Remembering Al Mufti – the story and the stats

Al Mufti - champion sire, sire of champions

The stallion Al Mufti, who died in his paddock at Ascot Stud on the morning of Thursday March 3, 2011, six days short of his 26th birthday, was beyond doubt South Africa’s most influential sire of the last two decades.

Al Mufti had been retired from commercial stud duties in 2007, following fertility issues. His last full crop are current 3yo’s and include 2011 Gr1 Cape Derby winner Top Seller. From his last efforts at stud, in 2007, came ten foals born in 2008 – now 2yo’s.

A son of Roberto, Al Mufti was sold for $1.2 million as a yearling at Keeneland in 1986. He went into training in the UK with Harry Thomson Jones, for Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum. As a 2yo Al Mufti ran once, winning a valuable 6f sprint at Ascot in October, for which he started favourite. His Timeform rating was 104, with the comment ‘will be suited by further and should stay 1½m; sure to improve and win more races’. As a 3yo, he raced five times, placing twice in Listed company, and finishing tenth in the Epsom Derby. His Timeform rating went to 112, with the comment ‘tends to race keenly but stays 1½m’. At 4, Al Mufti ran to a 109 rating on his reappearance in a 2400m feature in Germany, but failed to reproduce that in three subsequent starts. Exported to the US to race as a 5yo, he was acquired there to stand as Ascot Stud in the Eastern Cape. Al Mufti covered a book of 50 mares in 1990. It was champion trainer Terence Millard who persuaded the syndicate owners to give the 6yo another chance at racing.

To bring a stallion back to the track after he has covered a book of mares at stud is by no means unprecedented. For a horse to win a major race after such a spell (or to come as close to winning as Al Mufti did) is a great deal more special – although not unheard of. In the UK during the Eighties, Radetzky, the sire of that smart sprinting filly Sunera (who raced in South Africa with great success), springs to mind.  Coming back to the track after a season at stud, and with six weeks training under his girth, he scored in the Gr2 Queen Anne Stakes over a mile at Royal Ascot, earning a Timeform rating of 123. Al Mufti’s return was equally successful, though perhaps less spectacular.

Al Mufti, with three seasons racing in useful company the UK had managed to win just one race during that time.  He had a Timeform rating of 112, but even so was allowed to take part in a C-division handicap over a mile at Kenilworth in February, courtesy of South Africa’s peculiar RaceFigure handicapping system.  At comfortable odds of 2/1 he cruised home under a hands-and-heels ride.  The bookmakers weren’t as generous a month later.  In the red, 1/3 was the best available when Al Mufti cheekily got the better of State Control over 1700m at Kenilworth.

After a break of six weeks, Al Mufti reappeared in Natal.  He won over 2000m at Clairwood at 6/10, after being hampered coming into the straight and making a miraculous recovery.  On the strengths of these three wins (and the fact that State Control had in the meantime won the Natal Guineas), Al Mufti was made 11/10 favourite for the Racing Digest 1900.  But in a ludicrous false run race won by Bluffing he never got a blow in and finished well back, some nine length off the winner.

Undeterred, the punters climbed in again for the Mainstay Trial, where Al Mufti started at 11/10 in a field of seventeen. Equipped with blinkers for the first time, he raced handy throughout, but had no answer to the challenges of The Edge and Bambinello. Close home Divine Master deprived Al Mufti of third place. Peculiarly, every one dropped Al Mufti after this run like a proverbial hot poker. Computaform called him “overrated”, a view echoed by most other press pundits. The truth of the matter was quite the opposite, however, as Al Mufti had run the best race of his South African career in the Mainstay Trial. It’s amazing how little attention the so-called experts pay to weight carried in races-proper analysis showed that this run was some five pounds better than anything else we’d seen so far. On the Timeform equivalent, Al Mufti had run a 104, not far off his British form.

As Timeform was quite adamant that Al Mufti stayed a mile and a half, it seemed not unreasonable to expect that Al Mufti would benefit from the likely good pace in the Rothmans July, and might reproduce his UK-rating of 109 again. Would that be the case, then his odds of 6/1 for the big race were attractive indeed, as he carried only 53 kilos. Al Mufti wasn’t given a particularly good ride in the Rothmans July, as his jockey was quite content to sit just off leader Bluffing in a race run slowly early on. Certainly no use whatsoever was made of Al Mufti’s proven stamina. Even so he almost made it to the winner’s enclosure. Thanks to his handy position and his ability to accelerate, he skipped clear on the inside of the track.  A furlong from home he looked to have it in the bag, but now the rest of the runners were in full cry, too. Flaming Rock got Al Mufti on the post, with five others less than a length behind.  This looked a race he could have won with more suitable tactics.

Al Mufti was again supported in the Mainstay International, over 1800m at Clairwood three weeks later.  It is difficult to believe that Bluffing was allowed to set the pace in his now usual fashion: too slow. Al Mufti raced even further back than usual, and clearly had missed the boat when Olympic Duel stole a march going through the 400m mark. He made some progress, but was outsprinted by Miss Averof and Divine Master. The latter, who started at 12/1, has been two and a half kilos better off this time with Al Mufti (5/2 favourite) for that half length defeat in the Mainstay Trial a month earlier. As Divine Master finished just over a two-a-and-a-half length ahead of Al Mufti here, the form worked out pretty well despite the false pace.

Shortly after the Mainstay it was announced that Al Mufti would retire to stud once again.  He had another full book awaiting him, and there was little more to prove to the track.  He had made a nice contribution towards his purchase price, earning some R260.000 from seven starts between February and July.

A big, strong quality horse with impressive hind quarters.  Al Mufti stayed a mile and a half (he ran 10th in the Epsom Derby won by Kahyasi).  He was effective over less (he certainly doesn’t have the conformation of a horse that needs ground) and had a fair turn of foot.  He acted on soft and firm going, and showed his best form both here and in Europe when racing handy.

A son of Roberto (whose full brother Mullineaux he replaced at Ascot Stud), Al Mufti is half brother to several winners, including smart G3 winner Weekend Surprise (by Secretariat), who is dam of G1 Belmont Stakes and Breeder’s Cup Classic winner A.P. Indy and G1 Preakness Stakes winner Summer Squall.  His dam Lassie Dear, from a fine family, was a very useful Stakes winner at 2 and is half sister to the dam of successful sire Lemon Drop Kid. Lassie Dear is a half sister to sires Gay Mecene, Gallapiat and Brave Shot, who all had respectable AEI figures in 1990, the year Al Mufti entered stud.  The next dam, Gay Missile, won 10 races  and is half sister to successful US sires Raja Baba and Sauce Boat, as well as to the dam of Sportsworld.

Al Mufti’s early stud career was interesting to say the least. He got unbeaten 2yo filly Jamaican Justice in his first crop. She was exported to the US after winning her first three starts, including the Bloodline Million. From his first crop also came Gr1 winning filly Garb Of Guise. They were followed two crops later by champion 2yo and 3yo filly Arabian Lass. It was then that Al Mufti acquired the label of ‘fillies-sire’ in South African racing & breeding circles. Interesting, because Al Mufti’s second crop had consisted of 14 colts and 32 fillies – a very unusual ratio in a stallion’s career. At yearling sales the prices paid for his daughters outstripped that of his colts, also an unusual state of affairs. It did not take long for Al Mufti to put the market in its place, though. In 1995 he sired Gr1 winners Captain Al and The Sheikh, followed a year later by Victory Moon. After their exploits yearling sale prices leveled out, although Al Mufti fillies have remained in relative high demand.

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Champion sire in 2002, Al Mufti sired Champions of both sexes. Today, he’s a successful sire-of-sires, and influential sire of broodmares.

All of Captain Al, The Sheik and Victory Moon went to stud as stallions, joined a few years later by Gr1 sprinter Catalochee. Captain Al proved himself a highclass stallion, while Victory Moon and Cataloochee both died very early in their stud career. The Sheik didn’t quite make the grade.

Al Mufti’s daughters have to date been responsible for local champions and international winners Jay Peg, Bold Silvano and Kings Gambit. In time, many other high-caliber Gr1 performers must surely follow.

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For a summary of Al Mufti’s best progeny and how they are bred, click here for a .pdf file. This is presented in the same way as the Sporting Post affinity table for the five leading sires each month.

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Al Mufti’s Gr1 winners

Al Nitak c ex Jessamine (Del Sarto)

Alastor c ex Damascus Road (Mecca Road)

Arabian Lass f ex Lorehana (Lord Henham)

Captain Al c ex Off To War (Complete Warrior)

Cataloochee c ex Lexington Love (Old Testament)

Garb Of Guise f ex Special Security (Top Security)

Gilded Minaret f ex Chasing Gold (Dancing Champ)

Lady Brompton f ex Underground Lady (Gatecrasher)

Royal Fantasy f ex Davidia (Fort Wood)

The Sheik c ex Jessamine (Del Sarto)

Top Seller c ex Top Of The Range (Northern Guest)

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Al Mufti mares’ Gr1 winners

Bold Silvano c by Silvano ex Bold Saffron

Copper Parade c by Lecture ex Copper Horizon

Divine Jury c by Jallad ex Divine Nymph

Heir Apparent c by Fort Wood ex Quick Succession

Jay Peg c by Camden Park ex Laptop Lady

Kings Gambit c by Silvano ex Lady Brompton

Little Miss Magic f by Jet Master ex Al Nibari

O Caesour c by Caesour ex Al Damirji

Rock Opera f by Lecture ex Drummer Girl

Smart Banker c by Strike Smartly ex Larapinta

4 comments on “Remembering Al Mufti – the story and the stats

  1. Condolences to all at Ascot Stud. He was an amazing sire, whose influence on the South African racing scene will live on for a long, long time!

  2. Will never forget that epic July where he was collared on the line by Flaming Rock…a good racehorse & even greater sire, thanks to the Parkers’ for having the foresight for such a great stud career

  3. Very sad news indeed. Al Mufti will be remembered as one of the best progeny of Roberto. His pedigree speaks for itself.

  4. As someone who loves horses it’s very sad news indeed. However by international standards and taking into account his timeform he was indeed a moderate performer on the international stage and whilst his prodige have dome him credit in South Africa none would have set the international arena alight, which is the true test of how good they really were.

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