The sky could have been the limit for this treasured member of a lovingly nurtured family

Taraz: “It’s unfortunate that she didn’t get to be able to live long enough to show us how good she would have been,” says Garrett O’Rourke, Juddmonte’s general manager in the U.S. Coady photo

In the first few months of 2020, no light blazed brighter than Taraz. The imposing 3-year-old filly, a homebred for Prince Khalid bin Abdullah’s Juddmonte Farms, streaked through an undefeated three-race career, highlighted by an 11¼-length romp in the December 21 Letellier Stakes at Fair Grounds and a facile victory in the February 3 Martha Washington Stakes at Oaklawn Park. Sadly, the promising daughter of Into Mischief was euthanized on February 17 after fracturing her left front pastern during an Oaklawn workout.

That very same day, I had planned to speak to Garrett O’Rourke, Juddmonte’s general manager, about the farm’s rising star. When I reached out to O’Rourke, I expressed my sincerest condolences for his loss. Grief weighed down his normally light Irish lilt. Yet as we discussed the horse, I resolved to help show Taraz as a treasured member of a female family lovingly nurtured by the Prince and his team for years. 

Taraz’s third dam is 1997 Broodmare of the Year Slightly Dangerous, a cornerstone in Prince Khalid’s operation. Juddmonte continues to develop this family. O’Rourke shared of Taraz, “Hopefully there’s a silver lining to the cloud and hopefully something good will come out of the pedigree and maybe be as good as her in the future.”

A granddaughter of royalty

Like many of Juddmonte’s other foundation mares, from Toussaud to Hasili, Slightly Dangerous hails from one of the classiest families in the Stud Book. Her maternal granddam, Noblesse, galloped home ten lengths in front in the 1963 Epsom Oaks, which, according to trainer Paddy Pendergrast, she could easily have won by 20. That article’s writer suggested the talented filly might even have been able to best Relko in that year’s Epsom Derby.

The daughter of Mossborough earned championships at two (after defeating colts in the Timeform Gold Cup, now the Vertem Futurity) and three in her native England. Her only loss was a good third behind Exbury in the 1963 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. 

Even before joining Juddmonte in the 1990s, O’Rourke had revered Noblesse. 

“Obviously, growing up in Ireland with a lot of respect for Paddy Pendergrast and Noblesse and all that family, so it’s a family that I guess I have [had] familiarity with, even before I came to Juddmonte.” 

French-bred Noblesse raced for American Evelyn Olin. An avid sportswoman lauded in Sports Illustrated by Virginia Kraft - who went on to found Pin Oak Stud in Kentucky with eventual husband Charles Payson - Olin was married to entrepreneur and inventor John Olin. His homebred Cannonade conquered the 1974 Kentucky Derby, and Olin’s extensive connections, included Leslie Combs II, the master of Spendthrift Farm, who was always game to buy part of a good horse.

Indeed, Evelyn Olin and Combs bred nine stakes winners in partnership, as well as two more with friend John W Hanes II. The triumvirate of Johns — Olin, Hanes II, and Gaines — co-owned 1966 champion handicap horse Bold Bidder. Standing at Gainesway, Bold Bidder sired two Kentucky Derby winners, including Olin’s Cannonade. Combs organized numerous syndicates to buy top-class stallion prospects, including Nashua.

Noblesse was bred to Nashua and, in 1965, foaled Noblesse Oblige. That colt placed in three stakes races and sired eight stakes winners from 134 foals, a respectable six percent. His best runners included 1986 G1 Puerto Rico Futurity winner Noblesse Oil (in turn sire of Princesa de Oro, who took the 1996 edition of that race). In 1966, Noblesse produced a foal by Gallant Man; named Straight Arrow, he became another stakes-placed winner, but sired only one stakes winner of his own. In 1967, Noblesse produced her third consecutive stakes-placed runner, a Ribot filly named Fughetta.

In 1969, Noblesse produced a full sister to Fughetta for Olin and Combs; eventually named Carezza, she one-upped her sibling by taking the 1972 G3 Nell Gwyn Stakes in England. In 1970, Noblesse issued a filly by Spendthrift’s Raise A Native. Given the name Where You Lead, the chestnut annexed the 1973 G3 Musidora Stakes for owner Alan Clore. Noblesse had captured the Musidora more than a decade earlier; keeping with the pattern, Where You Lead also finished second in the Epsom Oaks. Other top-flight tail-female descendants of Where You Lead included G1-winning 2-year-olds Yellow Agate and Scenic

Following Where You Lead

At the 1981 Fasig-Tipton November sale, Where You Lead sold for $1 million to Ireland’s British Bloodstock Agency, on behalf of Coolmore/Castle Hyde. By that time, she’d already foaled G3 winners I Will Follow (by Herbager) and Slightly Dangerous (by Roberto, who stood at Gainesway). For her part, Slightly Dangerous took the 1981 Duke of Edinburgh Stakes at two for Clore, adding the G3 Fred Darling Stakes at three; like her dam and granddam, she placed in the Epsom Oaks. 

Not long before that last race, Abdullah purchased Slightly Dangerous. After her retirement, he began reaping the rewards of breeding her to the first generation of his top homebreds. “She was a nice mare to be around,” recalled O’Rourke. “Something that I’ve always said about these great broodmares is they were as much recessive as they were dominant and she definitely fit that mold. She was a very, very good-looking mare, strong and a lot of quality, and probably had a lot of Roberto look to her — because she doesn’t quite look like Where You Lead — but very good bone, great joints, great feet.” 

Slightly Dangerous was bred to Known Fact, who gave Abdullah his first Classic win, in the 1980 English 2000 Guineas, after first-place finisher Nureyev was disqualified. Slightly Dangerous yielded a dark bay colt in 1985. The foal was given the clever name of Warning. In 1987, Warning streaked through his juvenile season undefeated, including back-to-back G2 wins. The following spring, he suffered his first defeat by finishing second in the G3 Craven Stakes, but bounced back with two more wins, including the 1988 G1 Sussex Stakes. 

Warning started three more times that year in three different countries, finishing a solid second to the great Miesque in the 1988 G1 Prix Jacques Le Marois at Deauville, capturing the G1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot, and running 11th in the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Churchill Downs. He failed to regain his full form at four, but did add another victory at Ascot, this time in the Queen Anne Stakes (then a G2).

Retired to Abdullah’s Banstead Manor Farm in England, the multiple champion sired 51 stakes winners and more than $62.3 million in progeny earnings. He was exported to the Japan Racing Association in 1996 and died in 2000 at the JBBA’s Shizunai Stud. His best runners include G1 winners Diktat, Charnwood Forest, Piccolo and Give Notice

A Quest for greatness

In the early days of Juddmonte, James Delahooke was key to helping acquire premium bloodstock. A handsome chestnut caught his eye at the 1982 Fasig-Tipton Select July sale. The yearling colt was a son of the brilliantly fast Blushing Groom and out of the aforementioned I Will Follow, a half-sister to Slightly Dangerous. Although Juddmonte didn’t yet own Slightly Dangerous, the filly had already won a stakes at two. So Delahooke purchased the youngster from breeder Clore for $950,000. 

While this was before O’Rourke’s time at Juddmonte, he had nothing but admiration for the farm’s acquisition strategies. He said of Rainbow Quest, “And he obviously was one of Prince Khalid’s first really, really top-class runners and following into that with a mare with her record was a pretty easy decision, I’m sure, and one that was never regretted, based on what she means to the operation, but something that Prince Khalid did with great foresight to buy into these top pedigrees and make sure that the broodmare band had a foundation of these top pedigrees. 

“And I think again Prince Khalid had a good plan and it’s worked out very well for him.”

This purchase turned out to be a sage one, though Rainbow Quest’s first two seasons were plagued by hard luck amid a strong crop.

At two, he ran El Gran Senor to a half-length in the 1983 G1 Dewhurst Stakes, and that son of Northern Dancer defeated him again at three in the Irish Derby and English 2000 Guineas. Future leading sires Darshaan and Sadler’s Wells beat him in the Prix du Jockey Club, while eventual Gainesway stud Lear Fan trumped Rainbow Quest in the Craven Stakes. In his own right, Rainbow Quest managed a victory in the G2 Great Voltigeur Stakes.

With rivals El Gran Senor and Sadler’s Wells retiring at the end of 1984, Rainbow Quest was free to shine at four in 1985. His season was highlighted by triumphs in the G1 Coronation Cup and the Arc (the latter due to disqualification), plus several good placings. He stood most of his career at Banstead Manor and became a top-class sire and conduit for the Blushing Groom sireline. 

Among Rainbow Quest’s 107 career stakes winners are Quest For Fame, a winner of the 1990 Epsom Derby who won two Graded stakes in California; Fiji, winner of the 1998 U.S. Eclipse Award for older grass filly; and Suamarez, who replicated his sire’s win in the Arc (in 1990). 

The leading British broodmare sire in 2003, Rainbow Quest died in 2007 after colic surgery. His daughters produced the likes of Epsom Derby winners Kris Kin and North Light, plus 2005 2000 Guineas victor Footstepsinthesand and Arlington Million winner Powerscourt.

Back to Danger

Returning to Slightly Dangerous, she was then sent to grand runner and sire Shirley Heights. The first foal, Shirley Valentine, only earned one stakes placing, but foaled 2005 G3 Prix La Rochette victor Multiplex, who earned his victory by disqualification, and 1998 G3 Curragh Cup winner Memorise. Shirley Valentine became the granddam of Index Linked, winner of an Australian G3, and multiple Group winner Await The Cause, and G1-placed Putney Bridge; and third dam of 2018 G1 South Australian Derby winner Leicester, stakes winner Aqlaam Vision, and G3 winner Ollie Olga. Shirley Valentine’s full brother was Deploy, who finished third in the 1990 Irish Derby. 

In 1990, Slightly Dangerous produced a colt by one of Abdullah’s first world-class runners, Dancing Brave. That son of Lyphard’s phenomenal 3-year-old season included G1 victories in the 2000 Guineas, Eclipse Stakes, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes, and the Arc. The Dancing Brave-Slightly Dangerous colt received the imperious moniker of Commander In Chief. He lived up to his impressive lineage by tallying both the 1993 Epsom and Irish Derbys. 

Despite only racing for one season, he earned a Cartier Award as top sophomore colt. That year, Commander In Chief was sold to Japan for about £4 million and earned leading first-crop sire honors there in 1997. He sired 14 cumulative stakes winners and total progeny earnings of over $118 million. 

One full sister to Commander In Chief, Stiletta, became the granddam of G winner Plot Twist, while another full sister, Totality, ran second in the 1994 G3 Lancashire Oaks and became the granddam of 2014 Scottish Champion Hurdle winner Cockney Sparrow

Slightly Dangerous stamped her foals in the mold of their talented sires. 

O’Rourke recalled, “Everything about her was just rock solid-looking there, but then, when you look at her offspring, she threw very, very varied types, and Commander In Chief was a great, big, strong horse. Warning looked more like Known Fact, a small, black horse who also ran like Known Fact as a 2-year-old, champion miler as 3-year-old, whereas Commander In Chief had the stamina of Dancing Brave to run a mile and a half.” 

He added, “So I think she had that ability to allow a stallion to somewhat dominate her, but at the same time you look at the achievements of all of her offspring and they were all talented. They were all very sound horses and they’ve all gone on to become successful, the mares being successful broodmares as well, and the family continues to live on.”

Even more Dangerous

In 1993, she foaled Dushyantor, a colt by Coolmore’s superstar sire Sadler’s Wells. He became a multiple graded/group winner in Europe and North America and later led the Chilean sire list a few times. In 1994 and 1995, Slightly Dangerous yielded two talented fillies by Danzig: Yashmak, winner of the 1997 G1 Flower Bowl Invitational Handicap, and G1-placed Jibe

O’Rourke described Yashmak as having “tremendous muscle and [being] strong”, adding, “Jibe was even smaller, but again a Danzig type.” Yashmak foaled Full Mast, who won the 2015 G1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere after Gleneagles’ disqualification, and stakes winner Sound Of Nature (by Chester House). 

As a result, Slightly Dangerous won the coveted title of 1997 Kentucky Broodmare of the Year. 

Though Jibe didn’t produce any stakes winners herself, her Point Given filly Sharp Point foaled New Zealand stakes winner Flavigny (by Mastercraftsman). And her winning Empire Maker filly Silk Route produced Taraz to the cover of Into Mischief

Of Taraz, who boasted Empire Maker’s height, O’Rourke said, “She had a lot of power similar to what Slightly Dangerous was, but she had that speed and typiness of Into Mischief.”

Talented Taraz will live large in O’Rourke’s memory. 

He remembered fondly, “Well, obviously, she was very highly regarded before she even ran and she started to show some ability at a level probably beyond what all of the rest of the 2-year-olds we had that year are capable of. And she did it with her ears pricked and very easily and obviously she only got to run three times, but every time she ran she won like she was so superior, and I think the sky was the limit for her.”

The legacy lives on

He added, “So it’s unfortunate that she didn’t get to be able to live long enough to show us how good she would have been. But I think of the family similarities, I think one of the beauties of the family is that when they were good, they were Grade or Group 1 horses, and definitely Taraz looked like she was on the way to being that type.”

Slightly Dangerous was returned to Sadler’s Wells, and foaled the aptly named Return. Return foaled Address Unknown, a son of Oasis Dream who won stakes on the flat at Chester in the UK and a hurdle stake at Belmont Park, and To Sender, a stakes-winning son of King’s Best. 

Her final foal was a full brother to Yashmak and Jibe, the well-named Last Envoy. Alas, he remained unraced. 

Slightly Dangerous was euthanized at age 20 at Banstead Manor due to hind-leg and pituitary gland issues. Her legacy lives on, however, through her descendants. 

O’Rourke reflected, “I think, with the best plans in the world, you don’t really know what [direction] a family is going to take you in and obviously Commander In Chief ended up in Japan. Warning, we ended up with some mares by Warning; we ended up with some good runners out of Yashmak, and Jibe obviously produced us Silk Route, who’s the dam of Taraz.

“Some of the mares that we pass by over the years, and sold on, became good producers in their own rights and, looking at the pedigree, they’ve been successful in New Zealand, in Hong Kong, and far afield, South Africa. It’s been one of those pedigrees that I think you can put them anywhere and they’re class horses, no matter where you put them.”

Juddmonte doesn’t own many fillies tracing to Slightly Dangerous anymore. “Unfortunately, we’ve run very, very thin of them,” O’Rourke said, “because age-wise we’ve run out of some of the lines and mares like Jibe and Yashmak and Shirley Valentine.” 

But the horizons are still bright; Taraz’s dam, Silk Route, has a yearling Flintshire filly and a 2-year-old Into Mischief colt, and is booked back to Into Mischief for 2020. 

O’Rourke mused, “We might have to keep the Flintshire now we’re running out of family members, female family members.” But, whatever the next chapter holds for the family of Slightly Dangerous, fans can rest assured knowing that her descendants and their memories will be cherished.

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