THE RISE AND FALL OF ARAZI

As the long, gray Winter of 1991-1992 began to yield to the renewing light of early Spring, a colt named Arazi conjured visions of Secretariat.

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Twenty one years ago, Arazi thrilled the racing world with a devastating winning move in the 1991 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs under jockey Patrick Valenzuela that is still talked about. I can vividly recall the buzz in the crowd as announcer Tom Durkin reported on Arazi’s explosive move on the backstretch, a back-to-front offensive that made the other thirteen entries look like they were in slow motion.

Arazi had a blueblood pedigree, being by Blushing Groom and out of the Northern Dancer mare Danseur Fabuleux. (The well-bred dam, however, had a poor race record, winless in thirteen tries, with $25, 353 in earnings.)

Bred by Ralph Wilson, then as now the owner of the Buffalo Bills of the National Football League, Arazi was sold as a weanling in 1989 at Keeneland for $350,000. The buyer was Allen Paulson, who founded Gulfstream American Corporation (jets). Prior to the 1991 Breeders’ Cup, Paulson sold 50% of Arazi to Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum of Dubai for $9 million.

Arazi came to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile off six wins from seven starts in Europe, and went off as the slight favorite over Bertrando—in spite of the fact that, previously, no European runner had won a Breeders’ Cup race on dirt.

No sooner than Arazi had completed his conquest of some of the best two-year-olds in the world than the speculation and anticipation began about his return to Churchill Downs in six months for the Kentucky Derby, followed perhaps by the English Derby a month later.

Arazi was named European and American 2-year-old colt of the year and also as the European horse of the year.

Soon after the Breeders’ Cup, Arazi was operated on for removal of bone chips in both knees. His trainer, the legendary Francois Boutin, was reportedly opposed to the operation.

Arazi returned to the 1992 Kentucky Derby off a one-mile prep on the turf. Despite the obviously inadequate preparation for a grueling 1 ¼ mile dirt race, Arazi was viewed by many to be such a super horse that he would overcome the odds against him.

In an eighteen-horse Derby field, Arazi briefly looked like he would repeat his sensational move in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. After coming from the back of the pack to reach third place at the top of the stretch, Arazi faded to finish in eighth place. (The other disappointment was that the magnificent A. P. Indy was scratched from the Derby on the morning of the race.)

Arazi continued to race after the Derby, winning a Group II event in Europe and then culminating his career with a disappointing eleventh place finish in the 1992 Breeders’ Cup Mile. The colt was retired with a stellar record of 9 wins, 1 second, and a third from 14 starts and earnings of $1,213,307.

Had Arazi been retired, owing to bone chips, after his 1991 Breeders’ Cup performance, he would to this day and beyond be hailed as possibly one of the best racehorses in history. To what extent Arazi’s regression as a three-year-old was due to the operation on his knees is, of course, impossible to know.

Arazi’s performance under the Twin Spires in the Autumn of 1991 was scintillating and would receive a lot of fan votes as the most thrilling in Breeders’ Cup history.

Copyright © 2012 Horse Racing Business

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