Prestigious award for horse racing’s Niarchos family

Maria Niarchos with Miesque in 2007.
Maria Niarchos with Miesque in 2007. © Niarchos Family

The Niarchos family will receive the 2021 Longines and IFHA International Award of Merit, which recognises distinguished horsemen and horsewomen for lifelong contributions to Thoroughbred racing.

Maria Niarchos-Gouazé will accept the award on behalf of the family during a ceremony on November 5, in Del Mar in California during Breeders’ Cup World Championships weekend.

The Niarchos family has bred and raced Thoroughbreds around the world with great success for decades. More than 125 Group or Grade 1 winners have been bred and/or campaigned under their banner, and they have been long-time supporters of the Breeders’ Cup.

The late shipping tycoon Stavros Niarchos served as a Greek naval officer in World War II and made his fortune in the shipping business. He first became involved with Thoroughbred racing in the 1950s, took a break, and returned in full force in the 1970s. His first major winner was Pipe of Peace, who won the 1956 Middle Park Stakes.

At the 1978 Keeneland July sale, Niarchos paid the second-highest amount ever, at the time, for a yearling colt. Named Nureyev, he went on to be an extremely influential sire. Among Nureyev’s most well-known progeny is Miesque, who raced as a homebred for the Niarchos family and was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame of the United States in 1999.

Miesque, who won the Breeders’ Cup Mile in 1987 and 1988, was a champion in England, France, and the United States during her racing career. As a broodmare, she went on to produce elite runner and stallion Kingmambo as well as three-time Group 1 winner East of the Moon. A multiple Group 1 winner in Europe, Kingmambo became one of the leading stallions in Kentucky, siring classic winners and champions in North America, Europe, and Japan. East of the Moon, meanwhile, is the granddam of three Group 1-winning sisters in Alpha Centauri, Alpine Star, and Discoveries.

Niarchos was the leading owner in France in 1983 and 1984 as well as the leading breeder in 1989, 1993, and 1994. His daughter Maria took over the family’s Thoroughbred business after his death in 1996, and Alan Cooper serves as the family’s racing manager.

The Niarchos family has won seven Breeders’ Cup races with six homebred colts and fillies. Six of those victories have come in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1): Miesque (1987, 1988), Spinning World (1997), Domedriver (2002), Six Perfections (2003), and Karakontie (2014). Additionally, Main Sequence won the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) in 2014. The six Mile winners were trained in Europe, while Main Sequence began his career in Europe before being transferred to the United States. This record as an owner-breeder at the Breeders’ Cup makes the Niarchos family one of the event’s most successful participants.

A sampling of other notable international wins for the family as owner or breeder also includes Bago (2004 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe), Divine Proportions (2005 Prix de Diane), Light Shift (2007 English Oaks), Ulysses (2017 Eclipse Stakes and International Stakes, son of Light Shift), Alpha Centauri (2018 Irish Horse of the Year), Study of Man (2018 Prix du Jockey Club), War of Will (2019 Preakness Stakes), and Circus Maximus (2019 St James’s Palace Stakes and 2020 Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot).

Previous winners of this award include John Messara, the owner and chairman of Arrowfield Stud in Australia; the Magnier family and trainer Aidan O’Brien, the driving forces behind Coolmore and the Ballydoyle Racing Stable in Ireland; Japanese jockey Yutaka Take; the Romanet family, long renowned leaders in both the French and international world of horseracing; Jim Bolger, leading Irish trainer, owner and breeder; Alec Head, past champion trainer and patriarch of prominent stud farm Haras du Quesnay; Seth Hancock of historic Claiborne Farm in America; and the late Marcel Zarour Atanacio, former chairman of the South American organization for the promotion of Thoroughbreds (OSAF).

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