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Azamour (IRE) has Royal connections

In the stud season about to start, the former champion racehorse and proven sire Azamour (IRE) [Nightshift- Asmara] will commence stud duties at Brighthill Farm in Cambridge.

Azamour was the winner of five races in the famous green and red colours of His Highness the Aga Khan. At two he had one start and won the group two Beresford Stakes at the Curragh. As a three-year-old he won the group one Royal Ascot St James's Palace Stakes and the group one Irish Champion Stakes, while at four he added two more group one victories to his tally taking out the Prince of Wales Stakes and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes.

He retired to stud in Ireland at the famous Gilltown Stud in 2006 and has already left 28 stakes horses including the 2012 Prix de Diane (French Oaks) winner Valyra.

Azamour will become one of the first stallions owned by His Highness the Aga Khan to shuttle from Europe to Australasia so how did he end up with the Kings at Brighthill Farm?

His Highness the Aga Khan IV (Prince Karim) is one of the worlds ten richest royals. He is a successful business magnate who owns hundreds of racehorses, several stud farms, a couple of jets, a private yacht club and yacht, a private island in the Bahamas, and numerous estates around the world. He inherited his love of thoroughbreds from his grandfather His Highness the Aga Khan III (Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah).

The third Aga Khan became involved with thoroughbreds in England around the turn of the 20th century. He was no stranger to thoroughbreds and his ancestors had been associated with Arabian horses since the sixth century. His grandfather established a thoroughbred stud and stable in India in the 19th century.

His involvement in England saw him become one of the most successful owners and breeders of the 20th century in Europe and he was associated with numerous Derby and classic winners. The IV Aga Khan inherited his title and his thoroughbreds from his grandfather at the age of 20 in 1956 and has continued the dynasty maintaining the status as one of the leaders in the racing and breeding world.

According to a very enthusiastic Nick King, the owner/operator of Brighthill Farm, getting the opportunity to stand Azamour was all about timing and an accumulation of factors.

Last season Dalghar (IRE) [Anabaa-Daltawa] commenced stud duties at the farm. He was bred by His Highness the Aga Khan and raced by Western Australian businessman Nevan Botica. A convert to breeding thoroughbreds in New Zealand, he has had mares at Brighthill for a number of years and believes that New Zealand is the classic nursery.

He maintains that New Zealand has the best pasture and that is one of the reasons he chose to stand Dalghar here. Botica was quick to extol the virtues of standing a horse in New Zealand to Pat Downes and the team at Gillstown Stud.

"I knew Pat Downes well. He was my era in Ireland, and he was working in Japan when Anne-Marie and I worked at Lex Stud," said the Irish born King who made his first visit to New Zealand in 1986.

"Nevan was the instigator. He bought Dalghar from His Highness the Aga Khan and put the idea of shuttling one of their stallions to New Zealand to him. I think the timing was right, we had all the right contacts and the scale and location of the farm suited their needs.

"Internationally New Zealand is seen as a place that can make a stallion, and give them more opportunities. We have proved it over the years with horses like Montjeu and High Chaparral and what their New Zealand-bred stock have done.

"Our mares suit the European stallions, and we know we can grow fabulous stock.
We have a synergy with Ireland as well, the way they approach the European market with their bloodstock is similar to how New Zealand approaches the Australian market."

King's enthusiasm for Azamour is quite infectious and he believes that the potential for the stallion is endless.

"We are so privileged. After 150 years of breeding horses, for the Aga Khan to choose us is very exciting. It is a great milestone to get a horse of his quality and form, and you know that if they didn't have confidence in us he wouldn't be here.

"He is such a well performed racehorse, he really captured my imagination when he was racing - he had such raw ability. We are spoilt for choice in New Zealand these days with the highly credentialed stallions that shuttle here.

"When I first came here most of the imported stallions were group three winners who were group one placed at best. Now we have multiple group one winners standing here and our mares are uplifting their stock and proving them as stallions.

"I think that in the next five years we are going to see some real quality horses come out of New Zealand. It's an exciting time to be involved."

King and his wife English-born wife Anne-Marie established Brighthill Farm in Tauwhare on the outskirts of Hamilton and Cambridge in 1996, and they currently stand three stallions, the aforementioned Azamour, Dalghar and Perfectly Ready.

Perfectly Ready (More Than Ready – Elle Duccio) was the Champion First Season sire in 2010-2011, and was himself a group one winning Australian sprinter. He is 30% owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Kahlifa Al Maktoum, another long standing international client of the Kings.

"He is another who recognizes the benefits of raising horses on our great pasture, and has a large band of broodmares here and lots of young stock. His progeny is tried here and they may continue to race in New Zealand or travel to Australia or ultimately Dubai. His filly Baseer (Perfectly Ready – Zaheeya) has just run third at Whangarei. She won her first start at two and then ran in the Castletown Stakes that was her first start back since then," he said.

"Overseas investment broadens our potential and gives us the opportunity to get our horses racing around the world. It shows our strength around the world and to have these guys from overseas trying to produce quality horses here shows we can do it right. Raising horses for overseas investors is now becoming a mainstay of what we do."

- Michelle Saba


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