Now Gosden’s ‘fastest 2-year-old’ gives Aussie breeders access to a superstar son of Invincible Spirit

Shalaa is too good for a strong field in the G1 Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket in 2015. Photo:

It mattered little whether it was summer ground or soft, or whether the opposition were his own generation or older: Shalaa’s performances were for the most part of a similar high standard, the perfect example of raw speed harnessed to its best effect.

Shalaa’s retirement to Haras de Bouquetot in Normandy for the 2017 season was important for the industry on several levels. For one, a horse of his talent is a very welcome addition to the French stallion ranks. Left bereft not long ago by the deaths or retirements of Anabaa, Linamix, Bering, Highest Honor and Kendor, France has steadily clawed its way back to the attention of Europe’s elite breeders thanks to the achievements of Le Havre, Kendargent and Siyouni among others.

The retirement of such a French champion as Shalaa provided that movement with a further shot in the arm.

A liaison with Treve

Not only that, at a fee of €27,500, Shalaa was the most expensive stallion to retire to stud in Europe in 2017. As such, he has been been extremely well supported, covering the cream of Al Shaqab’s broodmare band such as Treve, Puggy, Twyla Tharp and Shotgun Gulch, as well as outside mares such as La Cressionniere.

Now Australian breeders will have the opportunity to access the son of Invincible Spirit through a shuttle arrangement with Arrowfield Stud.

Arrowfield are naturally well versed in the importance of 2yo speed - look no further than one of their stalwarts, Snitzel, who is on his way to surpassing the Australian record of 30 2yos winners in a season this year - and, in Shalaa, breeders not only have access to an unbeaten 2yo but one who also shares his sire, Invincible Spirit, with I Am Invincible, one of the most upwardly mobile Australian stallions of recent times.

Showcasing his dominance

Bred in Ireland by Castlefarm Stud, Shalaa was bought by Charlie Gordon-Watson on behalf of Al Shaqab Racing for 170,000gns from Clairemont Stud at Book 1 of the 2014 Tattersalls October Sale.

John Gosden took charge of the colt, who came to hand early enough to make his debut on Al Shaqab Lockinge day at Newbury in May 2015. Although the dogs were barking his name at the track that day, Shalaa was undone by greenness in the event itself, finishing adrift of the smart Birchwood. However, he made no mistake at Newmarket next time out when the easy winner of his maiden over six furlongs before taking the step up to G2 company in his stride with an authoritative win in the July Stakes.

By that stage, Shalaa had developed a consistent racing style to showcase his dominance. He liked to be prominent in his races and, with enough pace to do so, jockey Frankie Dettori was content to let him use his stride to burn off the opposition. Nowhere was this more evident than in his win in the G2 Richmond Stakes at the Qatar Goodwood Festival, when he was never challenged to score by two-and-three-quarters of a length from Tasleet.

It was proper summer racing ground at Goodwood that day, but his next assignment, the G1 Prix Morny at Deauville, represented quite a different test on much softer ground. Such a surface can compromise horses with the speed of Shalaa, but it ended up making little difference to colt, who made most of the running before stretching clear of the G2 Prix Robert Papin winner Gutaifan.

Pelvic injury

It was a similar story back at Newmarket for his final run of the year in the G1 Middle Park Stakes. Again bounced out of the stalls by Dettori, he made all for another good win, this time over the G2 Coventry Stakes winner Buratino.

There were hopes that Shalaa would have a productive sprint campaign at three but a pelvic injury suffered early on in his second season scuppered those plans and pushed his seasonal debut back to the G3 Bengough Stakes at Ascot in early October. Proving that he had lost none of his dash, Shalaa made light of the 370-day absence to inflict a cosy defeat over his older rivals without Dettori having to resort to the whip.

At that stage, Shalaa had racked up six consecutive victories, but it could have been that his Ascot performance off such a lengthy layoff took more out of him than originally thought. He made his final start in the QIPCO British Champions Sprint Stakes back at Ascot but was unable to land a blow, finishing well behind the winner The Tin Man.

Shalaa, however, will be remembered as a brilliant 2-year-old, and it’s very likely that he would have held high order among the sprinters had fate been kinder.

Reminiscent of Oasis Dream

That was evidently the opinion of Gosden, who compared him to his champion sprinter Oasis Dream following his win in the Middle Park Stakes. “Shalaa is very, very fast - the fastest 2-year-old I’ve trained,” he told reporters. “He has so much speed and has that [sprinter’s] build, so he reminds us all of Oasis Dream, who was not only champion 2-year-old but also champion sprinter at three.”

Shalaa shares his sire, Invincible Spirit, with the likes of Lawman, Mayson and Zebedee in Europe and I Am Invincible in Australia while his dam, the War Chant mare Ghurra, was a smart three-time winner who also ran third in the G3 Wilshire Handicap over a mile at Hollywood Park. In turn, she is a three-parts sister to another Middle Park Stakes winner in Hayil and from the immediate family of G1-placed 2yo Dragon Pulse and the American G1 winner Wild Rush, subsequently a G1-producing sire.

Overall, it’s an interesting background in that Shalaa boasts 3x3 inbreeding to Danzig via Invincible Spirit and War Chant as well as 4x4 to Sharpen Up and Doubly Sure via their sons Kris and Diesis.

Unsurprisingly, he has been extremely well supported in his first season at Haras de Bouquetot, where he stands alongside Olympic Glory, Planteur, Style Vendome and The Wow Signal.

The power of Danzig blood

Al Shaqab gave him the ultimate vote of confidence by sending him their dual Arc heroine Treve as well as last season’s G1 Prix Saint-Alary winner Jemayel, American G1 winner Shotgun Gulch and last year’s G2 Prix de Malleret heroine Al Wathna.

In recent weeks, it has also been announced that last year’s unbeaten Poule d’Essai des Pouliches and Prix de Diane heroine La Cressionniere is among his first book.

Among the proven producers, Al Shaqab’s Twyla Tharp, dam of The Fugue, who was purchased for 1,700,000gns in 2012, and Puggy, dam of dual Classic heroine Avenir Certain, stand out.

Those from outside clients include Straight Lass, dam of G1 winner Naaqoos and the exciting Straight Shooter, and Hambye, dam of G1 winner Marbye and granddam of Japanese 1,000 Guineas winner Marcellina.

Now, Shalaa is about the embark on the next stage of his career with a shuttle trip to Arrowfield Stud, where he will stand for A$33,000 (+GST).

Few studs are in a better position to advertise the power of Danzig blood than John Messara’s operation, which was once the shuttle destination of Danehill and later developed his son Redoute’s Choice to such good effect. Therefore it’s fitting that Arrowfield is to become the Southern Hemisphere base for this exceptionally fast horse, the latest exciting recruit from the Danzig line.

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