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Glory Of Dancer - Steady Climb To The Top Halted

By Major S. Nargolkar | 14 Apr 2011 | PUNE

Glory Of Dancer

They say that good things happen in threes. It would appear that disasters, too, come in clusters of three. Just two months ago, the deaths of Razeen and Placerville had left the Indian breeding industry reeling and the Champion Sire's crown without a head to adorn. Amongst the aspirants for that crown was the Shareef Dancer horse Glory of Dancer who, unfortunately, died in a freak paddock accident at Nanoli Stud on 13 April, 2011. Even if it was not a Friday, it would have seemed to be not particularly auspicious.

Razeen was 24 and Placerville 21 when they died. At 18, Glory of Dancer was no spring chicken but he was in pink of condition. If he was thoroughly professional, efficient and perfunctory in his duties in the covering yard, he was highstrung and capricious in his paddock. In fact, a notice informing that the stallion was apt to bite warned the visitors. On Wednesday, when his syce went to put him in his stall before the sun becomes hotter, Glory of Dancer could not be caught. The syce noted that the stallion seemed more 'hyper' than usual but as he had other chores, he decided that he would finish them before catching him. It is not clear what exactly happened thereafter. It is possible that as Glory of Dancer careened around his paddock, he hit his head against a tree, went berserk, crashed through the gate of his paddock and headed for the mares. He died en route, probably from brain haemorrhage.

Several stallions start their innings in India in a buzz of hyperbole. Few live up to it. So it would appear that an unheralded entry is actually a blessing in disguise as it allows a horse to exhibit his prowess without the burden of false expectations. Champion Freshman Sire in 2002-03, Glory of Dancer had worked his place to the fifth spot in 2008-09 and he held on to it in the following year, 2009-10. Consistent results - his average earning index was always greater than 1 in his first eight years - and a clutch of top winners - two winners of the Indian Derby in Hotstepper and Antonios and two winners of the Poonawalla Breeders' Multi-Million in the shape of Blurr and Beautiful Stranger - meant that Glory of Dancer earned his plaudits by the sheer dint of the on-track performance of his progeny. What it meant was that the stallion got to cover the largest book - 79 mares - of his career in 2010 and he was slated to exceed that number this season.

Glory of Dancer was bred by Cotswold Stud at Chipping Norton in Oxfordshire and started his racing in Italy, under the tutelage of F. Brogi. He ran four times at 2, was never off the frame and finished off the season in style winning the Gran Criterium, Gr.1 at San Siro under O. Peslier to add to an earlier victory. His owner, Signor A. Balzarini then transferred him to Paul Kelleway's Shalfleet Stables at Newmarket. After running second to Santillana in the Thresher Classic Trial, Gr.3, Glory of Dancer won the Homeowners' Dante Stakes, Gr.2 at York. (Incidentally, this is the very race that Alnasr Alwasheek had also won four years earlier. Both of them have sired two winners of the Indian Derby!). He was fourth in Shaamit's Epsom Derby, Gr.1, lost the Grand Prix de Paris, Gr.1 to Grape Tree Road by a short-head, finished fourth to Mecke in Arlington Million, Gr.1 and was beaten into third by Timarida and Dance Design in the Irish Champion Stakes, Gr.1 at Leopardstown. Rated 120, he was a genuine horse worthy of competing at the highest level.

Like Alnasr Alwasheek, Glory of Dancer also had a two-year spell at stud in England. His first English crop, born in 1998, had not even raced when he found himself at Kehelan Stud in India. His 21 starters abroad resulted in 17 winners including Flying Fillies' Stakes, L winner Fruit of Glory and two Italian black-type place getters in Montesino and Crosera. Three of his runners were rated above 100, so in hindsight it appears that he was banished rather hastily.

His first crop, which made him the Champion Freshman Sire, contained the Maharaja's Cup winner Adrian. The second saw his daughter Blurr winning the Poonawalla Breeders' Multi-Million, Gr.1 and announcing his arrival. His first Classic winner - Glorious Breaker, winner Fillies' Trial Stakes, Gr.1 - came in his third crop. From his first eight crops in India that have raced so far, Glory of Dancer has 214 named foals, 13 black-type winners which include six Gr.1 winners, four Classic winners and three track record holders. These are still early days for him as broodmare sire but the portents are good as that smart filly Harmonica is out a Glory of Dancer mare.

When a horse retires to stud, his racing record assumes greater importance than his pedigree. Glory of Dancer outran his pedigree. He was by a successful but not an outstanding sire - Shareef Dancer - while his dam line was rather plebeian. The fact that Glory of Dancer's racing exploits far exceeded what the pedigree presaged was a sure sign that the genes had fallen correctly. That does not always ensure that the horse will pass on those genes but in Glory of Dancer's case it did.

A study of his best winners shows that none of them was out of a mare by a Northern Dancer male-line stallion. That, in this age, is remarkable in itself. However, it is almost impossible to keep Northern Dancer out of a pedigree. So we find Nijinsky in pedigrees of three winners and Be My Guest in two others. Intentionally, Rough'n Tumble and Halo are not very common names in Indian pedigrees. So it is perhaps pertinent to note these stallions figuring eye-catchingly in Glory of Dancer's best 'gets'. Another noticeable fact of the stallion's career was his liking for certain mares. From Flying Home, he produced Hotstepper, Juventus and Dear Henry; the Sir Bruce mare Double Wish gave Dancing Dynamite and Beautiful Stranger. So in some ways, Glory of Dancer was like another stalwart of the past - Knight of Medina. A frontline Classic Sire, Knight of Medina, too, seemed to gel better with mares having coarse or 'unorthodox' pedigrees.

Glory of Dancer moved from Kehelan Stud to Nanoli Stud midway through his career. His first Indian Derby winner Hotstepper was born at Kehelan while his second, Antonios, was conceived at Kehelan but foaled at Nanoli. His strike rates from two different bands of broodmares are almost identical. He has two good-sized crops coming up in 2010 and 2011. Two back-to-back Indian Derbys gave the stallion the attention he deserved and at Nanoli he has certainly had better and more varied books - including, of course, the Indian Derby winning Jacqueline. So it remains to be seen whether there is any significant improvement in his strike rate. Four of his six Gr.1 winners were sent out by S.S. Shah, the veteran trainer who is obviously very adept at handling his progeny.

On sheer statistics, Razeen and Placerville were in a different league. Glory of Dancer, at the time of his death, had worked his way into the Alnasr Alwasheek-Steinbeck-Diffident class. Those three stallions - and this year's rejuvenated contender China Visit - have the millstones of age, health and smaller books to contend with so that Glory of Dancer had the numbers clearly on his side to mount a serious challenge for the Sires' Championship. While fate has intervened, the possibility of one last hurrah cannot be ruled out.