Gift horse sets stud hand on path to unexpected glory
Isabel Mathew meets Simon Urizzi, breeder of Sands Of Mali
As a son of the lower-league sire Panis, Sands Of Mali is already a David slaying Goliaths. But his emergence as one of the season's leading juveniles is also casting his breeder in an equivalent role.
For the colt's success in the Group 2 Gimcrack Stakes at York last month means that Simon Urizzi is living the dream. In fact, Kadiania, the 12-year-old dam of Sands Of Mali, is literally the gift that keeps giving.
Back in 2012, the daughter of Indian Rocket was given to the Frenchman by one of his old bosses, Yann Loizeau, who is also co-breeder of Sands Of Mali.
"I spent some time on work experience with Yann when I was 15," Urizzi explains. "He then decided to give up breeding, and gave me Kadiania. In exchange, I suggested that we should jointly be named as the breeders of her offspring."
Urizzi's day job is at Alain Chopard's 110-hectare Haras des Faunes near Bordeaux, where he works as a stallion man during the covering season, in addition to helping out across the stud together with his partner Sarah. The stud has become well known for producing precocious juveniles with the suffix "Chop", and also bred Australian Group 1 winner Gailo Chop.
It is at Faunes that Urizzi's connection with Panis was forged. The 19-year-old still stands here for a fee of €2,000, having started out on the farm and then returned after a stint elsewhere at the end of 2014.
Herself unraced, Kadiania is out of a dual Listed-placed Sicyos mare. She had already had two foals by the time Urizzi partnered her with Panis, then in his first season back at Faunes. Her first had been a colt by Hurricane Cat, named Kadrizzi – combining the dam's name with that of the young breeder; while the second was a filly by Bertolini.
"I took the decision to cover Kadiania with Panis because I liked the cross between him and her damsire Indian Rocket [who had also stood at Faunes]," recalls Urizzi, who has just two other mares. "It seemed like it would also result in something precocious. He was also the most established sire at the stud, and had produced some good results from a low fee."
But the swan was evidently a fairly ugly duckling. "I'd be lying if I told you that Sands of Mali was a good-looking youngster," laughs Urizzi. "His dam doesn't seem to produce particularly beautiful individuals, but they have a good heart. He was really quite backward when we took him to La Teste, so I was delighted even to get €20,000 for him.
"I then saw that he was entered in the Breeze-Ups at Ascot, so I followed him through, and thought he had done a nice breeze. I was delighted he made £75,000 for Con – and then was pleased again when he went to Richard Fahey's."
Even after seeing the colt open his account at Nottingham, just like Kadrizzi, Urizzi never dreamed that he was about to become the breeder of a Group 2 winner.
Horse of a lifetime
"The [York] race was shown on Equidia, so we were able to see it live, which was fantastic," says Urizzi, who shared his euphoria with watching colleagues. "It's an unforgettable moment, and he could be my horse of a lifetime. His dam certainly is."
Urizzi is set to make the journey over to Newmarket to watch Sands Of Mali run in the Group 1 Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes on Saturday week.
But he has already been able to register the first dividends from the colt's rise when selling his half-sister by Kheleyf at the Osarus Yearling Sale at La Teste – also to Marnane, this time for €70,000.
"I was very happy with the price," he says. "She's not overly big. I think that Con has bought her to keep and eventually breed from. We owe Con a great deal: he bought four yearlings from Faunes [at La Teste], and without his support in this region then we wouldn't be where we are today."
Kadiania once again produced a colt foal by Kheleyf this year, and he is also set to be cashed in – this time at Arqana's December Breeding Stock Sale. She is meanwhile back in foal to Vale Of York. "I haven't decided where I'm going to cover her next year, although I have had quite a few requests!" says Urizzi. "But she's done very well with our stallions here at Faunes, so I'd like to stick to that if possible."