It will be a match made in heaven. When Sea The Stars starts his career as a progenitor next year in Ireland, one of his first mates will be the filly who preceded him to glory in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, Zarkava. It was announced yesterday that this year's racing sensation will stand at the Aga Khan's flagship stallion station, Gilltown Stud in Co Kildare. And the Aga, the world's most successful breeder, lost no time in arranging what could be the perfect marriage for his own unbeaten superstar.
"I believe the last two Arc winners were made for each other," he said, "in terms of ability, temperament and conformation. The best needs to be bred to the best." It will not, though, be the first time Zarkava has met an Arc hero in the breeding shed. Her first foal, due in late February, is by her owner's 2003 Longchamp winner, Dalakhani.
Sea The Stars' opening fee will be £78,000, making him the most expensive first-season stallion since Dancing Brave commanded £120,000 in a very different financial climate 22 years ago. Of more recent track luminaries, New Approach, for instance, started out as a stallion at £30,000, George Washington at £55,000 and Rock Of Gibraltar at £60,000. The dearest stallion in Europe is Coolmore-based champion Galileo, at £138,000.
The confirmed identity of Sea The Stars' new home ends weeks of speculation. Even before the colt retired from racing, fat offers to buy him were thudding on to the table, but he remains in the ownership of the enormously wealthy Hong Kong-based Tsui family.
Not only would the Tsuis' lifestyle not be materially altered by telephone-number millions, but it was always going to be important for their home-bred colt's commercial future as a stallion that he should stand at a so-called "neutral" base, controlled by neither the Coolmore partners nor the Maktoum family. The two rival racing and breeding superpowers are involved in a standoff, neither buying youngstock by each other's stallions at auction.
The Tsuis acquired Sea The Stars' dam Urban Sea as a yearling for £28,000 in 1991. She won the Arc in 1994, and as a broodmare has produced six other winners, including Group One scorers Galileo, Black Sam Bellamy and My Typhoon. That trio are all by Coolmore sires (the first two Sadler's Wells, the last-named Giant's Causeway) but her best son is by a Maktoum horse, Cape Cross.
Sea The Stars, who was foaled and trained in the county where he will start his second career, will be limited to 120 mares in his first season and his owners will help support him by expanding their own broodmare band. "There is no more appropriate place for him than his homeland," said Ling Tsui, the yellow colours of whose son Christopher were carried by the horse on the track, "and Gilltown is the ideal stud for him to thrive and develop."
Sea The Stars will leave Currabeg and the care of John Oxx, who also trains for the Aga Khan, for his new life in the next few days. And such are his prospects that the Aga Khan has broken with tradition; the handsome bay will be the first horse to stand at one of his studs that he has not bred or owned himself. At Gilltown, the horse will join Dalakhani, already sire of one top-class horse in Conduit, and Azamour, whose promising first crop are now two-year-olds.
At stud, Sea The Stars must start again from scratch and only five per cent of horses are truly successful as stallions. Ability, looks and pedigree guarantee nothing, as shown by the sad cautionary tale of infertile, ill-fated George Washington, as well-bred, well-performed and macho a horse as you could have wished to find.
The London Olympics and two Ryder Cups will have come and gone before we know whether Sea The Stars will pass on any of his fabulous talent to his sons and daughters, for his first foals will not see a racecourse until they are two in 2013. Ladbrokes have a certain amount of faith, offering just 4-1 against a Classic winner emerging from that first crop. The firm also go 100-1 about the fruit of his tryst with Zarkava emulating both parents by winning the Arc as a three-year-old, in 2014.
Turf account: Sue Montgomery
Tafaool (3.50) Beaten at Newmarket by a pair who have since both won twice on her belated seasonal debut and on a less demanding track can be give another chance to enhance her broodmare value (she is by Green Desert from the close family of Nayef and Nashwan).
Taste The Victory (2.35 Musselburgh) Took time to get the hang of his job on his debut but once the penny dropped did everything right but win.
One to watch
The turn of Kenyan Cat (G Baker) should come soon, judging by her recent third place at Leicester. The improving late-foaled filly, now qualified for nurseries, overcame trouble in running to finish strongly.
Where the money's going
Mastercraftsman has been promoted to 11-4 favourite for the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile by Victor Chandler.
Chris Mcgrath's Nap
Business Class (1.00 Musselburgh)