Champion Mares from Kunigal Stud Farm

Arabian Rose proves her value through Arabian Knight
- Maj. Nargolkar

Some wines improve with age. Some horses improve with age and distance. Arabian Knight, whose three black-type wins have come in his last six starts, appears to be one such horse. While his winter Classic winning contemporaries have fallen by the wayside, he has come into his own and earned his brackets at a mile and a half and more. He is the first Kunigal-bred to register two Gr.1 victories in a year since Saddle Up and as he broke the track record in both of them, he is certainly the horse of the moment.
Arabian Rose

Like his dam and grandam, Arabian Knight commenced his racing only during the Bangalore Summer Season and like them he notched his first win in August. While his dam and grandam had earned their black-type and Classic laurels by January just after turning 4, Arabian Knight got his black-type only in March - the Stayers' Cup, Gr.1 - and had to wait till July for his Classic - the Bangalore St. Leger, Gr.2. His emphatic victory in the President of India Gold Cup, Gr.1 and the Golconda St. Leger, Gr.2, was on expected lines.

The enigmatic Arabian Knight is the best performed representative of his sire Brave Act's first crop born in India . A multiple Group winner over middle distances in U.S.A. , it was very much on the cards that he would produce a quality stayer when mated with a mare like Arabian Rose.

Arabian Rose is from the first crop of the prepotent Northern Dancer horse Razeen, one of the finest stallions ever to stand in India . Incidentally, Razeen just recently became the first stallion in Indian history to produce winners of more than 100 Classics. Quite a few of those winners had Reliance II, Match III or their three-part brother Relko in the pedigrees of their dams. Since Brave Act has Relko in his pedigree there was a good reason to believe that Razeen mares would suit him, especially if a mare had Reliance II (or Match III) in her pedigree; as Arabian Rose does.

Arabian Rose was bought by Dr. and Mrs. Vijay Mallya -- with Major P.K. Mehra retaining a share - and entrusted to Rashid Byramji. The first time the filly was seen under the colours, it was on the concluding day of the 1996 Bangalore Summer Season. By this time, Lei had already reeled off a hat-trick of black-type wins which included the Poonawalla Breeders' Million, Gr.1 and Santorini Star had bagged the double of the Fillies' Trial Stakes, Gr.1 and the Kingfisher Derby Bangalore, Gr.1 to announce the arrival of Razeen as a sire of immense potential. The Razeens were flying but that wasn't sufficient to hasten a patient and experienced trainer like Byramji. Afterall, he had trained her dam and she, too, had made her debut late in Bangalore Summer Season.

It was very much a Byramji day as the father and son saddled seven winners between them. Arabian Rose, ridden by Pesi Shroff, was however not one of them, being surprised by the 40 to 1 outsider Alfas Team. A fortnight later, she shed her maiden tag at Mysore with C. Ruzzan in the saddle. She was then taken to Pune and duly won the General Rajendrasinhji Trophy, Gr.3, beating the favourite Ashes of Roses by almost five lengths, Ruzzan being once again astride. Shroff had the ride on her in the Nanoli Stud Pune Derby, Gr.1 and the betting suggested that she would follow the favourite Indictment home. Indictment -- also by Razeen -- snatched a short-head victory while Arabian Rose disappointingly ran off the board.

It was at his third attempt that Shroff finally won Arabian Rose when picking up the The Hindu Calcutta 1000 Guineas, Gr.3. Ruzzan then took over for the Classic Calcutta Derby, Gr.1 and the Castrol Calcutta Oaks, Gr.3 and won the former by three lengths and the latter by a distance. It was now on to Mumbai for the McDowell Indian Derby , Gr.1 and she ran a great race under Shroff to come within a neck of the winner Indictment after encountering all kinds of traffic problems while making her bid along the rails. Her next -- and the final -- start was in the Classic Indian Turf Invitation Cup, Gr.1 at Bangalore . Shroff opted to ride the favourite Crown Treasure so Ruzzan was given the leg-up on Arabian Rose. She took up the running at the distance only to be passed by the favourite who herself was touched off on the post by Ministerial. She did, however, reverse verdict with Indictment who was a little over two lengths adrift in fourth.

On pedigree, she would certainly have appreciated the longer trips in the St. Legers or the Stayers' Cup. It was, however, felt that she had done enough and was more valuable as a broodmare. Besides, mares were needed to ensure that the new Kunigal stallion Tejano, who was starting rather late in the season, had a fair-sized book.

She did conceive after a visit Tejano but produced a dead foal and was not covered. She aborted to the same stallion in 2000 and finally gave her first foal (by Tejano) in 2001. Named Alhambrah, that chestnut filly did not race and is a producer now at Kunigal. A full-sister to Alhambrah born in 2002 died young. She was again not covered in 2002 but the following year her visit to Brave Act produced Arabian Knight. Then came Pelikano, a 2005 colt by Glory of Dancer who is yet to race and he is followed by a Burden of Proof colt. 2006 was the third year when she wasn't covered and she returned barren after going to the court of Steinbeck in 2007. She is now reportedly holding to her early March cover by Burden of Proof.

Arabian Knight does not quite compensate for her patchy stud record though he does underline her potential. She will be a matronly 16 come the next covering season and Kunigal would dearly love to get a filly out of her while hoping that Alhambrah in the meantime comes good. Both Arabian Rose and Alhambrah are ideally suited to Admiralofthefleet who will be principal stallion at Kunigal in 2009.

Arabian Knight is the eighth Classic winner in India to descend from My Lovely Robe, a Tarqogan mare which came to India in 1976, found a home at the Usha Stud and has established a Classic family in her own right, one which is endowed with plenty of lung power. My Lovely Robe was not the kind of mare which one associates with Usha Stud whose doyen, the late Maj Pradeep Mehra, was a firm believer in the dictum "speed, speed and more speed".

Bred by Mr. P.J. Cox, My Lovely Robe was a lengthy, rather sparse filly, a half-sister to the moderate Irish stayer Kilbelin Girl (by Sayajirao) and Lisnaree (by Dionisio) whose four wins came at distances between 11 furlongs and two miles. The immediate family had several winners over the timber in Ireland . It traced back to Thrift through Great Dame -- a three-parts sister to Tristan -- but the stirps had nothing to crow about other than George Smith (1916 Kentucky Derby) and Aggressor, the conqueror of Petite Etoile. Reference Point came much later as did Airoso (Grande Premio Bento Goncalves, Gr.1 in Brazil ) and Great Contractor (Jockey Club Gold Cup, Gr.1 in U.S.A. ). My Lovely Robe, trained by Clive Brittain, did not race at 2 and ran just four times at 3, finishing runner-up twice over a mile and a half with Willie Carson in the plate, Timeform rated her at 71 and remarked "will probably stay further than a mile and a half". That prophecy was not put to test because My Lovely Robe was retired to stud. She failed to get in foal to Kuai King in her first year, had a filly called My Shoon (by Sheshoon) and was in foal to Reliance II when she landed in India .

This, clearly, was not a Maj P.K. Mehra kind of mare. How then did she end up at Usha? Circumstances, is all one can say. Usha Stud was at that point of time a recently established, fledgling operation with just about a dozen mares on its roster. 1975 was a difficult year for Usha Stud. The dry-coated Grey Gaston, badly affected by the heat, was unwell. By the time the decison to lay him off was taken, the covering season was well advanced. The mares were switched to Knight of Medina and so few of them conceived that Maj Mehra did not require all the fingers of his right hand to count the foals due in 1976.

That was year Mrs. Anne Wright, OBE -- whose 'boutique' breeding operation, the Lingwood Stud has produced a remarkably high number of good horses considering its small size -- had imported two mares -- Bundersfall and My Lovely Robe -- and she decided to board them at Usha Stud. Since he was short of foals that year, Maj Mehra bought My Lovely Robe though she continued to remain on Mrs Wright's name to meet with the formalities.

At the 1978 Sales, the Bundersfall filly -- named Victoria Falls subsequently -- fetched Mrs. Wright Rs. 2 lakhs, a bonanza in those days. Maj Mehra had, from the outset, planned to sell the My Lovely Robe filly, too and she would have fetched the dearly needed rupees to run the farm. His mind wavered after Manitou -- the first foal born at Usha Stud -- won the Bangalore Derby in July 1977 and after Manitou had run away with the Indian Derby in 1978 he decided to retain the filly. It was a brave decison and she was aptly named Self Reliance.

He did, however, sell half the share in her to M/s Mohammed Ishaq and Izarul Haq. Byramji gave her her first run -- just an educational outing -- on 1st of July, she placed second to Star Fire as an odds-on favourite next time out and won the Yezdi Gold Cup by three lengths at Mysore over a mile. Vasant Shinde rode her in all her three starts in her first year's campaign.

The following year she started 13 times, raced at Bangalore, Madras, Bombay, Calcutta and Hyderabad, won twice -- South India Oaks and South India St. Leger (in track record time) , Shinde up -- and failed to make the board just twice. She was second in the Bangalore Oaks, Indian St. Leger, Golconda St. Leger, third in Maharaja's Cup and fourth in President of India Gold Cup. After the South India Oaks, Maj Mehra had bought his partners out and she raced in his colours jointly with his wife Veena.

After Self Reliance, My Lovely Robe produced four foals in succession to Grey Gaston of whom three raced, one -- Summervilla -- was a winner while the unraced My Beautiful Robe has the distinction of being the first mare to be owned by Ameeta Mehra. Self Reliance, being by Reliance II, a son of Relic, would have been ideal for Grey Gaston; unfortunately, she never visited that stallion. Her first three foals were by Common Land and though Noalto earned the black-type, he, Adept and Relentless were rather plebian. Two of her six Treasure Leaf foals -- Treasure Land and Own Ability -- were Classic winners, three were ordinary winners but the sixth, the filly Roots and Wings was such a slow coach that the owners requested for a blood-typing test ! Arabian Rose (by Razeen) was her last foal to race. She was subsequently sent to Paramvir Stud and her visits to Classic Sport yielded no joy.

Treasure Land, as the dam of Own Vision, Accomplish, Remember Star and Azereus has been an excellent broodmare. A mile and a half appears to be the minmum trip for the best runners -- Self Reliance, Treasure Land, Own Ability, Arabian Rose, Own Vision, Accomplish, Arabian Knight and Azereus -- from this family whose forte is very obviously stamina.

One final trivia item. Before Mrs.Anne Wright bought My Lovely Robe, the mare was owned by one Mr. K.H. Gulrajani, an Indian who raced in a small way in England and always had a horse or two in racing in India.