Tuesday, November 18, 2008

great indian mares

This is the first a series of articles by Epsom Ace to rekindle the good times of the eighties — a period termed by many as the renaissance of Indian racing. Some of the mares like Deep Water Blues, Purita, Rock Haven and Be My Guest held their own on the track or produced champion offspring or both. They were courageous ladies whose legacy remained on Indian soil as their progeny dominated the classics here. They were the unforgettable members of the fairer sex.

We commence our series with Be My Guest — a grey filly under the ownership of the late Mr. L. C. Gupta.

Be My Guest was by Mr Mauritius out of Minniehaha. In the late seventies, she won seven races including The Brindavan Cup.

Between '82 and '84, she produced a trio of highly successful offspring. They were Invitation, Splash and Brave Dancer. Sired by the prolific sire Everyday II (those who followed our Magnificent Seven series of sires will know about his success story), Invitation started her career in whirlwind fashion by claiming the George Williamson Indian Produce Stakes traditionally run on New Years Day, when two-year-olds turn three. Thereafter, she won two more races before her untimely death at three.

Splash was a grey filly, sired by Ballo, who developed late and then notched up eight wins including the prestigious Maharaja's Gold Cup. She fared pretty well in the St. Leger and The Stayers Cup which alerted her connections to the fact that her full brother Brave Dancer, may turn out to be a champion. The powerfully built roan became just that. He won a total of 19 races including the Calcutta Derby and the Mysore Derby. He won the prestigious President of India Gold Cup and the Queen Elizabeth Cup twice. Under the care of experienced trainer Vijay Singh, the property of Ranajit Nobis went from strength to strength. Unfortunately, he was out of sorts during the Invitation Cup in Hyderabad won by Own Beauty. Nevertheless, he turned out to be the pride of Calcutta's turfites. His unsurpassable exploits sparked the imagination of a journalist who authored a book 'Dirty Derby'.

Apart from the colour of his coat, there was one more similarity between this champion colt and his dam Be My Guest. Both enjoyed running in a handy position behind the front-runners before moving in for the kill. Be My Guest will always be remembered for this 'Dancer' from Calcutta who was named after the illustrious Dancing Brave — the winner of the Arc De Triomphe in inimitable style.

The late seventies saw a flood of top-class fillies and mares. So much so that veteran trainer Uttam Singh of western India was branded as the 'Ladies Man'. A host of bred-in-the-blue fillies established themselves in the classics under his care.

The south India circuit too enjoyed its share of success. One such filly who established herself in that region was Fire Haven - sired by the prolific Paddykin out of Star Witness. The last named had the distinction of winning seven races - one of them in England. She produced a string of successful horses. The list included Fair Court (24 wins including South India Derby), Star Haven (13 wins including South India Derby), Rock Witness (6 wins including South Indian Oaks) and of course Fire Haven, who picked up nine races including the Deccan Derby and Bangalore Derby.

After being retired to stud, Fire Haven proved that her progeny was as good as her, if not better. Fire Flash set the trend with 12 wins including the Calcutta 2000 Guineas. Then came Vibrant, a big made colt under the care of Bangalore maestro Rashid Byramji. So versatile was the animal that one could not ignore him in any distance between a mile and the Leger trip. His list of trophies included the Arc de Triomphe, Calcutta Gold Cup, the Colts Trial Stakes there, the Bangalore 2000 Guineas, the Bangalore St Leger and the Guindy Gold Cup.

Vibration beat his brother in quantity, but not in versatility. Though he had 17 successes to his name, most of them were over middle distances. His list included the Eclipse Stakes, The Eve Champion Trophy and the C.N. Wadia Trophy.

Though the grey Silver Fire would appear to conclude the list of classic winners that Fire Haven produced, one would be doing injustice to Young Tipu if the colt were not made a mention of, even if briefly. Not because he picked up seven races but because of the manner he staved off the formidable Red Chieftain over a distance of 2000 metres, during a Bangalore Summer meeting. The colt came fresh from Ooty and took the four horse field by storm as he opened up a lead of nearly 30 lengths despite being the longest priced horse at 15/1. That gap eventually narrowed down to a little over a length but that miraculous victory kept the legacy of Fire Haven alive.