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A Racing and Breeding Tradition: The Horses of the Aga Khan

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A Racing and Breeding Tradition: The Horses of the Aga Khan

A Racing and Breeding Tradition: The Horses of the Aga Khan by Philip Jodidio

Prestel Publishing

The Bottom Line

The green silks and red epaulets of His Highness the Aga Khan are a familiar sight on the international racing scene, especially at Longchamp on Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe weekend, his goal every year. The spiritual leader of the Ismaili Muslims is known for his powerful breeding and racing operation out of France and Ireland, as well as his humanitarian efforts. In this book, readers will quickly learn about the Aga Khan's racing operations, the many great horses and people that combined to create success on the track, racehorse breeding theory, and will also enjoy the many large, stunning photographs included.
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  • A well-written tribute to His Highness the Aga Khan and the great horses he bred and raced
  • Excellent lessons on racehorse pedigree theory, put to successful use by the Aga Khan
  • Striking color photographs accompany the text, showing race footage and horses on the farm
  • Full coverage of the ten best horses he owned, listed below
  • Recommended to fans of international Thoroughbred racing as his influence in the sport is unmatched.


  • May not be of interest to fans who only follow American racing or only care about gambling


  • Mumtaz Mahal, the foundation mare purchased by Aga Khan III and whose influence continues today
  • Nasrullah, a leading chef-de-race, siring 98 stakes winners from 425 foals including Bold Ruler, Noor, and Nashua
  • Petite Etoile, winner of 14 races, 6 in Group 1 company, Horse of the Year as a 3-year-old filly in 1959
  • Blushing Groom swept all four Group 1 races for 2-year-olds in France in 1976, then sired Arazi and Rainbow Quest
  • Shergar won the Epsom Derby by a record margin and was 1981 Horse of the Year. Kidnapped in 1983, remains never found.
  • Akiyda won 3 of 8 starts as a 3-year-old filly in 1982 including the Arc, earning Champion Racehorse honors in France
  • Darshaan won the French Derby in 1984, then sired 44 stakes winners including Dalakhani, Kotashaan, and Mark of Esteem.
  • Sinndar won the Epsom Derby, Irish Derby, and the Arc in the same year, the only horse to do so. Sired Rosanara and Shawanda
  • Dalakhani won the Prix du Jockey Club and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in 2003 earning Horse of the Year honors.
  • Zarkava retired undefeated in 7 starts including the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at the end of her 3-year-old season.

Guide Review - A Racing and Breeding Tradition: The Horses of the Aga Khan

Switzerland-based art and architecture book author Philip Jodidio branches out into sport in his latest work, covering the Aga Khan and the horses and people that have contributed to the success of his racing and breeding empire, in a large coffee-table sized book. Jodidio interviewed His Highness in June 2010, who explained how he had to learn the business in short order, suffering a setback when the deaths of his grandfather and father led to inheritance sales of many horses, including stakes-producing broodmares. By purchasing the breeding stock of Francois Dupre, Marcel Boussac, and Jean-Luc Lagardere, he built up his Thoroughbred breeding operation, and the bloodlines from these operations crossed well with the family's existing stock. The Aga Khan also gives back to the sport, initially by sponsoring the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in the late 1980's through the Ciga Hotels Group which he owned, and then later renovating the aging Chantilly racecourse, saving the historic track from demolition in the early 1990's, as well as assisting both the Curragh racecourse and Goffs auction house. He is also the principal shareholder of the Arqana sales agency in France.

Jodidio traces the history of the Aga Khan's racing and breeding activities, back to where it began in India in the 1800's with Aga Khan I. After visiting England in 1898, Aga Khan III decided to shift operations to Europe, leading to successes such as Bahram, the 1935 English Triple Crown winner, and Blenheim II, one of his most successful stallions. Prince Aly Khan, the father of the current Aga Khan, led the farm until his death in 1960. The current Aga Khan was willed 2/5 of the operation as was his younger brother Prince Amyn, while their half-sister Princess Yasmin had the other 1/5. His Highness bought out his two siblings, despite having no experience in the Thoroughbred world. The family tradition will carry on, as his daughter Princess Zahra, who was raised at the family stables at Chantilly, also races horses under her own colors and recommended that the farm use computers to calculate successful matings.

The Aga Khan's recipe for success is simple, breed the best to the best as one would expect, and raise the offspring in Ireland and France, where the nutrient-rich soil results in ideal grazing for young foals. Aga Khan III hired Jean-Joseph Vuillier, the father of modern dosage theory, as his exclusive consultant to determine his matings. The fifth and final section of the book, "Ten Horses of the Aga Khan", covers in detail arguably the ten best horses to have been owned by His Highness, listed above. Each horse is covered by his or her own separate chapter, detailing the horse's success on the track and later in the breeding shed. Many photographs of the subject horse are included, including stakes races, conformation photos, and enjoying life on the farm. Zarkava is photographed several times with her first foal, by Dalakhani in 2010.

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