Nasrullah (horse)

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Nasrullah (March 2, 1940 – May 26, 1959) was a Thoroughbred racehorse that was bred in Ireland and trained in the United Kingdom before becoming a champion sire in both Europe and North America. As a two-year-old, he won the Coventry Stakes and finished second in the Middle Park Stakes, ending the year as the top-rated colt of his generation. In the following season, he became increasingly difficult to manage, and his temperament compromised his racing career. He was the beaten favourite in the 2,000 Guineas and finished a close third in the Derby Stakes before winning the Champion Stakes. As a breeding stallion he stood in England, Ireland, and the United States and had great success in each location.

DamMumtaz Begum
FoaledMarch 2, 1940
DiedMay 26, 1959(1959-05-26) (aged 19)
BreederAga Khan III
OwnerAga Khan III
TrainerFrank Butters
Record10: 5-1-2
Major wins
Coventry Stakes (1942)
Champion Stakes (1943)
Top-rated British two-year-old colt (1942)
Leading sire in GB & Ireland (1951)
Leading sire in North America
(1955, 1956, 1959, 1960, 1962)


Nasrullah was a big, handsome bay horse with a white star, bred in Ireland by his owner the Aga Khan. He was sired by Nearco, an undefeated Italian racehorse that became one of the most important stallions of the 20th century. Apart from numerous major winners, he sired the influential stallions Nearctic and Royal Charger. His dam, Mumtaz Begum, was a daughter of the outstanding racehorse and broodmare Mumtaz Mahal and became an influential broodmare in her own right: her other descendants have included Royal Charger, Habibti, Octagonal, Oh So Sharp, and Risen Star.

The Aga Khan sent Nasrullah into training with Frank Butters at his Fitzroy House stable in Newmarket. Because of the restrictions imposed as a result of the Second World War, many British races were adapted both in distance and venue, and Nasrullah's entire racing career was confined to Newmarket Racecourse.

Racing career

1942: two-year-old season

On his racecourse debut, Nasrullah finished third in the Wilburton Stakes, but was then moved up in class and contested the Coventry Stakes (usually run at Royal Ascot) on 12 June. Ridden by the champion jockey Gordon Richards, he won at odds of 7/4, beating the future Derby winner Straight Deal. In July, he won the Great Bradley Stakes, beating a single opponent.

Nasrullah was then rested until the autumn, when he ran in Britain's most prestigious race for two-year-olds, the six-furlong Middle Park Stakes. In a closely run contest, he finished second, beaten a neck by the filly Ribbon.

In the Free Handicap, a rating of the season's best two-year-olds, Nasrullah was given a weight of 136 lb, making him the top-rated colt, a pound behind the filly Lady Sybil.

1943: three-year-old season

Before the start of the 1943 season, bookmakers offered prices for the season's leading races despite wartime restrictions, and Nasrullah was made the early favourite for the Derby ahead of his stable companion Umiddad. On his first appearance as a three-year-old, Nasrullah won the Chatteris Stakes easily, but his conduct before the race caused concern. He was extremely unwilling to leave the pre-race paddock and gave Richards several problems on the way to the start. On his next appearance, he was fitted with blinkers when he was started 13/8 favourite for the 2,000 Guineas. Despite his headgear, he was again reluctant to go down to the start, and after leading for five furlongs, he faded to finish fourth of the 19 runners behind the outsider Kingsway.

The "New" Derby of 1943 was run over Newmarket's July Course, and Nasrullah started at odds of 9/1 in a field of 23 runners. Richards, who had the choice of several rides, elected to ride Nasrullah despite his bad behaviour and that he had been labeled a "rogue". Richards struggled to keep the colt on a straight course, but eventually succeeded, and Nasrullah looked the likely winner when he took the lead in the last quarter-mile. In the closing stages, however, he was overtaken and finished third to Straight Deal and Umiddad. In August, Nasrullah went some way towards restoring his reputation when he won the Cavenham Stakes, although Richards had to "persuade" the colt to keep going when he began to idle after taking the lead.

In autumn, Nasrullah was disappointing in the "New St Leger" over 14 furlongs, in which he finished sixth of the 12 runners behind the filly Herringbone. On his final appearance of the year, Nasrullah showed his best form as he won the 10-furlong Champion Stakes from Kingsway and Umiddad in what was described as "the smoothest race of his career".

Stud record

European record

In 1944, he was purchased by the bloodstock agent Bertie Kerr. Kerr kept him for three weeks before selling him for 19,000 guineas to Joseph McGrath, who subsequently stabled him at the Brownstown Stud in County Kildare. This deal was allegedly done over an afternoon cup of tea at Bewley's in Westmoreland Street. Nasrullah was an immediate success as a breeding stallion, and in his six seasons, his fee rose from 198 guineas to 500 guineas. He was champion sire in 1951. The best of his European progeny included:

North American record

In 1950, Nasrullah was sold for $370,000 to Arthur B. Hancock, Jr. He was exported to stand at stud in the United States at Hancock's Claiborne Farm in Paris, Kentucky. Nasrullah became one of the most important North American sires of the 20th century, leading the sire list five times. Among his American progeny were:

Nasrullah died on May 26, 1959. He is buried at Claiborne Farm.


Pedigree of Nasrullah
dkb/br. 1935
b. 1920
b. 1913
Scapa Flow
ch. 1914
b. 1928
dkb/br. 1915
Hors Concours
b. 1910
Mumtaz Begum
gr. 1932
b. 1927
br. 1919
b. 1919
Charles O'Malley
Wild Arum
Mumtaz Mahal
gr. 1921
The Tetrarch
gr. 1911
Roi Herode
Lady Josephine
ch. 1912
Americus Girl (Family: 9-c)

See also