Major Srinivas Nargolkar (Retd.)
Borsalino's end to end victory by a widening street in the Kingfisher Derby Bangalore, Gr.1 will be a cause for much rejoicing for those connected with it. Indeed, this is their hour and they must bask in the limelight. The Indian breeding industry as a whole, however, needs to view the larger picture and ask itself some pointed questions. The answers are not easy and even more difficult is finding the solution should a candid soul searching come up with problem areas. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "The first step in finding a solution is to accept that a problem exists".
Borsalino is the sixth foal of his dam Running Flame. This daughter of Steinbeck was bred at the Usha Stud in 1995 and won 10 races from 29 starts including the Wills Indian Turf Invitation Cup, Gr.1, President of India Gold Cup, Gr.1, Castrol Indian 1000 Guineas, Gr.1 and Kingfisher Indian Oaks, Gr.1. She was saddled by trainer S. Padmanabhan in all her victories which came in the same colours as Borsalino.
Of particular significance in her career. Are her seven scraps with Saddle Up. The two did not clash in their first year but did run in consecutive races once on the same day. Running Flame won in Breeders' Juvenile Fillies' Championship Stakes by three and a half lengths in a time of 1.38.6. In the very next race, the Breeders' Juvenile Colts' Championship over the same distance, Saddle Up finished second, eight and a half lengths behind Count The Steps whose winning time was 1.38.
In their Classic year, there were six confrontations between the two. The first one occurred in the McDowell Indian Derby, Gr.1 where the filly finished about five lengths behind the winner Saddle Up. (The race was subsequently taken away from Saddle Up when his samples returned positive). Then came the Wills Indian Turf Invitation Cup, Gr.1 where Running Flame triumphed from Supervite and Saddle Up, the verdict being three-parts of a length and a neck. Supervite's objection against Running Flame was overruled while Saddle Up's against his bracket-mate was upheld so that the gelding was promoted to second. In the McDowell Indian St. Leger, Gr.1, Running Flame held Saddle Up on the track by a short-head but lost the race in the Stewards' Room when Pesi Shroff objected successfully. The battle shifted to Bangalore during the summer and ended all square. The filly finished third to the gelding's fourth in the Eveready Maharaja's Cup, Gr.2 but Saddle Up won the Bangalore St. Leger, Gr.2 where Running Flame was only third. Their last face off of the year was in the Herbertsons Bagpiper Gold RWITC Ltd. Invitational Trophy, Gr.2 where both failed to get their number in the frame. However, Running Flame ran fifth even as the favourite Saddle Up finished in the ruck on a heavily watered track.
The two were to clash one more time as five year-olds. That meeting took place in the Magnasound Millennium Eclipse Stakes of India, Gr.2. Saddle Up was a close second to the winner Great Investment and Shroff''s attempt to get the race with an objection failed. Running Flame was only fifth. This recap of their head-to-head encounters clearly shows that there was not much between the two and they were very evenly matched.
Saddle Up went on to Singapore and covered himself in glory. His best performance, however, was when he placed sixth in the Hong Kong Cup, Gr.1 at Sha Tin, within three lengths of the winner Agnes Digital in an international field of 14 runners. That effort earned him an international rating and a mention in the Time form annual; possibly, the only Indian-bred to have that distinction.
This preamble has been necessary to show what a good race mare Running Flame was. She lost her form at 5 and perhaps made her journey to U.S.A. rather too late. Before that, Padmanabhan had tried to send her to Istanbul for Invitational races only to be stumped by logistic and quarantine problems. She was unplaced in her seven starts at 6 when she mostly ran on the West Coast in Group races. She was retired to stud and her produce record is:-
Radical Attraction (dk b/br f 2003 by Silver Hawk)
Ethereal Flame (b f 2005 by Red Ransom)
Miss Doodle (b f 2006 by Dubai Destination)
Jhansi Rani (b f 2007 by Dubai Destination)
Maratha Warrior (b g 2008 by Desert Style)
Borsalino (b c 2009 by Choisir)Her first mate at stud in 2002 was the Airdrie Stud stallion Silver Hawk who then commanded a fee of US $ 75,000. Getting on in age Silver Hawk was a proven Classic sire with the likes of Benny The Dip (Vodafone Epsom Derby, Gr.1), Lady in Silver (Prix de Diane-Hermes, Gr.1), Grass Wonder (Champion 2YO Colt in Japan), Hawkster (Secretariat Stakes, Gr.1) and others. The result of that mating produced a filly who travelled with her dam to England. She came to be called Radical Attraction and had passed into the ownership of River Down Partnership when she went into training with Richard Hannon in Hampshire. Radical Attraction ran just three times and was always closer to the whipper-in than the winner. Her best Racing Post Rating (RPR) was 43. Retired from racing, she was covered by Desert Style and sold for 17,500 euros. Her 2007 filly does not appear to have raced.
Running Flame herself was covered by Red Ransom after moving to England. Like Silver Hawk a son of Roberto, Red Ransom had recently moved to the Darley operation from Vinery Stud in U.S.A. and his covering fee in 2004 was GBP 35,000. Godolphin had had Ekraar who was a son of Red Ransom with Nalee as his third dam. Running Flame's third dam was also Nalee and Padmanabhan was able to get a good foal sharing deal from Darley. As a sire of Electrocutionist (Emirates Airlines Dubai World Cup, Gr.1), Ekraar (Gran Premio del Jockey Club, Gr.1), Bail Out Becky (Del Mar Oaks, Gr.1), Red Dazzler (Toorak Handicap, Gr.1) and others, Red Ransom was an eminently successful stallion, Running Flame's second foal was also a filly who was named Ethereal Flame (owned by Ethereal Racing) and was trained by Dhruba Selvaratnam. She had eight starts, placed second once and third once, earning a top RPR of 73.
Miss Doodle was the first of the two fillies that Running Flame produced after visiting Dubai Destination whose covering fee was then GBP 20,000. The first foals of Dubai Destination, winner of Queen Anne Stakes, Gr.1, were yet to race when he covered Running Flame. Subsequently, he did sire the Racing Post Trophy, Gr.1 winner Ibn Khaldun but slowly lost appeal. Miss Doodle was sold for 26,500 gns as a weanling and later went into Eve Houghton-Johnson's yard. She raced eight times, placed third once and the best RPR that she had was 62.
The first winner of Running Flame was her second Dubai Destination filly. Named Jhansi Rani and running in Padmanabhan's colours, she was trained in France by M. Pimbonnet who took her around the French provinces to such exotic places as Divonne, Aix-la-Bains and Marseille-Borely, It was on her third start at Lyon Parilly that Jhansi Rani won over 1200 m. She died at 3.
After four consecutive fillies, Running Flame at last produced a colt after a 2007 visit to Desert Style, the sire of Next Desert (BMW Deutsches Derby, Gr.1), Bachir (Entenmann's Irish 2000 Guineas, Gr.1), Paco Boy (Queen Anne Stakes, Gr.1), Mandesha (Prix d'Astrate, Gr.1) and others. His stud fee then was 12,000 euros. The Running Flame colt was named Maratha Warrior and raced by Padmanabhan in France with E.J. O'Neill doing the training. Maratha Warrior did not race at 2. Two of his early starts at 3 were on Paris tracks but afterwards he followed in the footsteps of his older half-sister around the French country side. At the Arquana sale in November 2011, he was sold for 6,500 euros. His new owner was M. Christian Fyot and T. Larriviere had the charge of training. Larriviere took him to destinations such as Carpentras, Saint Galmier, Salon de Provence and finally, on 30 June 2012, Maratha Warrior broke his duck at Marseille-Vivaux, winning a 2600 m. race from six rivals. His Paris track performances earned him an RPR of 68.
The official breeder of Borsalino is Alpha Stud & Farms Pvt. Ltd. which is owned by Mr. Iqbal Nathani, one of Padmanabhan's patrons. Borsalino's sire, the Aussie horse Choisir's only Gr.1 winner so far is the sprinter Starspangledbanner. Choisir's advertised fee for the 2008 covering season was 12,500 euros. When Running Flame returned to India, her record as a broodmare abroad was rather poor.
Another daughter of Steinbeck, Venus Arising, counted the Nanoli Stud Pune Derby, Gr.1, Indian 1000 Guineaas, Gr.1 and Indian Oaks, Gr.1 among her seven wins in India. She was sent to Dubai for racing in 2006 where she failed to place. She was covered in Dubai by Halling and proceeded to Ireland. Her Halling foal was born in Ireland where he raced in Mr. K.N. Dhunjibhoy's silks. Trained by P.D. Deegan, Zanawar as he came to be named, placed third once from nine starts. Venus Arising returned to India carrying a foal by High Chapparal. That foal, named High Noon, was entrusted to the care of Pesi Shroff' and is yet to race.
Here we have cases of two mares, extremely well performed in India, having six foals abroad and only two of them winning and that too in French provinces. (Some of the most beautiful races courses in the world are to be found in the French provinces. The quality of racing, however, isn't up to scratch.) One of them has a foal in India and that foal thrashes the daylights out of a Group 1 field in one of the richest races ever run India. Do these facts mean anything? Should our breeding industry be concerned? Or, is everything hunky-dory?
Now, speaking for the other side, it has to be admitted that not every foal of a mare is a champion. It just so happens that the Choisir foal was the best 'get' of Running Flame. Running Flame herself illustrates this point. Her dam, the Storm Bird mare Stomata, had two foals abroad, one of which did not race and other did not place. She came to India in foal to High Estate and that foal was Shining Dancer who won the Manjri Stud Nilgiris Fillies' Trial Stakes,Gr.3 and placed second in the Hindu Nilgiris Derby, Gr.1. She then had a Razeen colt who died young. Running Flame was from the first crop of Steinbeck. Thereafter she had ten foals in ten years, eight by Steinbeck and two by China Visit. None of those ten foals could hold a candle to Running Flame. Saddle Up was mentioned in the context of Running Flame. He, too, was the best foal of his dam Queen's Rule. Some of the other foals of Queen's Rule were useful; none as talented Saddle Up, her only foal by Bold Russian to race. Maybe there was a special chemistry between Bold Russian and Queen's Rule. Just as it is possible that Choisir-Running Flame union is ordained by stars.
The questions are there. The answers have to be found by people concerned. However, these are not the only facts to be pondered. More will be presented next time around.
PAST THE POST
A horse can only race against those who take him on. Borsalino did that with uncommon verve and panache. A trainer can only send his ward as fit as he can get him. Not many people do that better than trainer Padmanabhan.The questions posed here are not meant to detract from their exploits or belittle their achievements. Padmanabhan, in fact, has been very enterprising in sending Running Flame abroad, to race and breed, and the venture must have cost a pretty penny. Borsalino's bounty will hardly cover that outlay. The questions are merely meant to asses where the Indian breeding is today and where it is headed.