Horseracing StoriesCarreras de Caballos

Dancing Brave, winning the Arc, photo from http://members.tripod.com/horsephoto/dancing_brave.htm

Dancing Brave

"Dancing Brave, foaled in 1983, by Lyphard out of Navajo Princess, Harsh Thakor"

In 1984, James Delahookee picked a colt by Lyphard out of Navajo Princess, on behalf of Khalid Abdullah of Saudi Arabia for only Usd 200,000 at the Keeneland Summer Yearling Sale.

Very few people could predict at that time that this colt would emerge as a superstar. The colt was to be called Dancing Brave who went on to become one of the 20th Century's racing legends.

His sire Lyphard, was an outstanding miler by the great Northern Dancer, the greatest sire if the Century. Lyphard, had already produced stalwarts like 1979 Arc winner, Three Troikas, as well as, 1978 Prix Vermeille winner, Dancing Maid.On his dam side Navajo Princess had won eight grade races while her sire Drone produced 44 Stakes winners. These included, Lady Capulet, the Irish 1,000 Guineas winner.

In 1986, this colt's performances were head and shoulders above any European racehorse and he became the first horse to poll all 27 votes for the horse of the year since Brigadier Gerard.

He had become the first horse to win the 2,000 Guineas, the Eclipse Stakes, the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (He was robbed of historic five big race wins in the Epsom Derby as a result of wrong judgement of the Jockey that cost him the race).

The colt simply displayed phenomenal acceleration.He would not explode in the manner of most good horse and would gradually lengthen his stride to reach his optimum pace, reaching low to the ground. Once he had lengthened to his fullest stride he would simply fly past the opposition like a jet plane. He also possessed the smoothest possible action and was blessed with an extremely sound temperament. His lad Billy Graham stated that he had a most placid and amenable nature. Above all he had the will to win, the quality that differentiated and outstanding athlete from an average one.

Dancing Brave was schooled at Guy Harwood's Stable in Pulborough. Harwood started preparing the colt as a two year old in May and in August 1985 started a rigorous training programme for his colt.

Dancing Brave made a winning debut in the Dorking Stakes trouncing the opposition by 3 lengths. He followed this with a victory in the Soham House Stakes. He accelerated brilliantly furlong and a half from home to defeat Northern Amethyst and Lassagne. However, at the end of the season, Dancing Brave was rated 11 lb. below Huntingdale, the William Hill Dewhurst Stakes winner.

As a 3 year old, in the early part of the season Harwood noticed the great potential this colt possessed. In the morning workouts he was simply outclassing high-class older horses.

His constitution had also undergone a remarkable change from what he was as a two-year-old.

As a three-year-old, he made a winning debut as a three-year-old, despite facing heavy going. Syllvene set the pace from Illuminer and Flying Dancer with Dancing Brave lying in 5th Place. With two furlongs to go the colt flew past the leaders to win by 2 1/2 lengths.

Dancing Brave was now firm favorite for the 2000 Guineas. His chief opponents were Huntingdale, the Dewhurst Stakes winner and Green Desert, the season's subsequent champion sprinter. Hail to Roberto set the pace from Green Desert till three furlongs from home where Green Desert took up the running. Up to this point Dancing Brave lay a handy fourth. With two furlongs to go Dancing Brave quickened in magnificent style to win by 3 lengths from Green Desert.

Dancing Brave winning the Arc

Dancing Brave now became a firm 5-2 favorite for the Epsom Derby. A lot of racing experts could not believe a horse possessing the colt's speed could stay the Derby course.

In the Blue Riband, Dancing Brave was settled three from rear for most of the race.Normrue set the pace followed by Aracara, Miss Naas, Faraway Dancer and Vice-Chancellor, with Shahrastani tucked in fifth place. Up to Tattenham Corner the placing's remained the same with Dancing Brave still lying three from the rear and more than 12 lengths behind the leader.

On entering the straight Swinburn improved Shahrastani's position snatching the lead two furlongs from home. On entering the Straight Greville Starkey urged Dancing Brave, but the colt took time to settle into his stride. With two furlongs to go, Dancing Brave produced a devastating burst, perhaps never witnessed in the Epsom Derby before running the last furlong in a record 11.2 seconds. However, tragically he failed to catch Shahrastani by a neck. There was no doubt in my mind and that of several racing experts that the colt had been kept far too behind the leaders at Tattenham Corner to stand any chance of winning. It was almost certainly the error on the part of the jockey that the Brave lost his unbeaten tag in the Derby. He was possibly the unluckiest loser or the best horse not to win the Blue Riband.

Three weeks later, Dancing Brave was to run in the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown. Here, he faced Trypitch, the champion race mare who had been placed in 18 Group one races all over the World, including dual Coronation Cup victories, as well as wins in the Irish 2,000 Guineas and the Champion Stakes.His other opponents were Teleprompter, the Arlington Million Winner and Bold Arrangement, the Kentucky Derby winner, the previous year.

Ground Harper set the pace from Bold Arrangement for most of the race with Dancing Brave settled comfortably in fifth place. Triptych lay in the rear till the straight. On entering the straight, Bold Arrangement seized the lead and two furlongs from home, Trypitch came with a devastating run to snatch the lead with Dancing Brave on the inside.Greville switched his colt now to the outside to give him room and urged him. Dancing Brave effortlessly burst into the lead and spared 4 lengths to Trypitch at the winning post. It was a magnificent sight for racegoers to watch this colt's great acceleration and effortless strides. It was reminiscent of Mill Reef beating Caro, by the same margin, 15 years ago. The colt's trainer Guy Harwood was now convinced that he was the best horse he had ever trained.

In the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes, Europe's premiere race for middle distance horses, Shahrastani stared favorite at odds of 11 to 10, after a smashing 8-length Irish Derby victory. Dancing Brave was second favourite.The other principal opponents were Trypitch, Shardari, the 1986 Champion Older horse and Petoski, the 1985 Champion middle-distance horse (The previous King George Winner).

Bold Inn and Vouch Safe set the pace a long way ahead of Dahistan (pacemaker for Shahrastani), Shardari, Shahrastani, with Dancing Brave three from the rear alongside Petoski. Trypitch lay last struggling to cope with the pace. On coming into the straight Dahistan had taken the lead followed by Shahrastani with Shardari making a challenge on the inside. A furlong and a half from home, Shardari had moved into the lead at which point Pat Eddery pushed Dancing Brave.

After settling into his stride, the colt gave an electrifying burst and like a flash of lightning passed Shardari and appeared to be sailing for home.However, Shardari came back at him and at the line Dancing Brave had 3/4 of a winning margin to spare. However, the acceleration the colt displayed a furlong from home made his performance compare with great Champions of the past like Ribot, Mill Reef, Nijinsky and Shergar.

With the possible exception of Dahlia, no horse perhaps won a race coming from so far behind. Pat Eddery had let the colt of too early in the straight and thus the colt's energy was not conserved in the manner it ought to have been (The mile and a half was his limit), Shahrastani finished fifth, 7 lengths behind the winner, well and truly beaten.

As a preliminary to the Arc, Dancing Brave was entered in the Goodwood Stakes. He lay in fourth place for most of the race and with two furlongs to go, Greville asked his mount to respond. Dancing Brave overtook the long-time leader Ozo Paulo to win by merciless 12 lengths. The colt had broken the course record.

That year the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe had the most competitive Arc field since Sea Bird's Arc Field in 1965.

Bering, had won the Prix du Jockey Club by 4 lengths in record time and was rated the best French Colt to have raced for a very long time.His jockey Gary Moore considered him invincible. Archenango, the German Champion was unbeaten and was one of the best horses to have run in Germany for a long time. Shahrastani was an above average Dual Derby winner. In Trypitch and Shardari, there were two remarkable older horses.Darara, the Prix Vermeille winner too was participating. Thus, it was the assembling of the true Kings of the Royal Sport. Dancing Brave started as the 11 to 10 favorite. In his morning workouts, he was simply blazing away like a truly great athlete, outpacing opponents after conceding a stone.

As the race started, Darara was the first to lead from Baby Turk, Nemain, Dahistan and Aracara. After two furlongs, Archenango stormed into the lead with Dancing Brave lying third from rear tracking Bering. As the race progressed, Baby Turk went on to set the pace from Nemain, Archenango, Darara, Shahrastani and Shardari.

On entering the straight, Baby Turk led from Nemain with Shahrastani improving on the inside and Shardari improving alongside the leaders. At this point, Dancing Brave was still third from the rear with a wall of eleven horses ahead.He faced a herculean task to win the race. It was difficult envisaging even all-time great Racehorses accomplishing the task. It was the equivalent of trying to combat an enemy barricade in a war or capturing a fort against all the odds.

A furlong and a half from home, Shardari seized the lead with Bering showing considerable improvement. The way the huge field spread out resembled an Olympic 100 meters Sprint, indicating it was undoudbtedly the race of Titans. Now, Pat Eddery urged his mount.At first the colt lengthened his stride to reach his optimum pace. Then, he unleashed a devastating burst of speed, perhaps never witnessed before in the history of the Arc. He simply flew like a jet plane passed Bering, in the last 100 yards to win by a length and a half. Smashing the course record.

He ran the last furlong in 10.8 sec's perhaps the fastest ever in the history of the race. The time he thundered past the leaders was reminiscent of a bullet zooming out of a gun. On that day he ran like a true equine machine and gained a permanent place in racing's all-time greats like Sea Bird, Ribot, Mill Reef, Brigadier Gerard and Nijinsky. The manner the colt won coming of the pace from behind against one of the the strongest fields ever was perhaps what no horse of this century has achieved.

On returning home, Dancing Brave got a tremendous reception -that of a superstar. He was next to run in the Breeders championship in America, the equivalent of a world Championship in Flat Racing. Dancing Brave was such a superstar that it was the question of by how much he would win, rather than whether he would win. His trainer described him to be in great Shape. It appeared that nothing could stop the emperor from seizing the Crown, who now had the image of a Hollywood Star.

Alas, he could only finish fourth. After three furlongs, he met with an eye injury when changing from the dirt to the grass track. The turns there were also unfavorable to the great horse, differing greatly from the European equivalents. These two factors considerably went against the star who finished behind Manila, Theatrical and Estrapade. Another reason could have been a long and arduous racing season and the fatigue of travelling. Surely Dancing Brave was not his true self. It was a sad ending for the great horse as well as a sad spectacle for racegoers to witness a true superstar defeated in that manner.

Dancing Brave winning the Arc, Photo from www.field-galleries.com

Dancing Brave was retired to the Dalham Hall Stud in England for 14 million pounds. He was later exported to Japan. In 1993 he performed the outstanding feat of producing the Epsom Derby winner, Commander In Chief, the Irish Oaks winner, Wemyss Bight and the Italian Derby winner, White Muzzle. However in Japan he fell considerably ill contracting a disease and eventually died in 1999. It was a great loss to racing.

How did Dancing Brave compare with the all -time Great horses like Sea Bird, Ribot, Mill Reef, Nijinsky and Shergar?

In my view, like several experts only Mill Reef, Sea Bird and Ribot can rate above him as middle-distance runners.

Sea Bird's beating of great horses like Reliance, Diatome, Alinin, Meadow Court etc... by a devastating 6 lengths in the 1965 Arc definitely put's him ahead.Ribot scores over Dancing Brave for displaying the fitness and consistency he showed being unbeaten in 16 starts in 3 seasons and winning 3 big races out of his own country when travelling for horses was almost unknown.

Although Dancing Brave had equal natural ability and possibly greater finishing speed (Like he showed in the Arc) to Mill Reef he did not equal Mill Reef's consistency, ability to win in all types of going (Dancing Brave never won on soft ground) and ability to run away from a top-class field over a mile and a half.

Dancing Brave beat superior opposition to Mill Reef as a three year old but in The Epsom Derby (Pulled away by 2 lengths from Linden Tree), Eclipse (beat Caro by 4 lengths a superior horse to Tryptich) and King George (beat Ortis by 6 lengths compared to Dancing Brave's 3/4 length win over Shardari), the Reef was more impressive, showing greater staying ability. Only in the Arc did Dancing Brave perhaps stage a more impressive performance. Mill Reef was vastly superior as a two year old and his Prix Ganay performance as a 4 year old was amongst the best victories ever scored in Europe.

Although the Brave did not by beat Shergar's record-breaking Epsom Derby performance I rate him superior as a middle -distance horse to the Shergar. Shergar never faced horses like Bering (Timeform rating of 136) and Shahrastani (Timeform rating of 135) and I even rate Trypitch far superior to Madam Gay (Shergar beat Madam Gay in the King George by 4 lengths- the same margin Dancing Brave beat Trypitch).

True, one must give credit to Shergar for his record -breaking Derby win at Epsom but he still did not display the breath taking acceleration Dancing Brave produced against the type of opposition Dancing Brave beat in the Arc. Debatably, Shergar also was simply not the same horse in September and it was to Dancing Brave's credit that he won the Arc after 4 breath taking big races.

As far as his comparison with Nijinsky, there is no doubt that he perhaps had superior talent but overall his achievements did not equal those of Nijinsky, who has the best statistic record by an racehorse of the Century winning the Triple Crown in addition to the Irish Derby and King George. Dancing Brave at his best in the 1986 Arc displayed greater acceleration as well as faced better opponents, but failed to surpass Nijinsky in consistency or ability to stay.

I believe in the Arc he could have been beaten by Dancing Brave. Even had Nijinsky been fully fit and beaten Sassafras by 3 lengths in the Arc that win could not be rated on par to Dancing Brave's conquering of the French Champion Bering, who was a far superior horse to Sassafras (Sassafras won the French Derby by only 3/4 of a length and was a 20 to one outsider in the Arc in contrast to Bering who won the French Derby in record time and was second favorite-an equivalent for France to what Dancing Brave was to in in the middle-Distance races in Britain).

Nijinsky's opponents whom he vanquished in the King George like Blakeney (Awarded the lowest Timeform rating to an Epsom Derby winner of 123 in 1969 and it went upto 126 as a 4 year old), Caliban etc.., were not in the same class as Bering or even Shahrastani.

The only colt which Nijinsky beat which compared in stature to Dancing Brave's middle-distance opponents in the King George and Arc in stature was Gyr, whom Nijinsky vanquished in the Epsom Derby.

Thus, Dancing Brave was possibly superior in natural ability having beaten better opponents in a more impressive manner at his best but in most of the races Nijinsky performed marginally better (Like in the Guineas, Epsom Derby and King George).

Dancing Brave is the only horse in racing to win the combination of the 2,000 Guineas,the King George, the Eclipse and the Arc.

I believe that on merit when evaluating the record's of great horses, Dancing Brave should be regarded as the Epsom Derby winner, as it lost due to what was possibly not his fault (Jockey Greville Starkey gave him no chance placing him more than 12 lengths behind at the bend. Dancing Brave would have had to perform a miracle to win. I can't believe even Sea Bird could have won from there).

Thus, in my opinion on merit he should have been the winner of the 2,000 Guineas, the Derby, the Eclipse Stakes, King George and the Arc, and would have statistically outscored Mill Reef (The greatest classic and super big race combination). The International Classifications awarded Dancing Brave a rating of 141, the highest since it's inception in 1977. However, Timeform reduced it to 140 placing Shergar and Vaguely Noble on par with him (Sea Bird was 145,Ribot was 142, Mill Reef was 141).

It is possible that race goers may never witness the likes of Dancing Brave again. He was simply a horse that came once in a lifetime-the closest to a complete racehorse.


Dancing Brave's Pedigree

Dancing Brave
Lyphard Northern Dancer Nearctic
Goofed Court Martial
Navajo Princess Drone Sir Gaylord
Cap and Bells
Olmec Pago Pago
Chocolate Beau