Horse Chestnut

The horse of a lifetime

Horse Chestnut

Horse Chestnut – the greatest

Horse Chestnut, who died suddenly last week, was the greatest South African bred racehorse I have ever seen. The magnificent chestnut had no rivals on the race track and one can only wonder what he may have achieved had his career not been curtailed after just ten racetrack appearances, writes Sarah Whitelaw.

Horse Chestnut, who was the first runner and winner for his sire, was certainly bred to be great and he more than lived up to his illustrious pedigree. The former Horse Of The Year has not only achieved success as a stallion, but is showing promising signs of becoming a hugely influential broodmare sire (much like his own sire), for the future.

Fort Wood

Fort Wood

His sire, Fort Wood (who pre-deceased his greatest son by mere weeks), left behind two other sons, Celtic Grove and Dynasty, also named Horse Of The Year, as well as 42 other individual Grade 1 performers.

Horse Chestnut’s dam, London Wall (by stud failure, Col Pickering) was out of the flying machine, Nalatale, whose offspring included Gr1 SA Guineas winner Bodrum, as well as talented stakes winner, Giants Castle. London Wall herself excelled at stud and was named Broodmare Of The Year in 1998. Her four stakes horses included the highly successful racemares and producers West Wall (dam of Champion, Monyela) and Rawl Plug. Another daughter produced the outstanding racemare, Sport’s Chestnut, victorious in the Gr1 Cape Fillies Guineas of 2001.

The champion’s pedigree was even more spectacular further back – Horse Chestnut traced back directly in female line to one of the most important tap root mares in the stud book, Conjure (Juggler). The latter’s numerous high class descendants include English Oaks winners, Ambiguity (Big Game) and Pennycomequick (Hurry On), as well as the top class US performer and sire, Amerigo (Nearco).

Harry & Bridget Oppenheimer

Harry & Bridget Oppenheimer

Bred and owned by Bridget and Harry Oppenheimer, Horse Chestnut more than lived up to his pedigree with his stunning racetrack exploits. A promising sort at two, who always looked like maturing into a top class thoroughbred, Horse Chestnut became a monster at three, simply devouring his hapless rivals.

During his sophomore campaign, Horse Chestnut made six outings, winning all six races, by an aggregate of 35 lengths. He had an average winning margin of over eight lengths at three, and made history when slamming older rivals to land the 1999 J&B Met by eight lengths. His Met victory remains one of the epochal contests in South African turf history and few, if any, modern day champions have produced a better performance.

1999 J&B Met

Horse Chestnut wins the 1999 J&B Met

But what of his rivals? Among those Horse Chestnut pulverized on the South African tracks were champions Classic Flag, El Picha, Faralmond, Gold Tax, Ruby Clipper and Young Rake. The latter, a R2 million plus earner, was left ten lengths behind the champ when the pair met in the Grade 1 SA Derby. Pablo Zeta (Candy Stripes) was a high class performer in his own right, who had won three of his four outings at two, including the Gr2 Gosforth Park Juvenile C&G. However Pablo Zeta failed to test Horse Chestnut, getting closest to his rival when a four and a quarter length second in the 1998 Gr2 Dingaans. Horse Chestnut’s top class stable mate, Fort Defiance, who himself accounted for multiple Gr1 winner, Golden Hoard, as well as July winners, Classic Flag and El Picha, in the Gr1 Champion Stakes, was left behind when Horse Chestnut strolled to a four length romp in the Gr1 Classic.

Horse Chestnut’s 9.45 length winning margin in the SA Derby was the greatest seen in the race for 60 years, and it has only once been surpassed since (Irish Flame landing the Derby by an official 9.5 lengths).

Rake's Chestnut

Rake’s Chestnut

Since he returned to South Africa, Horse Chestnut’s progeny have enjoyed plenty of success on the track. His first full South African crop produced six stakes horses, including Gr1 Daily News second, Rake’s Chestnut, talented gelding, Bold Inspiration, and classy Gr3 winner, Chestnut’s Rocket. His current crop of 3yos, (and second full local crop), has also enjoyed feature race success, through the likes of Banbury (Gr3 Fillies Mile). At the time of writing, 19 of Horse Chestnut’s 27 sophomore runners have won or finished in the money, and it is unlikely his success story will end here.

Ocho Ocho Ocho

Ocho Ocho Ocho

However, it could be that the best is yet to come for this great horse’s daughters and their runners. Among the fancied contenders for the 2015 Gr1 Kentucky Derby is the unbeaten Gr3 Jackpot Delta Downs winner, Ocho Ocho Ocho (Street Sense), who has already earned over $690 000 from just three outings as a 2yo in 2014. His dam, the winning Horse Chestnut mare Winner, was sold at last year’s Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale.

Horse Chestnut, Champion Broodmare Sire in Jamaica, is also the broodmare sire of a slew of graded/group winners elsewhere, including Gr1 winner, Suggestive Boy, the Royal Ascot winning full brothers, Cannock Chase and Pisco Sour, and this season’s promising US 3yo Ol Fashion Gal (Gr3 Jimmy Durante Stakes).

Horse Chestnut (Fort Wood-London Wall)

Horse Chestnut (Fort Wood-London Wall)

While he failed to beat anything of note when victorious in the Gr3 Broward Handicap on his sole outing in North America, Horse Chestnut’s breath-taking five and a half-length victory in this important US curtain raiser resulted in a flood of enthusiastic international press reports.

Similarly, his sad recent passing has made news all around the world – a fitting tribute to a truly unforgettable thoroughbred.

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