01/02/2017 11:16AM

Sparkman: Azamour could be end of the line

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Benoit & Associates
Goodyearforroses, winning the Robert J. Frankel Stakes at Santa Anita, is by Azamour, a son of the Northern Dancer sire Night Shift.

The number of non-stakes winners who become truly successful sires is small and dwindling. As in all other things, however, Northern Dancer was a rule unto himself, producing several sires who did not win a stakes.

In addition to three-time leading sire Danzig, who was unbeaten in three starts but never ran in a stakes race, Northern Dancer produced once-raced Fairy King, who was leading sire in France; Vice Regent, a perennial leading sire in Canada; and Carnivalay, Dancing Count, Fire Dancer, Mari’s Book, Northern Guest, Somethingfabulous, and Staff Writer. None won a stakes, and all were successful at least on a regional basis.

Northern Dancer’s son Night Shift was a full brother to champion Fanfreluche who never showed anything like stakes form in seven starts, but nevertheless sired 102 stakes winners, including champions, highweights, or classic winners In the Groove, Align, Vision of Night, Dyhim Diamond, Lochangel, Deportivo, and Nicolotte. Night Shift’s best son Azamour has likewise become his best son at stud, most recently through Robert J. Frankel Stakes winner Goodyearforroses.

Bred and raced by the Aga Khan, Azamour was among the best of his crop at 2 and 3, and earned champion European older horse honors in 2005. Winner of the Group 2 Beresford Stakes at 2, he placed in both the English and Irish 2,000 Guineas at 3 before defeating the winners of both those classics in the Group 1 St. James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot. Azamour showed his best form in the Group 1 Irish Champion Stakes three months later, rallying to win comfortably in his first try at 10 furlongs, but his 2,000 Guineas conqueror Haafhd relegated him to third place in the Group 1 Champion Stakes at Newmarket on unsuitably soft ground.

Azamour improved again at 4, winning the Group 1 Prince of Wales Stakes at Royal Ascot over 10 furlongs and proving himself the best older horse in Europe in the Group 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Newbury, but finished an unlucky third in the Breeders’ Cup Turf behind Shirocco and Ace, despite having defeated the latter repeatedly in Europe.

A half-brother to Group 2 winner Arazan, by Anabaa, out of stakes winner Asmara, by Lear Fan, from a good Aga Khan family, Azamour has a pedigree that was not particularly attractive to breeders, and he was patronized mostly by his owner-breeder in his first few seasons at stud. Azamour rewarded the Aga Khan’s faith by siring French Oaks winner Valyra (out of Valima, by Linamix), Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic winner Dolniya (Daltama, by Indian Ridge), and English highweight Shankardeh (Shalamantika, by Nashwan) for him.

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Azamour has not been well patronized by other breeders, siring only 525 foals age 3 and up, but 42 of them (8 percent) are stakes winners, including 2015 Group 1 Irish Oaks and Prix de l’Opera winner Covert Love (Wing Stealth, by Hawk Wing) and German 1,000 Guineas winner Hawksmoor (Bridal Dance, by Danehill Dancer).

The pedigree of Goodyearforroses is better than typical for foals of outside mares Azamour has covered during his stud career. Goodyearforroses is the fourth foal, third winner, and second stakes winner out of Guilia, by Galileo, who placed in both the Swettenham Stud Trial Stakes and River Eden Fillies Stakes in England. Her third foal, God’s Speed, by Oratorio, won stakes in Saudi Arabia, and she has since produced a winning colt by Duke of Marmalade, and a current yearling by Zoffany.

Guilia’s dam, Lesgor, by Irish River, placed in the Group 3 Prix d Psyche, but did not produce any other black-type horses. Lesgor was half-sister to minor American stakes winner Smart Score, by Clever Trick, out of champion New Zealand 3-year-old filly Let’s Sgor, by Creag-an-Sgor, from a Colonial family developed in Australia and New Zealand that does not trace to Volume I of the General Stud Book.

Both Danzig and Vice Regent have further beaten the odds by establishing successful branches of the Northern Dancer male line, but it is unlikely that Night Shift will follow suit. Although his sons Align, Deportivo, Dyhim Diamond, and Nicolotte have all sired group or graded stakes winners, none has sired a successor who appears at all likely to extend the male line to a third generation. All three of Azamour’s Group 1 winners are fillies, and his best sons on the flat have been Group 2 Cathay Pacific Jockey Club Mile winner Wade Giles (Tekindia, by Indian Ridge) and Group 3 winner Colombian (Clodora, by Linamix).

Stranger things have happened, but the Night Shift male line is likely to end with Azamour.