In general, American dirt racing is dominated by horses with a high turn of early speed. Relatively few winners come from far back, especially in the most prestigious races. As a result, those who do make a greater impression. Few would forget Secretariat’s run from last in the first quarter of the 1973 Kentucky Derby to winning in record time.
Likewise, those of us who were there at the Breeders’ Cup races at Churchill Downs in 1991 won’t forget the Grade 1 Juvenile victory by Arazi (by Blushing Groom). The first trans-Atlantic juvenile champion, Arazi had come into the race with a grand reputation.
Second on his debut at Chantilly on May 30, Arazi had won all six of his subsequent starts, all stakes, including the G1 Prix Morny, Prix de la Salamandre, and Grand Criterium. The acknowledged juvenile champion of Europe, Arazi was untested and untried on dirt, but he was the favorite for the race at slightly more than 2-to-1 over the quick California colt Bertrando (Skywalker).
The latter sped the first two quarters in :23 and change for a half in :46.63, and he ran a remarkably brave race to finish second, beaten five lengths. All the other horses who had attended the early pace were more than 10 lengths behind Arazi, and the colts who were 12th (Snappy Landing) 13th (Arazi), and 14th (Offbeat) at the first quarter-mile finished 1st (Arazi), 3rd (Snappy Landing), and 4th (Offbeat).
Even allowing that the pace took a serious toll, the move that Arazi made had to be seen to be believed, and one of the joys of the internet is that the race is available for all to see. The dashing chestnut in the red, white, and blue silks of co-owner Allen Paulson captured the imagination of the racing public, including thousands who watched racing only occasionally, and for the next several months, anything that Arazi did was news.
The first bit of news about the lovely colt wasn’t good, however. He came out of the race with a chip in a knee. That was operated on, and the winner of seven races from eight starts wintered uneventfully with trainer Francois Boutin in France and made his 1992 debut a winning one in the Prix Omnium.
If Arazi fever had been simmering over the winter, it went to a heady boil immediately. With only a single start since the 1991 Juvenile, Arazi was made the odds-on favorite to win the Kentucky Derby.
In the race, Snappy Landing led the field down the stretch the first time, with an opening quarter in :24; at that point, the Irish-bred Dr. Devious (Ahonoora) and Arazi were 15th and 17th in a field of 18. Going into the far turn, Arazi was moving rapidly outside, his diminutive form visible between horses as he picked off one after another. The chart credits the colt with reaching second, but as the field passed into the stretch, the writing was on the wall. This would not be a coronation. Instead, it was a realization that a miler with an exceptional turn of foot was at a great disadvantage in the American classics.
From the quarter pole home, the big classic colts, Lil E. Tee (At the Threshold) and Casual Lies (Lear Fan) took control of the race, and Arazi faded just a bit to finish eighth, a head behind Dr. Devious. A month later, Dr. Devious finished really well up the rising ground at Epsom Downs to claim the Derby after his good prep in Kentucky.
Arazi likewise went back across the Atlantic, where he was unplaced in the G1 St. James’s Palace Stakes over a mile at Royal Ascot, then was third in the G3 Prix du Prince d’Orange at Longchamp on Sept. 20. The colt returned to win the G2 Prix du Rond-Point and crossed the Atlantic again to compete for the G1 Breeders’ Cup Mile at Gulfstream.
Sent off as the favorite against some of the top milers in the world, Arazi was inexplicably close up early as Lure (Danzig) set fire to the track, made every pole a winning one, and took the Mile by three lengths in 1:32.90, a new track record. Arazi must have been wondering what they were smoking after three-quarters in 1:09.09, and he backed up to 11th, the worst finish of his career.
That was the end of Arazi’s racing, but his long breeding career began in 1993. Sold to Allen Paulson as a foal at the 1989 Keeneland November sale, Arazi had a world-class pedigree to go with his distinguished racing class. As a top-class juvenile who hadn’t quite trained on at three, Arazi nonetheless had shown good form, and he was an attractive stallion prospect.
Sheikh Mohammed had purchased a half-interest in the chestnut colt for $9 million prior to the 1991 Grand Criterium and sent the colt to stud in England at his Dalham Hall in 1993. Arazi was a son of the top 2-year-old Blushing Groom, who stood at Gainesway Farm in Kentucky. Bernie Sams recalled the chestnut champion and leading sire, saying, “Blushing Groom had the best temperament you could find in a stallion. You could work with him, and he’d never get aggressive. His favorite treat was watermelon rind.”
Arazi apparently got much of the generous disposition of his sire and was characterized as a gentleman during his term at stud in Kentucky at Three Chimneys Farm. While there he sired his very best racer, the big chestnut Congaree, who was third in the 2001 Kentucky Derby behind Monarchos. In addition, Congaree won Grade 1 races at seven, eight, nine, and 10 furlongs, showing the versatility and durability that is possible with the Thoroughbred.
Out of a daughter of Northern Dancer, Arazi was pedigreed to be an outstanding sire, but the chestnut champion did not consistently sire racers with his own type and talent. His best in Europe was probably America, a filly who won the G2 Prix de Malleret and G3 Prix Vanteaux. At stud, she is best known for producing Americain (Dynaformer), who won the 2010 Melbourne Cup and entered stud at Calumet Farm in Kentucky.
In 1997, Arazi was sold to stand at the Breeders Stallion Station in Japan. From there, the stallion was sent to stand in Australia at Independent Stallion Station in 2003 in Victoria, spent a single covering season in Switzerland, then returned to the Land of the Koala to spend the rest of his life.
At the time of his death on July 1, age 32, Arazi was a pensioner at Stockwell Stud.