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Azmeel - Dee Stakes - Chester 7.5.10

Azmeel: Dee Stakes winner is from the first crop of Azamour

  PICTURE: EDWARD WHITAKER 

Azmeel: Derby contender has distance within range

AZMEEL c Azamour - Best Side (King's Best)

IT was too much to hope for - the thought that St Nicholas Abbey would establish himself as a world-beater on a par with Sea The Stars - but his defeat in the 2,000 Guineas was something short of a disaster for a colt bred to excel over middle distances as a three-year-old.

The Derby always promised to be the Montjeu colt's principal target, and by finishing little more than three lengths behind the winner in a 1m Classic, it can be argued that he ran an extremely encouraging trial for Epsom. Like all the Ballydoyle horses, he is going to improve for his first outing of the year, and it is still very much on the cards that he will dominate his generation when he comes to race over more appropriate distances.

St Nicholas Abbey is certainly not going to fail for want of stamina on the big day, whereas several of the other aspirants to Derby glory remain suspect on that score. Chabal, who was featured in this space two weeks ago after his victory in Sandown's Group 3 trial, is one who cannot be guaranteed to get the trip, and the same might be said for his immediate victim, Azmeel, who returned for a narrow but decisive win at the same level in Chester's Dee Stakes last Friday.

In Chabal's case the doubts arise from the distaff side of his pedigree, where Zafonic features as broodmare sire and the family's best representatives in recent years have tended to be milers. And Azmeel has a somewhat similar profile, being outof a mare by another brilliant Guineas winner in King's Best whose influence has generally been for speed rather than staying power.

But there is cause for optimism where Azmeel is concerned, because his efforts this spring have suggested that 1m2f ought not to represent the limit of his stamina, and although it is a fact that his dam, Best Side, won only at 7f and 1m, she actually delivered her career-best effort as third in a Listed event at Cork over 1m4f.

Azmeel changed hands both as a foal and as a yearling, fetching 60,000gns at Tattersalls on the first occasion and only Euros 65,000 when re-offered at Goffs. He soon provided an indication that he would prove a bargain, breaking his maiden at the first time of asking, and doing so in some style.

That was over 7f at Sandown at the end of July, when he started at a shade of odds-on, and little more than two weeks later he was an even stronger favourite for the Listed Washington Singer Stakesover the same trip at Newbury. He won that just as he liked by more than three lengths, posting an RPR of 101 that indicated he was a Pattern winner in the making.

Such was the impression he had created in those first two appearances that he started 2-1 favourite in a field of 19 for the Goffs Million at the end of September, but for some reason he failed to fire, starting slowly, failing to reach contention, and coming home a disappointing twelfth.

Whatever it was that ailed him that day scarcely matters now. His form this season has re-established him as a strongly progressive individual who has yet to reach his peak. He was clearly not as forward as Chabal at Sandown, but he chased that colt valiantly and wound up a clear second-best. He improved again at Chester, where he was held up, responded well to Dettori's question in the straight, and won a shade cosily by half a length from the well backed favourite, Dancing David.

That success made Azmeel the second Classic trial winner from the first crop of Azamour, whose son Puncher Clynch surprised more fancied rivals in the Group 3 Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown last month. These results represent an impressive start for the Gilltown Stud resident, who compiled an admirable record on the racecourse as an undefeated Group 2 winner as a juvenile, and a dual Group 1 winner in each of the two following seasons.

Azamour's big win at two came in the Beresford Stakes, and he confirmed his class as a miler the following year, finishing third to Haafhd in the 2,000 Guineas and second to Bachelor Duke in the Curragh equivalent before turning the tables on both to notch his first Group 1 score in the St James's Palace Stakes.

Three such performances would normally identify a specialist miler, and as a son of Night Shift out of a Lear Fan mare, Azamour might have been said to have fulfilled his destiny. But there was more to him than tomost Night Shift products, and remarkably, he never ran at a mile again. Campaigned exclusively in Group 1 company, he proved himself a top-notch middle-distance runner, matching what only In The Groove in their sire's long stud career had achieved before.

Azamour won the Irish Champion Stakes and finished third in Newmarket's Champion to conclude his second season, and at four he turned in outstanding displays to add wins in the Prince of Wales's Stakes and the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes, both races staged away from their natural home, the former at York, the latter at Newbury.

Azamour had proved himself far and away the best son of his sire on the racecourse, which was all well and fine, but it was also a fact that Night Shift was pretty much an unknown quantity as a sire of sires, so breeders hardly knew what to expect of him when he retired at a fee of Euros 25,000 in 2006.

Typically, he was strongly supported in his first season, when he covered 124 mares and got 100 foals, only to fall out of favour when the next batches of newcomers came along.
Azamour's current two-year-olds number no more than 50, and there are just 29 yearlings, yet he has retained his appeal in the marketplace. His 2009 yearlings averaged 60,553gns and his foals 53,074gns. Perhaps the fine record of his first crop runners will persuade breeders to match the faith displayed by the buyers of his stock.

Azmeel is the first foal of Best Side, one of six winners delivered by the Shirley Heights mare Mood Swings, who was responsible for Grand Ducal, successful in last year's Group 3 Gallinule Stakes before taking a distant fourth place behind Sea The Stars in the Irish Champion Stakes.

It has to be said that in recent generations Azmeel's female family has been noted more for a regular supply of ordinary winners than for high-class performers, but he does have a connection under his fourth dam, through both Night Shift and Shirley Heights, with Kimbridge Knight, who won Derbys in Singapore and Perak.

Needless to say, victory in the real Derby would put Azmeel in a different league from that of his relation.


Bred by Elsdon Farms in England.
60,000gns Tattersalls December foal, €65,000 Goffs Million yearling.

SIRE: AZAMOUR

Bred by HH the Aga Khan Studs SC in Ireland. Won 6 (7f-1m4f) of 12 races, viz. 2 (inc. Beresford S.-Gr2) out of 2 at 2 years, 2 (St James's Palace S.-Gr1, Irish Champion S.-Gr1) out of 5 at 3 years, 2 (Prince of Wales's S.-Gr1, King George VI & Queen Elizabeth S.-Gr1). Also 2nd in Irish 2,000 Guineas, 3rd in 2,000 Guineas, Champion S. and Breeders' Cup Turf, 4th in Tattersalls Gold Cup, all Gr1. RPR 109 at 2, 126 at 3, 129 at 4. Earned £1,513,643.

Tall (16.2hh), strong, handsome individual. Top-class, consistent performer, with a good turn of foot. A good mover, acted on any going, best on good and faster.

Well bred. The best son of his sire, a modest racehorse, but highly successful at stud. Half-brother to 7 other winners, inc. Arazan (by Anabaa; Gr2, Gr1-placed) and Gr3-placed Ahsanabad (by Muhtarram). Dam Listed winner, also 3 times Listed-placed. Half-sister to Gr1 winner Astarabad and to 7 lesser winners.

Granddam Listed winner, from family of Ile de Bourbon and Quest for Fame, albeit remotely connected.

Stands at Gilltown Stud, Kilcullen, Co. Kildare, at a fee of €15,000. Sire of 2 crops of racing age, inc. notable winners: Azmeel (Gr3), Puncher Clynch (Gr3).

DAM: BEST SIDE

Bred by A. Stroud & J. Hanly in Ireland. Euros 80,000 Goffs October yearling. Won 2 (7f-1m) of 11 races, viz. 1 out of 3 at 2 years, 1 out of 8 at 3 years. Also Listed-placed. RPR: 75 at 2, 100 at 3. Earned £31,903.

Well bred. By a top-class miler who has done well at stud. Half-sister to Grand Ducal (Gr3 winner by Danehill Dancer), Hurricane Floyd (Listed winner by Pennekamp) and lesser winners. Dam 2-y-o winner, sister to Listed winner Catwalk.

Granddam won 2 races, Gr3-placed in France, 4th in Coronation S. Half-sister to Dazzling Heights (by Shirley Heights; Listed winner; dam of Kimbridge Knight, son of Night Shift who won Singapore Derby). Successful family.

To stud at 4 years and dam of: Azmeel (2007 c by Azamour; Gr3 winner), Baisse (2008 f by High Chaparral; unraced to date). She has a yearling filly by Motivator, and is in foal to Azamour.
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CONCLUSIONS

Pleasing Chester performance justifies a Derby bid. Promises to stay 1m4f, but stamina not guaranteed on pedigree.

 

 

 

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