The greatest sire of Indian Derby winners
In the history of the Indian Derby,
Grey Gaston holds a unique position, having sired five winners. The next best tally of four winners stands to the credit of Razeen[USA]*. Only Razeen [USA] is still active and he needs to come up with two more Indian Derby winners in his remaining crops, Grey Gaston's feat is likely to hold the pride of place for a long time to come.
Grey Gaston, the third foal of his sparingly raced dam Baroda Princess, made 5,100 gns as a yearling, became the property of Mrs. R. Lamba and entered the yard of G. Beeby. he had seven stars in his first year, all of them at major tracks in England and shed his maiden tag on his last, a 42 runner event at Newmarker in October where Connorton hit the front a furlong out and held on to win by a head from Club Talk. he had twice been on the board earlier, finishing within a length of Ginevra - winner of the Epsom Oaks the following year - in the Tankerville Nursery at Ascot. Timeform gave him a rating of 92 at the end of the year.
Next year, now trained by Ryan Jarvis at Phantom House in Newmarket, Grey Gaston had half a dozen outings, won a race over 10 furlongs and ran quite respectably in the big handicaps, being third to Redundant in the Britannia Stakes at Ascot's Royal Meeting, fifth of fifteen behind Warpath in Extel Centenary Stakes at Goodwood and finally, third again, to Fire Red in the Yellow Pages Summer Cup at Newbury.
Timeform described him as "a strong, compact colt ... genuine and consistent" and upped his rating to 97. he was entered in Tattersalls' 1972 December Sale where Major P. K. Mehra bought him for 1,850 gns.
Some of the other knowlegeable Indian buyers at that sale felt that Maj. Mehra had erred in his choice for the colt was dry-coated. Speed is what Maj Mehra was looking for and as Grey Gaston's sire FortinoII, was a winner of Europe's premier sprint race, the Prix de l'Abbaye de Longchamp, he stuck to his selection. Besides, as he often mentioned, "There were no alternatives, given the fact that I had only a shoe-string budget in which to buy a stallion and three mares."
Maj. Mehra was then the Commandant of President's Bodyguard and Grey Gaston's first quarters were in the backyard of his official residence in the sprawling Rashtrapati Bhawan complex. It was there that he commenced his breeding career in 1973. In the meantime, Maj Mehra bought some land in Caterpuri. The horses moved there and on February 14, 1974 the first foal was born at the newly established Usha Stud. the foal was a colt by Grey Gaston out of Dusty Marta*. Named Manitou, that colt enabled Mr. Ranjit Bhat to record the only owners' hat trick, annexing the Indian Derby by ten lengths, a winning margin that has not been bettered.
Winning the Indian Derby with the very first foal bred at one's farm can only be a breeder's dream. Grey Gaston made Maj. Mehra's dream come true. Maj. Mehra certainly had the Midas touch. Some years before the establishment of the Usha Stud, the very first mare that he owned had also produced a classic winner. That was a mare called Eagle Don* and her foal, imported "in utero", was named Mica Express, who won the South Indian Oaks. Maj. Mehra was a horseman par excellence and the stars were certainly benign to him. Yet, he never ceased to acknowledge the contribution of Grey Gaston. "That horse made me," he used to say often. His dry-coated condition troubled Grey Gaston quite a lot and he used to be miserable in the severe summers of Delhi despite all the Polo mints - he was very fond of them - the Mehra girls fed him surreptitiously. The worse was in 1976 when he was so unwell that most of the Usha Stud mares had to be diverted to Knight of Medina*. Besides, Usha Stud was then a fledgling operation with only a few mares. Then Common Land [GB] arrived in 1977 to further denude his opportunities. Finally, there was his untimely death just before the start of the 1984 covering season. in his 11 years at stud, Grey Gaston covered only 150 mares, including Maj. Mehra polo pony Zuzella 87 of his foals were named of which 82 came under the Starter's orders, 73 caught the judge's eye, 36 - an incredible 41.4% - earned black-type and 17 - 19.5% were Classic winners.
It is not just the statistical fact of Grey Gaston�s having sired the winners of five Indian Derbys - he had a close second in Capricorn who made that crack Chaitanya Chakram really earn his laurels - that demands awe. It is his overall record and the impact that he has had on Indian breeding. His Classic strike rate is better than his great contemporary Everyday II* as well as Rock of Gibraltar* and Prince Pradeep, the stalwarts of the era just procedding his much superior to current stars Razeen [USA] and Placeville [USA]. He holds the distinction - only the very best of stallions can be credited with it - of having sired a winner of each of the Indian Classics with different runners - Snow (Indian 1000 Guineas), Camino (Indian 2000 Guineas), Revelation (Indian Oaks), Monitou (Indian Derby) and Capricorn (Indian St. Leger)
His Indian Derby winning son, Track Lightning, produced a Classic winner in Celtic Lady and is the maternal grandsire of Floeroftheforest, the winner of Golconda Derby. In fact, Grey Gaston himself has excelled as a broodmare sire to be twice Champion Maternal Grand sire despite having had so few daughters at stud. With six winners of Indian Classics, he currently stands at the top of broodmares sires of Indian Classics. It only needs to be added that the last Indian Derby winner, Psychic Flame, was out of a Grey Gaston mare
What made Grey Gaston "tick"? his racing record was fairly modest, so the answer has to be his pedigree, though it is safe to say that he would never have come to India if his three parts sister, Dona Baroda, had been born earlier. Dona Baroda won seven races in France including Prix de l�Opera, prix Messidor and La Coupe de Maisons-Laffitte apart from placing in several graded races.
Grey Gaston sire Fortino II was in bred 4X4 to Nogara, the Dam of Nearco. Through a sprinter, Fortino II got progeny which stayed better than himself and in Caro he produced a sire of international standings. On his dam�s side, Grey Gaston traces to Athasi. This mare by 9 gns stallion Farasi may not figure in everyones list of elite mares but several winners of top races figure amongst her clan - Epson Derby winners, Trigo and Tulyar, Irish Derby winners, Harinero and Primero, Prix de l�Arc de Triomphe victor, Saint Crespin III, Sakura Shori, who won the Japan Derby, the Indian Turf Invitation Cup heroine, Forest Fantasy, and her Indian 2000 Guineas winning half-brother, Enrico, Time Charter, Jade unter and many more.
The other interesting point about Grey Gaston�s pedigree are the two daughters of Hainault. Hainault was a Swynford half-brother to Phalaris who figures in almost every modern pedigree, mostly through his sons. (Grey Gaston himself shows in-breeding to Pharos, a son of Phalaris and there is another line of Fairway, a full brother to Pharos). Bromus, the dam of Phalaris and St. Simon mare. War Relic in Grey Gaston�s pedigree is in bred 3 X 3 to Rock Sand, a son of Sainfoin out of a St. Simon msre. So there is a marked concentration of Sainfoin - St. Simon cross in Grey Gaston.
Grey Gaston readily picked up the favourable strains in his own pedigree - Nasrullah, relic, djebel, Gold Bridge and Fair Trial - in those of his mares and his mares and his best winners were generally in-bred to one or more of these lines. Of course all this is hind sight. It is said that foresight cannot be developed unless one studies in history. One of the reasons why Razeen [USA] is doing so well is because he, too , reacts immediately to Relic strains - all his three Indian Derby winners have it in their dams - and there were these Grey Gaston mares at Usha Stud.