The Halling and Bosra Sham Champion Stakes Story 1996

19th October 2017

The script was written, the stage was set. It was to be a glorious swan song, the final climactic act in a career spanning three years, four countries and almost 20 miles of racing.

In 14 races since breaking his maiden in a handicap at Ripon in August 1994, Halling had tasted defeat only twice, both times on an unfavoured dirt surface. From an improbable success in the Cambridgeshire as a three-year-old for John Gosden to the centre stage of such world-class races as the Juddmonte International and Eclipse Stakes, Halling had danced every dance and proved himself a true champion for Sheikh Mohammed.

Although he would record all his Group wins in Godolphin blue, Halling began his racing career in the maroon and white of Sheikh Mohammed for Gosden.

Gosden could claim a special affinity with Halling, having also once trained his dam, Dance Machine. The daughter of Green Dancer had won the Sweet Solera Stakes in Britain before being sent to Gosden's care in America, but never reached the track once Stateside.

Dance Machine was reportedly also something of a lucky horse for owner-breeder Cyril Humphris, as she resulted from a mating with Green Dancer that was given for free to Humphris after he won the nomination in a ballot for breeders who had used selected stallions the previous year at Green Dancer's home, Haras du Quesnay.

After his first Group 1 triumph in the Eclipse Stakes of 1995, by which time he was in the care of Saeed bin Suroor, jockey Walter Swinburn called Halling "the complete racehorse - the most versatile I have ever sat on" - high praise from the man famous for partnering Shergar and who had won his third Derby just a month earlier on Lammtarra, also trained by bin Suroor.

halling-frankie-dettori

When Halling arrived at the Rowley Mile on October 19th 1996, he was a five-time Group 1 winner and a dual winner of both the Juddmonte and Eclipse. There was nothing left to prove before a glorious stud career beckoned at his owner's Dalham Hall Stud.

The Group 1 Dubai Champion Stakes at Newmarket's Rowley Mile is never an easy option, and in opposition on that autumn day was a stellar cast including the 1,000 Guineas heroine Bosra Sham, the Group 1 globetrotting mare Timarida, Group 1 Sussex Stakes victor First Island, the Group 2 Dante Stakes winner Glory Of Dancer, and Even Top, beaten only a short head in that season's 2,000 Guineas.

Even against such illustrious company, Halling was the evens favourite, with local girl Bosra Sham next best at 9-4.

Just four days before Halling recorded his first success in the Juddmonte International at York, Bosra Sham made her debut, winning a two-year-old maiden at Newbury. She already carried a big reputation, having been the highest-priced yearling in Europe when purchased by Wafic Said for 530,000gns at Tattersalls' Houghton Sale in 1994 from the legendary nursery of Gerald Leigh.

The pretty chestnut daughter of Woodman, a half-sister to two French Classic winners in Hector Protector and Shanghai, catapulted herself into the big leagues when landing the Group 1 Fillies' Mile at Ascot on only her second start. That victory led her trainer Henry Cecil to name her as the best filly he had trained since the 1985 Fillies' Triple Crown winner Oh So Sharp.

A scant ten days after the Cecil family standard was raised over Warren Place in honour of Bosra Sham's victory, Sheikh Mohammed opted to remove all of his horses from Cecil, sending them all instead to his private trainer Saeed bin Suroor.

Among the horses removed from Warren Place were the subsequent 2,000 Guineas winner Mark Of Esteem, so Cecil must have drawn comfort from the remaining outstanding juvenile housed at his famous yard.

Bosra Sham returned at three to win the Group 3 Fred Darling back at Newbury, and was duly a hot favourite for the first fillies' Classic of the season only to suffer foot problems in the run-up to the race.

On the day, and sporting a stick-on shoe on the affected hoof, the filly proved her heart and talent in equal measures, running through the pain barrier to triumph by a length and a half and give her trainer his first Classic success since Commander In Chief won the Derby three years earlier.

Even a stewards enquiry was not enough to dull the edge of success, and although jockey Pat Eddery earned himself two-day ban for careless riding, he was also recording a first victory in the 1,000 Guineas to earn a full house of domestic Classics.

After the high emotion of her Guineas win, Bosra Sham was not seen again on the racecourse for 146 days, returning again at the highest level to contest the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes, almost a year after her Group 1 triumph over course and distance.

On this occasion she could manage only second, ironically to Mark Of Esteem, in what would of course become the third leg of Frankie Dettori's infamous Magnificent Seven. Full of praise for his filly in the aftermath, Cecil suggested that a step up to 1m2f for the Champion Stakes could suit her well.

Cecil and Bosra Sham may have had to give best in the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, but the scene was set for the filly to take on another mighty opponent from the growing Godolphin empire in Halling.

With only six horses contesting the final middle-distance Group 1 of the season, Even Top set off to make the pace, with Halling tucked in behind under Dettori.

Three furlongs from home in the 1m2f contest, Dettori suggested that Halling go on and win his race. The older horse took a little time to pick up and overtake Even Top, with Bosra Sham shadowing his every move.

As Halling took the lead, Bosra Sham and the Group 1 Irish Champions Stakes heroine Timarida were in close order. Running into the Dip, Bosra Sham took command and although Halling gave his all there was to be no Group 1 sign-off.

With iron will and a strong ride from Eddery, Bosra Sham had two and a half lengths in hand at the finish, with Timarida taking third a length behind Halling in a race for the ages.

stallion HALLING at Dalham Hall Stud Newmarket 9 Jul 2015 - Pic Steven Cargill / Racingfotos.com THIS IMAGE IS SOURCED FROM AND MUST BE BYLINED "RACINGFOTOS.COM"

Halling began his stud career at a couple of miles down the road at Dalham Hall Stud in 1997 at a fee of 12,000gns. In a career spanning more than 15 years and encompassing three years in Dubai as part of a bold experiment by Sheikh Mohammed to stand successful stallions in his own country, Halling carved out a niche as a solid if not spectacular stallion.

The popular Group 1 bridesmaid Norse Dancer was for a long time his most successful son, along with the high-class stayers Opinion Poll, Coastal Path and Cavalryman. Ironically it was to be a member of one of his final crops that would bring Halling the most success - Jack Hobbs.

Bred by former champion jockey Willie Carson, Jack Hobbs sprang to prominence when purchased by Godolphin following his success in the Group 2 Dante Stakes in 2015, and he rewarded the investment with success in the Irish Derby, having been runner-up to Golden Horn in the Epsom Derby.   He added to that tally in style earlier this year when winning the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic.

Following her Champion Stakes victory, Bosra Sham and her famously fragile feet returned for a third season, opening her account with success in the Group 3 Brigadier Gerard Stakes at Sandown over another Godolphin rival in Predappio.

Possibly her most famous victory was to follow, when Bosra Sham routed her male opposition to triumph by eight lengths in the Prince Of Wales's Stakes (then a Group 2) at Royal Ascot. That was followed unfortunately by her most infamous race when she managed only third in the Group 1 Eclipse Stakes after an uncharacteristically poor ride from Kieren Fallon. Like Halling, the filly could not sign off on a winning note, finishing last of four in the Juddmonte in August after losing a shoe.

On her retirement to the paddocks, Bosra Sham could not produce anything like her own brilliance in her offspring. Her sole stakes winner was Rosberg (A.P. Indy), winner of a Grade 3 in Canada, having been purchased for $1.5m as a yearling, and she was unfortunately the dam of such as Shami, who was purchased at Tattersalls in 2000 for 1,000,000gns only to resell at the same venue four years later for a mere 22,000gns, having won only two moderate contests in that time.

Her owner Wafic Said, who enjoyed a Classic double in 1996 thanks to the Oaks victory of his Lady Carla, opted to disperse of his racing and breeding stock in 2003, and Bosra Sham's later foals were bred by Orpendale, one of the breeding entities associated with Coolmore.

But a poor breeding record should not be the epitaph of such a talented filly. Perhaps the last word should come from the man who knew her best, her trainer Henry Cecil. ˜The best I've trained, including colts" he said at the time. Of course little could he know that a knighthood and a certain colt called Frankel still lay ahead...

Amy Bennett