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Classic contender Daban can restore Oldham's legacy

Acclamation filly's family developed by respected owner-breeder

Daban: is the 41st stakes winner for Rathbarry Stud’s stalwart Acclamation
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When Zino won the 2,000 Guineas in 1982, the landscape of racing and breeding in Europe was pretty different to today. For starters, there wasn’t this emphasis on two-year-old speed and for many, a thoroughbred wasn’t just produced with the sale ring as a target.

Zino’s owner Gerry Oldham was a primary figure in that era of successful owner-breeders. Oldham took pride in developing families over time, always with the racecourse - rather than the sale ring - in mind. His early entry into the sport was aided by Peter Wragg, whose brother Harry sent out Oldham’s Lucero to win the 1956 Irish 2,000 Guineas and the siblings Talgo and Fidalgo to win the 1956 and 1959 renewals of the Irish Derby.

But it was through his association with Francois Boutin in France that he enjoyed his most rewarding years as an owner, campaigning the likes of triple Ascot Gold Cup hero Sagaro, who was by another Oldham runner in dual Grosser Preis von Baden winner Espresso, 1986 Prix de Diane heroine Lacovia (dam of Tobougg) and Zino.

Oldham died aged 87 in April 2013 and his stock was duly dispersed through Kildaragh Stud and Knocktoran Stud at Goffs later that year, where they turned over approximately €2.5 million. Among them was the subsequent Prix Quincey winner Johnny Barnes, who realised €310,000 at the Orby Sale to John Warren.

Those Oldham families have again really come to life since then.

Much of his success in later years was courtesy of the line belonging to Primula, a daughter of Nearula bought out of Italy in the mid-1960s. And now the family has thrown up another very real Classic prospect in Daban, who defied inexperience to win last week’s Nell Gwyn Stakes.

The daughter of Acclamation was bred by Peter and Antoinette Kavanagh’s Kildaragh Stud out of the placed Malaspina, also dam of last year’s Thoroughbred Stakes winner Thikriyaat (by Azamour).

Malaspina is also a half-sister to Johnny Barnes and the Group 3-placed Bufera, whose daughter Chartreuse won a Listed race in France last summer en route to selling for 825,000gns at Tattersalls.

Another half-sister, Tonnara, is the dam of Group 1 winners Ectot and Most Improved. Their Listed-winning dam Mahalia, by Danehill, was a member of the Caprera branch of the Primula family that formerly provided Oldham’s Citadel Stud with a slew of high-class homebreds.

However, as its recent run of success shows, it remains in rude health - thereby paying a fine compliment to Oldham’s earlier management.

Few people know this family better than Peter Kavanagh, who worked at Kildangan Stud while it was home to the Oldham mares.

When Kildangan was sold by Roderic More O’Ferrall to Sheikh Mohammed in 1986, Oldham moved his band, eventually splitting them between Kildaragh Stud and Knocktoran Stud.

Thikriyaat: is also out of the placed Malaspina

Kildaragh went on to enjoy success of their own with another member of the Caprera family in Zivania, out of whom they bred seven stakes runners including UAE 2,000 Guineas winner Stagelight (a rare dirt runner for Montjeu) and 1,000 Guineas third Hathrah.

Malaspina also joined Kildaragh in December 2010 when picked up for €22,000 at Arqana through France Turf.

“Gerry Oldham was a joy to work with, passionate about racing and breeding,” says Kavanagh. “He belonged to a marvellous generation of owner-breeders. It’s extraordinary how it’s gone - those owner-breeders are now almost extinct.

“He was careful on what was retired to stud - they had to be sound in mind and limb, and genuine. The trainer and groom or stud manager, anyone who knew the characteristics of the family, had an input as well. He was very keen on using proven stallions to start off an unproven mare but at the same time, enjoyed supporting younger horses. All the time he was thinking through nicks, what might work well. He made the most of what he had.”

Kavanagh recounts that Oldham even bred a Group 1 winner, Tarona, by Karabas, a deeply insignificant stallion who wound up in Brazil.

However, it is through the achievements Primula’s descendants for which he is sooner remembered.

Primula bred five winners for Oldham including Caprera, the 1970 Falmouth Stakes winner who is Daban’s fourth dam. In a fine illustration of how Oldham enjoyed middle-distance horses, he sent Caprera to Busted (who had beaten his Salvo in the 1967 King George) on three occasions and was rewarded with the 1984 Prix Ganay winner Romildo. The Abernant mare also went three times to Mill Reef, in whom he had a share, and each of the resulting daughters, namely Olbia, Virginia Reef and Maresca, became influential producers.

It is Maresca’s branch that is responsible for Daban.

“Maresca had knee problems in training,” says Kavanagh of the placed mare. “Mr Oldham was ambitious enough to send her to Vaguely Noble in her first two seasons when he was $300,000 and but she didn’t get in foal and came back here. Later he sent her to Danehill and she produced Mahalia.” 

Successful in the 1996 Prix Imprudence, Mahalia was one of four stakes winners out of Maresca, the best of which was Prix Gontaut-Biron winner Muroto. “Mahalia was a good filly,” adds Kavanagh, “who probably didn’t show on the track what she was capable of.”

Another smart runner out of Maresca was Zivania, a 1988 daughter of Shernazar who was Listed-placed for the Kavanaghs.

“Maresca at the time had produced little but she had some very good-looking youngstock on the ground and I was hopeful something might come of them,” says Kavanagh. “Zivania was a real battler. She won four races as a two-year-old in 24 days - who would have thought that a Shernazar two-year-old could have done that?”

Kildaragh is still home to Zivania’s Listed-winning daughter Amathia, herself dam of Winter Hill Stakes winner Distant Memories as well as Listed scorers Mohedian Lady and Mutatis Muhandis.

As for Malaspina, she has a Pour Moi two-year-old named Para Mio and a yearling sister to Daban. She is due to foal this year to Free Eagle.

Daban is a 41st stakes winner for Rathbarry Stud’s stalwart Acclamation, who was also represented at the Craven meeting by a potentially smart sprinter in Victory Angel, easy winner of the 6f three-year-old handicap. The pair were bred when the stallion was standing for a high of €35,000.

“The family tend to be medium sized horses who are close to the ground,” says Kavanagh. “All have good actions. We were always aware on how speedy the bottom line of the family was. Acclamation was emerging as a horse who was improving his mares and he also gives a bit of length. He’s a bit of an outcross as well and then Mahalia had a colt, Johnny Barnes, who was exceptionally good looking so we decided to use him again.” 

Acclamation: was represented by his 41st stakes winner when Daban won the Nell Gwyn

Daban also emerges as another feather in the cap for Whipper as a broodmare sire. Not every breeder would have fond memories of Whipper, a multiple Group 1 winner in his pomp who now stands for €3,000 at Haras de Gelos in France, but various daughters have shown him in a good light over the past 12 months as the dams of Prince Of Lir and Nations Alexander in addition to Daban and Thikriyaat.

For one reason or another, Oldham fared particularly well with Whipper. The stallion sired one of his last Group winners, the 2011 Prix Miesque heroine Topeka, as well as her sister Kalsa, the only filly retained by the Oldham family who carried the colours of his son, James, to victory in the 2014 Prix Edmond Blanc. Like Malaspina and Daban, they descend from Primula via Caprera and along with their classy half-sister Bocca Baciata, look sure to continue enhancing Oldham’s legacy.

View Daban's pedigree

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Breeders' Digest

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He belonged to a marvellous generation of owner-breeders. It’s extraordinary how it’s gone - those owner-breeders are now almost extinct

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Daban Acclamation
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