Racing: Eswarah takes her heart from a winning Lady

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The Independent Online

Eswarah's victory in the Oaks was a rarity indeed in the annals of the thoroughbred. By following in the hoofprints of her dam, Midway Lady, winner of the premier filly Classic in 1986, she set up only the ninth mother-daughter Epsom sequence in 227 years and the first since 1912, when Mirska emulated Musa.

Eswarah's victory in the Oaks was a rarity indeed in the annals of the thoroughbred. By following in the hoofprints of her dam, Midway Lady, winner of the premier filly Classic in 1986, she set up only the ninth mother-daughter Epsom sequence in 227 years and the first since 1912, when Mirska emulated Musa.

There have been 388 Classic-winning fillies of an age to have runners. Just 40 have produced one or more of the same in their second careers as broodmares.

Pride of place goes to Cobweb, who won the 1824 1,000 Guineas and Oaks and became the mother of Bay Middleton (2,000 Guineas and Derby), Achmet (2,000 Guineas) and Clementina (1,000 Guineas). There has been one triple link: the 1863 Oaks winner, Queen Bertha, produced Spinaway, who won the 1875 Guineas and Oaks and in turn produced the 1884 Newmarket and Epsom winner, Busybody.

Without Eswarah, though, Midway Lady, a hot-headed, crooked-legged individual whose two-Classic haul from her two three-year-old runs did her trainer, Ben Hanbury, huge credit, would have only an ordinary record as a matron. After being bought privately by Sheikh Hamdan out of training, she was given every opportunity with the best of consorts. Before Eswarah, a daughter of Unfuwain, the best of her seven winners from 11 foals in 16 years were the Green Desert pair Haafiz, a winner here and in the States, and Itnab, who took the Group Three Princess Royal Stakes two years ago.

At the other end of the scale, her Marju son, Abuljjood, won a claimer at Wolverhampton and was last seen being pulled up, tailed off, in a hunter chase at Huntingdon five years ago. But it is Fatehalkhair, by Kris, who perhaps has the most remarkable story of all Midway Lady's progeny, and who perfectly illustrated the vagaries of genetic inheritance. Friday's queen of Epsom was preceded by a more northern monarch, the king of Sedgefield.

Fatehalkhair, his dam's fifth-born, was cast off by Sheikh Hamdan as an unraced three-year-old for 1,900 guineas at the Tattersalls July auction 10 years ago. The buyer was a small-time trainer, Brian Ellison, based at Malton in Yorkshire, and his new purchase had an unprepossessing start, spending most of the first winter at his new home in his box with a leg fracture. He recovered, though, and went on to win 20 races from 92 starts in 10 years, running on the Flat and over jumps, in which sphere he once finished runner-up to Best Mate in a Grade Two chase at Cheltenham. All his 13 jumps victories came at Sedgefield, including the Durham Grand National three years ago.

The chestnut gelding has now retired, and acts as Ellison's hack and a nanny to young stock. "He's a remarkable horse," said the trainer. "The vets said his leg fracture would never heal. He hurt his back too, in a fall, but went on to win half-a-dozen races. He's hard as nails."

Midway Lady was barely sound, but she had a racing heart, which counts for much, and seems to have passed it on not only to Fatehalkhair but to Eswarah. The pretty bay, whose name is Arabic for bracelet, was reported in fine fettle yesterday by her trainer, Michael Jarvis, who inherited her after Hanbury's retirement last year.

"The best bit of her performance in the Oaks," he said, "was the way she reacted when Something Exciting came to challenge, quickening and sticking her head down. She's had three quick races so she'll have a break now, and the Irish Oaks may come a bit quick, so we may be looking at the Yorkshire Oaks at the August meeting."

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