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Morshdi Beats the Home Defence

by Nigel Pullen

The first weekend in September 2001 proved a good one for the Brits in Germany. Firstly, the English national soccer team defeated Germany in the important World Cup qualifying game 5-1 in Munich, and then, the following day at Baden Baden, the English trained three-year-old Morshdi beat the home defence of Boreal and Sabiango to score in the fourth leg of the Emirates World Series, the Grosser Preis Von Baden (G1). It was Morshdi's second Group 1 success of the season as he had earlier won the Derby Italiano, before finishing second to Galileo in the Irish Derby.

Morshdi's fourth dam, Courtessa, was an unraced twin, by the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner Supreme Court, but speed was the trademark of her family as she traced tail female to the 'flying filly' Mumtaz Mahal. Courtessa's full brother Test Case was a speedy juvenile, winning the Gimcrack Stakes before standing as a stallion in New Zealand, while one of her half brothers, Gentle Art (by Whistler), was placed second in that event.

The pedigree of Courtessa had plenty of positives, for her dam, Tessa Gillian was a full sister to one important stallion in Royal Charger, and a three-quarter sister to another in Nasrullah. In addition, Tessa Gillian was a very close genetic relative to Supreme Court's dam Forecourt. The latter was by Fair Trial (by Fairway - Lady Juror) out of Overture by Solario's son Dastur. This nicely balanced Tessa Gillian, for her grandsire Pharos was a full brother to Fairway, and her dam Sun Princess was by Solario out of a daughter of Lady Juror's half sister Mumtaz Mahal. All this gave Courtessa a very strong background of the full brother and sister Sainfoin and Sierra.

As she was unraced Courtessa was covered as a three-year-old, and the resulting filly named Mysticism (by The Phoenix) was one of her five winners. The best of her offspring was the sprinter D'Urberville (by Klairon), a ten race winner whose victories included the Norfolk Stakes, King's Stand Stakes, as well as second in both Prix Robert Papin and Dewhurst Stakes. He was still racing as an eight-year-old when he scored in the Prix Du Petit Couvert (G3).

The mating between Klairon and Courtessa certainly had much to recommend it, remembering that Courtessa had the full brothers Fairway and Pharos both crossed with Solario. This was reinforced by Klairon's sire Clarion III, whose maternal grandsire Colorado was a three-quarter genetic relative to both Pharos and Fairway, by virtue of being by Phalaris out of a Chaucer mare. In addition to this, Clarion III was 3x3 to Gay Crusader, whose background of Bayardo, St Frusquin, Springfield, Galopin and Hermit closely matched Solario.

The Klairon/Courtessa was repeated in 1968 and resulted in the birth of Morshdi's third dam, Klairessa, the following spring. Three years later, Courtessa visited Klairon's son Lorenzaccio, and while the resultant filly, named Lora, failed to win, she did breed the English 1,000 Guineas heroine On The House (by Be My Guest) and become the ancestress of another Group 1 winner in Rebecca Sharp (by Machiavellian).

Klairessa was unraced as a juvenile, and managed to win a minor six furlongs race from five starts at three. At stud she bred only four winners, but each were decidedly useful. The first, Great Klaire (by Great Nephew), won three times in Australia, where she was runner-up in a Group 2 event, before becoming the granddam of three Group 1 winners by Star Way in Bonanova, Fraternity and Telesta. The second, Khedive (by Habat) also scored three times, and the third, Knesset (by General Assembly), tasted success in the Ballyogan Stakes (G3) as a five-year-old.

However easily the best of this quartet was Morshdi's granddam Habibti (by Habitat). Habibti was fairly typical of Habitat's stock, a heavy-topped body supported by not the best of forelegs. However, less than perfect conformation did not stop most of the Habitats running fast. Habibti was no exception, and she was to develop into one of the best sprinters of recent times. She won all her three starts as a juvenile, culminating with victories in the Lowther Stakes (G2) and Moyglare Stud Stakes (G1). The following season began with classic aspirations, but after defeats in the Fred Darling Stakes and both English and Irish 1000 Guineas, she reverted to sprinting with devastating results.

Habibti's new vocation began with an easy victory in the July Cup (G1) over her permanent shadow that season, the very fast filly Soba. It was a theme that was to be regularly repeated as Habibti won her remaining three starts, the Nunthorpe Stakes (G2), Haydock Park Sprint Cup (G2) and Prix de L'Abbaye de Longchamp (G1) in convincing style. The Haydock Park win was particularly noteworthy being gained by seven lengths.

Unlike many sprinters Habibti did not burn off her rivals with blinding early pace, but used her speed to cut down the opposition in the final furlong. She remained in training at four, and although winning her first two races, including the King's Stand Stakes (G1) at Royal Ascot, never quite regained the brilliance of the previous summer in her final four outings which resulted in a couple of second places.

Habibti's pedigree was a real gem. For starters, her sire, Habitat, descended tail male from Royal Charger, who was none other than a full brother to Habibti's third dam Tessa Gillian, making Habibti 4x3 to the pair of full siblings. Since Royal Charger was a three-quarter brother to Nasrullah, this is almost the repeat pattern found in the successful sire Kalamoun; 3x3 to Nasrullah and his full sister Rivaz.

The relationship between Habitat's grandsire Turn-to and Habibti's dam Klairessa is well worth looking at for it went much further than the Royal Charger/Tessa Gillian connection. It also brought together Turn-to's granddam Lavendula II (by Pharos out of Sweet Lavender) and Klairessa's sire Klairon. The latter traced tail female to Sweet Lavender too, in addition to being by Clarion III (maternal grandsire Colorado a three quarter genetic relative to Pharos). In fact Turn-to was 3x3 to Pharos, while Klairessa was 4x5x4 to sources of this same Phalaris/Chaucer cross. All this made Turn-to and Klairessa three-quarter genetic relatives, and they appeared 3x1 in Habibti, giving her a very close-knit pedigree pattern.

There must have been great hopes when Habibti retired to the paddocks as a five-year-old, but in truth, she proved an abject failure as a broodmare. Sixteen years and twelve foals later, her offspring had mustered just a single win between them, courtesy of Desert Lily (by Green Desert) scoring in a five furlongs event in Ireland as a juvenile.

It is difficult to find a reason for this lack of success, since she visited a wide selection of stallions ranging from classic types like Kris and Sadler's Wells to sprinter/milers including Dayjur, Green Desert and Woodman; many with apparently compatible pedigree patterns. Perhaps she will be one of those mares who eventually wield more influence through her daughters and granddaughters, with further reinforcement of her strong genetic background.

Ironically, Habibti's racing and breeding record were in stark contrast to her half sister Eight Carat (by Pieces Of Eight). The latter was a far from talented racehorse, never managing to finish neared than fifth in her racing days in England, but when exported to Australia in 1981, she soon threatened to become one of the matriarchs of the turf. Five of her foals, namely Diamond Lover, Kaapstad, Marquise, Mouawad and Octagonal, became Group 1 winners, and she is now the ancestress of other top class Southern Hemisphere performers such as Commands, Danewin, Dangerous, Peruzzi, Tristalove and Viscount.

Our interest in Habibti's offspring focuses on her 1988 produce sired by Sadler's Wells, named Reem Albaraari. A 510,000 guineas yearling she was to become the dam of Morshdi. The nearest Reem Albaraari came to recording a win was on her racecourse debut, finishing second in a six furlongs event at Doncaster, only to be disqualified for interference and placed third, a position she occupied in her other start as a juvenile. The following season she could manage no better than a fourth place in a nine furlongs maiden from four starts.

To date, Morshdi has been Reem Albaraari's only winner; a fact reflected in the meagre 16,000 guineas that it cost to purchase her in foal to Vettori as an eleven-year-old. However, Reem Albaraari's pedigree certainly had plenty going for it. For starters, her sire Sadler's Wells introduced a further strain of Turn-to, to reinforce Habibti's 3x1 cross of Turn-to and his three-quarter genetic relative Klairessa. As a bonus, Sadler's Well's also provided Djebel who just happened to be the great grandsire of Klairessa. Furthermore the pattern in Habibti of both tail male (Turn-to) and tail female (Klairessa) ancestors being closely related individuals was compounded in Reem Albaraari via Northern Dancer and Tessa Gillian. Whilst, not such close genetic relatives as Turn-to and Klairessa, both had Nearco and Gainsborough close up in combination with either Mahmoud or his three-quarter sister Mumtaz Begum.

Moving on now to Morshdi  himself, we find that he is a son Slip Anchor. On the race track Slip Anchor kept up the tradition of his sire (Shirley Heights) and grandsire (Mill Reef) by winning the Epsom Derby. He obtained this victory by seven lengths over Law Society, making every yard of the running in the process, and thus equalling the grandfather-father-son chain of success that has never been exceeded in the 220 years history of the race.

At stud, Slip Anchor has done well siring fifteen group winners to date, including three Group 1 scorers in addition to Morshdi, namely Posidonas, Slicious and English Oaks and St. Leger heroine User Friendly. Interestingly, Slicious is out of a mare by Northfields, the latter being a half brother to Habibti's sire Habitat.

In the context of Morshdi's pedigree, the key strain provided by Slip Anchor was almost certainly that of his grandsire Mill Reef, for he had strong genetic links to both Sadler's Wells and Habitat, the respective sires of Morshdi's dam and granddam. Mill Reef's sire Never Bend was by Nasrullah out of Lalun, breeding which made him a very close relative to Sadler's Wells' maternal grandsire Bold Reason, for the later was a grandson of Royal Charger (Nasrullah's three-quarter brother) out of Lalun. Mill Reef himself was out of a Princequillo mare, so his Nasrullah/Princequillo cross actually mirrored that of Habitat's sire Sir Gaylord, who was by Turn-to (by Royal Charger) out of a Princequillo mare.

It is worth noting that Princequillo's maternal grandsire Papyrus was a source of a son strain of Sainfoin, which balanced the strong concentrations of Sierra, and of daughter strains of her full brother Sainfoin that were so prevalent in Habibti's genetic background.

Bringing together this trio of closely related individuals, namely Sadler's Wells, Never Bend and Sir Gaylord, has proved a fertile source of Group winners; other Group 1 winners exhibiting this combination are Beat Hollow, Indiscreet Fantasy, Kutub, Medaaly, Porto Roca and Universal Prince. Given that Reem Albaraari was 5x4 Turn-to, it is of more than passing interest to see that Slip Anchor proved a strain of Hard Ridden. Both Turn-to and Hard Ridden traced tail-mare to Pharos, and both were out of Admiral Drake mares. Perhaps it is not solely the doubling-up of the mare Lalun, but in fact Lalun backed up by the relationship between Turn-to and Hard Ridden, that has made the Sadler's Wells/Shirley Heights cross such a success.

One final interesting genetic relationship found in Morshdi was that between Shirley Height's third dam Blue Cross and Morshdi's fourth dam Courtessa. Both had Fairway close up, and while Blue Cross provided King Salmon (by a son of The Tetrarch out of a Malva) and Doublure (Bachelor's Double/Hurry On), Courtessa balanced this with Mumtaz Begum (by King Salmon's half brother Blenheim II out of a mare by The Tetrarch) and Precipitation (Hurry On/Bachelor's Double).

Morshdi will aim to further his conquest of Europe in next month's Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp.

September 16, 2001. Copyright by Nigel Pullen 2001.