Yes­ter­day’s hero

Gra­ham Bud­dry be­lieves a unique four­some de­serves a place in his­tory

Racing Ahead - - CONTENTS -

Gra­ham Bud­dry makes a case for Nash­wan to be con­sid­ered a great

There have been many great horses over the decades and most of their names spill from the lips like honey. Yet one cham­pion is rou­tinely omit­ted from most con­scious lists of the best – and there seems no clear rea­son why.

Ni­jin­sky, Mill Reef, Bri­gadier Ger­ard, Dancing Brave, Frankel and many more are spo­ken of with hushed rev­er­ence but how many, with­out prompt­ing, would re­call Nash­wan?

Mean­ing “deliri­ous” or “ec­static” in Ara­bic,Nash­wan was a sturdy and pow­er­ful son of the bril­liant Blush­ing Groom,out of the Queen’s high class mare, Height of Fash­ion,be­ing her­self a daugh­ter of Bustino, Nash­wan was owned by Sheikh Ham­dan Al Mak­toum and foaled in 1986 at his Shad­well Stud in Lex­ing­ton, Ken­tucky be­fore be­ing sent into train­ing with Ma­jor Dick Hern in Berk­shire.

On 13 Au­gust 1988, Nash­wan made his race­course de­but in a 27-run­ner maiden race over seven fur­longs at New­bury.Per­haps it was the com­bi­na­tion of Hern, jock­eyWil­lie Car­son and the fa­mous blue and white colours which sent him off the 6/4 favourite in such a large field be­cause his home gallops had only been work­man­like. Ei­ther way,he pre­vailed by three parts of a length to start his ca­reer in win­ning style.

On 8 Oc­to­ber, he turned out again, upped in class to a Listed con­test at As­cot over a full mile hav­ing missed the Royal Lodge due to a mi­nor injury.

Odds on this time, Nash­wan raced up with the pace, turned into the home straight in sec­ond place, took the lead be­fore the dis­tance and ran on well,show­ing even at this early stage that longer dis­tances would be his forte.An easy four lengths sep­a­rated him from his clos­est ri­val al­though it was the debu­tant in third place who Nash­wan would have some cracking races against the fol­low­ing sea­son,for this horse was Ca­coethes.(His orig­i­nal name was My Friend Elvis!)

There would be no Mid­dle Park,Fu­tu­rity or De­whurst on the agenda for the colt rated a full eigh­teen pounds be­low the top rated colt in the Euro­pean Free hand­i­cap. Hav­ing won both his races as a two-year-old, Hern proved what a wily trainer he was by rough­ing the horse off, turn­ing him out to grass and let­ting him grow into his pow­er­ful frame.

The De­whurst then pro­vided a dead heat be­tween Scenic and Prince of Dance, an im­pos­ing sort from Sadlers Wells’ first crop out of the bril­liant Sun Princess.

Prince of Dance was also trained by Hern and had passed the post first in all his two-year-old starts in­clud­ing the Cham­pagne Stakes al­though he had ear­lier been dis­qual­i­fied from top spot in the Wash­ing­ton Singer at New­bury. He had been con­sid­ered the sta­bles’ lead­ing Guineas con­tender and en­hanced his rep­u­ta­tion when scoot­ing up first time out as a three-year-old but injury meant he would miss the race. Prince of Dance was well fan­cied for the Derby but ran a life­less race and tests quickly dis­cov­ered he was suf­fer­ing from can­cer of the spine and was put down soon af­ter­wards. With breed­ing such as he had this was a tragic loss to the rac­ing world.

Back to Nash­wan though and he had in­deed thrived over the win­ter months and his work in the spring of 1989 was out­stand­ing. News quickly leaked out about the as­ton­ish­ing gallops he was do­ing at home just weeks be­fore the race as he built up for the Two Thou­sand Guineas and even with­out a prep race his odds tum­bled fast from 33/1 to 3/1 clear favourite on the day.

Car­son fired his mount from the stalls at the off, lay­ing a close third, as the pack thun­dered up the course at a ter­rific speed.Tak­ing the lead two out,a cou­ple of horses closed to chal­lenge but in­side the fi­nal fur­long his un­doubted stamina came

ni­jin­sky, mill reef, frankel and more are spo­ken with hushed rever­ance but how many, with­out be­ing prompted, would re­call nash­wan?

into play and Nash­wan went away to win by a com­fort­able length in the fastest time ever elec­tron­i­cally recorded for the race.

This was a sweet mo­ment for Hern, wheel­chair bound af­ter a crip­pling hunt­ing ac­ci­dent, re­cently di­ag­nosed with a heart con­di­tion and then given no­tice to quit his West Il­s­ley sta­bles of thirty years. Ques­tioned in the win­ners en­clo­sure af­ter the race Hern con­firmed the next tar­get for Nash­wan was the Derby and when asked if the big colt would han­dle the gra­di­ents of Ep­som,replied;“He could gal­lop down the side of a house.”

A month later and Nash­wan was sent off the 5/4 favourite for The Derby. Sec­ond favourite was Ca­coethes, un­beaten since his first race against Nash­wan and hav­ing re­cently won Ling­field’s Derby Trial with in­cred­i­ble ease.

Con­sid­ered the equal of Dancing Brave at home, Ca­coethes had the ben­e­fit of a pace­maker and in a hec­tic race he sat just be­hind his sta­ble com­pan­ion with Nash­wan in mid di­vi­sion. Com­ing down Tat­ten­ham Hill,Ca­coethes moved through and took the lead round­ing Tat­ten­ham Cor­ner into the home straight. Nash­wan had moved through men­ac­ingly and the two colts soon had a clear ad­van­tage, locked to­gether as they went past the two fur­long pole. From here Nash­wan length­ened his stride still fur­ther and pow­ered clear, leav­ing his ri­vals toil­ing in his wake to win by five lengths from the fast fin­ish­ing Te­r­i­mon while Ca­coethes was another cou­ple of lengths fur­ther adrift in third.

De­spite wor­ries about a poi­soned foot, Nash­wan lined up next at Sandown for the Eclipse Stakes,at­tempt­ing to be­come the first horse since 1939 to win that race af­ter tri­umph­ing at New­mar­ket and Ep­som.

Nash­wan would start odds on for this race yet the op­po­si­tion could hardly have been tougher. Warning, the sec­ond favourite, was a miler of the high­est qual­ity. Most re­cently he had saun­tered clear of his field at Royal As­cot to win the Queen Anne Stakes, how­ever this would be his first at­tempt at 10 fur­longs.

Many peo­ple’s idea of the win­ner was Henry Ce­cil’s In­dian Skim­mer.A win­ner of five of her last six races,all at Group level, her only de­feat dur­ing that time was her only crack at a dis­tance longer than the Eclipse when a close third over 1½ miles in the Breed­ers Cup Turf at the end of the pre­vi­ous sea­son. To en­sure she got her re­quired strong gal­lop a pace­maker was em­ployed in the shape of Open­ingVerse, who him­self would win the Breed­ers Cup Mile just four months later.

Turn­ing into the straight with three fur­longs left to race, Open­ing Verse had set the frac­tions which would bring him glory later that sea­son while Nash­wan was a full eight lengths adrift with In­dian Skim­mer andWarn­ing up­sides.

Here, Car­son quickly got to work and in an elec­tri­fy­ing re­sponse Nash­wan shot af­ter the leader and omi­nously opened a gap on his clos­est ri­vals. The Cham­pion Miler, Warning, failed to stay in the end and try as she might In­dian Skim­mer couldn’t go with Nash­wan,who,at the line had an in­cred­i­ble five lengths in hand over this top class field.

As­cot’s King Ge­orge and Queen El­iz­a­beth Di­a­mond Stakes was next on the agenda on one of the hottest days on record.The field Nash­wan faced here was hot too. His old foe, Ca­coethes, was back for another crack hav­ing won the King Ed­wardVII Stakes at Royal As­cot af­ter they

last met. Also in the field was Car­roll House who wouldn’t get in a blow at the two big guns, but em­pha­sised the qual­ity of the race when his next two out­ings brought vic­to­ries in the Ir­ish Cham­pion Stakes and the Arc de Tri­om­phe. Also un­able to get in on the fin­ish was mul­ti­ple Group race win­ner Sher­iff’s Star, whose re­cent Coro­na­tion Cup vic­tory was only half a sec­ond slower than Nash­wan’s Derby win­ning time.

What wasn’t known,or truly ap­pre­ci­ated at the time, is ex­actly how much that gru­elling Eclipse had taken out of the cham­pion but we were soon to thrill at not just his bril­liance but his in­cred­i­ble courage as well.

Nash­wan had a pace­maker who proved un­equal to the task of set­ting a strong enough pace at such a level and it turned into a tac­ti­cal af­fair. With the big two watch­ing each other closely one of the out­siders slipped the field and held a four length lead turn­ing in only for Nash­wan to ac­cel­er­ate smoothly along­side and re­ceive a bump as he went past.

Ca­coethes had tracked Nash­wan into the straight and went with him af­ter the leader and now he ranged men­ac­ingly along­side,both pulling clear of the chas­ing pack. Ca­coethes got his nose just in front for a stride or two close home un­til the courage and raw power of Nash­wan sealed an epic vic­tory af­ter a ti­tanic bat­tle. At the line Nash­wan had a neck to spare as he main­tained his un­beaten record with a chasm back to the rest as he com­pleted a unique se­quence of vic­to­ries.

A prep race for the Arc re­sulted in his only de­feat as the long,hard sea­son fi­nally took its toll and he was re­tired.

Con­tro­versy raged at the end of the year when Nash­wan was rated only the third best three-year-old colt and per­haps this is why he is of­ten over­looked in the pan­theon of great horses.

Wil­lie Car­son has ar­guably rid­den more top class horses than any other jockey, ex­cept pos­si­bly Lester Pig­gott, and Car­son is adamant that Nash­wan was clearly the best horse he ever rode. Dick Hern won 16 English Clas­sics and trained many other cham­pi­ons,yet he,too,called Nash­wan; “The best horse I’ve ever trained.”

With his unique four­some dur­ing the sum­mer of 1989 it is hard to dis­agree that Nash­wan fully de­serves his place among the greats of the equine world.

dick hern won 16 english clas­sics and trained many other cham­pi­ons, yet, he too, called nash­wan ‘the best horse i have ever trained’

Nash­wan, rid­den by Wil­lie Car­son, strides away to win the 1989 Ep­som Derby from the fast-fin­ish­ing Te­r­i­mon

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