(My backstretch press credentials to the Breeders’ Cup, hence behind-the-scenes access to the crème de le crème of Thoroughbreds, was akin to backstage passes to the most awesome rock concert. To be in the presence of Cigar as he went about his daily routines was amazing. I was particularly intrigued by his ease of movement. Little did I know at the time, but Cigar was also providing inspiration behind my search for equine perfection: a beacon guiding me to Canada’s Rivers of Gold)
….Early one morning at the Woodbine backstretch, while waiting for Cigar to make his appearance, I spotted a pair of horses and their riders emerging from the early morning mists leisurely strolling along the treelined path adjacent to the turf course.
The moment I focused my telephoto lens on the two I recognized Singspiel. A month earlier this handsome Northern Dancer grandson had romped to easy victory in the Canadian International at Woodbine. Bred and owned by Sheikh Mohammed, Singspiel was a perfectly proportioned dark bay with a white star in the centre of his forehead.
His companion this particular morning was Shantou. Another of Sheikh Mohammed’s string, Shantou had recently won The St. Leger, the grueling, almost two mile English Classic. Also a Northern Dancer grandson, Shantou’s dam, Shaima, was a daughter of Shareef Dancer. Where Singspiel, like Northern Dancer, was a compact animal, Shantou was tall with a patrician carriage and demeanor. He clearly inherited his looks from his great grandsire, Nearctic.
When the horses arrived at the turf course Singspiel bounded into and easy, controlled gallop. Conversely, Shantou was leaping straight up off his hocks, his head held high and fighting his rider every step of the way. I felt I was witnessing Nearctic
This magnificent black colt also reminded me that the Thoroughbred is a hybrid. thus this Thoroughbred hybrid can not only replicate itself, but, according to botanist Gregor Mendel, certain combinations will create a hardier hybrid.
……to be continued