Why breeders just love Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile hero Tamarkuz

‘Total package’: Tamarkuz (Mike Smith) winning the Las Vegas Breeders’ Cup Mile at Santa Anita. Photo: Alex Evers/Eclipse Sportswire/Breeders’ Cup

N0 fewer than 32 stallions are new to Kentucky this year. Yet, despite the numbers, few can boast the type of international profile of last year’s G1 Las Vegas Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Tamarkuz.

Here is a horse who thrived within a series of different racing jurisdictions, one who progressed quietly in Europe before more than holding his own in elite company in Dubai and America. Over the course of five seasons, he won eight of 20 races and banked over $1.8 million, and although his Breeders’ Cup win arrived at the end of his 6-year-old season, it’s worth remembering so did that of his sire, Speightstown, who won the Breeders’ Cup Sprint back in 2004.

Now Tamarkuz is about to embark on his second career at Shadwell Farm in Kentucky, alongside established residents Daaher and Albertus Maximus. The first incoming stallion to the farm since Albertus Maximus retired in 2013, Tamarkuz has been priced at $12,500, a figure reflective of the competitive environment within Kentucky.

Two generations of breeding

“Breeders love him,” says Greg Clarke, farm manager of Shadwell in Kentucky. “He is the total package - a lovely, correct and well-balanced quality individual with great presence and a stallion’s pedigree. With Lemon Drop Kid on the dam’s side [as damsire], he should get dirt and turf runners also.”

Tamarkuz represents two generations of breeding by John Gunther and his daughter Tanya, of Glennwood Farm, as a son of Without You Babe, who was bred by the Gunthers out of one of their foundation mares, Marozia. Marozia foaled three stakes winners at Glennwood, led by G1 winner Stay Thirsty, a black-type sire with his first crop of 2yos in 2016.

Sold to Shadwell Estate Company for $325,000 as a yearling, Tamarkuz won three of his six starts in England for Saeed bin Suroor, including a pair of races at two, before heading to Dubai, where he joined top UAE trainer Musabah Al Mheiri.

While his progress initially stalled as connections worked to address the colt’s aversion to the starting gate, the Tamarkuz that ultimately returned was an improved performer, particularly when switched to dirt. He rocketed up the ranks during the 2015 season at Meydan, running up a sequence of four victories, including a pair of G3 races en route to a win in the G2 Godolphin Mile.

Highest Beyer figure

Later, he joined Kiaran McLaughlin in the U.S., for whom he ran second in this year’s G1 Forego Stakes before signing off his career in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.

That Santa Anita Breeders’ Cup win, in which he defeated G1 winner Gun Runner by three-and-a-half lengths with other G1 winners Dortmund and Runhappy well in arrears, was by far the best performance of his career and earned him a Beyer figure of 107, the highest mark achieved during the year in a two-turn dirt mile race. It was also a victory that prompted Shadwell’s Kentucky arm to add him to their roster.

“We were waiting for that elusive G1 win,” says Clarke, “and no better place to achieve it than the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. The fact that he was a 6-year-old also made sense to retire him there and then.

“It’s very competitive. There are 32 new stallions in Kentucky alone this season. We wanted to start him off as attractively as we could [at $12,500] to give breeders every opportunity to maximize their investment.”

Tamarkuz is slated to cover ten young mares belonging to Sheikh Hamdan, including several from his powerful Height Of Fashion and Shadayid families. Clarke also reports that he has been well received with outside breeders.

Daaher showing promise

Also gaining outside recognition is his stud-mate Daaher. The son of Awesome Again, who won the G1 Cigar Mile for Shadwell, has never covered large numbers, his most productive season coming in 2014, when his book numbered 51 mares. Yet eight stakes horses have emerged out of a group of 68 foals aged three and above, among them G2 winner Gyspy Robin, the leading product of a first crop that comprised just five foals.

Last week, another stakes winner was added to the list when Shadwell’s homebred Takrees closed late to take the Interborough Stakes at Aqueduct; she hails from Daaher’s 2013 crop of 12 foals.

It’s safe to say that Tamarkuz won’t be operating from such a difficult level. Few Breeders’ Cup races have been won with such authority as last year’s Dirt Mile and his retirement to Shadwell Kentucky, once home to an array of European and North American G1 winners, has provided the outfit with a welcome uplift.

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