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Pinatubo – what can history tell us

Pintaubo wins the Darley Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket – photo copyright The Racing Forum
By David Cormack

Pinatubo was awarded a lofty rating at the end of an unbeaten two year old season. However, an outstanding juvenile career offers no guarantee that a horse will develop later in his career and, as we anticipate Pinatubo’s three year old season, let’s take a look back at how the careers of three of the greatest two year olds of the 20th century panned out.

Windy City

Top of Timeform’s all-time two year old ratings is Windy City who was trained in Ireland by Paddy Prendegast.

In 1951 Windy City was given a rating of 142 after a 5 race season where he won 4 times in Ireland and the UK before travelling to France for his final start where he finished second to the subsequent French 1,000 Guineas winner Pomare, to whom he was conceding 11lbs.

Prendegast had quickly established himself as Ireland’s leading flat trainer and was also, ahead of Vincent O’Brien, arguably the first to establish Ireland as a major international force. His training techniques were innovative, he recognised the advantages that could be had from ensuring that the mind of the horse was conditioned as finely as its body and he focused on ensuring his charges were relaxed and mentally confident.

Windy City was bought cheaply, Prendegast paying only 700 guineas for him at Goff’s Dublin sale. Windy City’s sire Wyndham had been a prolific two year old in his own right, winning the New Stakes at Ascot’s Royal meeting and also taking Sandown’s National Breeders’ Produce Stakes. But he hadn’t established himself as a top-drawer sire and with the family on the dam side little more than mediocre Windy City didn’t attract a lot of attention in the sales ring.

Prendegast obviously saw something in his cheap purchase, who he’d sold onto American owner Ray Bell in the meantime, but even he must have been surprised when Windy City showed smart speed to take his debut maiden at Phoenix Park by ten lengths. Windy City followed that up by travelling across the Irish Sea to Chester, where he announced himself to a wider audience by bolting up in the Oulton Stakes by 6 lengths.

He was proving a real speed merchant and, back in Ireland, he took the Phoenix Plate before again crossing the water and trouncing the British, this time in the Gimcrack at York where he beat Pharaos II by 5 lengths.

Sent to France for his final start in the Prix d’Arenberg, he finally came undone. Tricky at the start at the best of times, on this occasion he lost several lengths at the start. While he made up most of the leeway he didn’t manage to catch Pomare, who later showed how good she was by going on to win a classic at three.

American owned, it was decided that Windy City would have better opportunities as a three year old in the US and he didn’t race in Europe again. His owner put him up for sale and he went for $150,000 to his new owner Gus Luellwitz. He had a name change too and was now known as Windy City II.

His American career started with an unplaced run but he was soon back in the winner’s enclosure, stepping up to seven furlongs to win the San Gabriel Stakes at Santa Anita. Connections had their eyes on the Kentucky Derby and his next start, over a mile and half a furlong, in the San Felipe Handicap showed that he was a player, the colt staying on well to win by two and a half lengths.

Next up was the prestigious Santa Anita Derby over nine furlongs and such was Windy City’s burgeoning reputation Stateside that he started 1/2 favourite. Things did not go to plan this time around and he finished second to Hill Gail, who he had beaten comprehensively on two previous occasions (you can see some footage of that race by going to www.britishpathe.com and doing a search for ‘windy city horse’). It transpired after the Santa Anita Derby that Windy City had picked up an injury during the race and when the injury resurfaced during training in late March it was enough to scupper plans to run in the Kentucky Derby.

Although he stayed in training that season he never raced again.  His three year old career could hardly be described a failure, he’d beaten that year’s Kentucky Derby winner Hill Gail twice before sustaining his injury in the Santa Anita Derby. What heights he may have gone on to achieve had he remained sound is anyone’s guess.

After his retirement Windy City went to stand at stud in California where he enjoyed some success, siring Kentucky Oaks winner Blue Norther as well as a pair of very fast two year olds, Old Pueblo and Restless Wind.

Windy City’s two year old Timeform rating may never be surpassed. To put a more modern perspective on it, his two year old rating is higher than that which Mill Reef, Dancing Brave, Shergar and Sea The Stars, to name but a few, achieved later in their careers when at the peak of their powers.

Celtic Swing

Racehorse owner Peter Savill could hardly be described as a shrinking violet and gained prominence and a degree of notoriety within racing when he became the Chairman of the Horse Racing Board in 1998. The career of his best horse preceded that appointment when, in 1994, his Lady Herries trained two year old Celtic Swing became Timeform’s second all-time highest rated horse of that age, behind Windy City, when achieving a rating of 138.

Lady Herries was a daughter of Bernard, Duke Of Norfolk, a notable establishment figure and the Queen’s representative at Ascot for over quarter of a century. Her mother, Lavinia, Duchess of Norfolk, was a leading owner and was the breeder of Celtic Swing. Ironically, while Lady Herries had a background steeped in aristocracy and tradition, Peter Savill was a self-made man and a pioneering force for change within racing. All of which made their owner/trainer pairing a slightly unlikely combination on paper.

None of that was of any import to Celtic Swing, a son of the US bred Damister, himself a son of the hugely successful US sire Mr Prospector. Damister, trained by Jeremy Tree, had finished a remote third in the 1985 Derby behind Slip Anchor and Celtic Swing was, by some distance, the best horse he ever sired.  Celtic Swing’s dam, Celtic Ring, threw 4 winners from her 5 offspring that reached the track. The only one to fail to win was a colt by Sadler’s Wells, named Olympus, who even Aidan O’Brien couldn’t get to win, although, to be fair, he only raced the once.

Celtic Swing’s career began, unusually enough for a future champion flat horse, at Ayr in July where he won an ordinary looking class 5 Auction Maiden race by 4 lengths, ‘running on strongly’ at the end of the 7 furlong race according to the Racing Post race report.

He was then given a three month break, reappearing in October to contest the Hyperion Conditions Stakes at Ascot.  He started favourite (which he was to do for every subsequent race he appeared in) with his chief market rival a Sir Michael Stoute trained colt called Singspiel, a future multiple Group 1 winner who’d confirmed the promise of his debut by winning at odds on at Chester last time. Celtic Swing didn’t so much beat Singspiel, he positively annihilated him, winning easily by 8 lengths.

People had now taken notice and it was with great anticipation that he defended his unbeaten record in the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster, the final run of his two year old year campaign. His main market rival was yet another Stoute trained colt, Annus Mirabilis, who had won the last two of his three starts.

The result was even more emphatic than the Ascot rout with no less than twelve lengths separating Celtic Swing and Annus Mirabilis, the pair another one and a half lengths ahead of the third. It was the sort of performance that left the handicappers with little choice other than to award a high rating, which they duly did. Celtic Swing went into the winter at the end  of 1994 as the name on the lips of every racing fan and as a hot favourite for the following year’s Guineas and Derby.

It is a remarkable testament to his glittering two year old performances that Celtic Swing’s three year old career was widely regarded as a disappointment for he won one classic and was beaten a head in another.

Starting off at Newbury in the Greenham Stakes, he won the race well enough although the winning distance of one and a quarter lengths was more modest than the margins he’d been registering at two. The third horse was 9 lengths further back though and time was to show it was a decent performance as the runner-up, John Dunlop’s Bahri, had enough class to win the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes later in the year.

Next stop was Newmarket and the 2,000 Guineas where Celtic Swing started odds on at 4/5. Only two other horses started at shorter than 14/1, both trained by Andre Fabre and both hitherto unbeaten. In the race Celtic Swing took up the running over two furlongs out but he failed to stamp his authority on the field as he had done at two. Pennekamp, one of the Andre Fabre pair, had won the Dewhurst at two and had shown plenty speed in all his races. He loomed up on Celtic Swing’s outside and passed Savills’ colt inside the final furlong. Celtic Swing fought back gamely but Pennekamp still had a head to spare at the line.

The obvious next target was the Derby but owner Savill, somewhat controversially at the time, decided that the anticipated firm ground at Epsom would not be in his colt’s favour (it had been good to soft when he’d won the Racing Post Trophy) and re-routed him to Chantilly for the French Derby.

In France, Celtic Swing got good ground and duly won, but he wasn’t particularly impressive in so-doing. He had only half a length to spare over Poliglote with the third, Winged Love, only a head away. But he had won a classic, if not the classic most had expected him to win at the start of the year.

Both Winged Love and Annus Mirablis re-opposed Celtic Swing at the Curragh in the Irish Derby, on what was to prove his final run. Starting 5/4 favourite he was never really travelling, entering the straight in 4th place he was soon under pressure and beaten, finishing only 8th of the 13 runners.

It transpired that he’d sustained an injury at the Curragh but was kept in training with a view to returning to the track as a four year old. A recurrence of the injury scuppered those plans and Celtic Swing was retired during the summer of 1996.

By most standards a classic win and place would constitute a successful three year old season but such were the expectations for Celtic Swing after his two year old season that those performances felt like an anti-climax and his Timeform rating dipped from 138 at two to 129 (still a highly respectable performance level) at three. His retirement was largely unheralded, much water having flowed under the bridge since that scintillating Racing Post Trophy, and he’d almost become a forgotten horse.

Hindsight would surely suggest that his 138 rating as a two year old represented an exaggerated reflection of his ability but he was nevertheless a very good horse as his exploits the following season confirmed. At stud his record was unremarkable in the main although he was capable of siring a good horse. His two best performers were the star sprinter Takeover Target and dual Guineas runner-up and multiple Group 1 winner Six Perfections, through whom he links to the decent Aidan O’Brien runners Mount Everest and Yucatan.

The Tetrarch

While Windy City and Celtic Swing are ranked number one and two in Timeform’s all-time list of high-rated two year olds, the horse voted Britain’s best two year old of the 20th century in a National Horse Racing Museum poll had long since finished his career by the time Phil Bull was publishing Timeform’s earliest end of season ratings.

The Tetrarch was a striking, if unattractive, individual to look at. His grey coat was marked with a series of white spots, earning him the nickname ‘the Spotted Wonder’ during his racing career. As a youngster he wasn’t a particularly appealing prospect and was dismissed by some as having no racing future at all.

Bred in Ireland, The Tetrarch was a son of Roi Herode, out of a Bona Vista mare named Vahren. Roi Herode was an unlikely sire of a fast two year old, his own forte being staying – he finished second in a Doncaster Cup but was uncompetitive in the St Leger where he was unplaced. The Tetrarch was one of only a few foals from Roi Herode’s first crop, plans to race him were abandoned when he was injured while preparing for the Chester Cup and he was hastily despatched to stud where the managed to find some mares for him at the tail-end of the breeding season.

The Tetrarch’s breeding appeared little more exciting than his looks but the Newmarket trainer Atty Persse had trained a half-sister named Nicola so knew the family and he saw something in the tall, ungainly colt, buying him for 1,300 guineas and selling him on to his cousin, Captain Duncan McCalmont.

The Tetrarch went into training and began to surprise even his trainer with the promise he was showing on the gallops. At the time it was routine for horses to be relatively seriously tried at home and The Tetrarch showed more than enough in a couple of trials with older horses to indicate that he had plenty talent. Despite his home reputation he started at 5/1 on his debut, winning in a canter from a big field in a Newmarket maiden.

He next went to the Woodcote at Epsom (interestingly enough the same race that Pinatubo would have his own second start in some 106 years later). At Epsom he came up against another horse with a big home reputation, Parhelion, but the result was the same, The Tetrarch winning easily.

As with Pinatubo, Royal Ascot was next on the agenda but it was the Coventry Stakes rather than the Chesham that The Tetrarch was aimed at and he made absolutely no mistake, trouncing the opposition by 10 lengths.

By the time he raced at Sandown in the National Breeders’ Produce Stakes his ability was no secret but his reputation took a bit of a dent as he appeared to struggle to beat the second, Calandria, doing so by only a neck. Even allowing for the fact that the second was receiving 17lbs it looked, on the face of it, like a tame effort. However, the start of the race had been obscured by poor visibility and, had it not been so, race-goers would have seen The Tetrarch back away from the tapes and then collide into another horse as the tape went up. At the mid-point of the race his task appeared hopeless so what was, on the face of it, a poor result, probably disguised a very good performance.

He won three more races, including the Rous Memorial Stakes at Goodwood and the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster, all with ease, and ended the season top of the Free Handicap with 9st 10lbs, 10lbs clear of the next horse, Corcyra.

It had been intended to run him in Kempton’s Imperial Produce Stakes but he sustained an injury while preparing for that race. As a result he was pin-fired as a precaution but the injury resurfaced the following spring and he had to be retired to stud.

The Tetrarch suffered from fertility problems and wasn’t, at first at least, popular with breeders. In comparison with the stallions of today, The Tetrarch sired a small number of runners, 130 in total, 80 of them winners. Many of his runners were fast but he was also capable of producing horses with stamina – he sired three St Leger winners in a 5 year period – making the question of his own potential stamina limitations all the more intriguing.

His trainer Persse stated that “I don’t think he’d ever have been beaten, over any distance. He was a freak….” but his regular jockey, Steve Donoghue, wasn’t so sure, citing The Tetrarch’s unwillingness to settle as a limitation to his stamina pretensions. We’ll never know.

Remarkably, despite his small number of successful coverings (his owner described his willingness in the breeding shed as “monastic”) The Tetrarch was champion sire in 1919 and, unlike Windy City and Celtic Swing whose impact and lasting influence at stud appears limited, The Tetrarch made a deep impression on the breed.

Much of his legacy was passed on through the exploits of his star filly Mumtaz Mahal, a precociously speedy horse who made a significant mark on the racecourse but was to surpass that when sent to the paddocks. Recognised as one of the outstanding broodmares of the 20th century,  Mumtaz Mahal (and thus The Tetrarch)  features in the pedigrees of Nasrullah, Bold Ruler, Secretariat, Shergar, Abernant and Petitie Etiole, to name but a few.

 

No one knows, at this stage, quite what lies ahead for Pinatubo during the often tricky transition from two to three. Will he progress from two to three? What will be the limit of his stamina? Will his mental attitude, almost perfect at two, remain the same as he matures?

All those questions will be answered in the remainder of the season as the career of this latest prodigy unfolds.

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