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Rahy: A Stallion Success Story

Rahy, 1985-2011. Photo by @lordatwar

Rahy, one of the best stallions of the past two decades, died last week at age 26 (read more). The pensioned son of Blushing Groom and 1980 U.S. champion mare and Canadian Horse of the Year Glorious Song—herself a full sister to champion Devil's Bag—has sired 91 stakes winners, including 15 grade or group I, for over $73 million in earnings. Glorious Song would later produce Singspiel, an Eclipse champion turf horse and also a very successful sire.

Rahy was never a big horse (he was listed at just 15.1 hands), but he was good-looking enough to bring $2 million as a yearling, the third-highest price at the 1986 Keeneland July Sale. Purchased by Sheikh Maktoum Al Maktoum's Gainsborough Stud, the colt was named Rahy, an Arabic given name meaning "born in the springtime," despite the fact that Rahy was a February foal.

Rahy began his racing career in England, where he earned a group I-placing at 2 in the six-furlong Middle Park Stakes. He was eventually sent to Neil Drysdale's stable in California, scoring his biggest career win at age 4 in the one-mile Bel Air Handicap (gr. II) by 10 lengths.

Retired to stud at Three Chimneys Farm for an initial fee of $15,000, Rahy would sire top runners representing a variety of ages, surfaces, and distances, but he was always most noteworthy for his fillies. One of his first good fillies was Mariah's Storm, winner of the Arlington-Washington Lassie (gr. II), dam of brothers Giant's Causeway (TrueNicks,SRO) and Freud (TrueNicks,SRO), and inspiration for the 2005 film Dreamer.

Then there was Serena's Song, champion 3-year-old filly and a $3.2 million earner. She also became a group I producer and is the dam of stallions Harlington (TrueNicks,SRO) and Grand Reward. Rahy's grade I winner Tranquility Lake joins Serena's Song and Mariah's Storm as a Rahy mare to produce a grade or group I winner by Storm Cat, namely through her sons After Market (TrueNicks,SRO) and Courageous Cat. Additionally, Rahy's daughters have produced the likes of Megahertz, Rutherienne, Posse (TrueNicks,SRO), Even the Score (TrueNicks,SRO), and Life At Ten.

Rahy's other top offspring include European Horse of the Year Fantastic Light, champion 2-year-old filly Dreaming of Anna, and her grade II-winning brother Lewis Michael (TrueNicks,SRO).

The chart below follows Rahy's stud career by percentage of stakes horses, stakes winners, and graded stakes winners to starters by crop year. As is the case with many successful stallions, Rahy had a hugely successful first crop, getting his highest percentage of stakes horses and stakes winners from that 1991 crop. (Note: crops 2008 and 2009 are not representative as these are only 3- and 2-year-olds, respectively.) These stats are plotted over each crop's corresponding stud fee, and while stud fee certainly over-generalizes book quality, it seems fair to suggest that quality picked up over time. On this graph, the best indicator of increased quality could be the narrowing gap between stakes winners and graded stakes winners (blue and red lines) in the second half of Rahy's career. This suggests that, independent of strike rate, when Rahy got a good runner in his later years, they tended to be very good.

Rahy's stud career by stakes horses, stakes winners, and graded stakes winners to starters, with stud fee, by crop year (click to enlarge)

One glaring omission from this chart is Rahy's impact as a broodmare sire, a role in which Rahy is already responsible for several top runners and sires. With many of his best-bred daughters just now beginning their careers as broodmares, Rahy figures to have continued success over the next decade and beyond.

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Nice analysis world traveler. And I learned something; didn't know what name meant.

JerseyTom 28 Sep 2011 7:23 PM

I also remember Rahy as being the sire of Genuine Risk's first live foal in 1993, named Genuine Reward.  Unfortunately, the colt didn't take to training and was retired not ever having reached the starting gate.  What a shame.  Rahy will be missed at Three Chimneys and his fans will mourn him greatly.  

smartysgal 28 Sep 2011 7:37 PM

This is from an Andy Beyer article on Rahy and Drysdale's training methods, published 8/13/1989:

...a 4-year-old colt named Rahy, who ran so brilliantly at Hollywood Park last month that he may prove to be Easy Goer's main rival in the Breeders' Cup Classic this fall.

...He ran a mile at Hollywood Park, battled head-and-head for the lead in a seemingly suicidal 44 seconds flat, but drew away to win by five lengths. And then, in the $300,000 Bel Air Handicap at Hollywood, he sat just behind leaders who were running a half mile in 44, swooped past them and drew away to win by 10 lengths. He ran the mile in 1:33 flat over a track that, by California standards, was not exceptionally fast.

To speed handicappers, this was an even better performance than Easy Goer's celebrated Belmont Stakes triumph. It was an effort that belonged in the Seattle Slew-Affirmed-Spectacular Bid class. Rahy still hasn't run beyond a mile, but Drysdale thinks he has the pedigree, the temperament and the style to be effective at 1 1/4 miles, the distance of the Breeders' Cup Classic.

What was almost as amazing as the brilliance of Rahy's races was the way Drysdale prepared the colt for them. It is an axiom in the West that horses must be imbued with speed, and that the way to sharpen them is with fast workouts.

In his first race at Hollywood, Rahy was facing a speedball named Mi Preferido, whose most recent works included a half mile in 46 flat and five furlongs in 57 4-5. By contrast, Rahy had gone a half mile in a laughably slow 51 2-5, five eighths in 1:02 3-5. Yet when the gate opened, Rahy was able to blow Mi Preferido off the track.

"I almost never work horses fast," Drysdale said. "I think when you work horses you just try to get them fit and maintain that level of fitness. And once they're fit, their natural ability takes over."

To Drysdale, this may sound elementary, but to others it seems a source of wonder and mystery that a trainer can work a horse in 51 2-5 then get him to run a half mile in competition in 44, effortlessly. Drysdale's skills have earned him recognition and admiration in California. Rahy may display his talents to a national audience.

Ian Tapp 28 Sep 2011 8:04 PM

Rahy's daughters Exotic Wood and Raw Gold were as exciting to watch in the mid '90's as his more famous offspring, Serena's Song. They were tiny but very fast. He was indeed most noteworthy for his fillies.

Karen in Texas 28 Sep 2011 8:35 PM

Rahy emulated Nasrullah by finishing placed in the very important group 1 Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket. Both horses became successful sires in North America and as you pointed out he was very noteworthy for his fillies whereas Nasrullah produced two colts we shall never forget, Nashua and Bold Ruler. There have been many great winners of the Middle Park Stakes over the years but how ironic it is that those two placed horses in that race went on to make a great statement in North American racing.

John T 28 Sep 2011 9:05 PM

Little is good!! Northern Dancer was little, Hyperion was little, Rahy was little... The fashion for monster-sized horses has led us to devalue the small and medium-sized animals. Let Rahy's example remind us that size does not equal ability.

Pedigree Ann 29 Sep 2011 9:41 AM

I always loved Glorious Song and first followed Rahy because of her.

I am glad that I was able to finally see him in person this May (when I made my famous -- to me, at least -- Kentucky Derby trip).  He was in the same Three Chimneys barnlet as my other horse-I-had-to-see, Dynaformer.  He was a small, bright horse, ignoring the tourists.  (Great contrast to the big, dark horse.)

mz 29 Sep 2011 12:15 PM

Rahy was indeed a beauty as were his beautiful and talented babies and my very favorites Lewis Michael, Dreaming of Anna and my beloved Life at Ten.

Ida Lee 29 Sep 2011 4:49 PM

GOOD Reward is Storm Cat-Heavenly Prize. GRAND Reward is the Storm Cat-Serena's Song- interestingly enough both in the same crop.

JCRobinson 29 Sep 2011 9:43 PM

I too was glad I got to see Rahy this July on the same trip to Kentucky to see Rachel Alexandra.  Me and a friend had time to kill and drove to Three Chimneys to see if we could go in and see the Stallions. Fortunately ,they had a couple of cancellations and we made the tour. I got to see Rahy and Dynaformer! This made up for the dissappointment of Big Brown not being there!  R.I.P. and God speed Rahy!

Darla 30 Sep 2011 8:51 AM

Thanks, JCRobinson!

Ian Tapp 30 Sep 2011 12:35 PM

Thanks for spotlighting this grand little horse. His progeny seem to be gutsy fighters and unlikely stars, just as he was. I loved Serena's Song of course, and I adored Dreaming of Anna and followed her career very closely.

Flora 30 Sep 2011 3:56 PM

Rahy is the sire of Strong Suit who won the Challenge Stakes at Newmarket on Saturday over 7 furlongs. At this time it looks like he will be taking his chance in the Breeders Cup Mile at Churchill Downs.

John T 09 Oct 2011 2:51 PM

The old trooper, Rahystrada, continues to remind us that Rahy was a brilliant turf and endurance sire as well as endowing his offspring with speed. I own a Rahy mare that is out of a Riverman mare. No one wanted her because she is just about blind. You would never know it, as she takes great care of herself, is in a large field with other mares and is a sweet mamma. She is now in foal to Circular Quay (GrI winner by Thunder Gulch) and I can't wait for this baby!

Jan 14 Jul 2013 3:49 PM

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