Oh what it must be like to spend $10.2 million and end up not very long afterwards putting the whole embarrassing business down to experience, and not only that, to continue spending ridiculous sums of money in search of establishing a dynasty.
In 1983 $10.2 million dollars was the highest price ever paid for a thoroughbred horse. It was proof the world had gone bonkers. As it remains today. In today’s money, I am led to believe, 10.2 becomes 24.5. Leave out the dollar sign and the word ‘millions’ and it all seems rather matter-of-fact.
Which is what Snaafi Dancer turned out to be. In fact matter-of-fact over praises the horse. The best that was ever said of him was by his trainer John Dunlop. “Rather a sweet little horse, actually.” Though he captioned the attribution with. “But unfortunately no bloody good.”
He was no good from the very beginning, not even when he was only at the cantering stage of his inglorious career. Jeremy Noseda, who was John Dunlop’s assistant at the time, described him as ‘a horrible-looking brute’. And the older he became the less he inspired. Everyone thought that once he strengthened and started galloping he would develop into a swan. But no, he stayed a goose. He had bad feet and when that was corrected he became club-footed and cow-hocked. It was also said of him that he didn’t really like galloping, which is never good when your owner is H.H. Sheikh Mohammed and he has forked out mega millions on you to become the foundation stallion for a proposed world breeding operation.
As a last resort – well they just couldn’t afford to race him and allow every Tom, Dick and Harry to know just how useless a racehorse he actually was– Snaafi Dancer was sent to stud. But he didn’t take to that job either, siring only four foals, of which the three to race were none too successful.
Snaafi Dancer was last reported to be living on a farm in Florida, no doubt ruminating on a life of luxury that doubtless he believed was his right by equine royal birth.
Snaafi Dancer was as much equine royalty as his owner is royalty. His sire - Snaafi Dancer’s sire - was Northern Dancer, who before Galileo came along was the greatest thoroughbred stallion of all-time, with nine out of the top ten yearlings sold at auction his offspring. Mind you, without Northern Dancer, who was Galileo’s grand-daddy, we would not be glorying in the stud achievements of the grandson. So perhaps Northern Dancer remains the greatest sire of all-time.
Robert Sangster dodged a bullet when he walked away from Saratoga disappointed to be under bidder for Snaafi Dancer.
It says volume for the character of Sheikh Mohammed that he did not allow the disappointment, as well as the humiliation, of the Snaafi Dancer episode to deter him from his quest to establish a racing empire to last long into history. It would be a very callous man, I suggest, to wish him nothing less than long-term success. I personally hope that one day soon under the Godolphin banner he will breed a horse superior to any horse that Coolmore has thus far raced. How satisfying would that be to him?
Coolmore are, of course, the top-dogs in the breeding of racehorses and are, I suppose, Godolphin’s nemesis, and you would think them incapable of making a similar Snaafi Dancer sort of mistake. But they made Sheikh Mohammad’s faux pas look like a supermarket overspend when they coughed up $16 million for a Storm Cat yearling they eventually called The Green Monkey – named after a golfing complex in Barbados that they own or have an interest in – and deserving of the ridiculous name they gave the unlucky creature The Green Monkey turned out to be useless as a green monkey would be at snooker, failing to win in three moderate races as a 2-year-old. Which goes to prove that being born in the Chinese year of the monkey does not necessarily bring luck. Though he did end up at stud, covering mares at $5,000 dollars a throw. So the horse had fortune come his way, even if, on this occasion, Mr.Magnier had to wipe egg off his face and eat a little humble pie.
As someone once said: the two qualities you need to be stay in the top-end breeding game is patience and stupidity. He left out limitless amounts of money but I supposed that is taken for granted by those whose livelihood depend on those with no end of patience and a limitless supply of stupidity. Alas, I have bucket loads of first two ‘qualities’ but a complete lack of the third. Lucky old me!
Keith Knight is a workaday writer of fiction, worker in the real world but foremost a horse racing fanatic. The joy of the sport is the horse - all horses.