This article was inspired by a request from VAULT reader, John Embry. But as we began to research Zarkava, as per John’s request, we came across a number of astoundingly good European fillies and mares. As you might imagine, each one of these great thoroughbreds was loved as passionately as Personal Ensign, Ruffiian, Rags To Riches, Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta during their racing campaigns and subsequent broodmare careers. Since there are too many great Euro fillies and mares to write about in one article, the plan is to continue this series, though not necessarily in consecutive instalments. At a later date, our visit with champions from “across the pond” will include Goldikova, Miesque, Allez France and Dahlia.
ZARKAVA (2005) bred in IRELAND by owner HRH the Aga Khan
Zarkava has a WOW! kind of pedigree and her owner-breeder acknowledges that she represents the zenith of his breeding program to date, even though the Aga Khan’s breeding operation has produced the likes of Epsom Derby winners Shergar, Shahrastani and Kahyasi. Quite the complement to a quirky, gutsy mare who won all seven of her starts, retiring undefeated.
So deep is Zarkava’s bloodline that it is difficult to imagine how she could have been anything but a superstar. For starters, her sire, Zamindar (1994) is by the great American stallion, Gone West (1984), a grandson of Secretariat (1970). Zamindar’s dam, Zalzafon (1982) is a daughter of Epsom Derby winner, The Minstrel (1974), one of the gutsiest thoroughbreds ever trained by the esteemed Vincent O’Brien. In addition, Zarkava is inbred to Northern Dancer (4 X 5) and to the dam of Nijinsky II, Flaming Page (5 X 5).
Zarkava’s dam, Zarkasha (1999) is the daughter of Epsom and Irish Derby winner, Kahyasi (1985), a grandson of the last British Triple Crown winner, Nijinsky II (1967). Zarkasha is out of Zarkana (1992), a daughter of Doyoun (1985), the sire of champions Daylami (1994) and Kalanisi (1996). Doyoun’s sire, England’s beloved Mill Reef (1968), won both the Epsom Derby and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
How’s that for royal blood?
During her racing career, the incomparable Zarkava took pretty much all of France’s most prestigious classic races, beating the likes of Goldikova (twice), Da Re Mi, Youmzain, Duke of Marmalade and Soldier of Fortunes, all outstanding horses in their own right. Noted for her exuberance out of the starting gate at 2 (see the “Zarkava leap” above), it took time for her trainer, Alain du Royer-Dupre and her jockey, the talented Christophe Soumillon to “get her right.” But even as they puzzled over the right way to get Zarkava into a more relaxed stride leaving the gate so that she could really call on her stamina in longer matches, the bay daughter of Zamindar just went right on winning. By 3, Zarkava had learned to race at a more relaxed, steady pace, saving her energies for the home stretch. Despite her relentless marches to victory that preceded it, her most spectacular victory came in the Arc in 2008 and raised her to the status of a French heroine:
A lovely (though long) video that features all of Zarkava’s victories and includes some rather rare footage:
Now retired, Zarkava produced a filly by another Arc winner, the handsome grey, Dalakhani (2000), in 2010. In 2011, she delivered a colt by the incomparable Sea The Stars (2006), who, like Zarkava herself, was retired following his victory in the Arc. These two babies are the progeny, between them, of 3 Arc winners. Wow! Here’s hoping that each of their futures shines as brightly as their parents. As we said at the beginning, it seems unlikely that we’re not looking at champions in the making.
ALL ALONG (1979) Bred in France by owner Daniel Wildenstein
She raced in France, Japan, the UK and the USA, as well as in Canada, and wherever she went, they fell in love with All Along. Angel Cordero dreamed (literally!) that he would get a chance to ride her even before he piloted All Along to a second place finish in the 1983 BC Turf. The loss was heartbreaking, but Cordero noted the slow pace and had only praise for the mare. Clearly, in his eyes, she had lost nothing in defeat. Barbara Livingston, America’s best loved equine photographer, writing about meeting All Along in her exquisite and informative book, Old Friends, had this to say in her conclusion, ” She was tickled to be brought in from the Midway, Kentucky paddock where she grazed with friends. Still awed by her racing performances, I was equally tickled to rub her face and say I’d touched All Along.”
As is the case with Zarkava, All Along’s pedigree bespoke depth and stamina. The beautiful mare was a granddaughter of America’s champion, Round Table (1954) out of Agujita (1966), a daughter of Vieux Manoir (1947), winner of French and English classics, from the British sire line of Blandford (1919) and Swynford (1907). In her third generation, All Along carries Bold Ruler (1954), Princequillo (1940) and Coastal Traffic (1941), a son of the immortal Hyperion (1930). She is also inbred to the great Prince Rose (1928) in her fourth generation.
Vieux Manoir’s sire, Brantome (1931) had a dramatic story of his own. The Arc winner was retired to stand in France, but during the Second World War, he was seized by the Germans, along with some 600 other French thoroughbreds. During the war years, Brantome stood as a kind of hostage at the German National Stud, before being recovered and returned to France in 1945. Lucky, too, since Brantome’s son, Vieux Manoir was also the grandsire of Ivanjica (1972) who won the Arc, as well as Val de Loire (1959), an outstanding French stallion who was the broodmare sire of the ill-fated but brilliant Shergar (1978).
All Along started 21 times, winning 9 and only being out of the money in 6. Trained by Patrick Biancone, All Along showed promise until the beginning of her four year-old campaign, where she sustained three losses. However, come her fourth race that year, the prestigious Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, All Along began a stunning array of victories that would see her victorious in three different countries, including her homeland. It was her second try at the Arc, but this time All Along was not to be denied. Given her losses that year, it is not surprising that in the footage below the track announcer never mentions her name until the field turns for home. Ridden by a young Walter Swinburn, All Along showed an astonishing turn of foot that day to cross the wire first. Watch for Swinburn’s navy silks and white cap on the thoroughbred against the rail as the horses near the finish line:
Following her victory in the Arc, the commanding bay mare shipped to Toronto, Canada for the Rothman’s International, where she would again vanquish the colts. Next on the hit list was the American Turf Classic, which she won by almost nine lengths going away. Her final race that year was the Washington D. C. International. Did she win it? Of course she did, defeating the likes of Majesty’s Prince and other international turf stars. That same year, All Along was the Horse of the Year and Champion Older Female in the USA and her native France, respectively. The gifted mare was also inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 1990.
All Along spent her broodmare career at Three Chimneys in Kentucky. As a broodmare, All Along was less lucky. Of her 13 foals, the ones who raced proved to be mediocre, despite having brilliant parents on both the top and bottom of their pedigrees. Pensioned in 2003, All Along died on February 23, 2005 at the age of 26. She is buried at Three Chimneys.
Despite her lack of success in the breeding shed, All Along had already attained racing immortality before her attention turned to motherhood. Her exploits on the turf against international fields of colts and fillies are the stuff of legend. Neither time can diminish her, nor racing hearts ever forget her.
THE VAULT credits Barbara Livingston’s outstanding thoroughbred ethnography, Old Friends, for the excerpt in which Barbara’s admiration for All Along is quoted. Readers interested in purchasing a copy of Old Friends or any of Livingston’s books should visit the Eclipse Press (Blood-Horse web site) or abebooks.com