The Greatest Racehorses - Ever

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Bay Ronald - Galicia
Foaled 1906 Brown Stallion Died 1917
Runs: 25 Wins: 22 Places: 1 Earned: £44,535
Form: 1111111 - 45111111111111 - 11112

Races Won

Dewhurst Plate 1908
Middle Park Plate 1908
Richmond Stakes 1908
Prince of Wales Stakes 1909
Sandringham Stakes 1909
Eclipse Stakes 1909
Dutchess of York Stakes 1909
St Leger (Doncaster) 1909
Doncaster Stakes 1909
Champion Stakes 1909
Lowther Stakes 1909
Liverpool St Leger 1909
Chester Vase 1910
Ascot Gold Cup 1910

Bayardo was a rare versatile racehorse who won top races from 6f to 2m 4f. He is considered one of the greatest horses ever to grace the English turf and even though his untimely death at the age of eleven cut short his stud career he led the sires list twice in England and left a sire son, Gainsborough who continued his line into the present. But first things first. Born to a decent H'capper sire & a dam whose very promising career was cut short by a split pastern as a two year old, Bayardo was a large framed, colt with "lop" ears (very long ears that can sometimes flop sideways) & usually such horses are very honest (ie give 150% effort at all times) & good-natured.

Having said that, Bayardo hated his abnormally long ears being covered but then most horses do to some degree anyway. He would unusally however let them flop back & forth in time with his stride during a race. He was also what is known nowadays as "a thinker" which means he would do things his way & in his own sweet time & ignore what anybody else tried to tell him. This is actually a VERY dangerous trait in a racehorse as more often than not they'll decide they don't want to race so will refuse at the start. He would frequently stand still and look off into the distance for long periods of time, even doing this before some of his races at Newmarket. Another of his quirks saw him regularly banging his chin on his feed manger.

Bayardo became a great public favourite (and captured my heart within five minutes of researching him!) because of his versatility, regular appearances on the racecourse & his style of racing - sitting off the pace then coming with a devastating burst of speed cutting down his rivals in the home straight. After winning his first start as a two year old with ease, he went on to caputure every top two year old race of that era over distances ranging from 6f to 1m. Unbeaten in seven starts saw him installed as favourite for the 2000 Guineas over the unsually harsh winter off season however Mother Nature mustn't have been a Bayardo backer for he slipped on a patch of ice whilst exercising one morning just months before the big day & became badly lame.

His trainer, Alec Taylor tried to stop Bayardo's owner (Alfred Cox) from running him in the Guineas but Alfred wanted to see his champion colt run and so began a race against time to get Bayardo fit (some things really don't change. Its the same every year even now, none moreso that Teofilo this year!) . Of course Alec knew best & Cox had to watch the first defeat of his colts career as he finished a gallant fourth to Minoru who's story is remarkable in itself not least of all his mysterious disappearance but that's another story. Bayardo regained his full strength after the Newmarket run but once more fate intervened to deny him Classic glory.

During his Derby the favourite Sir Martin fell, impeding a number of runners those of which included Bayardo. His jockey sensibly saved his colt for another day & let him coast home gently in fifth place behind short head winner Minoru. After this, Bayardo was back to his brilliant best & remained unbeaten in his next eleven starts including the Eclipse Stakes (Sandown) & Champion Stakes(Newmarket) both against older horses & the St Leger (Doncaster) beating old rival Minoru into 4th place. Two days after this win he added the Doncaster Stakes to his haul.

Consequently the great horse went into the winter favourite for another of racings most prestigious prizes: the Ascot Gold Cup (always a personal favourite of mine). Two prep wins in the Biennel Stakes & the Chester Vase in which he gave his supporters a frightby only getting up by a short head, fell his way before he lined up at Ascot. His main rival the French horse, Sea Sick II winner of the Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby) the previous season & although gallant front running Sea Sick II gave it a good shot, still leading with a mile to go, at the six furlong pole, Bayardo simply took off with his jockey & bounded away from the field to win by a commanding four lengths. This is widely regarded as Bayardo's finest hour in his amazing career.

He won his next race (the fifteenth in succession since his Derby defeat) well enough before his final start in the Goodwood Cup. However his swansong was a major disappointment as he went down by a neck to a rather ordinary colt called Magic. Given a bad ride (worthy of Kieran Fallon / Bosra Sham Sandown 1997 or Johnny Murtagh / Ouija Board Longchamp 2004 fame) by his jockey & left with far too much ground to make up & of course carrying 36lbs more than his younger rival, Bayardo gave his all but it wasn't enough.

At stud he was immediately popular despite his princely fee of 300 guineas. He was leading sire in Britain in 1917 & 1918 and leading broodmare sire in 1925. He also sired three classic winners two of which won England's Triple Crown during the years of World War I. Tragically for the British breeding industry Bayardo died in the prime of life at age eleven when he became ill with thrombosis, which paralyzed his hind legs. He died soon after (have you ever noticed these old warrior horses don't meet with a happy ending?!) leaving behind only one son (Gainsborough & WWI wartime Triple Crown winner) that keeps his sire line alive & racing to this day.

Other notable offspring include Gay Crusader (WWI wartime Triple Crown winner), Manton (champion sire in Poland 1930), Pompadour (3rd in English 1000 Guineas), Allenby (2nd in English 2000 Guineas), Bayuda (Cheveley Park Stakes & Epsom Oaks winner). He was champion sire of broodmares too, large thanks to Saucy Sue (out of his daughter Good and Gay who was a full sister to Pompadour) who won English 1000 Guineas, the Oaks and the Coronation Stakes. Her half brother Swift also became a useful sire after winning five races at three years old including the Chester Vase.

And so Bayardo becomes one of the many "what if's...." of Thoroughbred breeding for who knows how much he could have achieved if he'd been blessed with a longer life.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Phar Lap
AKA Big Red
Night Raid - Entreaty
Foaled 4 October 1926 Chestnut Gelding Deceased 1932
Runs: 51 Wins: 37 Places: 5 Earned: £66,738
Form: 00001 - 00042111133111111111 -
211111111111112 - 11111111181

Races Won
Rosehill Guineas Randwick 1929
AJC Derby Randwick 1929
Craven Plate Randwick 1929
VRC Derby Flemington 1929
VRC St Leger Flemington 1929
AJC St Leger Flemington 1929
Melbourne Cup Flemington 1930
Linlithgow Stakes Flemington 1930
Cox Plate Moonee Valley 1930 & 1931
St George Stakes Caulfield 1931
Futurity Stakes Caulfield 1931
King's Plate Flemington 1931
Agua Caliente Handicap Mexico 1932

Phar Lap (who's name is the Thai word for Lightning) was foaled at Seadown Stud in Timaru, New Zealand & it was here as a rather thin, weak yearling that he was bought by Hugh Telford (brother of Phar Lap's future trainer, Harry) for the small fee of 160 Guineas. Once he had been shipped to Australia, Big Red's quest for legendary status began in earnest. But first he had quite a lot of growing to do - 17.1hands of it to be precise! I personally have owned a warmblood horse 17.2h in height & he was MASSIVE so I have some idea of how formidable Big Red must have looked to his rivals whose heights will have averaged from 15.2 to 16.4h. Of course his extra height meant more bone (basically that means longer legs) a larger heart, lungs, girth... everything that is essential to aid a racehorse in its racing career.

(Below:- Phar Lap as pretty as a picture, looking as shiny as a new pin :D)

A Slow Start
Big Red as he became affectionately known, was gelded not long after his arrival to Australia the theory being it would be a waste of time keeping him entire when he was such a weak animal. What I know about gelding is limited but I do know gelding a colt means he doesn't grow as strong as a stallion.... heaven knows how much stronger Red could have been if he'd been remained entire. Sometimes a little patience can go a long way. Still the fact remains his owners did what they thought was right at the time a decision Im sure they will have regretted several times over the course of Phar Lap's tragically short life.

After a rather lacklustre start to his career he got off the mark in an ordinary 6f h'cap on his final start as a 2yo. Another year on his back strengthened him up nicely & although out of luck on his further four starts of the season, he won the Chelmsford Stakes easily & finally having gotten a taste for winning he went on to record a remarkable twelve more victories in his three year season. Thats more than some modern day horses entire career runs, nevermind wins.

His four year old season saw him grow stronger still & he swept all challengers aside with a mammoth fourteen wins from sixteen starts, quite often making his own running in a race, his long easy stride tearing up the track beneath him. One race he won was the Melbourne Cup & his prep run for this prestigious event was not entirely without incident as with any great celebrity, Red was the victim of an assasination attempt. Heading back to the barn from exercise one morning a car approached him & a shotgun was fired at Red, his groom & his lead pony but miraculously no one was injured & Red lived to win another race. He duly won the gruelling two mile Melbourne Cup (carrying a dead weight of 9st 12lb) by 3 lengths from Second Wind.

(Below pic:- Red at peak fitness. Note the sheer power in his broad shoulders)

Two days after his Melbourne cup win Red won the Linlithgow Stakes also held at Flemington & so in the space of a fortnight he'd survived an attempt on his life & won four races in succession. Im sorry but thats simply amazing. Nowadays if a horse is spooked by a loud noise like a gunshot it would be given copious amounts of "equine psychology therapy" & at least three months off. The end of his four year old season ended with defeat by a short neck. Nothing unusual about that you may think but you'd be so wrong. Poor Red had been displaying Colic symptoms on the morning of the event & as I've also dealt with horses with colic I know that to get them to merely stand up is an achievement, let alone run second in a race! Luckily he could now have a well deserved two month break after which he bounded back as impressive as ever.

As a five year old he won ten of his eleven starts his only defeat coming in the Melbourne Cup where he was unrealistically expect to carry 10st 10lb. Under such ludicrous circumstances Phar Lap raced well but his hard training regime and punishing weight took their toll and he faded to finish eighth. It was after this race it was announced the horse would try & conquer America. Or in other words his owners were dazzled by the prize money (another decision Im sure they regretted once or twice for the rest of their lives). As was is ever thus. Some things just never change.

A two month voyage across the Pacific beckoned, during which time Red's devoted groom, Tommy Woodcock had virtually no freedom for Red would become overanxious as soon as his friend was out of sight & in order to keep the great horse calm Tommy had to stay with his charge around the clock. Of course such an epic journey did not phase Red who after a further two months contested his first (and subsequently his last) race in Mexico, which I suppose was a bit like the Dubai World Cup of its time IE the richest race in the world. Red demolished the field of eleven & broke the track record for good measure.

Unsolved Mystery
(above pic:- Phar Lap's death makes front page news, such was his popularity)

Sadly Red died as agonising death in 1932 in California just days after his Mexican victory. His trainer Harry Telford found the gentle giant in severe pain, with a high temperature & a few hours later he died as blood spurted from his lungs as he haemorrhaged to death. As a horse owner I can't believe his owner/trainer/groom didn't insist on the vet humanely destroying him much sooner than the two hours it took for him to pass away. Poor beautiful noble creature.

Scientists believe Red could have been posioned by US gangsters who thought the horse unbeatable & therefore a threat to their illegal gambling a theory supported by the traces of arsenic found in the horse's system. Its though he was guven a large dose of arsenic one or two days prior to his death.

Some racing experts have maintained Big Red could have died from a gradual build up of the poison as a tonic commonly used by trainers in the 1930's contained arsenic. I guess much like the mystery surrounding the luckless Shergar we'll never truly know what happened to the Aussie legend that was Big Red.

Phar Lap's colossal 6.4kg heart is on display in the National Museum in Canberra, Australia & his sleek golden hide has been preserved via taxidermy & is on display in a glass case in the Melbourne Museum, Australia. I can't see any modern day so-called "legends" such as Authorized being preserved for future generations to visit, can you?

(below:- Phar Lap as he stands today, in the Melbourne Museum, Australia)

I would give my left arm to go see him in person someday. As I have relatives in Oz, maybe thats not such a far fetched notion. Cya soon Red!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Gainsborough - Selene
Foaled 18 April 1930 Chestnut Stallion Deceased 1960
Runs: 13 Wins: 9 Places: 3 Earned: £29,509
Form: 41131 - 1111 - 1132
Rated: 142

Races Won
Prince of Wales' Stakes 6f Goodwood 1932
Boscawen Post Stakes 5f Newmarket 1932
Dewhurst Stakes 7f Newmarket 1932
Chester Vase 1m 4f Chester 1933
Derby (English) 1m 4f Epsom 1933
Prince of Wales' Stakes 1m 5f Royal Ascot 1933
St Leger 1m 5f Doncaster 1933
March Stakes 1m 2f Newmarket 1934
Burwell Stakes 1m 4f Newmarket 1934

Hyperion is one of the most important Thoroughbreds of the 20th century; siring numerous Classic winners, leading sires across the world and top broodmares. Bred by Lord Derby he was nothing short of a miracle as his dam Selene had been barren (unable to be put in foal) since 1928 and this mating was her last chance before being retired for good.

The Ugly Duckling That Became A Swan

Hyperion was named after a Greek sun god but there was nothing god-like about his appearence, being described as small and weak. Many advised Lord Derby to geld him or even have him destroyed. When all the other foals left Side Hill Stud to begin their training, Hyperion was left behind because he was so weak. Left alone to mature at his leisure he blossomed into a small; he barely topped 15 hands - the average racehorse is at least 15.4h - but perfectly formed speciman. He may have had the short legs typical of his female line but he was now a lengthy, powerfully built individual.

Hyperion also had an unusual coat for it changed colour in the different seasons & wuality of light. When he sweated he was dark although his mane and tail always remained significantly lighter than his body. He had four white feet which is traditionally a bad omen when owning a chestnut horse.

Hyperion proved to be very lazy in nature and had to be worked hard to maintain his optimum fitness level. His trainer George Lambton had fallen in love with the colt the moment he had set eyes on the little horse as a weak but intelligent looking yearling, so allowed the horse to get away with anything he pleased on the gallops (IE stopping in the middle of a workout or refusing to move for up to half an hour at a time) & in the yard.

At The Races

As was custom in the bygone days of racing, horses were campaigned on all types of going and over a wide variety of distances. As a 2yo Hyperion dead heated in the Prince of Wales Stakes (Goodwood) on heavy, sluggish ground with the filly Nancy Stair. He was then beaten into 3rd in his next race by the mighty Manitoba but bounced back to form with a 2 length victory in heavy gound in the Dewhurst.

Below is Hyperion in training at Stanley House with his trainer George Lambton (holding the lead rein) with jockey Tommy Weston on board.

At three he matured somewhat mentally but physically he remained small & compact. He continued disappoing on the gallops, regularly being beaten by stablemate Scarlet Tiger. Because of his size he wasn't entered in the 2000 Guineas but made his 3yo debut in the Chester Vase. A slow & sluggish start meant he had to be vigorously shaken up to win by 2 lengths. This performance impressed the bookies & he statred favourite for the Derby. His easy 4 length win over King Salmon and Statesman made him a public hero. It also gave his owner a second win in the race named for his family. Hyperions time of 2 mins 34 sec was a new Derby record.

He won his next start by 2 lengths carrying 131 lbs compared to the 2nd placed horse, Shamsuddin, 115 lbs. However things went wrong when Hyperion dislocated his patella (knee cap) for the 3rd time in his life, which forced him to mis a prep run for the up coming St Leger. Nobody told the horse it was a hard task to win a Classic after a 3 month lay off and just as well they didnt, for he romped home by a easy 3 lengths having ran keenly up front for most of the race.

All Good Things Come To An End

Colledge Leader took over as trainer for Lord Derby in 1933 when Lambton left over an argument with his Lordship regarding his old age and failing health. Lambton continued to train until his death eleven years later.

Hyperion won his 4yo debut by a neck, carrying a massive 138 lb compared to the feather weighted Angelico, 118 lb. Then he defeated King Salmon at level weights (136 lb) by 3 lengths in the Burwell Stakes. Hard ground prevented him contesting the Coronation Cup and in homework he was subsequently found to be lack the sufficent stamina for the two mile trip of the Ascot Gold Cup. He still contested the race however and finished a tired but gallant 3rd in ground approaching a quagmire after torrential rainfall the previous night.

Below:- Hyperion - the lean, mean, fighting, race fit machine.

Gone But Not Forgotten

A nice touch came prior to the Ascot Gold Cup in the parade ring, where Hyperion caught sight of George Lambton (now in a wheelchair) and stopped dead in front of him, refusing to move for quite some time.

The little horse's final start was in the Dullingham Stakes over 1m 4f. Only 2 horses went to post but Hyperion had to settle for second best under a burden weight of 142 lb to the 3yo Caithness, carrying 113 lb. He was just beaten a short head after an intense head to head battle up the straight.

At Stud

Hyperion entered Lord Derby's Woodland Stud in 1935 and remained there most of his life except for 3 years he spent at the Plantation Stud (also in Newmarket) and during WWII when he was moved to Thornton Stud in Yorkshire, safely out of the way of enemy fire. Newmarket was surrounded by airfields and was considered a target for enemy bombers.

Hyperion is one of the greatest stallions of all time, topping the Leading Sire list no less than six times in 1940, 1941, 1942, 1945, 1946 & 1955. He sired 527 foals, 118 of which won stakes races, including 7 winners of 11 English Classics. It also includes the American bred champion Pensive, a winner of the Kentucky Derby & Preakness Stakes.

Other progeny included Aureole (owned by King George Vi), Owen Tudor (wartime Derby, St Leger & Ascot Gold Cup winner), Sun Chariot the moody but brilliant winner of the English 1000 Guineas, Oaks & St Leger, Godiva (winner of wartime 1000 Guineas & Oaks), Hycilla (winner of the Oaks & Champion Stakes in 1944), Sun Stream (winner of the Queen Mary Stakes as a 2yo & 1000 Guineas), Sun Castle (winner of wartime St Leger beating Owen Tudor), Hypericum a very temperamental winner of the Dewhurst & 1000 Guineas, Heliopolis a Chester Vase, Prince of Wales' Stakes & Gratwick Stakes winner. Khaled who was unsound of wind didn't win anything of real note but proved to be a good sire in America including Oaks winner A Glitter, Champion sprinters El Drag, Correspondent & Linmold. Alibhai was unraced but became a succesful American sire of super fillies Bowl of Flowers, Flower Bowl and Bornastar.

Below is the life size statue of Hyperion which stands outside the Jockey Club offices, Newmarket.

Hyperion became a vastly important sire of sires on a international level with champion sires in Belguim (Aldis Lamp), Sweden (Hyperbode), South America (Gulf Stream), Australia (Helios), New Zealand (Ruthless), and South Africa (Deimos).

He Remains An Englishman

Lord Derby was offered a blank cheque at the peak of Hyperions stud career by the American Louis B. Mayer but Lord Derby declined, reportedly declaring: "Even though England be reduced to ashes, Hyperion shall never leave these shores." Perhaps it was a dig at the sale & subsequent export of the Aga Khan's Derby winners, Bahram, Blenheim II and Mahmoud.

Hyperion still serviced mares until he was 29, Then in failing health over the winter of that year, he was humanely destroyed in the spring of 1960 at the veteran age of 30. His skeleton is on display at The Animal Health Trust in Newmarket. A life size statue that once stood in front of Woodlands Stud home but is now in front of the Jockey Club offices also in Newmarket, stands as a permanent reminder to his influence on the modern day Thoroughbred. Not least of all because from this perch he can keep watch over his many descendants that pass by him daily on their way to the gallops of Newmarket Heath each and every morning.

Proof that good stuff comes in little bundles - and I should know!


Friday, October 20, 2006

Persimmon - Ornament
Foaled 1899 Bay Mare Died 1926
Runs: 25 Wins: 13 Places: 8 Earned: 38,225 Guineas
(PLEASE NOTE: win money only as place money unknown)
Form: 113 - 211410512112 - 5121111 - 233
Triple Crown Winner
Only horse to ever win Four Classics

Races Won
Woodcote Stakes 6f Epsom 1901
July Stakes 5f Newmarket 1901
2000 Guineas (English) 1m Newmarket 1902
1000 Guineas (English) 1m Newmarket 1902
Oaks (English) 1m 4f Epsom 1902
St James' Palace Stakes 1m Ascot 1902
Nassau Stakes 1m 4f Goodwood 1902
St Leger (English) 1m 6f Doncaster 1902
Hardwicke Stakes 1m 4f Ascot 1903
Jockey Club Stakes 2m Newmarket 1903
Duke of York Stakes 1m 2f Kempton 1903
Champion Stakes 1m 2f Newmarket 1903
Limekiln Stakes 1m 2f Newmarket 1903

The Early Years
Sceptre was bought by Robert Sievier as a yearling in July 1900 for £10,000, a record price for a yearling at the time. She made her debut at Epsom as a two year old in the Woodcote Stakes which she won easily. This success was quickly followed up by a victory in the July Stakes. By the time she lined up for her final start as a juvenile in the Champagne Stakes she'd already grown her winter coat and she ran listlessly to finish third behind fillies' she'd beaten easily in previous races.

With mounting debts, Sievier put his horses up for sale but having sold all the others, changed his mind when it came to parting with Sceptre. In an astonishing move he decided to train her himself and so it was that Sceptre was entered in every major race of the 1902 season including all five Classics. Sievier worked her hard and raced her harder still, runing her every few days at all the big meetings throughout her three year old season. It was to this end that she won both the 2000 Gunieas and 1000 Guineas a feat few fillies every achieve. As a prep race for these prestigious races she made her seasonal debut in the Lincoln H'cap, just failing by a head to land a gamble for her ambitious owner/trainer. (below Sceptre as a 10 year old being sold in foal to Lord Ganely in 1911)

Change of Luck

Next came the Derby and Oaks Meeting at Epsom. Sadly she was left at the start in the Derby and had to be ridden hard to catch up with the rest of the field so in the end she tired to finish 4th. The next day however she trotted up in the Oaks. It was a shame she didn't carry off the unprecedented feat of winning all five Classics as its nothing less than she deserved. Following this win she was shipped to Paris for the Grand Prix de Paris but during the race she had a terrible trip and ended up running wide turning into the homestretch. She rallied gamely but finished unplaced a mere 2 lengths behind the "Sceptre of France", Kizil Kovigan.

Once back in England Royal Ascot was next on the agenda. Beaten into 5th in the Coronation Stakes she bounced back the next day to win the St James' Palace Stakes. At the Goodwood Festival she was beaten onto 2nd in the Sussex Stakes but won the Nassau easily. As Autumn loomed, so did the St Leger which Sceptre won effortlessly against the colts despite her gruelling season. She became the first horse to ever win four English Classics.

As a 4yo her season started in the Lincoln H'cap once again in which she place 5th. Sievier was in debt again and he'd placed a large bet on Sceptre to win the Lincoln. When she failed he had no choice but to sell her for £25,000 to Sir William Bass. Now, finally she got the high class understanding trainer she deserved in Alec Taylor.

When she arrived at Alec's yard she looked tired and worn out and unsure what to do with her Alec contacted Sievier to ask how to train her. His reply was "treat her like a selling plater" so Alec promptly did the opposite and gave her a long overdue four months off. The break did her good for she won the Hardwick Stakes with usual aplomb. She followed uo with a fine 2nd place in the Eclipse after a titanic battle with Ard Patrick. (below Sceptre with her first foal, the filly Maid on the Mist 1906)

Four more victories followed which prompted Sir William to keep her in training as a 5yo but she never won another race, although she did finish 2nd in the Coronation Cup at Epsom, 3rd in the Ascot Gold Cup and 3rd in the Hardwick Stakes.

Like all outstanding mares Sceptre had quirks and would often be a fussy eater. One day only liking white oats, the next black. Some days it she's like both white & black mixed together. Sometimes she'd only eat them from a bucket, sometimes her manger, somethins only from a sieve and occasionally only if the were placed on the ground.

Sceptre At Stud

Sceptre had 8 foals, one son (Grosvenor 1913) and seven daughters (Maid of the Mist 1906, Maid of Corinth 1907, Coronation 1908, Queen Carbine 1909, Curia 1912, Sceptre's Daughter 1915 and Queen Empress 1917). Although her foals were mediocre on the track they directly went on to produce a 2000 Guineas winner, an Oaks winner, an Eclipse winner and two English Derby runner ups. However it was their daughters (Sceptre's grand daughters) that made their mark in the breeding world, producing top class horses such as Petition (sire of Petite Etoile), Crepuscule who's progeny produced Northern Light and Midnight Sun, Noor who beat American star, Citation on no less than four occasions and Zucchero, a champion colt in England. (below Sceptre at stud with a foal)

Public Outcry

In 1923 after unsuccessful attempts to get Sceptre in foal from 1917 - 1922 her then owner Lord Ganley tried to sell her to a Brazillian stud despite promising never to sell her when he originally bought her in 1911. He sold her for a pitiful £500 - an insult to such a grand mare. However her adoring public caused such an outcry that Lord Ganely was forced to cancel the sale.

Sceptre lived out the rest of her life peacefully in England until she died in Febuary 1926 at the age of 27.

I only wish I was alive when these amazingly tough fillies were racing. Maybe one day the names of modern day super filles such as Soviet Song, Lochsong, Ouija Board and Alexander Goldrun will be mentioned in the same awed breath as the Kinscem and Sceptre type heroines of a bygone age.


Monday, October 16, 2006

Nijinsky (CAN)
Northen Dancer - Flaming Page
Foaled 1967 Bay Horse Deceased 1992
Runs: 13 Wins: 11 Places: 2 Earned: $677,177
Form: 1111 - 111111122
Timeform Rating: 140

15th Ever Triple Crown Winner
Champion 2yo 1969

Big Races Won
Railway Stakes 1969
Beresford Stakes 1969
Angeles Stakes 1969
Dewhurst Stakes 1969
Gladness Stakes 1970
English 2000 Guineas 1970
English Derby 1970
Irish Derby 1970
King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes 1970

Nijinsky was a very difficult horse temperamentally and had to be handled with the greatest patience by all who worked closely with him. He had his own ideas about life and would often rear up, sweat profusely and on ocassions refuse point blank to canter. He also had a vivid dislike for starting stalls.

As mentioned above Nijinksy was the 15th and last horse to win the English Triple Crown. IE the 2000 Guineas, Derby and St Leger races, since Bahrain achieved it in 1935. Not only did he manage to join an excluse club and forever secure his place in history but he confirmed to the racing public what an extrodinary talent he was by slamming high class fields by 2 1/2L, 2 1/2L, 1L respectively. He clocked one of the fastest times ever recorded for the Derby in 2 mins 34.68 sec, a feat made all the more remarkable as he's been suffering from a bout of colic (where a horses' intestines become a twisted, knotted mess) only two days before the race.

It wasn't just his own age group that suffered at Nijinsky's hooves as he bettered a vintage crop of elders in the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes, including English Derby winner Blakeney, Coronation Cup winner Caliban, Italian Derby winner Hogarth, French Oaks winner Crepellana and Washington International winner Karabas. Ascot has never before or sinces witnessed a field demolished in such easy fashion, with the great Nijinsky making top class horses look like mere trainers hacks.

In August of that year (1970) Nijinsky became sick again with a bout of ringworm which set him back several weeks in his training for the St Leger, although of course this didn't worry the great horse too much and he duly won by a length on the bridle, thus cementing his now legendary status into the hearts of racegoers everwhere, forever.

Sadly the great horse ended his career with two defeats. The first came in the Arc de Triompe where he was beaten a head by the French Derby & French St Leger winner Sassafras, having been denied a run on several occassions in the closing stages. His jockey, the usually brillant Lester Piggot has been criticised for leaving Nijinsky with too much to do ever since as he defied trainer's orders to lie up with the pace rather than come from behind. I for one certainly wouldn't have argued with the phenomonal Vincent O'Brien, the original master of Ballydoyle.

Vincent rightly wanted his colt to end his career on a high so Nijinsky's swansong was in the aptly named Champion Stakes at Newmarket. However someone did not read the script and so it was that Lorenzaccio took the race by 1 1/2L from Nijinsky who must surely by now have been feeling the effects of a long, hard season, his battles with illnesses and of course many miles of travelling.

Nijinsky retired to Claiborne Farm in Kentucky in 1970 having been syndicated for $5.5million which was a record sum for the time. His success story continued at stud as he's sired Lammtaara 1995 English Derby, Arc & King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner, Shahrastani 1986 English & Irish Derby winner, Golden Fleece 1982 English Derby winner, Ferdinand 1986 Kentucky Derby winner, Ile de Bourbon 1978 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes winner, Royal Acadamy 1991 Breeders Cup winner, Shadeed 1985 2000 Guineas winner, King's Lake 1981 Irish 2000 Guineas winner, Caerlon French Derby winner and Green Dancer who is a proflic sire himself. In 1992 Nijinsky sadly passed away at the age of 25, which is a grand age for a thoroughbred.

In 1976 Nijinsky entered the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame. He was also honoured in Ireland too with a lifesize bronze statue placed at The Curragh racecourse. Nowadays he has a race; the Nijinsky Stakes held at Woodbine, Canada, named in his honour to serve as a permanant reminder to Canada's greatest equine export.


Thursday, October 12, 2006

Night Shift (USA) - Asmara (USA)
Foaled 08/02/2001 Bay Colt
Runs: 12 Wins: 6 Places: 4 Earned: £1,499,558
Form: 11 - 32113 - 41153
Timeform: 128

Big Races Won
Beresford Stakes 1m Gr 2 (2003) Curragh
Irish Champion Stakes 1m 2f Gr 1 (2004) Leopardstown
St James's Palace Stakes 1m Gr 1 (2004) Royal Ascot
Prince of Wales's Stakes 1m 2f Gr 1 (2005) York
King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes 1m 4f Gr 1 (2005) Newbury

I'm not usually a fan of horses owned by rich Arabs but in this case I'll make an exception. Any horse that can change my strong opinion regarding the above must be special as indeed Azamour is. Although he started his 3yo season by losing his unbeaten tag by finishing 3rd in both the English and Irish 2000 Guineas and eventually retired from racing after coming 3rd to the magnificent German owned Shirocco in the 2005 Breeders Cup Turf at Belmont Park (New York) in between he put up some breathtaking performances, which cemented his place in my heart permanently.

A Test Too Far?

When the heavens opened at York for its June meeting a groan must have gone up in the camps of the main contenders for the Prince of Wales's stakes as despite its good drainage and hard wearing surface, York racecourse becomes something resembling a bog when it gets too wet. Although the ground was race-able many runners that day had problems with their balance and quite a number of them slipped and lost their footing, thus ruining their chances in their respective races.

One horse that managed to keep his feet with ease was the mighty Azamour and although he never looked happy on the ground in the first half of the race, once he was switched to the centre of the track in the home straight (notorious for being the better ground) he asserted his authority over rivals such as Ace, Ouija Board, Norse Dancer and Warrsan, all well established Group race performers. With pricked ears, suggesting he had more to give should it be required, he crossed the line to win by one and a half lengths.

Record Breaker

It was said by racing pundits & punters that Azamour wouldn't stay. His owner, trainer and jockey felt differently and so it was that he lined up for the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Newbury; one of my favourite races of the entire flat season. Azamour's rivals also felt he may not stay the extra distance and just to make sure they set a ferocious pace to try and blunt Azamour's trademark fast finish.

However you can't keep a good horse down and having sat quietly at the back of the pack for over a mile, Azamour was called on for an effort three furlongs out as the 12 strong field turned into the straight. He began to motor and swept past Doyen and Bago just over a furlong out, which only left the luckless Norse Dancer as the challenger. As consistant as that colt was, he didn't have the class to stay with Azamour who went on to win the race by one and a half lengths, breaking the track record in the process.

Below Azamour (green colours) forges by Norse Dancer (purple colours) with Bago in the background (navy & blue colours)

Where Are They Now?

Azamour has just completed his first season as a stallion at his owner, The Aga Khan's Gilltown Stud in Kilcullen, County Kildare in Ireland. His first crop of foals will be born next year and will set foot on a racecourse near you in 2009.

I keep my fingers crossed that his progeny inheret his stunning good looks and delightful burst of speed.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Soviet Song (Ire)
Marju (Ire) - Kalinka (Ire)
Foaled 18/02/2000 Bay Mare
Runs: 24 Wins: 9 Places: 8 Earned: £1,168,370
Form: 111 - 42523121116 - 312 - 416252

Big Races
Fillies Mile Gr 1 1m (2002) Ascot
Ridgewood Pearl Stakes Gr 2 1m (2004) Curragh
Falmouth Stakes Gr 1 2m (2004 & 2005) Newmarket
Sussex Stakes Gr 1 1m (2004) Goodwood
Matron Stakes Gr 1 1m (2004) Leopardstown
Windsor Forest Stakes Gr 2 1m (2006) Royal Ascot

Sweeping To Victory

I have found it incredibly hard to focus on one significant race in this mares career as like Bosra Sham before her she captured my heart after her first race as a rather thin, gangly 2yo way back in 2002. I have had the pleasure and privilege of seeing her in action on numerous occasions and each time her awesome turn of foot at the end of a race, would never cease to amaze not only myself but her legions of fans up and down the country.

History Repeating

As is common with high class mares of a certain type Soviet Song would find herself opposing the same top names time and time again whose blogs shall all feature here in time courtesy of myself. It started with fellow wonder 3yo Russian Rhythm in 2003 who she never managed to better; Attraction in 2004 a filly Soviet put in her place several times (although she had the advantage of age over this rival) and most recently Peeress in 2005 & 2006 who she only managed to beat once in their five clashes.

Below Soviet Song beating the boys, Nayyir (No. 4) & Le Vie Dei Colori (N0. 3) in the 2004 Sussex Stakes

My Favourite Memory

Ok you've forced it out of me:- my favourite race concerning Soviet was the 2005 Falmouth Stakes as it was a vintage renewal, featuring battle hardened Group 3 winners Sundrop, Karen's Caper and Penkenna Princess, as well as regular rival Peeress and of course the Irish champion mare Alexander Goldrun. As much as my heart said Soviet, my head said Alexander Goldrun.

I was foolish to even doubt the old girl who left it until the final furlong to begin her run for home as per her usual heart stopping style, drawing alongside Alexander Goldrun and together they passed Peeress the long time race leader (tactics got this mare beat on the day as she has a much more devastating turn of foot than Soviet does). Just as I expected them to settle down to a head to head battle to the line, which would suit Alexander's one paced racing style down to the ground, Soviet seemed to sprout wings and continued passing by Alexander who had nothing more to give. Thanks to Soviet's superior burst of speed she won the race by an impressive 2 & 1/2 lengths confirming her status as one of the greatest race mares of modern times.

Below Soviet Song wins the 2002 Fillies Mile from Casual Look (head in shot)

Where Are They Now?

Sadly after a somewhat lack lustre season & poor performances on the gallops at home the decision was made to retire Soviet Song on 9th October 2006, an act which mainly inspired me to write this blog. As the tributes from racing folk poured in for her, I too wanted to make my memories known to the world.

She will join her mother as part of the broodmare band of her owners, The Elite Racing Club so hopefully we'll be enjoying her influence on the racecourse for many generations to come.

We may not have to wait all that long as her 2yo full sister, aptly named Sister Act is currently in training with James Fanshaw.