Secretariat international scouting report: Afandem
Three-for-four lifetime, Afandem hopes to belie his inexperience in his first start outside France and in Grade/Group 1 company. It’s tempting to view him as the traveling companion to soothe stablemate Mekhtaal ahead of the Arlington Million (G1), but that might be underestimating a talented colt with a boatload of high-profile entries.
Likewise trained by Jean-Claude Rouget for Al Shaqab Racing, the French-bred Afandem (not to be confused with a more exposed Irish-bred three-year-old of the same name) was a €130,000 Arqana August yearling. He is by the young Dansili stallion Zoffany, off to a fine start at stud, and out of an Anabaa half-sister to German Group 1 winner Elliptique. Thus both sire and dam descend from Danzig’s male line, giving Afandem 4x3 inbreeding to that global phenomenon.
Afandem’s “aunt” Cicerole, a multiple stakes scorer who placed in a quartet of Group 3s, finished sixth in the 2008 Beverly D. (G1). Further down the line, this is the family of 2010 Melbourne Cup (G1) champion Americain.
In his lone outing as a juvenile, Afandem scored in a newcomers’ event going about 1 3/16 miles on Deauville’s synthetic. The favorite was one of the slowest way, but had little difficulty recovering good inside stalking position in a leisurely-run affair. Shuffled back as the 14-horse field prepared to turn for home, Afandem again crept forward, angled off the fence, and quickened well to prevail in time.
Afandem resurfaced in a March 10 conditions race over the same distance, this time at Chantilly as the odds-on choice. He missed the break again, loped contentedly off the pace, and mowed them down under confident handling. As with his maiden, this race didn’t take much winning, and better tests awaited.
Engaged in a pair of classic trials as well as the Poule d’Essai des Poulains (French 2000 Guineas) (G1) and Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) (G1), Afandem missed them all due to the EHV-1 outbreak in Rouget’s yard. Thankfully he recovered from his bout with the illness, first detected when he had to be scratched from the April 9 Prix La Force (G3).
Afandem was ready to pick up where he left off in the June 12 Prix Ridgway at Compiegne. Breaking alertly in this stakes and turf debut, he tracked the pacesetting favorite Finche (a Frankel half-brother to Proviso and Byword). Godolphin’s Glen Shiel struck first when Finche flailed, and Afandem showed a willing attitude to head the new leader on the line.
Afandem met Finche again in the Prix Eugene Adam (G2) last time at Maisons-Laffitte, with a different result. Although the 1 1/4-mile distance was the same, the ground was better in the rematch, Finche was a bit wiser, and had the opportunity to stalk instead of making the running himself. Afandem launched a strong bid, but Finche had the answer and fought him off.
The Eugene Adam had a useful group, with a couple of listed winners, a Group 3 scorer in Phelps Win, and Derby Italiano (G2) runner-up Back on Board all behind the top two. Still, thanks to his springtime virus, Afandem has yet to encounter the established players in his division. Finche has long-term potential, but he was making only his third start, and has no more Group 1 entries going forward (his only one being the Grand Prix de Paris [G1] that he didn’t make). Thus from a form perspective, there’s quite a chasm at this point between Afandem and Secretariat rival Permian.
Another open question is the going. Afandem had a pretty pronounced knee action on the synthetic, which can be indicative of a horse who enjoys more ease in the ground than he’s likely to get at Arlington (barring a pop-up shower). His turf victory came on good-to-soft in the Ridgway. He certainly acted on a quicker surface to come within a half-length in the Eugene Adam, but it remains to be seen if he moves up on a rain-affected course. At this level, every little variable can take on greater importance.
Of course, there’s not enough evidence to warrant any conclusions, and it’s telling that Rouget has given Afandem entries in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) and Champion S. (G1). As a lightly-raced type, he has abundant upside.
Photo of Afandem leading Million-bound stablemate Mekhtaal courtesy Michael Adolphson via Twitter