Coral-Eclipse 2013: Al Kazeem success remembered
Al Kazeem may not have been owner-breeder John Deer’s first Group One winner, but there is little doubt he is the finest to graduate from his Oakgrove Stud.
He won 10 times during an intermittent 23-race career, but it is 10 years since the strapping son of Dubawi was arguably at his peak and went on an imperious winning run, collecting a trio of Group One prizes.
This Saturday marks a decade since the final act of that successful streak as having downed Camelot in the Tattersalls Gold Cup and then bravely landed the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot, Al Kazeem was sent off the 15/8 favourite to bring up a big-race hat-trick in the Coral-Eclipse – a mission he completed in fine style.
It was a victory that was not without the odd moment of worry as Al Kazeem hung right-handed just as a dominant charge to the line seemed inevitable. But despite the protestation he badly hampered eventual third Mukhadram, there was no denying the clear-cut nature of the two-length triumph.
“It was a brilliant year, fantastic really,” said Deer. “It was one of those times where you just can’t believe it. You breed a lot of horses and they are good, but nothing like what it takes to win a Group One. So when it happens it is very special.
“I had already won Group Ones with Patavellian and Avonbridge, so I had a flavour of it, but Al Kazeem was different, he was very special.
“He was a gorgeous looking horse who was very strong. I was pleased with the way he got on with Roger Charlton and we had some very exciting days with him.”
It is not just Deer who holds fond memories of Al Kazeem, but also Roger Charlton who trained the bay both before and after his brief interlude at stud.
The Beckhampton handler, who now trains in conjunction with his son Harry, has great memories of that 2013 season and was delighted that Al Kazeem could provide him with the Eclipse victory he always craved adding to his CV.
“He was on a roll that year wasn’t he?” said Charlton. “It was a very rewarding effort to beat Camelot in the Tattersalls Gold Cup, then his performance at Royal Ascot in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes was good. There was a little bit of controversy in the Eclipse as to whether he interfered with Mukhadram but he battled on up the hill there.
“It was very pleasing and like most people the Eclipse was a race I always wanted to win. It’s a special race and it is normally at the time of the year where the best horses can go there if they want.”
He went on: “If I remember rightly it was always the plan to go there as long as he was OK after Ascot. He was a very tough and very sound horse and he was very suited to going right-handed rather than left-handed. As I remember it, he was well on top at the end and he was a pretty classy horse in those days.
“He came back from a broken pelvis to do what he did and as we all know he then went off to stud and then came back to win another Group One so he was a pretty special horse and he would rate pretty highly on my list anyway.”
A third key component of the Al Kazeem story is his big-race pilot James Doyle who partnered the son of Dubawi for all of his major moments on course.
Now one of the leading riders in the weighing room, Doyle was stable jockey to Charlton at the time and had only the one really recognisable success to his name when winning the Dubai Duty Free aboard Cityscape.
However, Al Kazeem would soon change that and helped put Doyle firmly in the spotlight.
“Cityscape was the catalyst when he won the Dubai Duty Free in a course-record time and then it moved on to Al Kazeem,” said Charlton.
“I do slightly remember going to the Curragh with James for the Tattersalls Gold Cup where we were taking on Camelot who was nearly a Triple Crown winner.
“James ran round the course and then won on Al Kazeem and then on the way home I asked him ‘how many times have you ridden at the Curragh?’ and he said only once, as an apprentice over five furlongs. So he had never actually ridden over the trip there at that stage and it just shows how young and inexperienced he was in those days.”
Deer added: “I felt very lucky because he was such a young jockey, but lucky because he was such a good jockey. He was brilliant on the horse really and it kind of shows how lucky I was now doesn’t it, with the way he has developed and his career has progressed.”
After an unsuccessful first attempt at stud duties following the 2013 season, Al Kazeem would return to the track to add a second Tattersalls Gold Cup during his swansong season of 2015.
He now stands at Deer’s Oakgrove Stud in Wales where he is very much part of the family and his legacy lives on having provided the owner-breeder with another Royal Ascot champion in the form of Wokingham hero Saint Lawrence.
Deer said: “He was special in as much as in he coped with being a stallion and when he came back into training you got the impression he had forgotten all about it. He knew his job of racing and settled in and did beautifully.
“It’s lovely to have him back, that is really special. I sold him to the Queen and he wasn’t exactly out of my life because I did have some nominations to him, but to have him back at the stud is really special and everybody loves the horse, it’s amazing.
“He is a bit of a star and I watch him sometimes being taken out to his paddock and he is full of himself.”