“The complete racehorse – the most versatile I have ever sat on’.
So spoke Walter Swinburn after partnering Halling to a magnificent victory in the G1 Juddmonte International Stakes at York, 20 years ago this month.
Considering that 1995 also saw Swinburn triumph in the Epsom Derby on Lammtarra, it is telling that he also remarked: “It’s hard to compare different generations but I cannot recall a more willing partner than Halling.”
Halling’s triumph that day at York was the first of a double of Juddmonte victories for the son of Diesis, who also triumphed in consecutive runnings of the Eclipse in 1995 and 1996 (pictured). That quartet of G1 successes would mark him as one of the best middle distance performers of his generation.
Halling had already earned a significant nod in Godolphin’s history by the time he lined up at York, having been the first horse to carry the royal blue colours to G1 victory in Britain when he triumphed in a thrilling renewal of the Eclipse on his previous start.
That race saw him defeat Singspiel, running in the colours of Sheikh Mohammed, and the globe-trotting Red Bishop, who sported the first colours of Godolphin, in a pulsating finish which marked a high point in the early years of the Godolphin operation.
Trained by John Gosden in his formative days, Halling registered his first career in victory in an unassuming Ripon handicap before progressing to be a rare runner for his owners in the cavalry charge that is the nine-furlong Cambridgeshire Handicap. Sent off as the 8-1 co-favourite, he scored in scintillating fashion, strolling home by two and a half lengths from the closest of his 29 rivals.
Switched into the care of Hilal Ibrahim in Dubai for the winter, Halling went to Saeed bin Suroor on his return to Britain, and continued his winning streak which saw him take in his quartet of top-level successes.
The lottery of chance could be said to be the foundation of the racing and breeding industry, but in the case of Halling, it literally was a lottery that led to his birth.
His granddam Never A Lady was bought by his owner-breeder Cyril Humphris for 560gns at Goffs in 1975, and went on to win three times as a juvenile. Sold for 25,000gns she failed to thrive when sent to America, and Humphris eventually bought her back for 43,000gns.
A long-time friend of Alec Head, Humphris sent his reacquired mare to Green Dancer at Head’s Haras du Quesnay and Never A Lady duly produced a colt.
Although the colt went on to win once as Stylish Performer, the mating had further reaching consequences for all concerned as it won Humphris a free nomination to Green Dancer in a breeders’ lottery organised by Haras du Quesnay. Never A Lady duly returned to the Quesnay resident and produced a filly – Dance Machine.
Winner of the Sweet Solera Stakes on her racecourse debut, the filly never built on that early promise. Sent to race in America under the tutelage of John Gosden, she never made it to the races and returned to the paddocks in Britain.
Jack Hobbs and his fellow G1 winners Cavalryman, Cutlass Bay and Empoli head a list of over 50 Stakes winners for Halling.
Sadly, Halling died at Dalham Hall Stud in February 2016, however his legacy looks set to continue for many years to come.