No other racehorse has commanded quite the same place in my heart as the superb Nashwan. I’m not for a moment going to suggest he is better or worse than any other horse of his type as we all have our favourites and our own opinions. What I will say is that this was the first horse to capture my imagination and who cemented horseracing as a big part of my life.
Born: 01st March 1986 at Shadwell Farm, Lexington, Kentucky
Sire: Blushing Groom (FR) Dam: Height Of Fashion (FR)
Breeder: Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum
Trainer: Major WR Hern
Owner: Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum
Died 2002 aged 16 years
Two Year Old career
Nashwan made his racecourse debut in a maiden stakes over a straight 7f at Newbury (Good to Firm) on 13th August 1988. Ridden by Willie Carson, as he would be for all his races, he won well enough, driven out inside the final furlong and winning by 3/4 length.
His only other start as a 2yo came at Ascot (Good to soft) on 08th October 1988 in a Listed race on the round mile. Sent off at 4/6F, on this occasion, he took it up outside the furlong marker and ran on to win impressively by 4 lengths. Finishing in 3rd that day was the Guy Harwood trained Cacoethes and the two would renew their rivalry at Epsom the following June.
Nashwan then went into winter as one of the leading fancies for the following seasons classics.
1989 2000 Guineas (Group 1)
In May 1989, Nashwan went straight to the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket’s Rowley Mile (Good to firm) without a prep race. He was sent off the 3/1F in a very decent field, as indeed you would expect any 2000 Guineas field to be. He was ridden prominently alongside Monsagem and Danehill as the field tracked early leader Greensmith. The leader began to struggle 3 furlongs or so out and was passed on all sides, Passing the bushes, 2 furlongs out, Nashwan quickened to the front but was quickly pressed for the lead by Danehill. Exbourne began his run on the stand side while on the far side Markofdistinction began to run on. In side the final furlong Nashwan quickened again to defeat a fast finishing Exbourne by a length with Danehill a further 1/2 length back in 3rd pipping Markofdistinction by a neck into 4th.
A week later, Cacoethes (5/2) easily beat Pirate Army (4/7F) at Linfield (1m4f) to set up what would be a date with Nashwan at Epsom in June.
In between the Sir Henry Cecil trained Old Vic won the Group 3 Chester Vase by a comfortable 2 1/2 lengths from Golden Pheasant having also won the Classic Trial at Sandown Park in April in similar fashion. Old Vic had opened his racing career as a 2yo with a defeat to Pirate Army though had remained unbeaten since. He was looking a big player over middle distances as a 3yo and proved it with a comprehensive success at Chantilly in The Prix Du Jockey Club in early June.
1989 Epsom Derby (Group 1)
The build up to the Derby at Epsom (Good) divided opinion between 2000 Guineas winner Nashwan and his Market Rival Cacoethes who had one both his 3yo starts very easily and in particular having beaten Pirate Army, one of the main winter fancies and previous ante post Derby Favourite. A true classic duel was in prospect over the Epsom test on good ground. The field were taken along for the first 6f by Polar Run (from the same stable as Cacoethes) but as he quickly weakened, Torjoun led the field into the straight with Cacoethes into 2nd and Nashwan coming slightly wide in 4th. At the 3f marker, Cacoethes was sent to the front by Jockey Greville Starkey though Willie Carson had the move covered on Nashwan whom he drove to the front 2f out and went clear inside the final furlong to win by an impressive 5 lengths. A fast finishing Terimon (500/1) ran on for 2nd relegating Cacoethes into 3rd.
I remember my bet of £50 at 5/4F being at that point being by far the biggest bet I had ever had. It was a lot of money then. It still is I reckon!
1989 Eclipse Stakes (Group 1)
On 8th July 1989, I headed to Sandown Park (Good) for one of my favourite races of the calendar, the Eclipse Stakes. I love Sandown Park, it has always been a good hunting ground for me and at that time I was living in West London so it was a relatively easy journey down. The main opposition to Nashwan that day was the Guy Harwood trained four year old Warning who had been a very good miler and was today being upped to a mile and a quarter. The only other with a chance was the popular grey mare Indian Skimmer trained by Henry Cecil. In the end it was a simple enough task for Nashwan who having taken it up just over a furlong out, went on to win easily by 5 lengths from the Sir Henry Cecil second string Opening Verse (200/1) with Indian Skimmer (11/2) a short head back in third.
The previous Sunday, Old Vic had won the Irish Derby at The Curragh by 4 lengths from Observation Post, despite reportedly having a large abscess in the saddle area. Surely a mouth watering clash between he and Nashwan was bound to happen? Both camps were talking about the target being The King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes at Ascot at the end of the month and also the Prix De L’arc De Triomphe at Longchamp in October. A tilt at the St Leger and therefore a Triple Crown for Nashwan was also on the cards.
I made the decision to book my first trip to Paris within days of the Sandown race. But first it was to be Ascot.
King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes (Group 1)
22nd July 1989 and the setting was Ascot Racecourse (Good To Firm) as Nashwan sought to become the first horse to complete wins in the 2000 Guineas, Derby, Eclipse and King George in the same season. Today, Nashwan renewed rivalry with Cacoethes whom he ha comprehensively beaten at Epsom in June and it was indeed these two rivals who eventually fought out the finish. Rank outsider Polemos made the running for the first mile but started to fade in the straight as Top Class quickened into the lead. Approaching the final furlong Nashwan bore down on the leader and took it up, being driven out by Willie Carson to hold the finish of Cacoethes by a neck, Top class a further 7 lengths back in 3rd, Sheriffs Star in 4th and Carroll House back in 5th. For a moment, it looked to me that Cacoethes was going to get there but I remember Willie Carson saying after the race that Nashwan was always holding him.
It was all systems go for The Prix De L’arc De Triomphe at Longchamp in October but first the Prix Niel at the same course in September.
Prix Niel (Group 2)
17th September 1989 and the destination is Longchamp (Soft) in Paris for the Arc trials and specifically The Prix Niel. This really should have been a stepping stone to the Prix De L’arc De Triomphe back here in early October but it wasn’t to be as Nashwan ran a totally lifeless race to finish a 2 length third to the Charlie Whittingham trained Golden Pheasant. The winner had most recently finished a head 2nd to the Lady Herries trained Sheriff’s Star in the Grand Prix De Saint Cloud (Group 1) in early July. Two runs prior to that he had been well beaten by Old Vic in the Chester Vase. I remember watching a tearful Willie Carson being interviewed and at a loss to such a lifeless finish. Some pointed at the soft ground as being the reason but this was dismissed immediately by connections. Willie Carson said later that he had been told by Pat Eddery (Jockey on 2nd French Glory) later that as French Glory passed him, he could hear a gurgling coming from Willie Carson’s mount. Whatever that was probably explains Nashwans inability to quicken inside the final furlong.
Nashwan never raced again.
Following his victory in The Irish Derby, Old Vic didn’t race again as a three year old either.
Prix De L’arc De Triomphe
Despite the absence of both Nashwan and Old Vic, I made my first visit to Longchamp in October 1989. I have been several times since and will go many times yet.
Despite the clash I hoped for not materialising, it was of course a fantastic days racing as it always is. The race was won by the Michael Jarvis trained Carroll House ridden by the fantastic Mick Kinane. A few notable runners such as In The Wings, French Glory, Cacoethes and Golden Pheasant were all well beaten.
Other notable winners on the card were Golden Opinion and the wonderful Salsabil.
I will never know who would have won had Nashwan and Old Vic made it here. While my heart would have wanted Nashwan to have been victorious, I think that the prevailing Good To Soft ground might well have tipped the scales in favour of the Henry Cecil trained Old Vic.
I’ve done the Paris weekend 8-9 times since and if you haven’t been yet, make sure it’s on your bucket list, it’s wonderful.
Nashwan was no mug at stud either. Among his progeny was Swain who won the King George at Ascot twice when trained for Godolphin by Saeed Bin Suroor. Nashwan also sired One So Wonderful who won the International Stakes at York for Luca Cumani.
Nashwan died at Shadwell Stud in 2002 at the age of 16 years. A routine operation on a hind leg developed complications and he was put to sleep.
Major Dick Hern described Nashwan as “the best horse I’ve ever trained”