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story posted Tuesday 7th June 2011 19:50

INDIAN RIDGE: Another Indian summer


The big-races at Epsom's Derby meeting were once again dominated by the Northern Dancer sire-line, with Sadler's Wells' son Montjeu siring the winners of both the Derby (Pour Moi) and the Coronation Cup (St Nicholas Abbey) while Danehill's son Danehill Dancer proved responsible for Oaks victrix Dancing Rain. As we see over and over again, this current near-monopolization leaves the door open for formerly mainstream stallions and lines to shine as broodmare sires. With Pour Moi coming from the tried and tested formula of a son of Sadler's Wells over a daughter of Darshaan and St Nicholas Abbey being produced by a mare from the Sharpen Up sire-line, the Oaks provided a nice reminder of the deceased Irish National Stud stallion Indian Ridge, who enjoyed a terrific stud career and who now ranks posthumously, thanks to Dancing Rain's victory, as the maternal grandsire of an Oaks winner, writes John Berry.

Indian Ridge, who died of a heart attack at the Irish National Stud in 2006 at the age of 21, ranks as the most recent top-class European stallion to have descended in the male line from the Byerley Turk, who has come to be the least prolific of the thoroughbred's three founding fathers. It would possibly be premature to say that this line is in terminal decline (not least because there are several good sons of Indian Ridge at stud) but, even so, the death of Indian Ridge was as serious a blow to its prospects as had been the death of Rubiton in Australia the previous year. However, as Indian Ridge and his own sire Ahonoora both proved, great sires can come from seemingly unlikely backgrounds, so the next great Byerley Turk-line sire could be lurking just around a corner.

If the full extent of Indian Ridge's success at stud was hard to predict (which it was), then even more unexpected was the extraordinarily successful stud career enjoyed by his sire Ahonoora. By the time that Ahonoora retired to stud in 1980 after a productive career spent contesting Britain's top sprints, the future of the Byerley Turk sire-line in Europe appeared to lie in the hands of stallions who were most notable for siring either middle-distance gallopers or stayers. The excellent stallions Klairon and Levmoss (winner in his racing days of both the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe and the Ascot Gold Cup and who was shaping as a top-class sire prior to his early death at the age of only 12) had died in 1975 and '77 respectively, but the likes of Blakeney, Luthier and Rarity (and in turn several sons of Blakeney) were all stallions who might be looked upon to come up with Classic contenders. By contrast, Ahonoora, who had won the Stewards Cup at Goodwood as a three-year-old in 1978 and the Group Two William Hill Sprint Championship (which is now the Group One Nunthorpe Stakes) at York at four, was a far less obvious candidate to prolong the line.

That, though, is what Ahonoora did. His sire Lorenzaccio (best known for beating a below-par Nijinsky in the 1970 Champion Stakes at Newmarket) had already been deemed a failure at stud by the time that Ahonoora revealed his speed, having been exported to Australia (where he came up with the 1981 VRC Derby winner Brewery Boy). That, though, did not stop Ahonoora becoming a far better sire than Lorenzaccio had been. In a tragically short stud career, Ahonoora was represented by a host of high-class winners from 1000m to 2400m. These included top two-year-olds such as Park Appeal, Negligent and Princess Athena; sprinters such as Indian Ridge, Statoblest, Princess Tracy and Ginny Binny; milers such as Don't Forget Me, Inchinor and Idris; and middle-distance stars such as Park Express, Ruby Tiger, Topanoora, Noora Abu, Ahohoney, Project Manager and Nashamaa – with pride of place going to the 1992 Derby winner Dr Devious (who is very closely related to Dancing Rain's dam Rain Flower). Several of Ahonoora's sons became good sires and several of his daughters became excellent broodmares (most notably Park Express, dam of the 2008 Derby winner New Approach) but Indian Ridge fared best at stud of them all.

While Ahoonora proved himself capable of siring high-class winners at all distances from five furlongs to a mile and a half, it should have been no surprise that Indian Ridge should have turned out to be a sprinter. Not only was his dam Hillbrow (whose only victory had come as a two-year-old over six furlongs) by the 1971 King's Stand and Nunthorpe Stakes winner Swing Easy, but Hillbrow's dam Golden City (a winning half-sister to the Cheveley Park Stakes and 1,000 Guineas place-getter Marisela) and grand-dam (West Shaw) were daughters respectively of the top-class sprinters Skymaster and Grey Sovereign.

Having been bought as a yearling in 1986 for 22,000 Irish guineas, Indian Ridge was put into training by his owners Sean and Anne Coughlan with David Elsworth in south west England. Elsworth was a perfect man to take charge of an Ahonoora yearling, being a most versatile trainer who would get the best out of any horse, irrespective of his or her distance requirements. Thus it came to pass that Elsworth helped Indian Ridge to develop into a top-class sprinter at a time when the stable star was the champion steeplechaser Desert Orchid!

Elsworth ran Indian Ridge four times as a two-year-old in 1987, with these four races yielding two second places followed by two victories, in six-furlong races at Goodwood and Leicester. These were relatively low-key contests, but Elsworth's patience was rewarded the next year when he raised the colt's sights. The Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot seemed an ambitious start to Indian Ridge's three-year-old season, but he rewarded his trainer's enterprise by beating the Henry Cecil-trained favourite Salse by one and a half lengths. Disappointingly, Indian Ridge raced only three more times that year and failed to finish in the frame, being unplaced in the July Cup (behind Soviet Star), Hungerford Stakes (behind his Royal Ascot victim Salse) and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (behind Warning).

Indian Ridge's four-year-old campaign was also a light one, but it was less hit-or-miss. Of his three races in 1989, he won the first two, taking the Duke Of York Stakes over six furlongs at York in May and the King's Stand Stakes over five furlongs at Royal Ascot in June. Elsworth had tried him at distances up to the mile of the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes the previous year, but his four-year-old season proved conclusively that tests of speed were Indian Ridge's forte. It was disappointing that the horse again failed to achieve anything in the second half of the season (his unplaced run in the Prix Maurice de Gheest in August was his only start after Royal Ascot) but he had at least proved that he was a very fast horse, if not a particularly durable one.

In many ways, Indian Ridge was an obvious successor to his sire Ahonoora, who had died shortly after Indian Ridge's final race: Ahonoora sustained fatal injuries in September 1989 (at the tragically young age of only 14) at Segenhoe Stud in New South Wales, whither he had shuttled from Ireland's Coolmore Stud, which had bought him for 7 million Irish pounds two years previously once his career had taken off. However, the drawback to Indian Ridge being so much his father's son was that, just as Ahonoora at the outset of his stud career had appeared far from an obvious choice for stardom as a stallion, so it was with Indian Ridge: he naturally appealed to small-scale 'commercial' breeders looking to breed saleable potential sprinters on a limited budget, but he would hardly have been on the radar of the bigger players who aspired to breed Classic candidates. Therefore, just as Ahonoora had retired ten years previously to the Irish National Stud at a relatively low fee of 2,250 Irish pounds, Indian Ridge was recruited by Campbell Stud near Bury St Edmunds in England, to start covering in 1990 at a fee of just 5,000 guineas. Just like Ahonoora before him, though, Indian Ridge soon proved himself to be a far better and far more versatile sire than most people had expected.

It didn't take long for Indian Ridge to demonstrate his merit as a stallion. His first crop of two-year-olds contained the Solario Stakes winner Island Magic (an older half-brother to the terrific stayer Persian Punch) as well as the Group-placed juvenile Fumo Di Londra, while another member of that crop, Ridgewood Ben, won a maiden at Navan by eight lengths on his only start at two before winning the Group Three Gladness Stakes at the Curragh first-up the following spring, beating the high-class four-year-old College Chapel by four lengths. The following month Ridgewood Ben (bred and raced by the Coughlans) finished third in the Irish 2,000 Guineas. By this time Indian Ridge, on the back of his impressive first-season results, had been relocated to his father's former home at the Irish National Stud.

If Indian Ridge's first-crop results had stamped him as a sire with great potential, the feats of the members of his second crop proved that he was a genuine Classic sire. Although the Coughlans had had Indian Ridge in training with David Elsworth, they had sent Ridgewood Ben to be trained in Ireland by John Oxx. They also sent Oxx a home-bred member of the stallion's second crop, a full-sister to Ridgewood Ben. Named Ridgewood Pearl, this filly launched her father into the premier league. A Group Three winner as a two-year-old, Ridgewood Pearl proved herself to be one of the great fillies of the modern era during her three-year-old campaign. Like her father she was an imposing muscular chestnut - and, possibly mindful of the fact that her massive physique put quite a lot of strain on her legs, Oxx only raced her lightly. But when he did send her to the races, the results were devastating. Ridgewood Pearl raced six times as a three-year-old in 1995, for five wins and a second place. Having justified odds-on favouritism by seven lengths in a seven-furlong Listed race at the Curragh on her resumption, thereafter she only raced in Group/Grade One mile races. Consecutively she won the Irish 1,000 Guineas at the Curragh and the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot against her own age and sex before stepping into weight-for-age company to win the Prix du Moulin at Longchamp. Having been surprisingly beaten by Bahri when odds-on favourite for the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes at Ascot, she bounced back to form to end her career on a glorious note in America at the Breeders' Cup meeting at Belmont Park, beating a typically high-class field to record a two-length victory in the Mile.

The same crop which included Ridgewood Pearl also contained another Classic contender: Definite Article (who had won the Group One National Stakes at the Curragh as a two-year-old) finished second to Winged Love, beaten only a short head, in the 1995 Irish Derby. He went on to show top-class form for a third consecutive season when winning the Tattersalls Gold Cup (then a Group Two race and now a Group One) at the Curragh the following spring. Definite Article, of course, went on to a successful stud career, highlighted by the achievements of the four-time Irish St Leger winner Vinnie Roe.

Like his father before him, Indian Ridge eventually sired a mass of high-class winners over a wide variety of distances. His many good sprinters included the 1997 July Cup winner Compton Place, 2000 Prix de l'Abbaye winner Namid, 2001 King's Stand Stakes winner Cassandra Go, 2006 Goldene Peitsche winner Linngari and 2006 Challenge Stakes winner Sleeping Indian, as well as the durable Tumbleweed Ridge. At a mile, his best winners subsequent to Ridgewood Pearl included the 2001 Sandown Mile winner Nicobar, 2002 Breeders' Cup Mile winner Domedriver, 2003 Irish 2,000 Guineas winner Indian Haven, 2007 Coronation Stakes winner Indian Ink, and the multiple Group winners Handsome Ridge and Nayyir, as well as the Classic place-getters Snow Ridge, Rayeni and Mad About You. Beyond a mile, his stars included 2005 Canadian International winner Relaxed Gesture and 2007 Hollywood Derby winner Daytona, as well as the likes of Indian Creek, High Pitched and his full-brother Imperial Stride, Patkai, Sights On Gold, Campsie Fells and Monturani.

Obviously there are several sons of Indian Ridge who could yet stamp themselves as their father's son as regards continuing the line, even if so far there is no obviously dominant candidate in this respect. Indian Ridge is, though, clearly going to remain a significant broodmare sire for years to come, with Dancing Rain joining a list of distinguished gallopers produced by his daughters which already includes such top-class winners as 2002 Cheveley Park Stakes winner Airwave, 2003 Sussex Stakes winner Reel Buddy, 2004 Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Wilko, 2006 Irish 1,000 Guineas winner Nightime, 2007 Nunthorpe Stakes winner Kingsgate Native , 2008 Irish 1,000 Guineas winner Halfway To Heaven and 2008 Falmouth Stakes winner Nahoodh.

Many breeders, owners, trainers and jockeys around Europe have reason to remember Indian Ridge with fondness - just as so many had previously benefitted from the influence of his sire Ahonoora. None probably, though, will remember him with quite as much affection as Sean and Anne Coughlan, who not only raced him, but also bred and raced his best daughter Ridgewood Pearl. The great jockey Johnny Murtagh will also presumably have a particularly soft spot for him: initially Ridgewood Pearl proved instrumental in propelling his career to the top level, and now Indian Ridge's grand-daughter Dancing Rain has provided him with his first Oaks victory.



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