Last week’s edition of this slot focused on Rubiton, prompted by the recent stakes victory of his six-year-old son Freereturn. It was good to see Rubiton still coming up with good winners seven years after his death – so now the victory of Jimmy Styles in the Prix de Meautry at Deauville can be viewed as an even more special event, bearing in mind that that veteran’s sire Inchinor died nine years ago, writes John Berry.
As the longevity of the career of Jimmy Styles implies, Inchinor bred some very tough horses. That was no surprise as he himself was a very tough horse. In this respect, he can be said to have taken after both of his parents.
Inchinor’s sire Ahonoora needs no introduction – nor did he at the time of Inchinor’s birth in 1990, when he was aged 15. Ahonoora’s place among the great Irish stallions certainly wasn’t thrust upon him. He’d been a rags-to-riches sprinter on the racecourse, an inexpensive yearling who graduated through the handicap ranks to the top level. As a three-year-old he had recorded a 50/1 victory under a light weight (8 stone) in the 1978 Stewards Cup, while the following year he had graduated to victories in the William Hill Sprint Championship (now Nunthorpe Stakes) and King George Stakes and to second place behind Europe's champion sprinter Double Form in the King’s Stand Stakes. His achievements had earned him a place at the Irish National Stud, but only as a presumed source of ‘cheap speed’, the least expensive Flat stallion on its roster. However, he had been an instant success with his first two-year-olds including the high-class fillies Princess Tracy and Ahohoney, and from that bright start he had continued onwards and upward. Eventually, plenty of his sons became good stallions including the 1992 Derby winner Dr Devious and the 1987 2,000 Guineas winner Don't Forget Me, with one of his sons (Indian Ridge, a Royal Ascot winner of the Jersey Stakes in 1988 and the King’s Stand Stakes the following year) becoming almost as distinguished a sire as his father had been.
By the time that Ahonoora was 14 in 1989, he was already well established as an extremely good stallion, capable of upgrading his mares, likely to sire fast tough horses and adept at producing horses who could stay farther than he himself had ever been asked to do. While his initial success had largely been achieved with the help of unremarkable mares, the successes of his first few crops had meant that, by the time that he was into his teens, he was commanding a high stud fee and covering the types of mares whose credentials justified such an expense. Inchinor’s dam Inchmurrin came very much into this category.
If Ahonoora had made his name as the sire of horses who were very tough as well as very good, one could say that the mating of him and Inchmurrin was a match made in heaven. Inchmurrin was very small, but what she lacked in height she more than made up for in both class and courage. On paper she was entitled to be very good, coming from one of the best families of the stud of her owner/breeder Sir Philip Oppenheimer. Inchmurrin’s grand-dam African Dancer had been one of Britain’s best staying fillies of 1976, carrying the Oppenheimer colours to victory in the Cheshire Oaks and the Park Hill Stakes. African Dancer, who was by Nijinsky, was the best daughter of her dam Miba (winner in 1965 of the Princess Elizabeth Stakes at Epsom and the Pretty Polly Stakes at Newmarket, as well as being placed in several good races including the Ribblesdale Stakes and the Park Hill Stakes) and she duly became an influential broodmare, while some of Miba’s other daughters also proved very useful at stud. One of them, Ya Ya, now ranks as the fifth dam of this season’s Nassau Stakes winner The Fugue. Of African Dancer’s daughters, On Show, a winning daughter of Welsh Pageant, became the best broodmare. To Habitat she bred the 1989 Mill Reef Stakes winner Welney; to Be My Guest she bred Guest Artiste, placed in that year’s Coronation Stakes; and to the 1983 2,000 Guineas winner Lomond she bred both Balnaha (only a minor winner in her racing days, but dam of the 1999 Coronation Stakes winner Balisada) and Inchmurrin.
Inchmurrin was bred to be very good, but her connections must have had doubts in the early days simply because she was so small. However, in two years of regular racing she provided a useful reminder of the truism that there is no correlation between height and ability, her six victories including one race (the Group Two Child Stakes at Newmarket) which is now a Group One contest (known as the Falmouth Stakes). Her several placings included second place, splitting Magic Of Life and the 1,000 Guineas winner Ravinella, in the Group One Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot. When she retired to her owner’s stud at the end of the 1988 racing season, she thus clearly deserved to visit a special stallion in the spring of 1989. It seemed very fitting that Ahonoora got the job.
Just as the lack of height of the young Hyperion had not dismayed those on Lord Derby’s stud in 1930 on the basis that his top-class dam Selene was likewise extremely small, so it must have been for the staff at Hascombe Stud in the spring of 1990 when Inchinor was born: he was very small, but then being very short had not harmed his mother. In fact, he was truly his mother’s son, sharing her chestnut coat (which, bearing in mind that both parents were chestnut, was, of course, inevitable). Family tradition appeared to dictate that the little colt should, come the autumn of 1991, make the short journey to Abington Place Stables in Newmarket’s Bury Road, where Geoff Wragg had trained Inchmurrin and his father Harry had trained the previous several generations. However, Roger Charlton was also on the roster of trainers for the Oppenheimer family, and Inchinor headed 150 miles west-south-west to join his string at Beckhampton.
Like many small horses, Inchinor proved fairly quick to come to hand. Roger Charlton sent him back to Newmarket in August 1992 to make a winning debut in the Park Lodge Maiden Stakes over six furlongs on the July Course. Four weeks later the colt stayed closer to home, going to Ascot, but the result was the same: he took his record to two wins from two starts by landing a seven-furlong graduation race. His victims on his debut had included the subsequent Derby place-getter and good stallion Blues Traveller, and he also had some good horses behind him in his second victory, with the minor placings being filled by Right Win and Emperor Jones, winners the following year of the Group One Gran Premio d’Italia and the Group Three Craven Stakes respectively. Inchinor lost his unbeaten status on his third and final run of the year, but that was no disgrace: he finished second of 11 in the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket, beaten only by the outstanding French-trained colt Zafonic.
The following spring, Zafonic, whose unbeaten juvenile campaign had also included Group One victories in the Prix Morny and Prix de la Salamandre, was understandably hot favourite for the 2,000 Guineas, notwithstanding the fact that he had sustained a narrow and unexpected defeat at the hands of Kingmambo on his resumption in the Prix Djebel at Maisons-Laffitte. With Kingmambo remaining in France to contest the Poule d’Essai des Poulains (which he won), Zafonic went off odds-on in the 2,000 Guineas. He duly won it impressively, breaking the track record. Inchinor, whose Classic campaign had kicked off with victory in the Greenham Stakes at Newbury, had appeared one of the Zafonic’s few possible dangers in the race, so on the face of it his sixth position was slightly disappointing. However, the run was still good. Second-placed Barathea won the Irish 2,000 Guineas next time out; third-placed Bin Ajwaad next chased home Kingmambo in the Poule d’Essai des Poulains; fourth-placed Petardia had been a top two-year-old, winning the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster; while fifth-placed Silver Wizard had also been very good at two, winning the Sirenia Stakes at Kempton after failing by only a head to catch the top-class filly Niche in the Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot. Over and above this, though, the most pertinent factor in Inchinor’s run was that he appeared to find the very stiff mile less suitable than the shorter distances over which he had previously raced.
Dropped back to the seven furlongs, at which distance he had won the Greenham Stakes, Inchinor thrived for the rest of the season, running several very good races and winning two more Group Three contests, the Criterion Stakes at Newmarket and the Hungerford Stakes at Newbury. He also ran very well when given a second chance at the mile, finishing third behind Bigstone and Sayyedati in a particularly competitive renewal of the Group One Sussex Stakes at Goodwood, with several top-class horses including Culture Vulture, Alhijaz, Alflora and Zafonic (who was found to have bled and was promptly retired) behind him.
At the end of the season, Inchinor retired to Lord Derby's Woodlands Stud in Newmarket, his speed, class, soundness and enthusiasm all well proven, just like his mother’s had been on her retirement to stud five years previously.
Inchinor duly proved to be a very good stallion. His first Group winner came in his second crop when his ultra-tough daughter Golden Silca won twice in Pattern company as a two-year-old, including taking the Mill Reef Stakes at Newbury. She then went on to register numerous excellent performances over the next few years, finishing second in both the Irish 1,000 Guineas and Coronation Stakes at three, winning the Desmond Stakes at the Curragh at four and being Group Two-placed at both five and six.
Inchinor then came up with his first Group One winner in his third crop. In 1996, the Oppenheimers had tried a very interesting experiment, including Inchinor’s relative Sumoto (who had proved herself a very talented but frustrating filly after beating the subsequent Group One winner Sayyedati at Ascot on her debut in June 1992) among the mares whom they sent to the stallion. This experiment paid great dividends: it produced Summoner, who showed himself to be a good horse from Roger Charlton’s stable (from which he finished ninth of 27 in King's Best’s 2,000 Guineas in the year 2000) before being sold to Godolphin, from which stable he landed an unexpected victory in the Group One Queen Elizabeth II Stakes in 2001, coming home in front of his better-fancied stablemate Noverre, on whose behalf he was supposedly performing the role of pace-maker.
Inchinor’s fourth crop also contained a Group One winner: Cape Of Good Hope. This strong chestnut was a good horse in the UK before heading to Hong Kong, where he continued to improve as he got older to the extent that, sent globe-trotting as a seven-year-old, he won both the Australia Stakes at Moonee Valley in Melbourne and Royal Ascot’s Golden Jubilee Stakes (at York). Inchinor’s production-line of good horses continued to roll, with the Group One winners Latice, Notnowcato and Silca's Sister (winners of the Prix de Diane, Eclipse Stakes and Prix Morny respectively) coming in subsequent crops. His other good horses included Umistim, On The Acorn, Sesmen, Bannister and Orientor, with the last-named (a Group winner at both five and six years of age) being one of many to typify the toughness as well as the speed for which the stock of Inchinor became famed – and of which Jimmy Styles continues to remind us.
Sadly, Inchinor did not live nearly as long as one might have expected. In 2003, aged only 13, he suffered a broken front pastern in a paddock accident and, while surgery was attempted to secure the fracture, he had to be put down on humane grounds because of the severity of the injury. This was particularly sad as (like the aforementioned Rubiton) he was one of the best Byerley Turk-line stallions around at the start of this century, this line being kept alive in Europe more or less solely thanks to Ahonoora’s influence. Fortunately, Inchinor’s Eclipse-winning son Notnowcato is now at the stud where his father used to stand (now re-named Stanley House Stud) and is coming up with some good horses from his first crop of three-year-olds including this season’s Royal Ascot winner Fast Or Free and the US Grade One place-getter Miss Cato, so one can hope that he can extend Inchinor’s influence.
This influence is also being felt via Inchinor’s daughters, with current three-year-olds coming from Inchinor mares including the Irish 2,000 Guineas winner Power (a son of the Oppenheimer-bred and –raced winner Frappe) and Dante Stakes place-getter Fencing (a son of the aforementioned Latice). Another good grand-child of Inchinor currently racing is Up In Time, a Grade Two winner in California after her sale to the States, and, while Inchinor’s premature death sadly robbed Europe of one of its best Byerley Turk-line sires, it is fair to say that he’s going to continue to appear in the first two generations of the pedigrees of good winners for some time yet - particularly as he so clearly passed on durability as well as ability.