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Highest-rated juvenile since the war - but who was he? With the World Thoroughbred Rankings set to be revealed tomorrow, Chris Pitt looks back at the brief, but brilliant, career of a long-forgotten champion.

FRANKEL, Sea-Bird, Tudor Minstrel, Brigadier Gerard, Abernant, Windy City, Ribot, Mill Reef - legendary names for any horseracing fan. Well, all except one.

These horses were all rated above the 140 mark by Timeform, which, in the pre-Racing Post Ratings and World Thoroughbred Rankings era, provides the benchmark by which great racehorses throughout history are judged.

Who was this mysterious Windy City? What did he achieve that induced Timeform to rate him 142, 1lb superior to Mill Reef and 2lb better than Dancing Brave, Dubai Millennium, Harbinger, Sea The Stars, Shergar and Vaguely Noble? Of all the horses rated 140 or more, the 142 allocated to Windy City at the end of the only season he raced in Europe, as a two-year-old in 1951, looks the most dubious.

A chestnut colt by Wyndham out of Staunton, he was bred by Lt-Col the Hon H C Alexander at Loughlinstown, County Dublin. Wyndham, by Blenheim, was a fast two-year-old who had defeated future Derby winner Mahmoud in Royal Ascot's New Stakes when owned by Dorothy Paget and known simply as the Bossover colt - horses at that time were allowed to race unnamed and he wasn't called Wyndham until afterwards.

Staunton never raced but she was by The Satrap, a speedy juvenile and a brother to Tetratema, winner of the 1920 2,000 Guineas. It was a pedigree that denoted speed rather than stamina.

Windy City was not fashionably bred, which meant trainer Paddy Prendergast was able to buy him for only 700gns at Goffs yearling sales. Prendergast sold him to softly spoken American Ray Bell of Beverly Hills when the latter was on a visit to Prendergast's Rossmore Lodge Stables.

Bell came from a ranching family in Wyoming and was a former steer-roper and rodeo rider. He'd once been invited to California by legendary cowboy Will Rogers to work on a film.

Windy City began his career in the modest Balrothery Maiden Plate, worth PS133 10s to the winner, over 5f at Phoenix Park on April 9, 1951. Ridden by Jimmy Mullane, he started 4-6 in a field of 20 and gave the first public indication of his exceptional speed, winning by ten lengths from Dover Rock.

Dover Rock subsequently proved himself one of the best Irish colts, easily beating previous winners at Phoenix Park next time out, then going down by a short head to Ireland's best juvenile filly Lady Sophia - who herself came within a neck of beating future English 1,000 Guineas winner Zabara in Kempton's Imperial Produce Stakes - at the Curragh.

Windy City's second start was the Oulton Stakes at Chester on May 8, for which he was 8-15 favourite and, ridden this time by Gordon Richards, he won "comfortably" by six lengths.

Soon afterwards, he suffered a slight setback and it wasn't until August 11 that he reappeared. This was in the Phoenix Plate, also known as 'The Fifteen Hundred', then the most renowned of Ireland's two-year-old races.

Reunited with Mullane, he won unchallenged, this time by eight lengths from Snow Shower. The runner-up failed to advertise the form.

Twelve days later, Windy City returned to Britain to land the Gimcrack Stakes. His previous races had been over five furlongs and there were many who doubted his ability to cope with his strongest opposition over a stiff six at York. But when Richards let him have his head he shot clear in the final furlong to win by five lengths from Pharaos, who had been badly away.

For his next start Windy City journeyed to Longchamp to contest the Prix d'Arenberg, ridden by Charlie Smirke. Unfortunately, he became upset during the parade and was reluctant to line up. When the barrier rose, Windy City swerved, losing six lengths. He caught the leader, the filly Pomare, to whom he was giving 11lb, less than 100 yards from the post, but when Smirke pressed him to pass her, he veered left and was beaten a short head.

At the end of the season he was placed top of the Irish Free Handicap with 10st, top of the English Free Handicap with 9st 7lb, 5lb clear of his nearest rival, Zabara, and bracketed as equal to the best in France.

Timeform lauded Windy City as "the fastest 2-y-o in Europe in 1951", saying he was "not merely a good horse, but, in his possession of brilliant speed, quite an exceptional horse ... improbable that he will stay much further and not altogether certain that his temperament will stand up to a strenuous racing programme, but, we repeat, quite an exceptional colt up to the limit of his stamina."

Many seasoned observers believed Windy City was the fastest juvenile they'd seen since The Tetrarch, who had won all his seven starts in 1913. The Sporting Life's Tom Nickalls referred to Windy City as "the ball of fire from Ireland".

But there were others who regarded Windy City as a shooting star, streaking across the sky only to fall into obscurity. His sire never won after his two-year-old season and it may be that Bell harboured similar doubts, because at the end of the season he sold Windy City to Californian Mrs Petite Luellwitz for $165,000 and the horse was sent to race in America.

Timeform's doubts about Windy City not staying much further than six furlongs were soon to be confounded. Renamed Windy City II, he lost his first race at Santa Anita but won his second, sprinting away from his opponents in the San Gabriel Stakes over 7f on January 30, 1952, with Hill Gail third.

Ten days later this pair met again in the San Felipe Handicap over 1m1/2f and Windy City II again proved his supremacy, beating Hill Gail by five lengths giving 2lb. He was now acclaimed as the wonder of the new world as well as the old and was already being hailed as the winner of the upcoming Santa Anita Derby. However, the fates decreed otherwise.

When Windy City II and Hill Gail met for a third time in the 1m1f Santa Anita Derby, carrying equal weight, they raced together on the lead until the final turn where Windy City II failed to rally and Hill Gail drew clear to win by four lengths. Windy City II finished second but pulled up lame.

While Hill Gail went on a winning spree that culminated in the Kentucky Derby, Windy City II was fired for a splint and given a long rest. He was sent back to Santa Anita but failed to stand up to training. During his brief four-race career in California he collected $51,350 and twice defeated a future Kentucky Derby winner.

AT STUD, Windy City II sired 18 individual stakes winners in America. He died of a twisted gut in 1964, aged 25, but his influence continued for several years afterwards. The 1971 American Racing Manual records that he produced 17 winners of 25 races with earnings of $79,391. His name also appears among the records of broodmare sires, showing that their produce won 106 races worth a combined $521,647 during 1970.

Windy City remains the highest-rated two-year-old in Timeform's history but, on reflection, his 142 rating looks far too high when compared to the juvenile achievements of those such as Nijinsky, Mill Reef, Celtic Swing, New Approach or, indeed, Frankel, all of whom went on to win Classics as three-year-olds.

However, from the limited evidence of just four races, two in England and two in Ireland, one can only repeat Timeform's opinion that Windy City was "not merely a good horse, but, in his possession of brilliant speed, quite an exceptional horse".

145 142 TIMEFORM'S TABLE-TOPPERS Frankel 147 Sea-Bird 145 Tudor Minstrel 144 Brigadier Gerard Abernant 142 Windy City Ribot Mill Reef 141 Vaguely Noble 140 Shergar Dancing Brave Dubai Millennium Sea The Stars (right) Harbinger 140 Dubai Millennium Sea The Stars (right)

'Others regarded Windy City as a shooting star, streaking across the sky only to fall into obscurity'

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Windy City, Gordon Richards and Paddy Prendergast (right) after winning the Gimcrack Stakes at York in 1951
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Jan 14, 2013
Words:1349
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