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Beheshtam Chantilly

Behkabad is a half-brother to French Derby fourth Beheshtam (pictured)

  PICTURE: Mark Cranham  

Behkabad: bright three-year-old prospect

2 b c Cape Cross - Behkara (Kris)

THE old adage says that you never know how good a horse is until it has been beaten, so for the time being we can only speculate about the merits of the Aga Khan's colt Behkabad, who remains undefeated after three runs, the latest in Saturday's Group 3 Prix des Chenes at Longchamp.

What we do know is that he is progressive and extremely well bred, with a pedigree that allows the belief that whatever he achieves as a two-year-old he is likely to surpass in his second season.

Trained by Jean-Claude Rouget, Behkabad made his debut over 6f at the provincial track of La Teste de Buch in July, when Ioritz Mendizabal brought him home with a short neck to spare over Speedy Chop.

That told us little enough about him, but a month later, in a conditions event over 7½ furlongs at Deauville, he persuaded many observers that he was up to Pattern calibre when, with Christophe Soumillon in the saddle, he prevailed by a similar margin over a promising son of Footstepsinthesand called Arasin.

On Saturday it was Christophe Lemaire's turn to partner Behkabad, and he was reportedly very impressed with a performance that was not spectacular, but nevertheless delivered a convincing success.

The pilot was content to hold him at the rear until well into the straight, asked him to improve approaching the eighth and final furlong, then brought him with a telling burst of acceleration to win, going away, by three-quarters of a length. Arasin was again his runner-up.

It was a supremely confident ride from the Aga's new retained jockey, and a display from the colt which suggested that he had plenty in hand at the finish.

He saw the mile out wellin a race won in the same colours by Dalakhani seven years ago, and it will come as no surprise if he signs off for the season – as that grey did, successfully – in Saint-Cloud's Criterium International on November 1.

Behkabad comes from the seventh crop by Cape Cross, who now holds a commanding lead over Danehill Dancer in the Anglo-Irish sires' table and seemingly has the championship sewn up. And so immense is the purse for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe that victory for Sea the Stars on Sunday week will almost certainly ensure that Cape Cross becomes the fourth horse, after Blandford (1935), Sadler's Wells (1993 and 1999) and Danehill (2007), to also annex the French title in the same season.

Cape Cross's rise to the top has been something of a revelation. He was no superstar as a runner, and was four before he managed to score in Pattern company – and he did that by creating a shock in the Group 1 Lockinge Stakes only six days after stepping off a plane from Dubai.

He went off friendless at 20-1, supposedly only at Newbury to undertake pacemaking duties for the highly-regarded Kahal, and it was tempting to believe that his all-the-way triumph was simply a fluke.

In fact that was his only victory as a four-year-old, but subsequent efforts as third in the Prix Jacques le Marois and fourth in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes showed that he was indeed entitled to rank among the best milers around.

That was confirmed in the following season, when he completed a Group 2 double in the Queen Anne Stakes and Celebration Mile, performances that led to his being named joint-best older miler in the country.

A handsome son of Group 1-winning parents, Cape Cross was priced to attract mares in large numbers at Ir£8,000, and the ploy proved immediately successful with 125 visitors in his first season at Kildangan. Among them was Selection Board, whose foal turned out to be Ouija Board, the reason why her sire's fee rose to Euros 50,000 and he could depend on quality as well as quantity in his books.

But it was not all plain sailing, because after the five individual Pattern winners from the first crop – including Mac Love, thriving still as an eight-year-old – there were none at all in the second, and for quite some time it seemed reasonable to wonder whether another of Ouija Board's calibre would ever come along.

Of course, we stopped wondering when the mighty Sea the Stars revealed his merit, but he was – and remains – the only northern hemisphere Group 1 winner by Cape Cross apart from Ouija Board.

And while many may believe that this year's superstar colt owes much of his talent to a phenomenal dam in Urban Sea, it seems inconceivable that the sire's tally of top-level winners will not be significantly augmented by the products ofthe numerous high-class mares who have featured on his visiting list in the past few seasons.

Behkabad is himself the product of a high-class mare from a family which has delivered plenty of notable runners for the Aga Khan, and did likewise previously in Marcel Boussac's stud. Behkara, a daughter of Kris, did not appear as a two-year-old, but she performed with plenty of credit over the next two seasons, only once finishing out of the frame in 11 starts.

The best of her four victories came at three in the Group 2 Prix Hubert de Chaudenay at Longchamp, but she was also placed twice in the Group 1 Prix Royal-Oak – third to Westerner and Alcazar in 2003 and runner-up to the same winner in 2004.

As those performances indicate, stamina was Behkara's long suit, and she would have stayed two miles-plus, had it been required of her. She seemed to be effective on any ground, but clearly went particularly well on a rain-softened surface.

Her stud career has started propitiously, as her only foal before Behkabad is Beheshtam, a Listed winner, second to Cavalryman in the recent Group 2 Prix Niel, and still under consideration for the Arc.

The talent expressed by Behkara and her sons might have been predicted, given the quality in the female line. Behkara had a Group 2-winning half-sister in Bayrika, and their dam was Behera, whose exploits included a Group 1 win in the Prix Saint-Alary, a second in Carroll House's Arc, and a fourth in the Breeders' Cup Turf.

Behera was out of the Park Hill Stakes winner Borushka, whose own dam was half-sister to the Boussac-bred Crepellana, heroine of a Prix de Diane, runner-up in a Prix Vermeille and a Prix d'Ispahan, and third in a King George.

The family is all about stamina, and as Sea the Stars has answered the question about Cape Cross's capacity to get a top-class performer at 1m4f, there is reasonfor optimism that Behkabad will cope with middle distances as a three-year-old.


Sire: Cape Cross

Bred by Sheikh Mohammed in Ireland. Won 5 (8f) of 19 races, viz. 1 out of 2 at 2 years, 1 out of 6 at 3 years, 1 (Lockinge S.-Gr1) out of 7 at 4 years, 2 (Queen Anne S.-Gr2, Goodwood Mile-Gr2) out of 4 at 5 years. Also 2nd 3 times, 3rd 3 times and 4th 3 times. RPR 87 at 2, 118 at 3, 122 at 4, 125 at 5. Earned £266,105.

Quite big (16.1 1/2 hh), strong, well-made type. High-class miler, notably game and consistent. Unraced beyond 9f (which he appeared to stay), effective on firm, good and good to soft ground.

Well-bred. Half-brother to 8 winners, inc. Phoenix Park (Listed), Great Britain (Listed), Vincennes (Listed), Lord of Appeal (Listed-placed) and the dams of Kareymah (Gr3) and Diktat (Gr1). By a top-class sprinter-miler out of a champion 2-y-o filly whose siblings include Gr1 winners Desirable (dam of Shadayid, Gr1) and Alydaress and Gr1-placed Nashamaa, plus the dams of Russian Rhythm (4 Gr1 wins) and Bin Ajwaad (twice Gr1-placed). Outstanding family.

Dam: Behkara

Bred by HH The Aga Khan's Studs in Ireland. Won 4 (1m4f-1m7f) of 11 races, viz. unraced at 2 years, 3 (inc. Prix Hubert de Chaudenay-Gr2) out of 6 at 3 years, 1 out of 5 at 4 years. Also placed 4 times, inc. Prix Royal-Oak-Gr1 twice. RPR 114 at 3, 114 at 4. Earned Euros 195,740.

Well made smart performer. Stayed 1m7f well. Effective on any ground, best form on soft.

Very well bred. By a champion miler and leading sire. Half-sister to Gr3 winner Bayrika (by Kahyasi; grand-dam of Classic-placed Gr2 winner Vital Equine). Dam won Prix Saint-Alary, 2nd in Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. Grand-dam won Park Hill S.-Gr2, out of a half-sister to Prix de Diane winner Crepellana. Top-class family.

To stud at 5 and dam of: Beheshtam (2006 c by Peintre Celebre; Listed winner, Gr2-placed), Behkabad (2007 c by Cape Cross; Gr3 winner). She has a yearling colt by Green Desert, and was covered by Azamour in 2008.


Progressive, evidently high-class performer who may well get 1m4f as a three-year-old.





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