Indian Magic: A Master Breeder’s Masterpiece?

© R.J. Cadranell II from The CMK Record VIII/2 Fall 1989
used by permission of RJ Cadranell

Indian Magic

INDIAN MAGIC at age 26, with his long-time handler Fred Rice, in a Parade of Progeny and Personalities at the 1970 British Nationals. Note that one of the judges seated at left, the late Lady Anne Lytton, appears to be unable to keep her eyes off “the prince of horses.” Photo by Photonews, © Alexander Heriot & Co.

In an article reprinted in the Arabiana anthology, Lady Anne Lytton wrote: “Indian Magic was, I think, Lady Wentworth’s masterpiece…” Bred at Crabbet in 1944, INDIAN MAGIC became a legend in his own time. He was one of the most famous Arabians in England in the post war era, and an important sire for both Lady Wentworth and later Cecil Covey when he inherited the Crabbet Stud. INDIAN MAGIC was the last horse Cecil Covey retained when external influences forced him to give up the rest of the Crabbet Stud.

Pedigree of INDIAN MAGIC
gr s 1944
Raktha Naseem Skowronek
Nasra (Daoud x Nefisa)
Razina Rasim
Riyala (*Astraled x Ridaa)
Indian Crown Raseem Rasim
Rim (*Astraled x Ridaa)
Nisreen Nureddin II

Pedigree extended to Crabbet Foundation Animals:

  • NASRA by DAOUD out of NEFISA
  • *Nureddin II by RIJM out of NARGHILEH

Though no breeder can predict exactly where his or her great successes will come, INDIAN MAGIC did not happen by chance. Lady Wentworth did not buy an Arabian mare about which she knew little or nothing, take her to the nearest or most heavily advertised or most expensive champion she could find, and expect to produce a world beater. Rather, INDIAN MAGIC represented twenty-four years of Lady Wentworth’s own breeding, on top of a prior forty years of watching his ancestors breed for her parents. INDIAN MAGIC’s pedigree shows eight generations of Arabian horses owned by the Crabbet Stud. With the exception of Skowronek’s antecedents and the possible exception of FEYSUL’s dam, EL ARGAA, Lady Wentworth knew first hand every single animal in INDIAN MAGIC’s pedigree as far back as his great-great-great-grandparents, as she or her parents owned them all.

In type as well as pedigree, INDIAN MAGIC represented the combination of Skowronek and *Nureddin II of which Mrs. Archer has written as a key to much of later Wentworth breeding. Miss Ott, writing in an article reprinted in Arabiana, characterized some of the animals representing this combination as being “a Nureddin Type with Skowronek details.”

Skowronek contributed a prettier head, arched neck, broad and level croup, high set and carried tail, and a certain ethereal beauty combined with good stout bone. *Nureddin II provided extra size, a loftier, more upright carriage, higher withers, better shoulders, and a lankier frame. Lady Wentworth began combining the two of them as soon as she had a *Nureddin daughter old enough to breed to Skowronek, but it was some years before any of the Skowronek daughters went to *Nureddin. Instead, Crabbet’s first foals from Skowronek daughters were inbred to Skowronek: *Raffles (Skowronek x *Rifala, Wright’s coefficient of inbreeding 25%) and *ROSE OF FRANCE (*Raswan x Jalila, inbred to Skowronek at 12.5%). (A third Skowronek daughter, SHELIFA, produced in the same year an Anglo-Arab colt named BLACK TOM, by CHEVALIER.) *Nureddin II later had a chance to sire his own “Raffles” when Lady Wentworth bred him to his daughter RISHNA, producing the filly RIFWA.

Most of Lady Wentworth’s more successful combinations of the two stallions came from breeding Skowronek-line sires to *Nureddin-line dams. This perhaps illustrates Carl Raswan’s oft-repeated tenet that the dam gives to her offspring size and frame, while the sire contributes muscling and detail. Anyone can name myriad exceptions to this rule, but animals like INDIAN MAGIC, GREY ROYAL, and *SERAFIX adhere to it.

Raktha (Naseem x Razina) photo from the Newbuildings collection.

The pedigree of INDIAN MAGIC’s sire RAKTHA is almost a mirror image of the pedigree of his dam INDIAN CROWN, but where one has Skowronek, the other has *Nureddin II. In the cases of both Skowronek and *Nureddin, the vessels carrying their blood to INDIAN MAGIC were NASRA foals. Lady Wentworth apparently recognized at an early point that of all the mares she had from her parents, NASRA would become one of the cornerstones of her breeding. NASRA’s *Nureddin II daughter NISREEN became the dam of the “Indian” family; her Skowronek son NASEEM was an important sire; her daughter NASHISHA was to produce SHARIMA, of great importance to post-war Crabbet breeding; while her son NAZIRI was perhaps Lady Wentworth’s favorite of all the Skowronek colts.

In INDIAN MAGIC’s pedigree, both of the NASRA foals were crossed with horses “strain bred” to RIDAA before the final doubling to NASRA to produce INDIAN MAGIC. RAZINA and RASEEM were full siblings in blood, the result of Lady Wentworth’s breeding RASIM to mares that were three-quarter sisters to his own dam. RASEEM’s and RAZINA’s coefficient of inbreeding was 10.57%. (Lady Wentworth had also tried breeding RASIM back to his dam RISALA, but no foal resulted, apparently.) The cross of RASIM on RIM and RIYALA concentrated the blood of MESAOUD and RIDAA, while FEYSUL and QUEEN OF SHEBA functioned as outcrosses.

Quite different factions have maligned one or the other of the latter Crabbet foundation animals. Criticizing FEYSUL denigrates the judgment of Lady Anne Blunt, who used him at stud both in Egypt and in England. His foals RASIM, KARINA, IBN YASHMAK, and RAS EL HADD had a flair not seen in other lines of Crabbet breeding, though after his first few foal crops in England FEYSUL was used rather sparingly.

QUEEN OF SHEBA might not have matched Carl Raswan’s idea of the classic Arabian, but the mare contributed something to her descendants which must have pleased the Blunts immensely. They used two of her sons as sires, put into the mare band her only daughter to live to maturity, and by the end of the Blunt period of breeding they were using a double QUEEN OF SHEBA stallion at stud (SOTAMM) and producing triple QUEEN OF SHEBA foals (SILFA, by Rustem out of Selima). QUEEN OF SHEBA might have contributed any or all of the following: fire and presence, more wither, a good shoulder, a longer neck, the ability to move well, high tail carriage.

INDIAN CROWN (Raseem x Nisreen) photo by Lady Wentworth

Breeding the key ingredients (Skowronek and *Nureddin) to NASRA, crossing those foals with strain bred Crabbet “R” horses, and finally combining the two influences produced INDIAN MAGIC. Lady Wentworth must have realized she had discovered something special: the RAKTHA to INDIAN CROWN breeding she did more frequently than any other cross in her entire history as a breeder. INDIAN CROWN’s production record, extracted from the GSB, is a follows:

  • 1939 ch f *CROWN OF INDIA, by Rix (sent to U.S.A.)
  • 1940 barren to Radi
  • 1941 gr c INDIAN GREY (died 1944), by Raktha
  • 1942 gr c (destroyed) by Raktha
  • 1943 barren to Raktha
  • 1944 gr c INDIAN MAGIC, by Raktha
  • 1945 ch c INDIAN GEM, by Raktha (sent to South Africa)
  • 1946 barren to Oran
  • 1947 gr f by Raktha
  • 1948 ch c INDIAN CRESCENT, by Oran (sent to Brazil)
  • 1949 gr c by Raktha
  • 1950 barren to Raktha
  • 1951 ch f by Grand Royal
  • 1952 barren to Dargee
  • 1953 ch f SILVER PARADISE, by Royal Diamond
  • 1954 ch f INCORONETTA, by Dargee
  • 1955 ch c SUMMER CROWN by Oran
  • 1956 not covered in 55, sold, and put out of Stud

Once Lady Wentworth had discovered the successful “nick” with RAKTHA, she repeated it frequently, but not every year. In the same way the Skowronek-NASRA cross was very successful, but in between NASRA’s first foal by Skowronek (NASEEM) and her last (NASIEDA) she also produced to RAFEEF and NADIR. Had Lady Wentworth bred NASRA to Skowronek year after year, she could have had as many as eight offspring from the cross. But in creating them she would have limited severely the future possibilities for the use of NASRA blood. She would not have made the best use of one of her most important mares. Instead, she used in her breeding program NASRA foals by five different sires. This gave her a much broader range of options to continue breeding with the NASRA influence.

Lady Wentworth did not foresee INDIAN MAGIC’s pedigree twenty-four years in advance and then create it. It took many years of trial and error, combining everything she had with everything else she had, taking note of which mare lines were producing her favorite horses, or her best breeding animals, and taking each step as it presented itself for taking. Before breeding INDIAN GREY, Lady Wentworth had experimented with many combinations of the horses which produced him and his famous full brother. She had tried Skowronek on NISREEN, producing NASIRIEH and *INCORONATA, both of which produced to RASEEM. *INCORONATA produced INDIAN GLORY to this cross, a favorite colt struck by lightning and killed as a yearling. With NASIRIEH Lady Wentworth tried doubling the *Nureddin influence by breeding her to *RAHAL and SHAREER. Lady Wentworth also tried combining Skowronek and *Nureddin while doubling NASRA by breeding NASEEM to NISREEN, producing INSILLA and INDIAN LIGHT. This combination lacked the perhaps crucial elements of RASIM and QUEEN OF SHEBA.

INDIAN MAGIC’s pedigree contains more crosses to HADBAN than to MESAOUD, although people generally think of the latter as the more pervasive Crabbet foundation sire. All seven of INDIAN MAGIC’s Crabbet bred great grandparents were from HADBAN influenced mare lines. *Nureddin II was doubled to him. Lady Wentworth began to focus on the tail-female descendants of the HADBAN daughters, NEFISA and *ROSE OF SHARON, very early in her breeding. Lady Anne Blunt credited the HADBAN influence with producing animals of greater height, meaning well over 15 hands. Lady Wentworth made no excuses about her own preference for the taller sort of Arabian, although she also used and appreciated the smaller ones like RASIM, Skowronek, and DARGEE.

INDIAN MAGIC’s pedigree is not sire dominated, except perhaps by MESAOUD and HADBAN. Instead, Lady Wentworth has done rather consistent line breeding to two successful mare families. NASRA and RIDAA have special prominence. Using Raswan’s system of strain analysis, INDIAN MAGIC is bred three generations in the Kuhaylan strain.

INDIAN MAGIC’s pedigree is not the result of outcross upon outcross, but is instead rather tightly linebred. The five different Crabbet bred great-grandparents were all closely related through MESAOUD and HADBAN, while RODANIA and DAJANIA were also key ancestors. From this point on the pedigree only gets tighter. From 1904 until the tenure of Lady Wentworth the Crabbet horses were bred as a closed herd. INDIAN MAGIC’s ancestry represents a very small sampling of that herd, augmented with one line to Skowronek, Lady Wentworth’s outcross of the 1920’s. RAKTHA and INDIAN CROWN were roughly three-quarter siblings in blood.

The Blunts saw in *ASTRALED, RIJM, *Nureddin II, DAOUD, and RASIM, as Lady Wentworth saw in NASEEM and RASEEM, colts they wanted to retain as future sires rather than sell. The Blunts decided to keep for breeding the fillies *ROSE OF SHARON, NEFISA, RIDAA, NASRA, NARGHILEH, RISALA, RIM, and RIYALA, as Lady Wentworth kept NISREEN and INDIAN CROWN. A farm which sells every foal it breeds, and then starts over with new foundation stock, is returning time and again to “square one.”

Other than the Crabbet foundation animals, all of INDIAN MAGIC’s ancestors tabulated in the pedigree above were bred by Crabbet except his sire, RAKTHA. RAKTHA illustrates another principle which successful livestock breeders have employed: the use of “satellite” farms. Place with another breeder some of your best stock, and it might be combined in ways which never would have occurred to you, eventually producing something which you might want to use. By buying ASTRELLA and RAZINA and bringing RAZINA back to Crabbet for breeding to NASEEM and NAUFAL (sire of RIFFAL), Lady Yule provided Lady Wentworth with two of Crabbet’s greatest post 1940 sires: RAKTHA and ORAN (Riffal x Astrella). (Like INDIAN MAGIC, ORAN was by a RAZINA son and out of a RASEEM daughter.) Lady Wentworth purchased both of these stallions as younger animals with an eye to using them at stud.

Lady Wentworth started using INDIAN MAGIC at stud when he was three, breeding him to NEZMA (Rafeef x Nasra). Thereafter she used him every year, but he does not seem to have covered more than six Crabbet mares in a single season. INDIAN MAGIC completed for mares with stallions like ORAN, DARGEE, RAKTHA, INDIAN GOLD, GRAND ROYAL, *ROYAL DIAMOND, and later *SILVER VANITY, ROYAL CRYSTAL, and *SILVER DRIFT. Lady Wentworth always maintained a large stallion battery. With a few years as exceptions, no one stallion dominated a foal crop. Again, this allowed her greater flexibility as a breeder than the alternative method of maintaining only one or two stallions and breeding all the mares to one or the other year after year.

Lady Wentworth bred INDIAN MAGIC very frequently to mares of the SHARIMA family, and also to INDIAN FLOWER (Irex x Nisreen) and her daughter *INDIAN DIAMOND (by Oran). SILVER FIRE (Naseem x Somra by Daoud) produced her last two foals by INDIAN MAGIC. The “R” family had already seen its greatest days at its parent stud by the time INDIAN MAGIC came into use, but he sired foals from ROSALINA (Indian Gold x Rissella) and her daughter ROSINELLA (by Oran).

INDIAN MAGIC’s foals for Lady Wentworth were all born during the last nine years of her life, making it difficult to discern which she might have used for breeding and how. The only one she appears to have used was the SILVER FIRE daughter SILVER MAGIC, dam of SILVADORIS (by Oran) before her exportation to Australia.

What INDIAN MAGIC’s long term impact on Lady Wentworth’s herd might have been we shall never know. However, he proved himself an outstanding sire and major influence on other breeding programs around the world.

The grandsires of INDIAN MAGIC, photos courtesy Rosemary Archer