From one of finest families in the stud book, Alpinista (by Frankel) has added more luster to the line on Oct. 1 with her victory in the Group 1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. That victory was her eighth in succession, with the last six being all G1s.
Alpinista is not especially large, nor especially massive, but all the parts of the lovely gray filly work in harmony, and she has improved consistently under the training of Mark Prescott.
Now a winner in 10 of her 15 lifetime starts, Alpinista is the ninth gray mare from the last 11 generations of her maternal line, stretching all the way back to Mumtaz Mahal, a gray daughter of the gray stallion The Tetrarch (Roi Herode).
A filly of extraordinary speed, Mumtaz Mahal was bred by Lady Sledmere of Sykes and was a foal of 1921. A hundred years ago, she sold for 9,100 guineas to the Aga Khan III, the grandfather of the present Aga, and became a cornerstone of the breeding program that the Aga Khan developed.
Trainer George Lambton selected Mumtaz Mahal for the Aga Khan, but as the stable trainer for Lord Derby, Lambton was unable to train the filly. Lambton loved a fast horse, however, and trained the highly talented Diadem, a well-recommended weight carrier named Phalaris, as well as 11 classic winners, including subsequent stallion stars such as Swynford and Hyperion.
Trained by Dick Dawson for the Aga Khan, Mumtaz Mahal was widely accepted as the best 2-year-old of 1923, regardless of sex, and the next season she very nearly became the owner’s first classic winner. Favored at odds of 6-5 for the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket, Mumtaz Mahal ”held a commanding lead at the Bushes, two furlongs from home, and appeared to be travelling so smoothly that nothing appeared more certain that that she would retain her advantage until the winning post was reached,” according to the report in the British Bloodstock Review for that season.
As the flying filly met the rising ground coming toward the finish, however, she faltered, was passed by Plack, and only her tremendous courage allowed her to keep second from Straitlace, who later won the Oaks.
Possessing speed in excess of stamina, Mumtaz Mahal was mated with classic sires in an effort to balance those qualities, and the results either had some semblance of the dam’s speed, such as her talented son Mirza (Blenheim), or they didn’t appear to have much racing talent at all.
A contributor of intense speed, Mumtaz Mahal became an integral part of the Aga Khan pedigrees, not so much for the immediate success of her own foals but for the immense and lasting significance of succeeding generations. Bred to classic sires like Gainsborough and Solario, Mumtaz Mahal did not have exceptional success with those offspring, but her daughters foaled top-class racers, including the internationally successful sires Nasrullah (out of Mumtaz Begum, by Blenheim) and Royal Charger (out of Sun Princess, by Solario).
Another of Mumtaz Mahal’s daughters was Mah Mahal (Gainsborough), who produced 1936 Derby winner Mahmoud (Blenheim) and the high-class juvenile Mah Iran, a daughter of English Triple Crown winner Bahram (Blandford). Mah Iran was ranked the second-best 2-year-old filly of 1941 in England.
Mah Iran’s foal of 1944 was a gray colt by the Derby winner Bois Roussel later named Migoli. At two, Migoli won the Dewhurst Stakes; at three, he won the Eclipse Stakes and Champion, was second in the Derby, third in the St. Leger; at four, the gray won the 1948 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
Sent to stud, Migoli sired a small bay colt later sold by the Aga Khan Studs and exported to the U.S., where he was named Gallant Man, winner of the 1957 Belmont Stakes and sire of champion Gallant Bloom, among others.
Migoli’s full sister, Mah Behar, was born eight years later in 1952 and was the first break in the line of gray coats among the mares leading to Alpinista. A third full sibling, Star of Iran (1949, gray) became the dam of Petite Etoile (Petition), who was the best filly in Europe from 1959 at three through 1961 at five.
Only a winner herself, Mah Behar was bred to Nuccio (Traghetto), winner of the 1952 Arc de Triomphe for the Aga Khan. The result was the second non-gray in this line, the bay Nucciolina, a winning foal of 1957; she is the sixth dam of Alpinista.
Bred to the fast and talented Aga Khan stallion Zeddaan (Grey Sovereign), Nucciolina produced the gray filly Allara, a winner from four starts. And bred to the gray Prix du Jockey Club winner Crystal Palace (Caro), Allara produced Alruccaba, a winner of a race at Brighton racecourse from four starts.
One might have expected that this series of minor winners spelled the end of the line for this branch of the family, but it was only the end of its time in the Aga Khan’s breeding operation.
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Alruccaba was sent to the Tattersalls December sales in 1985, where she sold for the reasonable price of 19,000 guineas to Sonia Rogers and Kirsten Rausing as a broodmare prospect.
To bring a price like that, after middling racetrack results for a time, indicates that the gray daughter of Crystal Palace must have been a pretty decent physical specimen. Certainly, she proved to be much more than decent as a producer.
In all, Alruccaba produced eight winners from 11 foals and four stakes winners: Last Second (Alzao) won the G2 Nassau Stakes; Alleluia (Caerleon) won the G3 Doncaster Cup; Arrikala (Darshaan) won the listed Curragh Cup; and Alouette (Darshaan) won the listed Oyster Stakes, was third in the G1 Moyglare Stud Stakes.
In addition to having a solid racing career, Alouette produced nine winners, including two-time Champion Stakes winner Alborada and the German highweight Albanova, the 2022 Arc winner’s grand-dam. Both are by the Lyphard stallion Alzao.
Albanova has produced four stakes winners, including G3 winner Algometer (Archipenko), and Albanova’s stakes-winning daughter All at Sea (Sea the Stars) produced Eldar Elbarov (Dubawi), winner of the 2022 St. Leger. Alpinista is out of Albanova’s stakes-winning daughter Alwilda (Hernando).
With her pedigree and performance, Alpinista will have plenty of opportunity when she goes to stud, and the story of this fabulous family will go on.