It is always said that to succeed in racing you need, as well as all the practical, prosaic ingredients, to have luck along for the ride. But luck is one thing; what Peter Gleeson seems to have slung in the saddle is a black cat with a horseshoe round its neck playing with a rabbit's foot while wearing a four-leaf clover behind its ear and carrying a winning lottery ticket in its mouth.
In an industry of dreams this is a true fairytale, involving a young prince, a marriage of convenience, a Cinderella mare and two Classics. Once upon a time was four years ago, when the two-year-old Indian Haven came up at the Tattersalls horses-in-training auction, offered in order to dissolve an ownership partnership that had become acrimonious. Gleeson and two friends, Julian Smith and Loz Conway, acquired the colt for 95,000 guineas.
A few months earlier Gleeson and Smith, whose property businesses were doing nicely, had bought Indian Haven's stablemate Forest Magic privately. "We had had legs in horses in syndicates for a while, without much success," said Gleeson. "The opportunity came up to buy these two and we decided the time was right to get into ownership at a more substantial level."
To luck as an essential, add timing; the black cat was presumably sponsored by Rolex. Before the end of the season Forest Magic won a Listed contest at Newmarket, the Zetland Stakes. The following spring Indian Haven gave his owners a Classic win at their first shout. After taking the Free Handicap he suffered badly in scrimmaging in the 2,000 Guineas but bounced back to take the Irish version at the Curragh, easily. Injury compromised his further career and he retired last year to the Irish National Stud, where his sire Indian Ridge was a huge success. The faith of his owners was undiminished; they decided not to syndicate him, but to bear the risk themselves, and give him support. To that end, Gleeson and Smith bought 10 mares to boost his harem. One of them, secured for €50,000 (about £35,000) in November 2004, was Specifically, a 10-year-old who had produced three winners, had a three-year-old and a two-year-old in training and a yearling in the pipeline, and was a half-sister to a promising French filly. Fortune of the outrageous kind was about to kick in. That yearling turned out to be Speciosa, winner of the 1,000 Guineas earlier this year. And the filly in France was Pride, runner-up in the Arc and heroine of the Champion Stakes. The pedigree page was now replete with heavy-duty names and Specifically, in foal to Speciosa's sire Danehill Dancer, was sent back last month to what turned out to be a raging bull market. She made a cool 1.85 million guineas, sold to Swiss billionaire Klaus Jacobs. That the Statue of Liberty filly she was carrying when bought by Gleeson and Smith made 270,000gns as a yearling, and this year's foal, the result of her tryst with Indian Haven made €180,000, was almost immaterial alongside the jackpot. "Without our stallion, we wouldn't have had her," said Gleeson. "I think you could say she owes us nothing."
But the fact that Specifically has gone to her new home pregnant to the sire-of-the-moment comes under the judgement heading, rather than luck. "After Speciosa won the Nell Gwyn, we took the commercial decision to send her dam back to Danehill Dancer," said Gleeson. "We watched the Guineas in the parade ring on the big screen and were going so crazy that Lesley Graham though we must be her owners and came over to interview us. I suppose the only thing that didn't go our way this year is that Pride didn't quite win the Arc."
If good things do happen in threes, then success for Indian Haven in his second career is probably a no-brainer. The portents are good; for a start, his first crop of foals were well-received at the sales, most of them making a good profit for their breeders. And in addition, there were two strokes of fate outside the box. Indian Ridge died, which will open the door of opportunity to his son, and Indian Haven's lesser half-brother Count Dubois made a staggering start to his own stud career in South Africa. Sheikh Mohammed may have a racing manager, but Gleeson clearly has the more valuable asset of a fairy godmother.
* The Paul Nicholls-trained Royal & SunAlliance Chase winner Star De Mohaison has been ruled out for the rest of the season with a tendon injury.
Nap: Jolly Boy
NB: Mister Quasimodo
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