The Bangalore Summer Derby is in the books now, Angel Dust’s victory was a cathartic event of sorts for a person like me. Its a validation of my methods, my beliefs and the various people I have around me. We are all part of a fast moving sport where you lose more often than you win, you’ve got to learn to keep your balance and never carried away with winning and losing. Most of us who are part of this wonderful industry of racing and breeding are sociopaths of sorts and honestly getting to understand us for normal people is difficult. Things leading up to events such as this have a long history which unfortunately rarely gets covered by our so called journalist community in Indian racing so I just thought that since my blog has got a decent amount of eyeballs I’d give you an insight into what happens behind the scenes.
Lets start with the dam line of Angel Dust, our involvement with the family starts with the grandam Nafazaka, a daughter of Caro and the mare Najidiya. Nafazaka was a good looking mare that came into India in foal to Ela Mana Mou and was imported by the late Sajjan Kumar Jajodia. The get from that mating produced a decent filly Swiss Maid who went on to produce Stayers Cup winner Swiss Don (by Don Micheletto) from Nakul Stud. Further Nafazaka’s dam Najidiya was imported by Poonawalla Stud and has produced many top runners for them notable among them being classic winners Salute Her and Forever Elegance. Anyhow Nafazaka arrived at Dashmesh on terms during the days that we had Green Forest and early on she produced the good filly Surfside who won the Calcutta St Leger, unfortunately Surfside died traveling back to Bangalore. Nafazaka produced a number of foals none of which were spectacular with the Local Talent colt Muscat Ranger probably the best of them, he won quite a few races at Hyderabad but nothing out of the ordinary. Unfortunately for Nafazaka her career was severely damaged due to the fact that she visited our resident stallion Local Talent very often and I’d be the first to say that he was a truly bad sire, so bad that the damage he caused Dashmesh has lasted almost two decades. This is a business where you need to make quick calls and the one thing you must never do is to give your resident stallion too long a rope. Finally Nafazaka visited Elusive Pimpernel and the resulting foal was a lovely long legged filly with everything you’d want to see in a proper thoroughbred. In fact whereas we’d usually sell Nafazaka’s get we took a call to lease this filly.
Zeyn Mirza had just taken over as racing manager at Vijay Mallya’s URBB and Pesi Shroff was young in his training career, they came to Dashmesh and selected two fillies both by Elusive Pimpernel and interestingly out of Caro mares one was the Nafazaka Filly and the other a daughter of Goulaine both were leased to URBB with a foal. The Nafazaka filly was sent for training to Jaggy Dhariwal and she was named Angelique.
Angelique was a victim of Bangalore handicapper Shivaprasad’s myopic sprint based racing system but yet was good enough to reach the highest class in a bit of a stop start kind of way with a few black type placings along the way. I remember Zeyn telling me that I should take her back for breeding as he felt she’d done enough. I, on the other hand felt the filly had it in her to pick up a black type win as she had to carry no penalties. She ended up in Pune during the Equine Influenza outbreak and by default had to stay on in Western India. This was a fortuitous happening indeed as Angelique took the length of the Mahalaxmi straight under Imran Chisty to mow down the top filly Yana in the prestigious CN Wadia Gold Cup over a mile and a half, she had her big black type. She finally went to stud with a rating of 119. Her first mate was Princely Heir and to be honest the result was a runt. A little goat of a filly which I ended up selling as a broodmare prospect to a fellow breeder, Zeyn had an option which he wisely chose not to exercise and wait another year.
This is where Win Legend comes in, our agent and advisor Patrick Barbe is very well versed in Japanese racing and breeding. Patrick had been telling me for a long time that we need to get a son of Sunday Silence, we zoned in on the Wertheimer bred and American born Sunday Doubt, he had two classic winners with Practicallyperfect and Royal Blue Star in his only crop as he died of a twisted gut before the start of the next covering season. We asked Patrick to find us a replacement and Win Legend was the answer, Japanese bred but with an easy to understand Brit pedigree. A descendant of the Juddmonte Farms’ Blue-Hen mare Where You Lead, as such close up in the pedigree are some stellar names like Rainbow Quest and Warning. The horse himself won a stakes race and raced exclusively at JRA tracks, his best showing came in the Centaur Stakes where he set the fractions for international speedballs like Takeover Target and Bentley Biscuit before caving in a Furlong out, he still wasn’t beaten that far.
I knew we’d hit gold dust when his first runner Azienda zoomed out of the gate at Calcutta to win on debut by daylight. In his first crop he produced a classic winner with Fly Like The Wind who won the Calcutta 1000 Guineas and St Leger. In the Calcutta Oaks she gave subsequent Indian Oaks winner, Tiger Tops a mighty scare, running her close in a runners up effort. He would have done even better if bad luck had not plagued Merion who got cast in his stable and broke his withers prior to the Golconda 2000, after he had won a valuable conditions event in his winter reappearance.
So Angelique visited Win Legend and the result was a Filly that was a Carbon copy of her mother. Zeyn liked her when he saw her and he exercised his option to take her. His original plan was to send her to Calcutta which was prevented due to my intervention. She ended up with URBB’s principal trainer at Bangalore, Sulaiman Attaollahi. She was forward enough to make her debut over 6 Furlongs as a two year old in November itself. The trip was way too sharp for her liking but she had enough class to run third. In her next start over 7 Furlongs she ran second behind the highly thought of Authoritarian with Eternal Flame back in third, once again she looked like she’d appreciate a step up in trip. The Governor’s Trophy over a mile was her next port of call but there were only three acceptors and BTC and their handicapper in their wisdom decided to void a sweepstakes race. As such she was put away for the season since there were no opportunities for a staying filly like her.
On her seasonal reappearance she won a 7 Furlong Maidens race with authority and headed for the Fillies’ Championship Stakes. It rained heavily that week and the Fillies’ was run on dead ground. She threw in an absolute clunker and was beat out of the gates. Sulaiman and Zeyn were of the opinion that it was too bad to be true and that she get a chance to redeem herself. Sulaiman is relatively young in the training ranks but has risen very fast most importantly due to his workaholic nature. In the Four weeks between the Fillies and Derby he gave her a very easy Gallop in the 29th of June. Ryan Marshall who usually rides her in the morning would come back after cantering her and say she’s really well and that the Derby would see a very different Angel Dust from the Fillies’.
Usually when I have a big race runner I get butterflies in my tummy. This time I was calm, they jumped out and Trevor pushed her out to get a great position at the first bend itself, from there the race went off like a dream, top of the straight she was asked and she lengthened and went for home. Thats when all the adrenalin kicks in, thats when suddenly someone else takes over, the thrill of victory, 29 years since we won it, the infernal luck which cost us with Royal Liberator and Nine Carat all forgotten in a bit over 2 minutes. She was alone in front for 500 metres or so racing only against herself and she did taper off in the last 50 or so yards. Desert God was blocked for a run at the top of the straight, many felt he was unlucky and might have toppled our applecart in a few more strides but then again, the starting gate is placed where it is placed and the finish post isn’t moving either. Its a 2000 metre race and at the end of it, Angel Dust won so QED! Trevor’s ride was inch perfect, Sulaiman had the courage to for all practical purposes come into the Derby off canters, a massive call for a trainer of his experience.
This was an epochal moment in my life, I have my way of doing things many might not agree with a lot of my methods. I can read a pedigree, my old man taught me well, I know intrinsic value when I see it. I’m old school, I’m a “Breeder” not a trader. You bank a good memory like this and think about the future, one is always learning in this trade, its hard work but days like this make the toil worth it, I wouldn’t want it to be any other way. Something feels different though, can’t put one’s finger on it but something definitely is different!