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Rule The World wins 2016 Grand National

The win of RULE THE WORLD in the Grand National has enabled his owner Gigginstown House Stud to emulate Dorothy Paget in having owned the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner and Grand National winner in the same year. (Gigginstown’s DON COSSACK won at Cheltenham last month, while Miss Paget secured the double when Golden Miller won both races in 1934). If Gigginstown House Stud can now own a Derby winner, it would join Raymond Guest in having owned winners of the Gold Cup, Grand National and Derby, races Guest took with L’Escargot (in 1970 and ‘71), L’Escargot (in 1975) and SIR IVOR (in 1968). Such a treble represents a terrific achievement – as does the double now recorded by Rule The World’s sire SULAMANI, who has the rare distinction of being responsible both for a Grand National winner and a British Classic winner, writes John Berry.

It is somewhat ironic that Sulamani should hold this rare distinction because the general assessment of his stud career would be that it has not been gloriously successful. However, the bare fact of this mighty double suggests that he is and shall remain a stallion worthy of respect and consideration.

It is possible that Sulamani is the first stallion to have completed this notable double, and he is almost certainly the first in the past century to have done so. The last time a stallion came close appears to have been 1953 when the Grand National was taken by the Vincent O’Brien-trained Early Mist, whose sire BRUMEUX had previously supplied a British Classic runner-up (1944 St Leger second BOREALIS). The Classic leg of Sulamani’s double also came in the St Leger, his first-crop son MASTERY having taken that race in 2009.

Fittingly for a horse who has gone on to make a notable mark as a stallion under National Hunt rules, Sulamani made his debut in April 2002 behind another horse has progressed to become a good sire of jumpers: LE FOU, who is now responsible for the likes of 2014 Rowland Meyrick Chase winner DOLATULO. In the spring of 2002, Le Fou was a very interesting racing prospect as his half-brother MONTJEU had recently won 11 races including the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes, the Prix du Jockey-Club and Irish Derby. Sulamani was also a very interesting prospect as his dam SOUL DREAM had previously been represented by a horse almost as good as Montjeu: DREAM WELL, winner in 1998 of the Prix du Jockey-Club and Irish Derby.

Soul Dream was one of the most distinguished mares at the Niarchos Family’s Haras de Fresnay le Buffard, formerly the stud of M. Marcel Boussac. Hopes were thus high for Sulamani when he joined Pascal Bary’s stable as a two-year-old in 2001. As both sides of his pedigree suggested that his forte would be racing over middle distances at the ages of three and beyond, it was no disappointment that he did not run at two. His debut (fourth to Le Fou over 2000m at Longchamp in the first week of April 2002) was very pleasing, and things got better and better thereafter. He won his next four races, all over 2400m, taking consecutively the Prix Sanctus at Maisons-Laffitte, the Prix l’Avre at Chantilly, the Group One Prix du Jockey-Club at Chantilly (beating ACT ONE by one and a half lengths) and the Group Two Prix Niel at Longchamp. His final run of the year was equally good: second in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, beaten three quarters of a length by the surprising winner MARIENBARD, with the likes of High Chaparral, ISLINGTON, AQUARELLISTE, ANABAA BLUE and FALBRAV behind him.

Following the success of SAKHEE in 2001, Marienbard’s victory in that ‘Arc’ gave Godolphin its second consecutive triumph in the great race. Sheikh Mohammed (who had previously won it with a horse whom he raced in his own name, the 1994 winner CARNEGIE) naturally seemed keen to make it a treble. The best way of maximising Godolphin’s chance of doing so was obvious: Sulamani seemed to have the potential to be even better as a four-year-old, so the Sheikh bought him in what was presumably a multi-million-dollar private transaction, adding him to the Godolphin fold under Saeed bin Suroor’s care.

Sulamani made a perfect start to his stint of carrying the royal blue livery, kicking off his four-year-old campaign with a defeat of ANGE GABRIEL in the Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan in March 2003. Thierry Thulliez had ridden him in all his starts for Bary’s stable, but Frankie Dettori was Godolphin’s jockey and he naturally took the ride at Meydan. He remained the horse’s regular rider, although Kerrin McEvoy, Jerry Bailey and David Flores had the mount once each.

The rest of Sulamani’s career can be summed up simply. He continued to run through the rest of 2003 and throughout 2004 and was so good, so tough and so genuine that he never once ran badly. However, the common theme running through his string of excellent performances was a nagging suspicion that he might have had the potential to do even better. He rarely looked well (journalists and TV presenters took to referring to him as ‘the flying toast-rack’) and he often raced as if something was hurting him, carrying his head awkwardly and looking generally uncomfortable. Although he is now in maturity reportedly 16:1 hh, in his racing days he never appeared to be a big horse - but his heart was clearly massive. He was so genuine that he managed to put together a mighty record despite seemingly not being in peak condition. Ultimately he ended his career in a blaze of glory as an autumn five-year-old with a Group/Grade One double. Few top-class horses in the modern era have consistently shown such courage in adversity, and few have better deserved the accolade, ‘tough, genuine and consistent’.

The writing began to appear on the wall for Sulamani when he was a beaten odds-on favourite on his first start since returning to Europe from Dubai in the spring of 2003, finishing only fourth to Ange Gabriel in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud. However, he ran better next time when second of 12 in a vintage edition of the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot, beaten only by the Irish Derby winner ALAMSHAR with Derby winner KRIS KIN in third. Wins in America in the Arlington Million and the Turf Classic Invitational Stakes at Belmont followed before his season ended with a slightly disappointing fifth behind HIGH CHAPARRAL, JOHAR and Falbrav in a thrilling race for the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Santa Anita.

Disappointingly, Sulamani was a beaten favourite on each of his first two starts as a five-year-old, finishing fourth to Rakti in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot and second to BANDARI in the Princess of Wales’s Stakes at Newmarket, a race he ought to have won easily if at his best. Better, though was to follow in the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot when he finished third to his bang-in-form stablemate DOYEN (who had broken the track record over the course and distance when taking the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot the previous month) and the US-trained HARD BUCK. Happily, Sulamani’s final two races yielded two mighty triumphs when he landed the Juddmonte International at York (beating NORSE DANCER, who now stands alongside him at Yorton Farm, and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe hero BAGO) and the Canadian International at Woodbine, ridden by Frankie Dettori both times.

Sulamani clearly represented a very interesting stallion prospect when he retired to Dalham Hall Stud as a six-year-old in 2005. However, the drawback, of course, was that he ticked none of the boxes required by the mass of ‘commercial’ breeders. He had not even run as a two-year-old, never mind won at that age. He had won six Group/Grade One races, but had never won at less than 10 furlongs. He was a half-brother to a champion, but that champion had been a 2400m performer. He was by a top-class stallion, but that stallion (1993 Prix du Jockey-Club winner HERNANDO) had been a 2400m star himself and had then made his name by siring top-class middle- and long-distance horses. His dam was also by a top-class stallion (ALLEGED) but, again, one who was synonymous with middle- and long-distance stock. The fact that Sulamani was unjustly going to be a ‘hard sell’ for Darley’s nominations team is indicated that his first-season fee was as low as £7,000, a paltry sum for a horse of his record, pedigree and proven toughness and class.

It did indeed prove hard to attract mares to Sulamani. He spent three seasons at Dalham Hall before being relocated to Haras du Logis in France, where he spent another three seasons. His final term there, in 2010, saw him covering for 5,000 euros, but even at that figure he was struggling for patronage. The result was that he was removed from the Darley roster and relocated to Yorton Stud Farm in Shropshire, re-branded as a National Hunt sire. There he remains, and is currently covering at a fee of £2,500.

It must have been hard to swallow for the Darley team that it proved difficult to interest the bloodstock community in Sulamani, particularly bearing in mind that his first crop contained Mastery, a Classic winner in two countries in 2009 by virtue of his victories in the Derby Italiano in Rome and the St Leger at Doncaster. The following year Mastery added another Group One victory to his record by taking the Hong Kong Vase.

Disappointingly, Sulamani has not sired any more European horses of the calibre of Mastery, although his several stints of dual-hemisphere shuttling to Brazil yielded several very good horses including GOING SOMEWHERE and GANESH. The former was a Grade One winner as a three-year-old in the Gran Premio Internacional Carlos Pellegrini over 2400m at San Isidro before setting out on an international odyssey which saw him Group One placed in France (when trained by David Smaga) and Grade Two placed in California from Neil Drysdale’s barn. Going Somewhere’s good runs also included a very good ninth of 17 in Treve’s first Arc, and fourth of nine, beaten only four and a half lengths, behind Orfevre in the Prix Niel. Ganesh scored at Grade One level over 2400m in Argentina in 2014 before heading to California, where he was Grade Two placed. (In fact, Ganesh and Going Somewhere were Grade Two-placed there simultaneously, finishing second and third in the Charles Whittingham Stakes at Santa Anita last year). Sulamani’s other Brazilian-bred stock include 2012 Grade One Grande Premio Jockey Club de Sao Paulo winner CONCILIUM and 2012 Grade One Grande Premio Sao Paulo winner INVICTUS, as well as GAS TOTAL, who was Grade One-placed last year in California after her recruitment to the Richard Mandella stable.

Sulamani’s record as a National Hunt stallion is very good. It is not just that he is responsible for Rule The World, whose Grand National victory was preceded by plenty of excellent performances including winning in Grade Two company as a novice hurdler and being a Grade One runner-up as both novice hurdler and novice chaser: from his limited opportunities, Sulamani has sired several other decent jumpers including RULE THE WORLD, winner of a Grade One novice hurdle in Ireland as a four-year-old in 2011.

Sulamani is still aged only 17 so, granted the increased patronage which ought to follow Rule The World’s historic victory, he should have scope for siring plenty more nice horses in the years to come.

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