Ajina wins the 1997 Breeders' Cup Distaff. (All photos by HorsePhotos)
An accomplished 2-year-old, it wasn’t until the following year that Ajina really made her presence known.
Ajina returned to the track as a 3-year-old in 1997 after winning three of her four starts in her juvenile year but could only manage a fourth in her return. During the spring she jumped between finishing third and fourth, finishing no less than 7 ¼ lengths behind the winner in each of those starts.
However, Ajina rounded back into form in her fifth start of the year, the Grade 1 Mother Goose. Going off as the 18-to-1 choice, she stalked Sharp Cat until the stretch where she pulled away to win by 1 ¼ lengths.
Ajina backed up that victory with a 2-¼ length win in the Coaching Club American Oaks, this time leading wire-to-wire. She raced two more times before the 1997 Breeders’ Cup Distaff but was a bridesmaid each time. Even with her lack of consistent wins, the bettors showed faith in her when sending her off as the co-third choice at odds of 4.80-to-1 in the Distaff.
Jockey Mike Smith quickly positioned Ajina in third place, about 2 ½ lengths behind leader Sharp Cat soon after the field broke. Not much changed until the field hit the Hollywood Park stretch when both Ajina and stablemate Escena surrounded Sharp Cat, who was still in the lead. While Escena couldn’t advance past Sharp Cat, finishing 3 ½ lengths behind that rival, Ajina fared better and pulled away to win by two lengths.
1997 Breeders’ Cup Distaff
Video courtesy of Breeders’ Cup World Championships
The Distaff victory was the first for trainer Bill Mott and owner Allen Paulson, with the pair also taking home the third place prize with Escena.
Mott was confident that Ajina should take home the year-end award for champion 3-year-old filly and made that sentiment known soon after the race.
"I don't think you can deny her [the Eclipse as top 3-year-old filly] now with this win under her belt," he told the Los Angeles Times after the race.
The Distaff victory topped off a year that saw the filly win three of nine starts with four other on-the-board finishes, including six top three finishes in Grade 1 races. Mott’s post-race observation came true with the filly getting more than twice the amount of votes of runner-up Blushing K.D.
Ajina returned to the track the following year but got off to a disappointing start with an eighth place in the Bayakoa Stakes. She showed a flash of brilliance when winning the Pimlico Distaff Handicap that May. But after losing her next two starts, the curtain was dropped on Ajina’s career in late July of 1998.
Her first foal, sired by Deputy Minister, was born in April of 2000. Named Manchurian, the chestnut colt only raced nine times in four seasons but put a stakes win on Ajina’s produce record when he won the 2006 Stymie Handicap.
Ajina was sold to Stonerside Stable in early 2001 and produced a son of Storm Cat later that year for her new owner. While that colt didn’t make it to the track, she produced A.P. Indy daughter Jinni in 2003. While Jinni was good enough to hit the board in a stakes and earned Stonerside $132,210, her dam’s shining moment came in 2005.
The previous year, Ajina had produced another colt by Storm Cat and Stonerside decided to sell him as a yearling. Consigned by Taylor Made Sales Agency, he was sent through the ring at the Keeneland September Yearling sale. When the smoke cleared, he was sold to John Ferguson for $3 million, one of five yearlings Ferguson bought for $3 million or more at the sale.
STORM CAT-AJINA COLT SELLING FOR $3 MILLION
Raced by Godolphin and named Al Naahadth, the colt only made two starts and never hit the board. But since then, Ajina has made up to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Moktoum, who is one of Godolphin’s owners. In 2008, Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley Stable bought Stonerside Stable and Ajina and her daughters came with the farm.
While none of Ajina’s foals since the purchase have had standout careers on the track, they have already shown promise in the breeding shed. Jinni, who was part of Darley’s purchase, produced North Slope in 2010 and the Elusive Quality son placed second in the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame Stakes as a 3-year-old. Bobby Spalding, the farm manager of Darley’s Stonerside Farm division believes that Ajina’s daughters will continue on her legacy through their foals and has two in mind to do it.
“She has two daughters that I think are going to make fine broodmares. One of them is by the name of Ruth E and the other one is a filly called Al Andaleeb, who’s by Bernardini, and she has her first foal this year [by Elusive Quality], which is outstanding,” he said. “It is a great female family, she was a champion so you’re always hopeful. It’s all hopes and dreams and all it takes is one, so if we get the right one, hopefully it will leave a lasting impact. There are a lot of foals born every year and there’s very few of them who are champions.”
As for Ajina, she hasn’t had a foal the last two years but if all goes well she will have a foal in 2015. The mare was bred to Elusive Quality early this year, a stallion that both she and her daughters have visited due to the success of Quality Road, who is out of Ajina’s sister Kobla.
“If you look at the pedigree, that’s Quality Road’s [female] family and Quality Road is by Elusive Quality … [Quality Road’s breeders] figured it out early so we’re just following their footsteps.”
While Ajina doesn’t have a yearling or foal on the ground, her two-year-old Bernardini colt named Pisgah has registered some works, including one at Saratoga. Ajina’s 4-year-old colt Seamark has also done well this year on the track with three wins in four 2014 starts (as of July 16) and her 3-year-old colt Updraft made his career debut last month at Belmont.
Even though Ajina hasn’t been on the track in 16 years, there is still much to be excited about for her fans as her descendants continue to race in the coming years.