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Parrot-like features but supreme athleticism; The early days.

'NICE colt, good walker, see again' were the words written in James Delahooke's catalogue for lot 298 at the 1984 Fasig-Tipton July sales after his first inspection of a son of Lyphard and the Grade 2-winning mare Navajo Princess.

He was unperturbed by the yearling Dancing Brave's unfashionable parrot mouth, which made him look like an equine version of the Brazilian footballer Ronaldo. A second inspection revealed that the colt's front legs were 'not perfect' either.

But the overall package appealed. "He was just a beautifully balanced racehorse, an athlete," Delahooke, who was underbidder on Sonic Lady at the same sale, recalled.

He had been prepared to go to $350,000 for Dancing Brave. His willingness to tolerate "minor faults" in the colt's conformation meant he paid only $200,000.

When switched to the working environment of Guy Harwood's Pulborough stables, Dancing Brave did not immediately confirm the promise that Delahooke had sensed.

But after wins in minor races at Sandown and Newmarket, Dancing Brave was made 10-1 ante-post favourite for the following year's 2,000 Guineas.

Harwood said: "He was a May foal and I didn't believe in running horses until they were two years and three months old, so he had light training in the first half of the season and there was no reason to appreciate how good he was going to be.

"But when we started putting a bit of pressure on him in July, it was quite apparent that he was something special. The first time he ran in a three-runner race at Sandown, Greville Starkey, one of the best judges I've ever come across, got off and said 'this horse is my Derby ride'."

Harwood's respected assistant Geoff Lawson was at Aqueduct helping to put the finishing touches to Rousillon's Breeders' Cup Mile bid when he learned of Dancing Brave's second win at Newmarket.

He was stunned to hear that Starkey had described the colt as "potentially the best I've ridden".

Lawson said: "He'd coughed till July as a two-year-old and the two races he won that season were nothing special. But he proved Greville right by turning into a horse capable of winning top-class races at any trip between six furlongs and a mile and a half."

Tommy Townsend, who was Harwood's head lad when Dancing Brave dominated the 1986 Flat season, learned of the death of his old ally at Catterick yesterday.

Townsend, who now travels horses to the races for Newmarket trainer Stuart Williams, said: "Dancing Brave was a lovely horse to have anything to do with, be it in his box or out on the gallops.

"I fed him every day of his life from when he was a yearling. Even before he won on his debut at Sandown as a two-year-old, we knew he was something special."
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Title Annotation:Sports
Author:Griffiths, Richard; Cunningham, Graham
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Aug 4, 1999
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