02/08/2011 2:52PM

Empress of India in America


Ashford Farm in Kentucky is entertaining Indian royalty this winter season. Jacqueline, a 4-time classic winner in India, is visiting John Magnier's American Coolmore operation for three months on her way to be bred to Galileo in Ireland. European quarantine laws do not allow horses to be directly imported from India, thus the reason for Jacqueline's Kentucky holiday.
A daughter of the Indian-bred son of Nureyev, King Charlemagne, out of the High Estate mare Talita Kumi, Jacqueline is widely regarded as the greatest filly ever to race in India, where they have been running races since the early 19th Century. The track in Mumbai has been in operation since 1830 when the city was called Bombay, but the first Thoroughbred foals registered by the Indian Stud Book didn't arrive until 1935.
Trained by Pesi Shroff for the consortium of Vijay Shrike, Kushroo Dhunjibhoy and Berjis Minoo Desai, Jacqueline pulled off her improbable classic 4-timer in the space of 57 days between Dec. 13, 2009 and Feb. 7, 2010. She began the streak when taking the one-mile Indian 1000 Guineas by 2 1/4 lengths as the 11-10 favorite. A week later she beat colts for the fourth time in her career in the Indian 2000 Guineas, coming as usual form near the back of the pack for a comfortable 2-length tally at a tasty 7-2 price.
The classic season in India is conducted during December and January in Mumbai at Mahalaxmi Racecourse to avoid the oppressive summer heat. As a result, the Derby and Oaks are run in January when the previous year's 3-year-olds have become 4-year-olds. None of this mattered to Jacqueline. On Jan. 24 she stepped up to the mile-and-a-half of the Indian Oaks as the prohibitive 1-2 favorite and prevailed by 2 lengths from Astral Flash, the same filly she had beaten into second in the 1000 Guineas.
The Feb. 7 Indian Derby, however, would prove more difficult.The public backed her down to 85-100 favoritism. British-based Richard Hughes, who had ridden her in her three previous classic victories, was in the saddle, but with a little more than a furlong to go, Jacqueline was still 2 lengths in arrears of the colt Becket. Not to worry. With Hughes applying a hand-and-heels ride, Jacqueline led at the 16th-pole, recording a three-quarter length triumph while setting a new course record for 1 1/2 miles of 2:28.54.
The only other horse known to have won as many as four classics was the great English filly Sceptre, who won the 1000 Guineas, the 2000 Guineas, the English Oaks and the St. Leger Stakes in 1902. Some say that Jacqueline is the greatest Indian horse of all time. Most people, however, reserve that honor for 1977 Triple Crown winner Squanderer, who won his last 15 races in a row.
Jacqueline might have been accorded unanimous acclaim as India's best ever Thoroughbred, but she was beaten by Becket in her final start on March 7 at Mumbai in the 1 1/2-mile Indian Turf Invitation Cup. Leading at the eighth-pole, she was caught in the shadow of the post, going down by a head. She was then retired, having won 8-of-11 lifetime starts, seven of them against males, for earnings of $695,747.
Jacqueline is currently in foal to York's 1996 Group 2 Dante Stakes winner Glory of Dancer, as is her traveling companion Aurora Aurealis, a daughter of Indian Triple Crown winner Indictment. Jacqueline is expected to give birth at the end of March, after which she will fly to Ireland for her meeting with Galileo.
That will be an historic event as it will be the first time that an Indian mare has been sent abroad for breeding purposes in more than 50 years. Jacqueline is also slated to be bred back to Galileo in 2012, with one of the two foals to be trained in Ireland, the other in India.
The key player in her Indian team is Dhunjibhoy. He is the owner of Nanoli Stud Farm where Jacqueline was bred to Glory of Dancer. Racing in India has been proceeding apace in recent years. Prize money is good- Jacqueline's Indian Derby was worth $448,212- and the quality of the sport is improving. In fact, Jacqueline's heir apparent was crowned just this past Sunday at Mumbai when Moonlight Romance, a daughter of UAE Derby and Prix du Rond-Point winner China Visit, won the Indian Derby hot on the heels of her Indian Oaks victory two weeks earlier.