By Edouard Aldahdah
In 1947, American billionnaire and press magnate W.R. Hearst (of Hearst Castle fame) sent a party of several people, including his stud manager Preston Dyer, and the photographer J. Williamson, all around the Middle East in search of Arabian horses for his San Simeon stud. They toured Egypt, Arabia, Syria and ended up buying 14 horses from the racetrack of Beirut, Lebanon, most of them from Henri Pharaon. Pharaon was then president of the SPARCA (Societe Pour l’Amelioration de la Race Chevaline Arabe), which managed the Beirut racetrack. He was also Minister of Foreign Affairs of the newly independent Republic of Lebanon (my home country). If you want to known more about the Hearst importation and its circumstances, check this article out.
One of the horses Preston brought back to the USA was the grey mare *Layya, the subject of this entry and a couple others to come.
According to papers given by *Layya’s Lebanese breeder Georges Khamis to Dick Skinner of the Hearst Stables, *Layya (which he writes Leah) was a “Shikeh” by strain, by the stallion “Kayan” out of the mare “Naileh”. Khamis’s handwritten pedigree of *Layya provides somes details about *Layya’s ancestors. All of these are Asil Arabians that lived in the Biqaa’ valley of Lebanon in the 1940s – the golden era of Lebanese Asil Arabian horse breeding. Old time Lebanese horse breeders are familiar with many of them.
I spent much time gathering and cross-checking available information about these horses. The result of my inquiries is gathered in an “Index of Asil and Non-Asil Arabian Horses of Lebanon and Syria”, which I hope to publish some day. So far, the “Index” contains more than 100 horse entries, many of which shed new light on the background of Arabian horses imported to the USA, such as *Layya. Click here to read what the “Aldahdah Index” 😉 has to say about the stallion Kayan, *Layya’s sire. It also has other entries about the rest of the horses in *Layya’s pedigree, which I will share with you in due course.
George Khamis sold Layya to Henri Pharaon who sold her to Preston Dyer for W.R. Hearst. *Layya was imported to the USA, where she founded an important family, through crosses with Hallany Mistanny and Arabian stallions from Richard Pritzlaff’s breeding. The rareakstrains website has a list of her progeny. Al Khamsa, which accepted *Layya as a Foundation Horse a few years ago has a detailed entry for *Layya on its website, drawing in part on information available in the Aldahdah Index.