Asfoora - Victoria's favourite girl!

12 min read
It was a big night for Australia with Asfoora (Flying Artie) proving so dominant in the G1 King Charles III S. at Royal Ascot - and even more so for Victoria with the Ballarat trained 5-year-old having so many local connections. The Thoroughbred Report spoke to a few different people behind the scenes.

Cover image courtesy of Royal Ascot

With a couple of decades in the stud business, Noor Elaine Farm's manager Tim Jackson knows how to take the ups and downs - “you have to be thick skinned,” he said. There are plenty of downs as we all know but the ups can be mighty high ones and Tim is delighted for Noor Elaine's Akram El-Fahkri - proud owner and breeder of Asfoora.

“He has put so much effort and money into racing and he really deserves this,” Tim said, “and I am humbled to be a part of it.

Spending his first eight years at Newhaven Stud which “enabled me to gain plenty of experience,” Tim moved to Victoria, grateful to the late Eric Buttler who “gave me a great opportunity” to further his career at Rangal Park Stud.

“He (Akram El-Fahkri) has put so much effort and money into racing and he really deserves this... I am humbled to be a part of it. - Tim Jackson

When that Euroa farm was dissolved, Tim was looking for another job and it was timely that the manager just down the road at Noor Elaine Farm was retiring.

“And so I was lucky enough to get the gig.”

An ugly duckling

That was three years ago, about the time when Asfoora was embarking on her racing career - winning in easy fashion her debut at Colac and quickly rising through the grades with victories at Stawell and Caulfield with her first defeat a game on pace third in the G3 Kevin Hayes S. won by Argentia (Frankel {GB}).

Whilst Tim was not at the farm when Asfoora was born or when she was taken to the sales, he does know that she was somewhat of “an ugly duckling.”

“Nobody wanted her, she wasn't big and she wasn't perfect in front - even Henry (Dwyer) didn't really like her at first!”

Asfoora as a yearling | Image courtesy of Magic Millions

Passed in with a reserve of just $30,000, Asfoora made her way home and over $1.32 million later she is proof that good horses don't always need to stand out in the sales ring.

“They come in all shapes and sizes and nobody can measure how they can gallop," Tim said - "you can't see the little man beating the drums in their chest!

“We have sent some nice horses to the sales who have raced well, but we've also bred horses who went straight from the paddock to the trainers who have also proven to be good horses.”

“They come in all shapes and sizes and nobody can measure how they can gallop.” - Tim Jackson

Tim sees Asfoora's success as a reward for Akram El-Fahkri who he said will have found winning at Royal Ascot a rather surreal experience.

“His family is one of those great immigrant stories - they have worked tremendously hard and he is a pretty smart businessman.

“He puts a lot of money into the farm and supports a variety of trainers, he has horses not only with Henry but also with Troy Corstens, Greg Eurell, John Hickmott and Steven Noble, he likes to spread them around.”

Chenelle Ellis and Akram El-Fahkri with Asfoora | Image courtesy of Royal Ascot

Successful in the arenas of taxi management, pub purchases and real estate, El-Fahkri grew up in Lebanon where his love of horses began courtesy of family stories about their mules who worked in their orchards.

Noor Elaine's Stradbroke influence

Noor Elaine Stud is a commercial and passion project, a farm which also contributed to the pedigree of last weekend's G1 Stradbroke winner Stefi Magnetica (All Too Hard) whose dam sire Oamaru Force stood at the farm.

A nomination to him was auctioned off for charity - his daughter Mid Summer Music bred by then Noor Elaine manager Mark Calwell, Noor Elaine worker Darren Astbury and well known local breaker John Ivill. And like her daughter she too won the Stradbroke.

Noor Elaine is currently home to another somewhat underrated stallion in Ilovethiscity - the G1 Randwick Guineas winner whose grandsire Zeditave was a Newhaven resident when Tim worked there.

“He is an absolute spit for his grandsire,” Tim said, going on to mention other “tough colonial horses” who have helped shape the breed.

Tim is a big fan of horses like Zeditave and loves the influence of similar stallions such as Rubiton and Century in Asfoora's pedigree.

Ilovethiscity | Standing at Noor Elaine Stud

Asfoora is the first foal for the lightly raced Golden Child (I Am Invincible) who Noor Elaine secured for $11,000 at the 2016 Inglis December Sale.

No oil painting

“She is no oil painting,” Tim said of the 11-year-old who is due late August with a full sibling to Asfoora.

Golden Child's subsequent foals have all - unsurprisingly - been purchased by the Henry Dwyer stable, her 3-year-old Moaksun (Akeed Mofeed {GB}) fetching $120,000 in Adelaide, her yet to be named two-year-old colt by Ilovethiscity sold for $180,000 at the same sale and her yearling Dirty Work colt for $140,000 at the Melbourne Premier.

Moaksun as a yearling | Image courtesy of Magic Millions

Trained by David Brideoake, Golden Child raced just four times and was close up each time but David recalled that there was nothing about her that stood out - “she was not very big and she had a rather uneventful time with me!”

A successful breeder as well as trainer, David was delighted to see such success for Victorians - “it is such a great story, I am so happy for them. It really was magic. And so good for everyone involved in breeding and racing, especially in Victoria.”

The Victorian cheer squad

Musk Creek Farm's David Kobritz was another Victorian cheering on, he having bred Golden Child as well as her dam Predestined (King's Best {USA}).

“We bought Predestined's dam Hard Rider (NZ) (Maroof {USA}) (for $80,000 at the 2002 Inglis Easter Broodmare Sale) because she was stakes placed but she just kept producing small foals for us and we were finding them hard to sell - so we moved her on.”

Before doing so Musk Creek did breed out of her the Listed winner Utah Saints (God's Own) and her next owner David Moodie of Contract Racing fared all the better - Hard Rider going on to produce the Group 3 mare Big Chill (Artie Schiller {USA}) and the Listed winner Hard Stride (Street Sense {USA}).

David Kobritz

David held on to Predestined for a while but she too produced smaller types, including Golden Child who Dynamic Syndications purchased for $60,000 at the 2014 Melbourne Premier.

“I Am Invincible was not quite so big a stallion as he is now,” David recalled, adding that he secured the nomination at a Magic Millions run charity auction for just $7,000!

David has enjoyed seeing the family thrive even though it has been for others, taking note of a smart win by the 2-year-old Blue Renegade (Blue Point {Ire}) at Sandown last Saturday - he being Hard Rider's final foal.

“You just don't know where the good horses are going to come from and somewhere in Golden Child's genes came that speed that Asfoora has.” - David Kobritz

“You just don't know where the good horses are going to come from and somewhere in Golden Child's genes came that speed that Asfoora has.”

“It was a fantastic performance,” he added - “so good for Australia and for Henry Dwyer, he is a lovely bloke and hopefully this gives him a boost.”

Proud Grandfather

Also excited for the Dwyer team and Noor Elaine is Stockwell Stud's Mike Becker - “what a great thing for Henry,” he enthused - “it was such a bold move to go over there.

“Tim Jackson is such a nice fella and he will have got such a kick out of that.”

As did Mike, who said he was "chuffed" to see a son of Stockwell's now retired resident Artie Schiller (USA) sire the sire of a Royal Ascot winner.

Mike Becker | Image courtesy of Racing Photos

“With him retired it doesn't help him in anyway but he is leaving a legacy and we take pride in that,” Mike said.

Mike still rues the downs of Artie Schiller's stud career, one which was hindered by small books of mares, an untimely injury and a year in which he remained in America.

“Those things crippled his career but he was a horse who could consistently upgrade his mares and it takes a good horse to do that.”

“With him (Artie Schiller) retired it doesn't help him in anyway but he is leaving a legacy and we take pride in that.” - Mike Becker

The second leading first season sire in Victoria and the leading second season sire, Artie Schiller shared those quinellas with Written Tycoon with Mike noting the pair were part of a trio - Magnus the other - of stallions who “served Victorian breeders well whilst at the time flying under the radar.”

Mike chuckles when hearing stable descriptions of Asfoora being “hot and buzzy” - “I can't see much of her grandsire in her physically but those quirks are probably Artie's doing!”

Known for his somewhat robust personality, Artie Schiller has a nice retirement in his Stockwell paddock with Mike joking that he is ‘fit and well and still angry!’

Artie Schiller

“It is a shame we had to retire him, he was still healthy but he was already a pretty fussy stallion and he just got fussier and fussier as he got older.”

A member of Artie Schiller's biggest crop - born in 2013 - the G1 Coolmore Stud S. winning Flying Artie was bred by John Shannon and foaled down at Kerrie Tibbey's Goodwood Farm.

Great for Australia, great for Flying Artie

And Kerrie is another person to have derived great satisfaction from Asfoora's win.

“She seemed to do it easily,” she enthused - “it was great for Australia and great for the stallion, I am just so proud of him.”

Kerrie has very fond memories of Flying Artie who, like his daughter, was not popular in the sales ring - passed in for $40,000 at Easter in 2015.

“She (Asfoora) seemed to do it easily... it was great for Australia and great for the stallion, I am just so proud of him (Flying Artie).” - Kerrie Tibbey

“He was such a beautiful moving colt but we just couldn't get him over the line,” she recalled, “though a very good judge came back to his later and made an offer.”

Kerrie has been a Flying Artie fan since day one - “he was always a very confident colt, a lovely, easy horse to do anything with. He was very athletic and very light on his feet.”

Flying Artie's Listed Bow Mistress S. winning dam Flying Ruby (Rubiton) died last year with all seven of her foals to race being winners, another smart one being the stakes placed Kosciuszko winner Belflyer (Bel Esprit) who did such a great job winning 14 races.

Flying Artie | Standing at Blue Gum Farm

Flying Ruby's dam Parkhill's Flyer (Brigand {USA}) was a half-sister to the champion Better Loosen Up (Loosen Up {USA}) and there was a sense of Déjà vu when listening to Matt Hill's call of Asfoora's win..

“She's going to outsprint the world, Asfoora has done it for Australia.”

And 34 years ago, Bryan Martin calling the G1 Japan Cup...

Kerrie Tibbey

“Better Loosen Up has done it for Australia!”

“Flying Ruby's owners the Shannons are winding down now but they have her last foal, a lovely filly by The Autumn Sun about to head to the breakers,” Kerrie said.

After a short but successful racing career that saw him win three of his seven starts, Flying Artie retired to Newgate Farm from where he has sired eight stakes winners with Newgate home to his other Group 1 winner Artorius who also raced well in England.

Better Loosen Up

A nice feat for Flying Artie - the only Australian bred stallion to be represented by two Royal Ascot meeting runners, Artorius third in the 2022 G1 Platinum Jubilee S. and a close up fourth in that same race last year.

Flying Artie's Victorian home

Making his way to Blue Gum last year - the iconic Victorian farm changing hands from the Campbell family to Trilogy Racing's Jason and Melanie Stenning and Sean and Cathy Dingwall - Flying Artie stands at the Euroa property alongside Sejardan and first season sire Oxley Road.

Sean Dingwall is proud of his achievements and is confident that there is more to come with the horses bred on the back of Artorius' success coming through.

“There are bound to be some nice horses amongst those,” he said, happy with the way those yearlings have been received at this year's sales.

Sean Dingwall

“Coolmore Stud S. winners just keep doing well at stud,” he said, “and Flying Artie is one of those. He might not always sire a really commercial type but what he does get is genuine racehorses.

“The El Prado sire line is known for not producing particularly pretty horses, it is just a shame that often people don't forgive them for what they are.”

At an imposing 16.2hh, Flying Artie is however one of the better looking horses form the line and Sean is delighted with the way he has settled into life at Blue Gum.

“The El Prado sire line is known for not producing particularly pretty horses, it is just a shame that often people don't forgive them for what they are.” - Sean Dingwall

“He can be a bit quirky but overall he is an absolute gentleman - he doesn't have any bad blood in him.”

Sean is looking forward to further enhancing Blue Gum's already solid reputation and is enjoying Flying Artie's links with the past - his dam Flying Ruby being by one of the farm's most successful stallions, the G1 W.S Cox Plate champion Rubiton.

“Blue Gum also stood Elvstroem, another horse who raced well in England so there is some nice synergy happening.”

Flying Artie

And so it seems that Asfoora has a massive fan club, so many different people a step or two back from her life gaining so much pleasure from her deeds. And hopefully, as connections look at other UK contests, there is more to come!