When Miracles of Life won the MRC Blue Diamond S. G1 in February this year she made several kinds of history.
She is the first Group 1 winner by Not A Single Doubt, bred and raced by Arrowfield, and now a rising star on the Stud’s stallion roster.
She is the second Blue Diamond winner for her owner-breeder Muzaffar Yaseen who won the race 14 years ago with Arrowfield’s champion sire, and paternal grand-sire of Miracles of Life, Redoute’s Choice.
The diminutive chestnut filly is also the 43rd Group 1 winner bred, raised and/or sold by Arrowfield.
The Group 1 winners began appearing very soon after John Messara established Arrowfield Stud. Two of the first horses to carry the “jockey cap over diamonds” brand were Australian Guineas G1 winner Zabeel, and four-time Group 1 winner Dr Grace, both bred in partnership with Robert Sangster and foaled in 1986. Both became Group 1 sires, but Zabeel earned champion status 15 years ago and has exerted a beneficent influence on Australasian distance racing ever since.
Group 1 winners Danzero, Danewin and his Group 3-winning brother Commands are other significant sires found on Arrowfield’s honour roll, while more recent graduates Reaan and Master of Design are in the early stages of their stud careers.
There are several famous fillies among Arrowfield graduates too. The Stud’s brand was carried to three historic Melbourne Cup victories by Tony Santic‘s champion mare Makybe Diva, who spent 15 months of her early life at Arrowfield.
Golden Slipper winners Belle du Jour and Forensics were raised and sold by the Stud, while bred-and-sold graduates include champion 2YO filly Fashions Afield and Arrowfield’s million-dollar yearling Sunday Joy, winner of the Australian Oaks, and dam of champion mare More Joyous (eight Group 1 wins).
Proud as he is of Arrowfield’s superlative record as a nursery of elite performers, John Messara is most interested in the myriad relationships behind them. Three horses, a filly, a colt and a gelding illustrate how important those relationships have been to Arrowfield’s success.
In June 1988 a 4YO chestnut mare called Rolls arrived at Arrowfield after travelling from the United States via New Zealand where she conceived to champion sire Star Way. By Mr. Prospector from Grand Luxe, a daughter of the blue hen Fanfreluche, Rolls was to have a spectacular impact on Australian breeding.
Her first Australian-born foal was a filly named Shoal Creek, the future dam of champion sire Encosta de Lago, and in 1992 she delivered a colt in the second crop of Danehill. Between those two foalings, Rolls passed from the ownership of the New Zealand-based Ra Ora Stud to Arrowfield. John Messara says of the Danehill colt, “He was magnificent from the day he was born and when we offered him for sale, I put together a syndicate of long-time clients and supporters to compete in the market, which we do from time to time for colts we particularly like, and buy him for $160,000.”
Named Flying Spur for the turbo-charged version of the famous Rolls Royce Silver Spur, the colt was trained in Melbourne by Australian Hall of Famer Lee Freedman. He progressed quickly from his debut win in November 1994 to Group 3 winner to Blue Diamond runner-up, to winner of the 1995 Golden Slipper G1, beating subsequent Horse of the Year Octagonal.
Flying Spur returned at three to take his speed out to 1600 metres and win the VRC Australian Guineas and AJC All Aged Stakes at Group 1 level before retiring to stud in 1996. He was withdrawn from service at the age of 20 before the 2012 season.
Champion Sire of Australia in 2007, Flying Spur has 89 stakeswinners to his name, 11 of them Group 1 winners, and is now building an imposing second-generation record. His daughters have already produced 42 stakeswinners (4 Group 1) and his son Casino Prince is the sire of multiple Group 1 winner All Too Hard, who will serve his first book of mares in Australia this spring.
During the past decade Arrowfield’s growing stallion power has attracted the attention of major international breeders interested in the kind of joint ventures that proved so successful for Robert Sangster in the 1980s.
In 2003 the late HH Sheikh Maktoum al Maktoum’s Gainsborough Stud and Arrowfield bred a bay filly by Redoute’s Choice from Forest Pearl, an unraced daughter of Woodman and the 1995 Epsom Oaks G1 winner Moonshell.
John Messara recalls, “Gainsborough sent us beautifully bred mares and Forest Pearl’s filly was the most wonderful looker and a great mover.”
The filly was consigned in the Arrowfield draft at the 2005 Inglis Australian Easter Sale and Messara prepared to buy her outright, with the help of close friends, stockbroker John Leaver and broadcaster Alan Jones.
In a curious twist of fate, Arrowfield outbid Sheikh Hamdan’s manager Angus Gold to secure the filly for $450,000, and was under-bidder on a Redoute’s Choice colt from Candide purchased from Edinglassie Sud for $700,000 – by Angus Gold.
Ten months later Sheikh Hamdan’s colt, Nadeem defeated the filly, Miss Finland in the Group 1 Blue Diamond Stakes. It was the only time the pair ever met, as Nadeem’s career was cut short by injury.
Miss Finland went on to triumph in the STC Golden Slipper G1 and claim the title of Champion 2YO. The following season she won seven of her 11 starts including the VRC Oaks, VRC Australian Guineas and two other Group 1 races to earn a final accolade of Champion 3YO Filly.
The day after Miss Finland’s last win in the spring of 2007, a gelded bay son of Hussonet and Weekend Beauty won a provincial maiden race in Victoria. It marked the start of a remarkable 12 months for Weekend Hussler, named the 2008 Australian Horse of the Year, and rated the world’s best 3YO sprinter after winning seven Group 1 races from 1200 to 1800 metres.
Weekend Hussler’s Timeform figure of 130 is the highest achieved by any Arrowfield graduate, and an outstanding result for the Stud’s relationship with Katsumi Yoshida’s Northern Farm.
It was Arrowfield that encouraged Mr Yoshida to extend his Australian racing interests to breeding by way of the joint venture which sent Weekend Beauty, an unraced daughter of Helissio, to Hussonet in 2003. The resulting colt was sold as a yearling for $80,000 to Melbourne trainer Ross McDonald whose owners banked just over $3 million during Weekend Hussler’s 21-start career.
The Arrowfield/Northern Farm joint venture also bred and sold Hussonet’s Group 1 2YO winner Reaan and has enjoyed conspicuous success this season as the breeder of Group 2-winning fillies Sweet Idea and Flying Snitzel.
A similar venture with HH The Aga Khan produced this season’s promising 3YO colt Vadashan whose sire Redoute’s Choice has just completed his first northern hemisphere season at the Aga Khan’s Stud in France.
As John Messara says, “The winner’s circle is not so much fun if you’re alone there, and the Group 1 winners that mean most to Arrowfield are always those we breed or race with other people.”