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The day an unlucky Classic loser swept by Allez France.

ASK me to name the best filly over Classic distances I've ever seen and I am in a bit of a quandary. I can only say that judged on her overall record I suspect that it was Allez France.

The trouble is I saw her in action only twice, and both times she ran below her best. I find it hard to make a heroine out of a horse I know only as a loser, so fault my folly if you will, but for me it was easy to fall in love with Dahlia. She provided me with several magical memories on her visits to Britain, while I could never feel quite the same about the filly who beat her in every one of their eight meetings when I was not present.

I've been fortunate to see many top-class fillies, though I was a bit too late for Petite Etoile and frustratingly office-bound when Noblesse and Hula Dancer excelled. Today I want to celebrate one who was never hyped to any great degree, perhaps lacked the charisma of a Pebbles, an Oh So Sharp, a Salsabil or a Bosra Sham, and is inclined to be overlooked when the subject of outstanding fillies comes under discussion.

But I make no apology for drawing attention to the record of Rose Bowl, a thoroughly honest and consistent filly who had the looks appropriate to one of her illustrious pedigree background, who gave her running on any surface and who could display a withering turn of foot. She didn't - most unfortunately - win a Classic, but she was a champion at both three and four, and she was one of those who lowered Allez France's colours at Newmarket.

Rose Bowl was bred by Cragwood Estates, the breeding company established by Charles Engelhard and maintained for a few years after his death in 1971 by his widow, Jane.

A fabulously wealthy industrialist, having derived his fortune from minerals and metals, Engelhard made his initial impact in the thoroughbred world as a lavish spender at yearling sales, and success attended him from the start.

He supported stables in South Africa, America, Britain, Ireland and France, his colours being carried to famous victories in all those countries, most conspicuously in the last year of his life. Shortly before he died, aged only 54, he said he wanted to be remembered as the man who owned Nijinsky, and in racing circles that duly came to pass.

Engelhard came late into breeding, one of his first major broodmare purchases being Roseliere, who had been the champion three-year-old filly in France in 1968 when her victories included the Prix de Diane and the Prix Vermeille. Sadly, he did not live to know the success of that deal, which provided Jane Engelhard with two celebrities in Rose Bowl and her younger Nijinsky half-brother Ile De Bourbon, winner of the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

Rose Bowl, by champion miler Habitat, went into training with Fulke Johnson Houghton, who had won Irish Derbys and Doncaster St Legers for Engelhard with the brothers Ribocco and Ribero. As a late May foal she was given time to come to herself and was not seen in action until early September 1974, but then was busily employed, having four outings in little more than five weeks.

Second on her debut over 6f at York, Rose Bowl broke her maiden shortly afterwards, defeating the smart colt Dominion and a dozen others over 5f at Newbury. Just what that form was worth it was hard to know, but it did not look good enough to make her a factor in the Cheveley Park Stakes for which she started at 25-1. In fact Rose Bowl far exceeded expectations, chasing the recent Lowther Stakes heroine Cry Of Truth from the start and forfeiting second place to Prix de la Salamandre winner Delmora only in the last furlong.

That performance led to her starting odds-on for the Cornwallis Stakes ten days later, but perhaps that test came too soon as she faded from contention.

We saw a vastly improved Rose Bowl when she reappeared for the Nell Gwyn Stakes the following spring, and plenty seemed to know what to expect. Backed from 11-4 to 7-4 she went off favourite and won in impressive style, quickening readily when asked and stretching clear to score by three lengths, with the third six lengths farther back.

Cry Of Truth was trying to give her 10lb, but she finished so far behind that the weight differential was clearly irrelevant; the 1,000 Guineas was no longer on her agenda, and Rose Bowl became the hot favourite.

I thought at the time, and still believe, that Rose Bowl was the unluckiest loser of a Classic in my experience. Held up on the fence in the 16-runner field she was plainly full of running when Lester Piggott sought an opening for her two furlongs out, but no gap appeared.

Her plight became no less desperate when the filly was switched outside, merely to locate another traffic problem. When she eventually found racing room she flew, but it was all too late. At the line she was still a little more than a length behind Nocturnal Spree with the meagre reward of fourth money. Granted a clear passage, she would have won with lengths to spare.

Rose Bowl's luck was not about to change, because she soon afterwards strained a muscle in her quarters, the mishap costing her not just the chance of compensation in the Irish 1,000 Guineas but a Royal Ascot tilt at the Coronation Stakes as well. There was not even an opportunity for a prep race before her daunting assignment against 2,000 Guineas and St James's Palace winner Bolkonski in the Sussex Stakes.

Despite the unsatisfactory preparation, Rose Bowl turned in a career-best effort at Goodwood, coming from last in the straight to finish like a train, and in a few more strides she would have nailed Bolkonski. As it was, she went under by only a neck and had France's top four-year-old filly Lianga a short head behind her.

On that form the filly would have trotted up in the less keenly contested Waterford Crystal Mile over the same course three weeks later, but for some reason she did not reproduce that form, going down by three lengths to the Jersey Stakes winner Gay Fandango. Something must have been amiss.

THE real Rose Bowl turned up in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. There she not only reversed the form with Gay Fandango but had Bolkonski far behind, only fourth of the five runners. There was now no doubt that she was more than a match for the best male milers. How would she fare in open-age company against the pick of Europe's 1m2f performers? The Champion Stakes distance was further than most of Habitat's progeny cared to go, but it posed no problems for Rose Bowl, who brushed aside a top-class field that included the two latest winners of the Arc, five-year-olds Allez France and Star Appeal, both of whom were preferred to her in the betting.

With a mile behind them all three gave their backers hopes, but Rose Bowl was the one with the change of gear on the day, storming clear to win by a length and a half. It had been an up-and-down sort of season but by the end of it Rose Bowl had become an established star - as good a miler as there was around and able to produce her impressive finishing kick in the last furlong of a strongly run 1m2f. It was great news that she would remain in training.

Rose Bowl's first three starts at four were all at around 1m2f. She opened with a close fourth place in the Prix Ganay, then spreadeagled her field in the Listed Clive Graham Stakes at Goodwood. The expected routine victory in the Prince of Wales's Stakes did not materialise but she could be excused that lapse, becoming so jarred up by the firm ground at Ascot that she went on the missing list for more than three months.

The filly returned to action with the objective of defending the two crowns she had earned the previous autumn. A second Queen Elizabeth II Stakes was secured with no problem, her decisive change of pace settling that issue in a few strides, but a repeat in the Champion Stakes just eluded her.

She had 17 of a star-studded field, including Wollow, Malacate and Crow, behind her but had to settle for second, collared close home by Vitiges. That was the last we saw of Rose Bowl. En route to a new home at stud in Kentucky she stopped off to contest the Washington International at Laurel, but to nobody's surprise her first shot at 1m4f confirmed that the distance was beyond her.

The most vivid image I retain of Rose Bowl is still that of the filly all dressed up with nowhere to go in that cruel 1,000 Guineas, but I cherish the happier memories, not least of the day she left Allez France for dead in the Champion Stakes.

Your recollections of last week's Giant of the Turf, Park Top A beautiful mare who ran from three to six years old taking in handicaps and Group 1 races - photos always show her ears pricked. Park Top had a great turn of foot and was unlucky not to add an Eclipse and Arc to her record. Shame she was not a good broodmare. millreef There is a lovely book called A Romance of the Turf about Park Top which I bought at Chatsworth, the home of the Duke of Devonshire who owned her. millreef (again) Park Top won me a day at Royal Ascot when I won a competition in The Sun to name a hypothetical foal for her by Brigadier Gerard. I think I chose Top Brass (banal or what?). Park Top always tried her heart out, especially when just losing. janeingreece, Gree*We were on holiday in Devon and had to get into town so my grandfather could find a bookies to bet on Park Top in the King George. Fish and Chips AND ice cream that night. Most memorable as for once he backed a winner. urbane ROSE BOWL bay filly, born May 24, 1972 Pedigree Turn-to Sir Gaylord Somethingroyal Habitat (b 1966) Occupy Little Hut Savage Beauty Medium Misti Mist Roseliere (br 1965) Fastnet Rock Peace Rose La Paix Bred by Cragwood Estates Inc. in US Ran 16, Won 6, 2nd 4, 3rd 2. Earned pounds 95,858 Big races won Nell Gwyn Stakes, Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (twice), Champion Stakes


Rose Bowl wins the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes in 1975 before going on to land the Champion Stakes
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Sep 17, 2011
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