Tag Archive for: Kia Joorabchian

Champion Stakes hero King Of Steel all set to take on America

King Of Steel will aim to follow up his Champion Stakes heroics at the Breeders’ Cup next weekend.

Owner Kia Joorabchian has confirmed the three-year-old is on his way to Santa Anita, most likely for the Breeders’ Cup Turf.

He still holds the possibility of running in the Classic, but his lack of experience on dirt makes the 12-furlong turf event a heavy favourite at this stage.

“We’ve been monitoring him all week, I’ve spoken to Roger (Varian) almost every day and I went to see him this week,” Joorabchian told Nick Luck’s Daily Podcast on Friday.

Kia Joorabchian celebrates with Frankie Dettori at Ascot
Kia Joorabchian celebrates with Frankie Dettori at Ascot (John Walton/PA)

“To be honest Roger has said the same thing every day, he can’t fault him and he’s in great shape. He’s come out of the race really well.

“Roger would always err on the side of caution, but he’s very happy with him so he’s going to travel today to Santa Anita so fingers crossed he should be running in, I’d say, most probably the Turf, but we haven’t completely ruled anything out yet.

“The reality is, Roger and his team probably feel much more comfortable on the turf, as a three-year-old I think we would edge towards the Turf. He’s never run on dirt and the only factor is if he gets out of the gates a little bit slower he’d get a lot of dirt in his face. That is edging us more towards the Turf.

“The jockey (Frankie Dettori) arrived there yesterday, he sent me a video of himself working out.”

Amo Racing and Kevin Stott part ways

Amo Racing has dispensed with the services of Kevin Stott as retained rider.

Stott, who replaced Rossa Ryan in the role earlier this year, rode Amo’s first Group One winner on Bucanero Fuerte in the Phoenix Stakes just last month and has enjoyed plenty of success in the purple and white silks.

However, Kia Joorabchian, the driving force behind Amo, voiced his displeasure at the ride Stott gave Derby runner-up King Of Steel in Saturday’s Irish Champion Stakes, in which he was beaten a length into fourth place by dual Derby hero Auguste Rodin.

Joorabchian told Sun Racing: “I told Kevin thank you very much. This was a collective decision on and off the racetrack.

“We have decided not to renew his contract for next season. It was always a one-year contract.”

Stott partnered King Of Steel to win the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot, won the Duchess of Cambridge Stakes on Persian Dreamer, and the Craven on Indestructible among plenty of other big-race winners this term.

The 29-year-old had been stable jockey to Kevin Ryan in Hambleton before announcing he was to move south and ride freelance last autumn.

Kia Joorabchian (right) has not renewed Kevin Stott's contract
Kia Joorabchian (right) has not renewed Kevin Stott’s contract (Chris Ison/PA)

Joorabchian added: “We have done everything that we promised, he (Stott) has done everything he promised and we have parted ways, nothing more than that.

“I’ve never had a problem with jockeys. I never fell out with Rossa (Ryan), I love him more than anybody, he rode at Royal Ascot for me.

“He was my only retained jockey, he needed to go out on his own and get experience. I have supported him and he is thriving.

“But you know, Kevin is not a young boy, he has experience. For reasons outside of racing, I have to decide what’s best.

“I don’t know what jockeys we’ll use now, I’ll leave it to the trainers to pick the best available.”

Stott wrote on Instagram: “Good morning everyone, I’ve unfortunately woken up to a text message this morning being informed that I will no longer be riding for Amo racing

“I just want to say thank you to all the trainers and staff that’s supported through the year, I’ve been fortunate enough to ride some top class horses, I wish Amo racing all the best going forward.”

Derby near-miss almost like Champions League penalty agony, says Joorabchian

Kia Joorabchian has likened King Of Steel’s Betfred Derby near-miss akin to “missing the last penalty in a Champions League final”.

The high-profile football agent and founder of Amo Racing saw the 66-1 chance collared late on by the Aidan O’Brien-trained Auguste Rodin at Epsom on Saturday, with the pair well clear of White Birch in third.

The Roger Varian-trained King Of Steel, an imposing son of Wootton Bassett, was having the first run of the season, having previously finished almost 10 lengths behind the winner in the Vertem Futurity Trophy over a mile at Doncaster last October.

King Of Steel went so close
King Of Steel went so close (David Davies for The Jockey Club)

He missed his intended Derby prep when failing to load into the stalls ahead of the Dante Stakes at York.

Kevin Stott, having his first ride in the Classic, poached a lead with two furlongs to run, only for Ryan Moore’s mount to overcome the deficit inside the last half-furlong.

It was the second big-price runner-up finish in the last three renewals of the blue riband for the owner, whose distinctive purple colours had come close to landing the Derby with Mojo Star, a 50-1 runner-up to Adayar in 2021.

“I was delighted,” Joorabchian said King Of Steel’s half-length defeat. “Although I feel like I’ve done a few rounds with Mike Tyson!

“It was great. He had a fantastic run. We loved him from the first day we found him in Keeneland.

“He was a big horse – he looked bigger than everything else there and he still is. Roger loved him all this year.

“We had an unfortunate incident in the Dante, but we knew what we had on our hands at home.

“He was a big price. Mojo was a big price. Maybe the next Derby they won’t price us out at 100-1.”

He added: “You have got to remember this was just the third run in his life – and actually it was Mojo’s third run in his life, so maybe there’s something about that. You know a good horse when you have one and this is a good horse.”

Asked to compare his emotions with his football experiences, he laughed: “It is like missing the last penalty in a Champions League final – that’s what it felt like!”

Mammas Girl motors to deeply impressive Neill Gwyn success

Mammas Girl added her name to the Qipco 1000 Guineas picture with a blistering display in the Lanwades Stud Nell Gwyn Stakes at Newmarket.

Owned by Kia Joorabchian’s Amo Racing and trained by Richard Hannon, she was an impressive winner of a course-and-distance maiden at the end of last season, but sent off 16-1 for this seven-furlong Group Three event.

However, despite her outsider status, the performance she produced was straight out of the top drawer.

Sean Levey was in no rush in the early stages as he kept the daughter of Havana Grey anchored in rear.

But the duo slowly crept their way into a position to pounce and once Levey asked his mount for maximum effort there was no filly flying home quicker – advertising her electric turn of foot to shoot two and three-quarter lengths clear of Charlie Appleby’s Fairy Cross at the line.

Her price was slashed for the Guineas in the aftermath, with both Paddy Power and Betfair going 8-1 from 50s then further knocked down to 6-1 for the opening fillies’ Classic of the new campaign. And Hannon confirmed a return to the Rowley Mile would come next.

He said: “She won very well here first time, but even so I was slightly worried about the track.

Mammas Girl ridden by jockey Sean Levey on their way to winning the Lanwades Stud Nell Gwyn Stakes on day two of the bet365 Craven Meeting at Newmarket Racecourse
Mammas Girl ridden by jockey Sean Levey on their way to winning the Lanwades Stud Nell Gwyn Stakes on day two of the bet365 Craven Meeting at Newmarket Racecourse (Tim Goode/PA)

“She’s very straightforward. She missed the gate today, which I was surprised at, but she’s won extremely well.

“She’s worked very well all spring and I thought she’d run very well today, although I must admit she’s surprised me slightly in the way she’s won.

“What I like about her is she’s gone slightly under the radar, but we’ve always loved her at home.

“She looks a very good filly, but all my Guineas winners were beaten in trials – Sky Lantern, Night Of Thunder and Billesdon Brook. Hopefully she bucks the trend as she’ll be coming back here, for sure.”

Joorabchian added: “It’s amazing – I can’t hold my excitement, to be honest.

“It’s very, very exciting winning a Nell Gwyn here. We’ve competed for the last few years and haven’t quite managed to get through the line.

“She was fantastic today and gave a cracking performance on her debut. We’ve always loved her and we couldn’t believe what price she was today.

“I’ve got a really big weekend (first weekend in May) as I’ve got Affirmative Lady in America and she’s going for the Kentucky Oaks, having won the Gulfstream Oaks quote convincingly.

“That means I’ve got to decide whether to go there or come here, but it’s a good decision to have to make.”

Monday Musings: New Blood

If there is one thing horse racing in the UK needs above all else it is owners: men or women with resources, a love for the sport and the willingness to put up with the absurd economics of excessive and ever-rising costs against persistently modest returns via prizemoney, writes Tony Stafford.

The new player would need to be committed to the game. Like the brothers Maktoum, now down to two from four after first Maktoum Al Maktoum, Ruler of the Emirate, died in 2006 and, only this year, second in terms of age, Sheikh Hamdan also left the stage.

Nominally third in seniority but the long-term number two auditioning for the top job was Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, now in his 70’s after more than four decades’ involvement in our sport.

We had met in Kentucky and one day I sat with him and Michael (not yet Sir) Stoute as we waited near the famed King’s Head pub and eating house in Dullingham to see the young home-bred stock that the late Richard Casey, subsequently trainer of top handicap chaser Hogmanay, had in his charge. The Sheikh opined, “it doesn’t take ten years to build a breeding operation, more like thirty”. After last weekend, probably 38 years after our chat, with home-bred winners of the 2021 Derby and Kentucky Derby on the Roll of Honour, he has just about made it!

Hogmanay had been one of a package of ten horses I bought without the luxury of having the £100k to pay for them from Malcolm Parrish, owner of a massive stable of his own horses, a sort of precursor to Jim Bolger, but an Englishman based in France with carpet-making mills in Belgium.

Malcolm supervised the training but a M. De Tarragon, his head lad, held the licence and was officially responsible for the 100-head or so horses. I met him in July 1984 in the long-gone Cashel Palace Hotel near Ballydoyle but it was a total fluke as I was really over to meet David O’Brien who at 27 had become the youngest trainer to win the Derby with Secreto.

While the later O’Brien’s seem to have perfected the art of enjoying each other’s major successes, the 1984 Derby brought major tensions as the favourite and previously 2,000 Guineas winner El Gran Senor was lined up for a massive stud deal subject to his winning the Derby. In the race, Pat Eddery on the favourite appeared to be going far better than Christy Roche on the eventual winner but in a desperate finish was beaten a short-head.

The verdict had to delayed while Eddery objected but the result was upheld. Fortunately for the initial Coolmore team, El Gran Senor won the Irish Derby – his task eased by Secreto’s absence – and the Epsom hero also missed both the King George and Eclipse Stakes, retiring without racing again.

I had previously met David O’Brien on my trip that July to Keeneland, invited for my first look at the great Calumet Farm, owned by several generations of the influential Wright family. Then an outsider, J T Lundy married into the family and by this time controlled the place. His stewardship was to become a matter for serious concern in the city, but he had arranged a deal to buy 50 per cent of the would-be stallion for $20 million. The strain of training told on young O’Brien whose sister Sue Magnier says he is much happier tending his grape vines in France where he has been based for many years.

I was to see Calumet later when a previous contact, Henryk De Kwiatkowski, bought it and started the revival of the farm’s fortunes. Upon his death, his own family never having been interested in racing and breeding, new owners came in and it is again at the forefront in Lexington.

Incidentally, my wife recommended I watch the Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit and I was amazed when this epic tale about a female chess genius was entirely centred on Lexington. Right at the start her mother’s car is on New Circle Road, a mini-M25 I cruised every inch both ways during my many visits there. The scene again early in the seven-part series where the heroine plays a tournament at the Henry Clay school also invoked memories of a good friend of Brian Meehan, Henry’s grandson, who had several horses with him at Manton. Great series, you will love it, I promise!

Secreto was owned by a Venezuelan, Senor Miglietti, who also owned the main bus company in Caracas and had, it seems, connections with some less-than-reputable individuals in his country.

Down the decades, other major Arab owners have stayed the course, none more valiantly than Prince Khalid Abdullah, breeder and owner of dozens of the world’s great horses but two will do – Frankel and Enable. His passing, also this year, will no doubt lead to a diminution of seeing his pink, green and white on the racecourses of the UK and beyond and for the blue and white of Hamdan a reduction of 100 is immediately to be enacted.

Two Princes to suffer uncannily similar early deaths at the first years of the Millennium were Abdullah’s countrymen brothers Fahd and Ahmed Salman, both dead in their early 40’s. Their father has since become King Salman in Saudi Arabia.

I brought in Malcolm Parrish and Hogmanay because he was one of the ten horses. We got onto that tack as earlier he had sold two good horses to Michael Dickinson and I had a small part in that. “Want any more?”, he asked then elaborated. “Yeah okay, you can have ten for 100 grand, I won’t put you wrong,” he added.

Hogmanay was one of them but Rod Simpson, who had the job of sorting them out (and on balance did pretty well) said Hogmanay will never stand training, so the £5k he represented in the deal was deducted. For each of his eight wins (seven over fences) and £60k prizemoney a dagger went to the heart. In the end, I did manage to pay for them and there were some very decent animals among them. Later Malcolm bought both Lordship and Egerton studs in Newmarket before passing them on.

With deference to the Dixon brothers who head up the Horse Watchers, and who combine television expertise with phenomenally successful ownership, journalists are hardly likely to make that jump. But one man who has shown signs of joining racing’s big time is the football agent Kia Joorabchian, who has been one of the more visible personalities in the first months of the season.

His horses – 37 have run – have collected 22 wins and more than £400,000 in prizes. That compares with £240,000 in the whole of last season with 18 wins. But what gives the game away is that his horse Mayo Star, a maiden who finished runner-up to Adayar in the Derby nine days ago, earned £241,000 for that one run, so a touch more than for all last season’s exploits.

There is no doubt Kia has gone about it whole-heartedly. Using trainers like Roger Varian, Richard Hannon and Ralph Beckett he has not been shy to spend, paying for instance 460,000gns for a Shamardal colt he sent to Varian. Great King has won one of five starts and is rated 88. Of the horses he has run this year alone – he also has several similarly-expensive acquisitions from the recent breeze-ups in the pipeline - he has spent almost £6milion in acquiring them.

As the man behind the controversial Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano deals a decade or so ago, Kia has become a leader in his business and at 49 he is still a relative young man in racing ownership terms. This year his colours could be represented at Royal Ascot by up to 16 horses. Pivotal to his early success this year have been his two-year-olds with Beckett being joined by George Boughey and Michael Bell as having feasible chances in the juvenile events.

The best candidates in the purple silks must be in the Albany Stakes where once-raced 350,000gns Wolverhampton winner Hello You (Beckett) and twice-successful and cheaply bought Beautiful Sunset (Boughey) are due to line up and are both prominent in the ante-post market. He also has realistic chances with the Varian-trained and seemingly well-handicapped Raadobarg, £200k, in the Britannia, with Hannon’s Sir Rumi (£160k) as a potential second string.

Kia will have a major interest of course in the Euro 2020 championship as will another of the big soccer (and many other sports) agencies, the ICM Stellar Group’s boss, Jonathan Barnett.

From an earlier generation than Joorabchian, Jonathan, along with partner David Manasseh, sold the agency last year to the American group, but they remain in day-to-day charge. Their major players at the competition include four of the England squad (Mason Mount and Jordan Pickford, who played yesterday, as well as Jack Grealish and Luke Shaw who watched the 1-0 win from the subs bench). Gareth Bale (Wales) and Kieren Tierney (Scotland) will also be well to the fore at the championships.

Less than an hour after full-time at Wembley, Jonathan was watching his lightly-raced four-year-old Fitzcarraldo winning with a fast finish at Longchamp for trainer Nicolas Clement. Fitzcarraldo was a €27k buy that took time to mature but now looks like a stayer with a future. Clement, who is head of France’s trainers’ association, has a record of bargain buys having paid £30k for Ray Tooth’s Group 1 winner and later 2,000 Guineas second French Fifteen, who has been sending out jumps winners as a stallion lately.

Given a £40k budget to buy a yearling last autumn, Clement came up with a €21,000 daughter of Derby winner Ruler of the World and he rates her very highly. That’s the way Barnett, also owner of the decent handicapper Year Of The Dragon with William Knight, prefers it, rather than the Joorabchian method.

I bet the people that have been recruited to buy the Amo racing horses would be horrified at M. Clement’s behaviour. Watch out for Fitzcarraldo. I would not be at all surprised if later in the year the jumping boys come calling for this big strong gelded son of Makfi. Maybe then the Clement business acumen that turned a £30k colt into a £1.3 million Classic prospect and future stallion will be rather more in evidence.

Monday Musings: Boutique Classic

The Arqana Arc sale, staged every eve of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at the company’s Saint-Cloud base, used to be a major source of excitement with several candidates due to run the next day, sometimes even in the big race itself, going through in a real boutique auction, writes Tony Stafford.

It was the model for the much more recent pre-Royal Ascot auction where many of UK racing’s great and good, and many over here from overseas for the week, would be wined and if-not dined, certainly canape’d to their hearts’ content in Kensington Palace Gardens with nary a horse to be seen.

Friends of mine got a great result a few years ago selling a decent handicapper for an embarrassingly-large amount. I hope his new owners were as satisfied in the longer scheme of things as his original partners but I very much doubt they were.

Last October 3, with Covid in full force throughout Europe, a slimmed-down catalogue of 27 horses went virtually “sous le marteau” – I used the translation for hammer as the French for “gavel” is, boringly, gavel, what a let-down!

With absentees, reserves not attained and simply horses unsold or bought back, only 11 changed hands.

Most of those were three-year-olds and in the 43-49 kg mark, translating to 86-108 in UK ratings. The highest price was the €975,000 for Virginia Joy, a German-trained filly that has been exported from France to the USA, and won an optional allowance claiming race last month at Belmont Park for her new owner, Peter Brant.

One oddity and the only obvious jumps prospect was the once-raced (placed third) AQPS gelding Hercule Point, bought for €270,000 by Dan Skelton. I think we should look out for this son of the top French jumps sire, Network.

Two of those sold had in fact performed at ParisLongchamp that afternoon on the first stage of the Arc meeting. Step By Step, a colt, was third in the Qatar Prix Chaudenay. He went for €320,000 and has not been sighted since being bought by Narvick International.

Until yesterday the only other subsequent winner from the batch was King Pacha, €100k worth of three-year-old colt that has been strutting his stuff in Qatar. First time there in January he was second in the Qatar Derby and after a lesser runner-up spot, won a 100 grand race before two later fifth places.

But then there was yesterday, and what was expected to be the second leg of an Aidan O’Brien/Coolmore double 35 minutes after St Mark’s Basilica won the French 2,000 Guineas – forget all that Poule D’Essai stuff!

St Mark’s Basilica was allowed to start at 4-1 in his first run since claiming top 2020 European colt honours having won last year’s Dewhurst. That choice of Classic for his comeback run shows that a fair bit of planning goes into those Ballydoyle Spring pack-shufflings  as St Mark’s Basilica is a son of the top French sire, Siyouni.

After this victory, leading French breeders will be unable to resist him when he goes to stud. A quick look through the list of Aidan’s 192 inmates in Horses In Training shows he is the only Siyouni in the yard. Of course he does have a family connection a few miles down the road at Coolmore stud, the home of Siyouni’s 2020 Arc winner, Sottsass.

It’s been rather long-winded but at last I’m there. Sottsass was trained by Jean-Claude Rouget and that most prolific of French trainers from his base in the west of France is always dangerous in the Classic races on home soil.

Yesterday he had a single runner pitted against Mother Earth and, while the O’Brien filly was anything but disgraced in finishing runner-up in another Classic so soon after Newmarket, she could not match Rouget’s outsider.

Coeursamba is a daughter of The Wow Signal, who raced only at two and won his first three races, including at Royal Ascot, for John Quinn but lost his unbeaten record in the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere. He was the 7-4 favourite, but finished last of seven behind Gleneagles, the future 2,000 Guineas winner, and promptly retired to stud in France.

Coeursamba won only one of her six races at two, but did enough to earn a rating dead on 100. She dutifully took her place the next day in the Prix Marcel Boussac, and finished fifth to Tiger Tanaka, who was unplaced yesterday.  Then last autumn she had one more run, third behind Lullaby Moon, the Redcar Gold Trophy winner, another also-ran. Lullaby Moon now runs in the ever-more-recognisable Amo Racing colours.

That was one of many private and public deals that have bolstered the strength of Amo’s celebrity football agent, Kia Joorabchian.  A stream of juvenile first-time winners in his purple and white silks have been inevitably attracting attention and quickly propelling trainer George Boughey into the big time.

No doubt they will be going on a shopping spree this week when Arqana stage their breeze-up sale in Doncaster rather than Paris with the Covid recovery trailing behind the UK’s – touch wood and whistle, as Len Baily, brother of Spurs and England footballer Eddie used not only to say but perform with a modest trill.

I worked in Len and middle brother Charlie’s betting shop in Clarence Road, Lower Clapton, before leaving school and passed up an offer to take their partner Sid’s share when he retired – for free.  I’m clinging on to that sort of memory – Len’s whistle – for dear life, still wondering whether I should have been on the other side of the argument for the past 58 years!

Coeursamba, at €400,000 the second most expensive of those Arqana Arc sale graduates, might have started 66-1 but could have been mistaken for the favourite as she quickly asserted over Mother Earth.

Mr Joorabchian doesn’t show many signs that he is finished with his acquisitions. Rossa Ryan, a young jockey who is showing that the best way to go from mid-range to top-level rider is to get on good horses, revealed in a recent interview that his boss has a team of 85, more than 50 of them two-year-olds.

As I said, we’ve seen a few of them and good luck to Kia, a welcome incoming force just as two of the biggest players ever in the UK, Prince Khalid Abdullah and Hamdan Al-Maktoum, have left the scene. As the O’Learys are finding with the Gigginstown House hordes, it’s not easy to rationalise overnight, so I’m sure we’ll be seeing the Frankel and Nashwan colours for years to come until the two bosses’ successors decide on which way they will go with their massive operations.

One disappointment in the “1,000” was the running of King’s Harlequin in the Sam Sangster colours; but that Camelot filly has already far-outweighed her original purchase price of €30k, by Tina Rau and Nicolas Clement as a yearling.

It might not have been what connections had been hoping for yesterday as King’s Harlequin raced too freely and gradually dropped away. Sam, though, is continuing to show signs that he is a chip off the old block and in time could be winning big races in the manner of his father, the late Robert Sangster.

At Windsor on Monday Sam watched on from home as the four-year-old filly Beauty Stone came from last to first off her mark of 69 to win a fillies’ handicap over an extended 11 furlongs by just over six lengths.

A daughter of Australia she had three runs for Charlie Appleby in the Godolphin blue without making any impact. She was a 475,000gns yearling buy but cost only 5,500gns when Sam picked her up when culled at the February horses-in-training sale at Newmarket last year.

She had a busy 2020 when racing resumed winning a small race at the fifth attempt for trainer Tom Ward, chosen as he had been a school-friend of Sam’s brother Max, the youngest of the Sangster siblings.

To show just how good a choice that was, Beauty Stone was completing a hat-trick and winning for the fourth time in all at Windsor. Fancied in the morning, trainer and owner were constantly on the phone with Sam quizzing Tom as to why a filly which had won its last two races could still be available at 20-1 even though she’d been backed.

Making a final contact as the filly was being saddled, Sam asked the trainer: “Does she look big?” to which Tom replied: “Looking at her now, maybe?”  I wish I’d heard the story before rather than half an hour after the race, but with her nice pedigree, there’s no doubt that’s another Sangster steal. Sangster the Gangster is back! In a manner of speaking, of course .