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World of breeding: Eswarah propels Unfuwain back into Classic spotlight.

Byline: Tony Morris

IT ISalways a delight to come away from Epsom with the belief that the three Group 1 races have delivered top-class performances - but, inevitably, we do not get that reassurance every year. No complaints this time, after a smashing Derby victory by Motivator, a convincing display by Yeats in the Coronation Cup, and an authoritative score by Eswarah in the Oaks.

The trio have lost only one race between them and the three-year-olds have yet to be properly tested, promising plenty of excitement in the months to come. It is to be hoped that we will see them in competition with their contemporaries in France, who also appear to rank highly, and with their seniors, a strong group in both sexes this year. Bago v Motivator in the King George and Ouija Board v Eswarah in the Yorkshire Oaks are mouthwatering prospects for the summer.

Though unable to race at two, Eswarah was always held in high regard by her then-trainer Ben Hanbury, and his confidence in her ability has been amply justified in a second season which brought maiden and Listed victories at Newbury over ten furlongs before her Classic triumph last Friday.

It was the style she showed in the second of those races which took her to the head of the Oaks market, and the belief that she would find the necessary improvement was realised with the minimum of fuss.

Having saddled Meadowville to be runner-up in Nijinsky's 1970 St Leger, Michael Jarvis had to wait 31 years before Ameerat gave him his first British Classic victory in the 1,000 Guineas, and this second triumph, again in Maktoum colours, was as well deserved as it was popular.

This was the second time in little more than a year that Sheikh Hamdan has won a Classic with a home-bred product by one of his own stallions from one of his long-serving mares.

Last season it was Alhaarth's son Haafhd, produced as her 11th foal by the 19-year-old Al Bahathri, while Eswarah is by Unfuwain (sire of Alhaarth) out of Midway Lady, who delivered her at the age of 19 as her tenth produce.

Whereas Al Bahathri was purchased as a Keeneland yearling for $650,000, Midway Lady came out of the same ring the November after her 1,000 Guineas and Oaks wins for $3.3 million.

Midway Lady is the ninth Oaks winner to produce an Oaks winner. That feat was relatively common in the 19th century, when Briseis produced Corinne, Medora produced Guulnare, Industry produced Lady Evelyn, Cyprian produced Songstress, Fille de l'Air produced Reine, Queen Bertha produced both Spinaway and Wheel Of Fortune, and Spinaway produced Busybody, but there has been a long hiatus since 1899 winner Musa delivered 1912 victress Mirska.

Midway Lady was the 45th filly to notch wins in both the 1,000 Guineas and Oaks, but that is another achievement that has become rarer, with only Salsabil and Kazzia completing the double more recently. And it is worth remembering that at the time she had to be taken out of training, Midway Lady was fancied to join the select band of filly Triple Crown heroines whose most recent member was Oh So Sharp.

Midway Lady was one of the cheapest yearlings by dual Arc de Triomphe victor Alleged in 1984, realising just $42,000 - under half of the $100,000 fee he commanded at the time of conception.

And the fact that the successful bid merely marked the victory of one partner over the other means that the amount changing hands was significantly lower than the returned sum suggested.

Midway Lady's problem was a set of legs that deviated from the ideal to a marked degree, and, as the market supposed, it was a problem that would affect her racing career. But it did not stop her displaying top-class form at both two and three, and after finishing second to the talented Untold on her debut at Yarmouth, she remained undefeated.

Her maiden win came at the same course, and she completed her first season with successes in the Group 3 May Hill Stakes at Doncaster and the Group 1 P rix Marcel Boussac at Longchamp. Ben Hanbury did a remarkable job with her at three, turning her out for a Classic double in the only races she was able to contest. Collateral form suggests that she would have won the St Leger, on ground and at a distance that would have proved eminently suitable.

MIDWAY LADY'S stud career was less than exciting before her production of Eswarah. She has spent most of it consorting with Maktoum stallions, the only exceptions being two dates with Kris, which resulted in modest winning geldings, and two visits to Indian Ridge, when she failed to conceive. Her best runners were three Green Deserts - fillies Umniyatee (placed in the Irish 1,000 Guineas) and Itnab (winner of the Group 3 P rincess Royal Stakes) and the colt Haafiz, who won four times in Britain and managed a place in stakes company in the US.

Surprisingly, she was in her 12th season and Unfuwain in his ninth before the pair were matched, and the outcome was a colt, Iktinas, who showed a little promise in two placed efforts but then died. Fortunately, by then the mating had been repeated in what proved to be Unfuwain's last season, and Eswarah was the happy result.

It may be that Unfuwain was not chosen as a mate for Midway Lady earlier because of a fear that the outcome would be too stamina-biased. Midway Lady, by Alleged and inbred to Ribot, was a staying type, while Unfuwain always needed a mile and a half and tended to get stock who lacked speed. But Alhaarth's two-year-old championship changed some perceptions of his sire, and more recent developments have shown that Unfuwain was no less capable of getting stock with a turn of foot than his more celebrated half-brother Nashwan.

With Vadawina and Eswarah advertising themselves as the best of their age and sex at middle distances in Europe, and others such as Ruwi, Perfect Hedge and Unfurled in his final crop, Unfuwain is now revealed as a far more significant achiever at stud than we realised at the time of his death in January 2002.

pedigree assessment

Sire: Unfuwain

Bred by Hamdan Al Maktoum in Kentucky. Won 6 (8-12.3f) of 10 starts, viz. 1 out of 2 at 2 years, 3 (inc. Chester Vase-Gr3, Princess of Wales's S.Gr2) out of 6 at 3 years, 2 (John Porter S.-Gr3, Jockey Club S.-Gr2) out of 2 at 4 years. Also 2nd in King George VI & Queen Elizabeth S., 4th in Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. Earned pounds 263,936. Timeform 99p at 2 years, 131 at 3 years, 126 at 4 years.

Strong, rangy, 16.1hh, good-bodied sort, fine walker and a relentless galloper with a roundish action. Genuine and consistent, stayed 12f well and would have got extended distances. Unsuited by really fast ground and hard to train after spring at 4 years.

Extremely well bred. By the world's leading sire, and half-brother to Nashwan. Dam a Gr2 winner, herself a daughter of multiple Gr1-winning parents.

Deceased. Stood at Nunnery Stud, last advertised fee pounds 30,000. Sire of 12 crops of racing age, inc. notable winners: Bolas (Irish Oaks-Gr1), Alpha City (Gr3), Mamlakah (Gr3), Alhaarth (Dewhurst S.-Gr1), Gulland (Gr3), Dano-Mast (Gr2), Zahrat Dubai (Nassau S.-Gr1), Lahan (1,000 GuineasGr1), Petrushka (Irish Oaks-Gr1, Yorkshire Oaks-Gr1, Prix de l'Opera-Gr1), Amiwain (Gr2), Lailani (Irish Oaks-Gr1, Nassau S.-Gr1, Flower Bowl Invitational H.-Gr1), Ranin (Gr3), Fruhlingssturm (Gr2), Medici (Gr3), Eswarah (Oaks S.-Gr1), Perfect Hedge (Gr3), Ruwi (Gr2), Vadawina (Prix Saint-Alary-Gr1).

Dam: Midway Lady

Bred by Edward A. Seltzer & Shadowlawn Farm in Kentucky. $42,000 Keeneland September yearling. Won 5 (7-12f) of 6 starts, viz. 3 (inc. May Hill S.-Gr3, Prix Marcel Boussac-Gr1) out of 4 at 2 years, 2 (1,000 GuineasGr1, Oaks S.-Gr1) out of 2 at 3 years. Timeform 120 at 2, 126 at 3. Earned pounds 238,015 + Ff434,550.

Top-class performer at 2 and 3, stayed 12f well, would have got further. Big, rangy, good-topped sort, susceptible to leg problems.

Well bred. Half-sister to 2 Listed winners and to the dams of 2 Listed winners. By an outstanding middle-distance horse and successful sire out of a stakes winner of 5 races whose own dam won a minor race, produced 10 winners from 12 foals, and was half-sister to the dam of Gr1 winner French Colonial.

Third dam won Prix Cleopatre, bred 3 Graded calibre winners in US. Bought for Shadwell $3.3 million out of training, 1986 Keeneland November Sales, to stud at 4 years, and dam of: Umniyatee (1988 f by Green Desert; Gr1-placed winner), Sharayif (1989 f by Green Desert; unraced), Alasad (1990 g by Kris; winner), Tharqaam (1991 c by Nashwan; unraced), Fatehalkhair (1992 g by Kris; winner), Abuijood (1995 g by Marju; winner), Haafiz (1996 c by Green Desert; stakes-placed winner), Iktinas (1999 c by Unfuwain; placed, died at 3), Itnab (2000 f by Green Desert; Gr3 winner), Eswarah (2002 f by Unfuwain; Classic winner), Shumookh (2003 c by Mujahid; unraced to date). She has a filly foal by Cape Cross and has returned to him. Not covered in 1992, slipped to Nashwan in 1994, barren to Indian Ridge in 1997 and 1998, to Green Desert in 2001, and to Elnadim in 2004.

Conclusions

An Oaks winner well up to the recent standard for the race, and may well prove to be the equal of her dam in time.

CAPTION(S):

Eswarah: the first Oaks winner out of an Oaks winner since 1912
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Jun 7, 2005
Words:1620
Previous Article:Great Leighs opening delayed until October 2006 due to fixtures hitch.
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