Iffraaj sireline keeps on giving

Iffraaj (GB) – Standing at Darley Europe

In the wake of the Arc meeting at Longchamp last weekend, Iffraaj (GB) emerged as one of the dominant names of the meeting. Two of his sons, Coolmore’s Wootton Bassett (GB) and the French-based Hot Streak (Ire), sired Group 1 winners across the meeting, drawing attention to a sireline increasingly on the up.

Wootton Bassett’s 2-year-old filly Zellie (Fr) won the G1 Prix Marcel Boussac for trainer André Fabre, bringing her smart record of six races to four wins overall, while Hot Streak, who stands at Haras d’Annebault close to Deauville, had A Case Of You (Ire) win the G1 Prix de l’Abbaye for Irish trainer Adrian McGuinness.

The 3-year-colt was the first Group 1 winner for Hot Streak, while Zellie was the fifth for Wootton Bassett.

The results were a clear indication that Iffraaj is an emerging sire of sires.

The Dalham Hall Stud resident, now 20 years old, took up stallion duties in 2007. Then, his resume included three Group 2 wins and a short-head second in the G1 July Cup. For 12 seasons, Iffraaj shuttled to Haunui Farm in New Zealand, where he sired the Group 1 winners Turn Me Loose (NZ), Gingernuts (NZ), Jon Snow (NZ) and Wyndspelle (NZ).

Overall, these horses are among Iffraaj’s 10 worldwide Group 1 winners, 41 Group winners and 147 stakes performers. Hardly done, the stallion is currently standing at Dalham Hall for £20,000 (AU$37,000).

In New Zealand, his sire sons are Jon Snow at Clearview Park, Turn Me Loose at Windsor Park, Wyndspelle at Grangewilliam Stud and Ribchester (Ire), who is shuttling to Haunui Farm. There is also his grandson Almanzor (Fr) shuttling to Cambridge Stud.

In Australia, Iffraaj’s only sire sons are Wootton Bassett, new to Coolmore this spring, and Jungle Cat (Ire) at Telemon Stud in Queensland.

Far-reaching legacy

Iffraaj’s 12 seasons shuttling to Haunui were supposed to begin in 2007 but for Equine Influenza (EI).

“He was due to come in the year of EI, and he subsequently ended up being European Champion First Season Sire,” said Mark Chitty, studmaster at Haunui. “So he wound up coming for the first time in 2008, and what he achieved here was fantastic.”

Iffraaj covered 130 mares in his first season in New Zealand. Over the course of 12 years shuttling, his largest book was 143 in 2010, and his smallest was 71 in 2014. He produced 874 live foals all up.

“He was a very aristocratic type of horse,” Chitty said. “He had a beautiful, Arab-type head and he was a big horse, a fast horse. He left colts and fillies, he left 2-year-olds and horses that have been able to sprint and stay. Now we’re starting to see the legacy of him as a sire of sires.”

The Longchamp results last weekend, with a pair of Group 1 winners by two different sire sons, cemented the faith that Chitty has.

“It was quite incredible that two of his sons left Group 1 winners,” he said. “Here in New Zealand he has been the broodmare sire of our Champion mare, Melody Belle, so his influence is going to be far-reaching for many years to come, so all I can say is thank God EI didn’t put us off all those years ago.”

He’s made it

The decision to call time on Iffraaj shuttling was made by Godolphin last year when a subtle shift in the horse’s behaviour told them he might have had enough. He had sired 26 Southern Hemisphere stakes winners.

“There was going to come a day when he wouldn’t come any more,” Chitty said.

“He was 19 at that time, and he’d done 12 years, which was the longest period of time that any horse had shuttled to New Zealand. So we knew it was coming, and when the team in England said the old boy needed to stay in one place, we were very respectful of that and thankful for the opportunities we’d had with him.”

Chitty said the Iffraaj legacy might well be one that is best appreciated in time.

“His progeny sold exceptionally well as yearlings, and they probably failed to deliver, especially in Australia,” the studmaster said. “Because he was a Champion First Season Sire, they were probably pushed a little bit, and they didn’t like that so didn’t perform.”

Iffraaj still had the New Zealand Filly of the Year in Fix (NZ) from his first crop, and Chitty said he waxed and waned through his early seasons.

“A lot of stallions tend to do that, they do a couple of hard seasons,” he said. “But what you’re actually breeding horses for is the finishing post, and along came Turn Me Loose and Gingernuts, and horses like them.”

Haunui Farm now has Ribchester filling Iffraaj’s shoes, and Chitty said the learning curve with Iffraaj might change the expectations around the progeny of the horse’s sire sons, and that goes for Wootton Bassett in Australia too.

“I think it will,” he said. “When you get these European bloodlines, the Coolmores and Darleys understand them really well. They intricately know the generations up there, but when they come to Australia or New Zealand, it can sometimes take a bit of time to work it out.

“I think Iffraaj has gone from a horse that was a little bit despised in the market place to a horse that can hold his head up high. So many stallions don’t make it, and we can safely say he has.”

Amazing parallels

In Australia, Wootton Bassett’s story has received plenty of attention, and the weekend’s results at Longchamp were perfect timing for the dual-hemisphere shuttler, who stands at Coolmore this spring for $71,500 (inc GST).

In Queensland, Dan Fletcher’s Telemon Stud stands the only other son of Iffraaj on duty in Australia, and Jungle Cat has plied his trade well since retiring in late 2018.

The horse’s first season was in 2019, where he covered 57 mares at a fee of $13,200 (inc GST). Last season, that figure jumped to 80, and Fletcher is expecting a similar book this spring. Jungle Cat was a winner of the G1 Sir Rupert Clarke S. in the Godolphin silks after a flourishing career in Europe with trainer Charlie Appleby.

“We had a relationship with Darley through standing Sidestep initially,” Fletcher said. “Sidestep was coming into his second season after siring a Golden Slipper winner, and I approached Alastair Pulford about letting us stand Jungle Cat.

“Darley was standing another son of Iffraaj (Ribchester) the season we launched Jungle Cat, and so the fact that they didn’t want a clash on their roster, combined with our success with Sidestep, encouraged them to work with us.”

Jungle Cat won close to $2.5 million during his racing career.

He was second in the G2 July S., G2 Gimcrack S. at York and G3 Meydan Sprint in Dubai. He won the G1 Al Quoz Sprint before the G1 Sir Rupert Clarke S. in 2015, and in the latter victory he lumped 54kg, the only horse to do that since Testa Rossa.

Jungle Cat wrapped up his career with a third behind Santa Ana Lane (Lope De Vega {Ire}) in the G1 VRC Classic, retiring to Telemon the following spring. Fletcher admitted he didn’t know a lot about the sireline at the time.

“When we first got him, we were trying to explain Iffraaj a bit, and it’s been amazing because over that period, Wootton Bassett has come along,” he said. “We knew Iffraaj was an exceptional stallion and we knew he’d work with Danehill, and we thought then that he’d be great for our genetics, but there’s no doubt he wasn’t on the tip of everyone’s tongue.”

Fletcher flagged the interest that has come for Wootton Bassett, and equally the money that came for the progeny of Almanzor at the sales this year.

“They’re real typey sort of animals, and they seem to be horses with a distinct structure, really striking with attractive heads,” he said. “Jungle Cat has that in common with them all as well, so it’s a fairly prepotent line.”

Fletcher said the market in which Jungle Cat sits is a competitive one, particularly in his corner of southeast Queensland.

“When you’ve got a horse of his absolute raw quality, and you can see that he’s from a sireline that is as successful as it is, he’s managing to really find his place in the market,” Fletcher said.

“And it’s not just that he’s getting good support. It’s the fundamental quality of the support which has been surprisingly strong, and the foals have been so good that people are coming back to him.”

Equally, Fletcher has taken immense confidence from the rags to riches story of Wootton Bassett.

“We take great inspiration from what Wootton Bassett has achieved, having started his career at a modest fee in France,” he said. “The Jungle Cat story has some amazing parallels.”