam won 2 races, half-sister to Listed winner Watching (also Gr3-placed), and to dam of Gr3-placed winner Media Mogul.

Grand-dam 2-y-o winner, Listed-placed at 3, half-sister to 10 other winners. Next dam Gr3 winner. Excellent family noted for speedy representatives.

To stud at 4 years, and dam of: Awzaan (2007 c by Alhaarth; Gr2 winner). She has a yearling colt by Haafhd and a colt-foal by Dubai Destination.

CONCLUSIONS

Well bred high-class performer with a fine turn of foot. Promises to stay 7f, but longer trips problematical.

 

 

 

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