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Joe David Brown
March 30, 1959
Aly Khan developed a taste for speed and an eye for conformation around his father's stables. These qualities have proved useful to him—first as playboy-sportsman and now as diplomat
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March 30, 1959

Education Of A Horse Trader

Aly Khan developed a taste for speed and an eye for conformation around his father's stables. These qualities have proved useful to him—first as playboy-sportsman and now as diplomat

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Nahar's exasperating habit might have prompted some owners to give him a one-way ticket to a glue works, but Aly finally decided if trainers couldn't break the habit maybe it could be used to advantage. The big test came in the 1954 Lincolnshire Handicap. He gave orders that Nahar was to be nursed along carefully in the rear until the last minute and then be given his head. The jockey did just that. Nahar zoomed into passing gear, as usual, but when he decided he had done enough it didn't matter because he had already crossed the finish line—a good one-and-a-half-length winner. Aly was able to sell him to a Kentucky syndicate for a hefty profit.

Aly is noted for his lightning deals. In 1950, when he decided to buy the Sandwich stud of Wilfred Harvey, owner of the Ascot Gold Cup winner Supertello, the deal was all done and the papers signed at Aly's suite in the London Ritz in 24 hours. It still rates as one of the biggest bloodstock deals in a quarter century, and Aly acquired 30 mares, 24 yearlings and 15 foals. From the deal came the great filly Noory, winner of the Irish Oaks.

Aly's single most lucrative deal on his own was with Tehran, sire of the great Tulyar. In 1944 he leased Tehran to his father in hopes that the colt would give him another Derby victory, but he was beaten by Ocean Swell by a neck. But afterwards Tehran won the St. Leger and Aly sold him to a syndicate for nearly a half million dollars and reinvested the proceeds with a shrewdness which so impressed the old Aga that he practically turned over his stables to Aly and a couple of years later made him a partner and did just that.

Aly and his father had their greatest racing year as partners in 1952 when Tulyar—by Tehran out of Neocracy—raced home a winner in the English Derby against great competition, including eight highly touted French horses. The old Aga was confined to his Riviera villa recovering from a heart attack and Aly, immaculate in morning coat and gray top hat, led Tulyar into the winner's circle. It was the Aga's fifth Derby victory, putting him equal with Lord Egremont, who had five winners between 1782 and 1826, when there was almost no competition from abroad and there were fewer horses in the British Isles.

Soon after his great victory Tulyar was sold to the Irish National Stud for $700,000, the highest price ever paid for a horse in the British Isles up until that time, and in the following year Aly and his father sold off all their Irish yearling colts and a large number of brood mares. They described the sales as a "streamlining" of their racing interests. The real reason seems to have been that the old Aga knew his time was drawing near and he wanted to reinvest his money in places where it would not be subject to such heavy taxes.

The famous stables and brood farms are now under Aly's control, and there is nothing reckless about the way he runs them. Nearly everyone who has ever had an occasion to talk horses with Aly has been astounded at the magical results. Aly loses his nervous and fidgety manner and relaxes. He talks calmly and with authority. He probably knows as much about horses as any man alive, and he knows it. His chain of stud farms in Ireland—Gilltown, Ongar, Sheshoon, Ballymanny, Eyrenfield and Sallymount—comprises some 3,000 acres, and though the bloodstock is not worth anything like what it was in 1953 Aly has as many yearlings and foals as then and only 15% fewer brood mares. In France, Aly has famed Trainer Alec Head in charge of his stables at Chantilly. He also has four well-stocked stud farms at La Coquenne, St. Crespin, Marlyla-Ville and Lassy.

Intimates say that Aly had no inkling the old Aga did not intend to name him as his successor and was completely crushed when he received the news. "It was the worst blow he had ever received since his mother died," said a friend. "I believe Aly has been taking stock of himself and has made up his mind to settle down and be a person of importance," said his old confidante, Elsa Maxwell.

If Aly's work at the U.N. is any indication, perhaps this is true. So far he has proved a disappointment only on one count. "Sartorially, he is no standout," said an official. "His collar ends stick out. He is considered a poor dresser."

It is not the first time someone has commented on Aly's poor clothes sense. A few years ago, with some chortling and pretended shock, London newspapers made much of a picture which showed Aly at a garden party wearing trousers which obviously were drooping and almost covering his shoes. One newsman called the offices of Tailor and Cutter, that august journal which is the final arbiter of men's fashions. A very British and very cultured voice delivered an immediate verdict which, every thing considered, disposed of Aly quite nicely: "Oh, that dear man again. He wouldn't be so bad, y'know, if he would just learn to keep his trousers up."

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