In Memoriam    

OBITUARY: Sambist, leading Arabian Racehorse and Racing Sire

Words by Anne Brown

So the heart is ripped out of Gadebrook Stud – Sambist was felled by Cushings Disease in November 2014 in his 28th year.

Bred at the Soviet State Stud at Tersk in 1987 by their finest stallion Balaton (Menes x Panagia) from the Topol daughter Stihia (x Sapina by Arax), Sambist was raced from the age of two at the nearby Pyatygorsk track. He went on to win all five of the country's great classics, including the Russian Derby and the St Ledger, before bursting on to the international scene.

Auctioned by the Russians as a six year old at one of the famous Kossack Sales in The Netherlands, he was snapped up by HH Sheikh Abdullah bin Khalifa al Thani of Qatar for his Umm Qarn Stud for a record $385,000.

By the end of his legendary racing career in Britain and the Middle East, Sambist had notched up 19 wins and 18 placings, finishing his final two and a half mile race, lengths ahead of elite competition. This was at the UK Long Distance Championship at Goodwood, where he won in both 1993 and 1994, in record time, retiring sound. Sambist made just one appearance in the show ring, winning the 1996 Liberty Championship at the UK International.

Nonetheless, however brilliant a stallion's performance is on the racecourse, it is at stud that his importance lies. Fortunately, Sambist proved to be prepotent, producing a great number of beautiful athletic foals who have gone on to success in racing, endurance and many other disciplines for both Umm Qarn Stud and for my own Gadebrook Stud.

The world renowned semen analyst, Professor Martin Boyle, recalls that Sambist was the first Arabian stallion from whom he collected for artificial insemination. Sambist's top quality frozen semen has produced important progeny in the USA, notably, II Damb Much (x II Much Money); Australia, Samson Tai (x Electra Tai), and the Middle East. Only a few doses of semen for UK use remain.

When the Umm Qarn horses moved to Qatar in 2007, Sambist came to Gadebrook Stud in Northamptonshire, the greatest privilege I could have been granted. He was the pride and joy of the stud ever since, the focus of every visitor's attention. He was a fertile and impeccably behaved stallion for live cover under the care of attentive stud manager Jackie Pringle.

Sambist was the complete package, a handsome 15.3hh bay stallion with speed, stamina, excellent conformation and hooves, intelligence, a good nature and fertility; by both natural covering and frozen semen. The racing successes of his progeny earned him AHS Premium Stallion status early in his stud career, and he has produced over 100 Premium progeny. The continued successes of his offspring earned him the title of Premium Arab Racing Sire of the Year in 2014, for a record beating ninth time!

Sambist has starred in numerous television programmes in the UK, Europe and the Middle East. He also inspired photographers and artists including Hamish Mackie, who is currently working on the sculpture of a rearing stallion based on Sambist, ironic as our boy never reared! The larger than life size bronze statue will grace Goodman's Field in London this summer.

Always the gracious showman, Sambist was the proud focus for open days at Gadebrook as well as for visiting endurance and riding club groups, overseas breeders and mare owners.
He made a ground breaking contribution to equine genetics when we provided his DNA to Cornell University in the USA to map an Arabian's entire genome for the very first time.

The stock Gadebrook has bred from Sambist continues to fly his flag. A 2012 colt, Samba B (x Jazmyn), gained a Higher First Premium at the BEF Futurity Evaluations as a yearling and two year old. Our own three 2010 fillies by him all gained First Premiums at the 2012 BEF Futurity Evaluations. Meanwhile, a 2009 son, Rizaam (x Rizaari), won the three year old gelding futurity at the British National Arabian Championships in 2012 for new owner Kate Williams. She says: "just seeing him never fails to brighten my day. Rizaam has the most amazing temperament, everyone who deals with him adores him and his talent is now really starting to show."

Sambist's breeding career came to an abrupt halt last summer when he was diagnosed with Cushings, stripping our once majestic Sambist of weight and muscle despite medication. The heart has truly gone out of our pure Russian breeding programme at Gadebrook. There will never be another like Sambist.

We retain his 2010 daughter, the dramatic grey pure Russian Samska (x GAS Skala), and a bay granddaughter Wahiba (Chantaz x Al Wajbah by Sambist) for racing and endurance. Their former field companion Kallista (x GAS Pepelka) has joined Zayin Arabians and is in training for her maiden season. Her full sister, Mariska, was snapped up as a foal by American breeder Dr Larry Cohen and flew the Atlantic as a yearling last October to join Patti Bailey's Phase II - Fast Track Farm in the Greater Boston area, USA. Dr Cohen wrote: "I am very happy to have Mariska and, God willing, we'll produce more great offspring to enhance Sambist's superstar legacy."

Sambist's former jockey Colin Jenkins came to pay his respects in October to 'the best Arabian I ever rode', following his visit he sent me this moving poem:

Goodbye Sambist, the best I have known,
The King of Goodwood, you made it your own,
So many memories, as we shared our time,
A great horse to ride, the honour was mine,
You touched the hearts of so many, as you passed our way,
Many memories relived, as they think of you this day,
So goodbye my old friend, no longer in pain,
If God grants wishes, may we meet again...

Dozens of tributes have poured in from around the world, praising his beauty, presence, ability and his progeny. Gillian Hay, his UK trainer for HH Sheikh Abdullah recalls: "Sambist came to us in 1993 as a six year old with a big reputation and he was the very first Arabian I trained. As soon as Sambist arrived, I fell in love with him. He was a wonderful horse to train, very straightforward. As well as stamina, he had that magic ingredient; an ability to find another gear and quicken away from the field even after two and a half miles! There are no races of this distance nowadays as speed seems to be the priority in breeding."

Renowned US breeder Patti Bailey from Phase II Farm was so impressed with Sambist's utter correctness and the fact that he retired 100% sound after six seasons racing internationally that she chose to import his semen for her Remington Steele (Gaffizon x Jordjina) daughters. "He was the epitome of an athlete and a very elegant gentleman, surely the best racehorse ever to leave Russia," she believes.

Sergei Ivanov, the General Manager at Tersk, sent his condolences with "thanks for loving our horses".

Leading endurance champion Kathy Carr, owner of his rising five year old daughter Mandarine (x Jazmyn), recalls: "He was such a delightful boy, great presence, even just turned out and covered in mud. I am delighted to have secured one of his offspring and hope Mandarine and I will do him justice."

WAHO Board member Val Bunting, who was manager at Umm Qarn, says, "It was love at first sight when I saw Sambist at Tersk as a three year old; excitement when I bought him for HH Sheikh Abdullah bin Khalifa al Thani at the Kossack Sale; and a privilege to have looked after him."

Jenny Pond was there at the beginning of Sambist's career with frozen semen in Australia and helped the conception of Samson Tai, now an impressive endurance stallion and producer for Moondarra Stud. The stud owners, Ian and Deb Watson, came over to England in last August to see Sambist at Gadebrook as part of their bucket list, and were even more impressed than they had expected.

It has been an honour and a pleasure to share Sambist's later life, his delightful foals, his racing progeny, his visiting mares, and his host of fans worldwide who have been devastated at the news of his passing.

Few horses have had as successful a career and left as important a legacy as Sambist. It is heart-warming to know how much he was appreciated by so many people.