The enduring flame of silver fire

A Life with Arabian Horses
November 1, 2018
Legends of the breed
August 21, 2020

The enduring flame of silver fire

Written by Scott Benjamin

We owe the prophetically named Silver Fire a debt of immense gratitude

Nearly a century ago in the spring of 1926, an auspicious arrival at Crabbet Park defined the dawning of a new era for Arabian horse breeding worldwide. This exceptional filly was Silver Fire, the single foal born to her still unproven sire in his inaugural season at stud, a promising son of Lady Wentworth’s beloved Skowronek named Naseem (x Nasra by Daoud). Now a name held in universal esteem by Arabian breeders in every corner of the globe, Naseem would stand another eight seasons at Crabbet Park, selling to Russia at age fourteen, and then going on to sire foals for another remarkable seventeen years at Tersk. As a result of his invaluable contributions as a sire in both the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union, through exceptional daughters the likes of Rissletta (x Risslina by Rafeef), Kareyma (x Julnar by Lali Abdar), Nomenklatura (x Mammona by Ofir), Nitochka (x Taraszcza by Enwer Bey) and Naturalistka (x Rissalma by Shareer), as well as in the generations of excellence tracing directly to his sons Raktha (x Razina by Rasim), Indian Light (x Nisreen by Nureddin), and Negatiw (x Taraszcza by Enwer Bey), Naseem is remembered as one of the most profoundly influential stallions in the history of the Arabian breed, and a legend of Crabbet breeding. Had it not been for the promise of his first filly, the landscape of modern Arabian horse breeding might be vastly different. For this alone, we owe the prophetically named Silver Fire a debt of immense gratitude.

Silver Fire would in time, however, prove to be so much more than just the harbinger of ultimate immortality for her sire. Five generations of her illustrious heritage had been carefully stewarded by the visionary genius of Crabbet Park, first by the inimitable Lady Anne Blunt and later by her audacious daughter Lady Wentworth, tracing directly tail-female to the desert-bred Sobha (Wazir x Selma or.Ar.) in the third generation, born in 1879. Purchased by the Blunts in 1891 from her breeder Mahmud Bey in the desert and exported to England, the exceptionally beautiful Sobha established the precious Selma or.Ar. dam line, second only in importance, in retrospect, to the dam line of Rodania or.Ar., not only at Crabbet Park, but throughout Arabian breeding the world over. Beyond the immense influence of Silver Fire herself, the Selma dam line is synonymous with the Star Of The Hills-Taktika dynasty founded at Tersk (think Pesenka, Palas, Pietuszok, Tamerlan and Topol), the Sardhana branch that thrives in Poland (the source of Zazula and Zagrobla) and in the USA (with Crabbet Sura and her son Sureyn), essential sires Shareer (a key ingredient in the pedigrees of Serafix, Silver Drift, Padron, Electric Silver and Priboj) and Berk (sire of the ‘Queen of Crabbet’ Rissla) and, perhaps most profoundly, as the maternal source of Sotamm, sire of Kazmeen, both Crabbet-bred exports returned to Egypt, where they have since been immortalised on the distaff side of the pedigree of the iconic sire Nazeer.

Masterfully combined with the other essential dam lines that comprised Crabbet breeding in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, principally Queen Of Sheba or.Ar. via Ahmar (Azrek), Ghazieh or.Ar. through her direct descendant, sire of the century Mesaoud (Aziz x Yemameh by Zobeyni), and Dajania or.Ar., foundress of another enduring dam family of global impact and the direct great-granddam of Naseem, the Selma dam family reached a significant milestone with Silver Fire, having created such a superlative specimen of the Arabian mare over five decades without any direct Rodania family influence. Descending directly through Somra (Daoud) and Siwa (Ahmar) to Sobha, Silver Fire was the ideal outcross for the intensely line-bred Rodania sires that dominated breeding in the UK during her career as a matron. Unlike the other contemporary Selma family descendants exported worldwide to positively affect breed progress, Silver Fire would spend her entire productive life under the careful management of Lady Wentworth at Crabbet Park, celebrated as one of the most beautiful mares of that era, and the quintessential Selma family representative.

From 1930 until 1950, Silver Fire blessed the Arabian breed with twelve foals – five colts and seven fillies. All but two sons by Faris – Silfaris (1939) and Silver Frost (1940) – would leave issue. Now, nearly every time the word Silver is invoked in a name throughout the modern Arabian horse world (with a few notable exceptions – chiefly Silver Drift and Electric Silver, both Selma family members but not via Silver Fire), we have cause to commemorate and celebrate Silver Fire and her ten remarkable produce.

With only one exception, Lady Wentworth practised the tried-and-true method of breeding at least twice to every stallion to which Silver Fire was mated. That exception was her 1935 filly by Raseem (Rasim x Rim by Astraled), the only foal produced in the five-year span between 1933–1938, during the bleakest days of the global Great Depression. This filly was amongst the 19 mares and fillies purchased by the Russian delegation for Tersk, a much-needed financial boost for the stud, departing with soonto- be legendary matrons Rissalma, Rixalina and the aforementioned Star Of The Hills, as well as with her own maternal grandsire Naseem to the Caucasus at the opposite edge of Europe. Based on her registered name, the unimaginative Grey Crabbet, one is led to believe she was likely purchased yet unnamed, and rather haphazardly given this most rudimentary of names to satisfy the studbook prior to export. Grey Crabbet left behind only five foals in her new home, four of those stallions; none unfortunately bred on.

For her first two foals prior to Grey Crabbet, Silver Fire was bred to the tall, well-conformed reliable broodmare sire Nureddin (Rijm x Nargileh by Mesaoud) for her first filly Somara (1930) and colt Silfire (1932). Silfire would become the first direct descendant of Silver Fire to be exported, to nearby Portugal in 1935, where he would establish himself as an important foundation sire both in his new home country as well as in the larger gene pool of the former Portuguese colony of Brazil. Somara was sold within the UK to William Hay, who was responsible for breeding all fourteen of her lifetime foals, most by the Skowronek son Rangoon. Several of her foals were exported overseas, to North America, South Africa and even Australia, this being Stefan (1945), who lived for many years in the wilds of South Australia and can be reliably found in the pedigrees of many of the top breeding and endurance athletes of Crabbet heritage to the present day. Another direct import to Australia of a tail-female Somara descendant occurred in 1978, with Wild Rose (Argos x Rosamunde by Iridos), tracing to the Rangoon daughter Shayba Thania (1944). She was in turn the dam of Rose Of Sarangani (Rave VF), who helped to raise the profile of Australia yet again through the Bremervale program by producing multi-international champion Rahere (Desperado). Somara also figures into the pedigrees of two US-bred sires of significance in Australia: the Forest Hill imported BPL Dante, with a link through the Somara son Shamadan (Rithan), and the Mulawa import GLF Apollo, who has two crosses to the Somara daughter Silver Crystal (Rangoon). Silver Crystal, imported by John Rogers to the USA in 1951 at 14 years of age, left behind three important sons for North American breeding: full brothers Seraj and Silfix (Serafix), and the very first US National Champion Stallion Mujahid (Sureyn), all line-bred to Selma or.Ar.

UK breeders have been fortunate to keep the Somara branch of the Silver Fire family through the Silver Crystal daughter Silver Belle (Raktha) thriving on home turf, while another Silver Crystal daughter, Silwa (Raktha) has done more to make this branch of the family famous worldwide than any other. Exported to Bazy Tankersley’s Al-Marah Arabians in 1957 after the death of Lady Wentworth, Silwa was imported together with her two-yearold Dargee daughter Silwara. Silwa remained an invaluable matron for Bazy until her death, leaving behind an expansive legacy, while Silwara was sold, and then re-sold to an aspirational Lasma Arabians, where she would earn immortal status as the dam of Countess Of Lasma (Count Dorsaz), and full siblings Tornado and Silhouette (Bask).

Prior to export, Silwa also produced Silwara’s elder full brother, Silwan, who was to find immense good fortune on the opposite end of the planet. Imported as a two-year-old in 1956 by Mary Leicht of NSW along with the wonderful Silver Fire daughter Silver Magic, both were sent to Gatton College in Queensland just two years later, with Silwan becoming an immensely popular sire in Australia throughout his long fortunate life. Purchased at 23 years of age in 1977 by Pam Roydhouse for her incredibly successful and well-respected Chip Chase Park from the Cherokee Brahman Cattle Company for a record price, Silwan remains a mainstay of Crabbet and endurance bloodlines in Australia, and increasingly so around the world. His broad popularity ensured his legacy thrives as well in the background of many of Australia’s top show performers, both in-hand and under saddle, but his enduring legacy, especially in the horses bearing the Chip Chase and Cherokee stud prefixes, remains in the Olympic discipline of endurance. Former WAHO Trophy Recipient for Australia, Quilty Gold Cup winner, Australian National Endurance Champion and globally influential endurance sire, Chip Chase Sadaqa, is a prime example of this profound impact, proudly professing two essential crosses to Silwan (as well as a third Silver Fire link through the prodigious Silver Gilt).

Following up on the success of Somara and Silfire early in her productive life, Silver Fire produced her most influential progeny in her final decade as a matron, from 1941–1950, with five daughters and two sons of global relevance, all sired by stallions of intense Rodania or.Ar. and Dajania or.Ar. lineage. Her first pair of daughters in this decade was sired by Indian Gold (Ferhan x Nisreen by Nureddin), both born during the harrowing days of the Second World War: Silver Shamrock in 1941; and the undisputed jewel in the Silver Fire family crown, Silver Gilt in 1943. Silver Shamrock would leave a lasting legacy for her dam line in South Africa at Olford Stud through her son Silver Rocket (Grand Royal), while Silver Gilt would assume the mantle of her dam at Crabbet Park as the most prolific and esteemed member of her dam family, producing fourteen foals, including five British National Champions, in 21 years of production, her final five foals born after the death of Lady Wentworth.

Silver Gilt’s eldest daughter, Silverlet (Raktha), joined Silver Rocket in South Africa as Olford Stud’s treasured foundation mare, intensifying the legacy of Silver Fire in the Southern Hemisphere exponentially. It was Silver Gilt’s eldest son, Silver Vanity (Oran), however, that would be the first to immortalise her influence in pedigrees the world over. Memorably described by respected breeder and historian Rosemary Archer as the ‘unforgettable Silver Vanity, considered by many to be one of the most beautiful stallions ever bred at Crabbet. He had all of the qualities associated with the Silver Fire line, not least being his superlative head.’ To further emphasise his influence, she added this concerning his dam, ‘Silver Gilt, one of the loveliest of Silver Fire’s offspring, produced stock of the highest quality.’ Named twice British National Champion in 1958 and again in 1962, Silver Vanity was one of the most popular and flamboyant show horses of his era, but left only eighteen registered get in the UK prior to his exportation to the United States, where he would sire over 200 lifetime foals, yet another sagacious purchase by the visionary Bazy Tankersley. From this modest collection of just a dozen and a half progeny sired from 1956 to 1963, several would go on to great acclaim within other British breeding programs, including: his son, Hanif (x Sirella by Dargee), a perpetually popular mainstay of the British National Veteran Stallion class and maternal grandsire of record-setting World Endurance Champion Hachim; as well as his phenomenally influential daughter Silver Ripple (x Risseefa by Faris), matron supreme for Rosemary Archer’s Worth Stud, from which her exceedingly valuable contribution has positively impacted breeding programs the world over. The Silvern legacy belongs to her, the result of her double Silver Fire progeny Silvern Dream and Silvern Magic (by sire Silvadoris, a son of Silver Magic), from which the Binley Stud-bred Silvern Prince descends, with a remarkable four essential links to Silver Fire, an undeniably worthy WAHO Trophy Recipient in the UK who has an unrivalled record as a Ridden Arabian Stallion, including British National Champion. Silver Ripple is also the dam of the unforgettable Silver Flame (Indian Flame II), bred by Rosemary Archer and owned in partnership with Lady Wentworth’s daughter, Lady Anne Lytton. Also named British National Champion Stallion, the last of the pure Crabbet horses to be so named, Silver Flame was the Silver Vanity of his day in the show ring, wowing the crowds with his spectacular trot and commanding masculine charisma, while leaving a lasting positive impact in the breeding barn for decades after.

For Australia, the essential Silver Vanity offspring born in the UK, from the final foal crop bred by Lady Wentworth in 1958, was Sindh, a rare non-grey in the Silver Fire constellation of stars, who was further line-bred to the Selma or.Ar. dam line through his dam Silfina (Indian Gold x Sharfina by Rytham), an aristocrat dam of monumental proportions whose astounding global influence encompasses the legendary Padron, through Silent Wings (Oran) and Silindra (Raktha), and another Australian supersire, Fenwick Stud’s Electric Silver (Raktha). Imported in 1960 by Dora Maclean, the last of the great Crabbet imports to Fenwick that had begun a quarter of a century earlier when Skowronek blood was first introduced to the continent, Sindh became the most widely used stallion in Australia as interest in Arabian blood was on the rise, establishing an unrivalled legacy of awe-inspiring impact that has positively influenced every single aspect of Arabian breeding in Australasia, from showing in-hand and under saddle, to endurance, racing and ranch work, as well as the foundation bloodstock of nearly every Arabian Derivative registry. The Fenwick-bred Banderol (x Balsora by Riffal), leading sire at Arabian Park in NSW, became the chief progenitor of the Sindh legacy worldwide in the show ring, establishing an instantly recognisable ‘Banderol-type’ that is characterised by an impressive upright forehand, exceptional length of rein, strong substantial structure, a commanding charisma with a definitive aristocratic presence, and a powerful, sweeping trot that raised the standard not only in the breed, but throughout the greater equine community continent-wide.

The next four Silver Gilt foals were all sired by British National Champion Grand Royal (Oran x Sharima by Shareer), two fillies and two colts, born respectively, and in succession from 1951 to 1954. The eldest of these, Silver Grand, is an Australian mainstay in innumerable pedigrees as the dam of Spindrift (Silver Drift), another of the Mary Leicht importations that earned their breeding reputation at Gatton College in Queensland. It was here that Spindrift would sire two essential sons, Delos (ex Iano by Sala) and Aethon (x Hestia by Jedran), both unforgettable show horses that ruled the rings at the Sydney Royal and the National Stud Show for over a decade, establishing records that are likely never to be equalled. True to their heritage of being both beautiful and supremely useful, principles upon which the Crabbet Stud was firmly built and the two pillars that have defined authentic Arabian type for millennia, the Spindrift descendants not only can be found in the pedigrees of today’s top show ring winners, they are becoming increasingly frequent in the lineages of Australia’s top achieving endurance athletes.

Silver Grand’s full sister, Silver Diamond, survives to present day through her Crabbet-bred son Bright Diamond (Bright Shadow), while full brothers, Silver Royal and Royal Glitter, found importance as sires in the Netherlands and Israel, respectively.

All four of Silver Gilt’s final daughters bred by Cecil Covey after the passing of Lady Wentworth left valuable progeny in the United Kingdom. Of these, the most well known around the world is Dalika (Dargee), the dam of the Lodge Farm owned Indian Silver (Indian Magic), in turn the sire of the ethereal British National Supreme and World Champion Aliha (x AK Attalah by Ansata Ibn Halima), foundress of the Maxwell Family’s incomparable ‘A’ family of international champions. Silver Gilt’s most enduring legacy tail-female, however, would extend through her Royal Diamond (Oran x Grey Royal by Raktha) daughters, Royal Radiance and Silver Grey, most poignantly, the last bred by Lady Wentworth herself.

The elder, Royal Radiance, was another of the seminal imports directly from Crabbet to Fenwick, imported with a colt foal in utero by Bright Shadow that would be named Greylight. Maturing into a striking grey with a distinctive bloody shoulder and flank, Greylight would headline the stallion roster at Fenwick for two and a half decades, sharing the spotlight with fellow Crabbet-bred superstar Sindh. A multi-champion in Australia, including Supreme Champion at the Sydney Royal, the incredibly beautiful, abundantly athletic Greylight has ensured the Royal Radiance legacy is one of lasting importance in Australia. Productively prolific, in keeping with her strong maternal tradition, Royal Radiance would bless Fenwick and the Arabian breed with thirteen produce of import through 1978.

Younger sister Silver Grey kept the torch burning for her maternal legacy in the UK, producing foals for both Cecil Covey at Crabbet Park, and later for Iona Bowring. Together with her eldest daughter Silver Sheen (Bright Shadow), Silver Grey dominated the British National Show for over a decade. Named twice British National Champion Mare, even besting Silver Sheen, as National Champion Filly, in 1963 for Supreme National Champion Female, Silver Grey headed a procession of inestimable worth at the British National Show in 1974 in her final appearance while winning the Princess Muna Saddle of Honour for family groups, with her colt foal Silver Scimitar at side, along with Silver Sheen and her foal at side Silver Shade, full sister to the final family representative, the two-year-old filly Silver Shimmer. Silver Sheen would proceed to eclipse her dam’s enviable show record at the British National Show by winning the Senior Champion Mare title for three successive years from 1968 to 1970. While Silver Sheen’s most successful produce in British breeding would be her son Silver Blue (Azrak), who, coincidentally, stood behind the original Australian standard-bearer on the global stage, Ralvon Pilgrim, as Reserve Champion Stallion at the very first Royal Ascot international competition in 1977, for Australian breeders, her indispensable daughter was unequivocally the Bowring-bred Silver Shimmer (Fari II).

Imported in 1979 by Sheila Stump of Windella Arabian Stud with a filly foal by a then unknown El Shaklan (Shaker El Masri x Estopa by Tabal), Silver Shimmer delivered the first of what would soon become a tidal wave of influence from the Om El Arab Spanish- Egyptian ‘Golden Cross’ in Australasia over the next four decades, with her gorgeous filly Silver Glint, born just a week before Christmas the previous year. Masterfully managed by Sheila in a destiny-altering partnership with both Peter and Vivienne Hall of Fairview Arabians throughout her breeding career, Silver Glint and her descendants redefined the standard of excellence for the Arabian mare all across Australasia. Silver Glint stands alone as the most important source of Australian National Champion females, with two winning daughters, Windella Silver Fascination (Amir El Shaklan) and Shakla’s Silver Dream (SK Shakla Khan), as well as two winning granddaughters, Windella Silver Shadow (Amir El Shaklan x Windella Silver Glitter by Bremervale Colombia) and Windella Silver Sensation (SK Shakla Khan x Windella Silver Fascination), to her credit. In a just return of the extraordinary favour given to Aussies from the UK, Windella Silver Sensation was exported back to the birthplace of her granddam by Heather Brown in 2003. In a triumphal return to the British Nationals for her dam family in 2006, where so much record-setting success had been earned decades earlier, Windella Silver Sensation was named British National Champion Senior Mare and Supreme Champion of the Show, in, most fittingly, an unforgettably sensational performance.

Silver Fire’s only mate with whom she produced more than two foals was the spectacularly conformed athlete Oran (Riffal x Astrella by Raseem), the Hanstead-bred stallion that redefined the post-war era at Crabbet. Together, the pair created three foals in succession, beginning with Silvania in 1945, the prolific Silver Shadow in 1946, whose influence abounds in the Worth and Binley programs in the UK, and the well-travelled stallion Silver Sparkle in 1947. A fellow Antipodean resident, Silver Sparkle was imported to the North Island of New Zealand in 1948 by Mr. Booth, and later sold to Lester Marshall of Holly Farm, moving to the South Island in 1961 to launch the new family breeding endeavour. The Silver Sparkle influence is still alive and well in New Zealand thanks to the Marshall Family efforts. Silver Sparkle made one final journey to the United States in 1970, to Dr. Andrew Sharf in California, where he died just one year later after siring only two sons, one of whom, GF Silver Mirage (x Khatana by Rifage), has a small family of descendants still breeding in North America. 16 Dr. Sharf would also be the final owner of another famous Silver Fire son, Silver Moonlight (Indian Magic), purchased from Gatton Agricultural College in Queensland in 1969, after serving twenty-two glorious years as sire of immense influence in Australia. Imported as a twoyear- old in 1951 to Fenwick Stud, the source of all Crabbet greatness in Australasia, Silver Moonlight left dozens of influential progeny in Victoria, before making the move to Sir Clarence Clegget’s Oxford Stud in Queensland in 1962, and eventually to Gatton College where he became available to the broader breeding public. A classic snow-white stallion of typical Skowronek-style beauty with the same spirited temperament for which these sires are universally renowned, Silver Moonlight has unequivocally woven himself into the fabric of Australian Arabian breeding, a continually rewarding influence that can still be felt generations later in breeding programs the world over.

Silver Fire’s final foal, most fittingly, was a filly: the aptly named Silver Magic, a gorgeous grey born in 1950 in her dam’s 24th year of life, and a full sister to Silver Moonlight. Silver Magic left just one foal in England, the influential sire Silvadoris (Oran), before joining the two male members – the aforementioned super sires Silwan and Spindrift - in the trio of ‘Silver Jewels’ that had been purchased by Mary Leicht and inexorably impacted Australian breeding forever for the better. Through her two sons – full brothers Argent and Silver Gleam (Silwan) – and her three prolific daughters – Deirdre (Grand Royal), Electra (Crystal Fire) and Hespera (Spindrift), the impact of Silver Fire has expounded exponentially throughout Australasia, intensifying and propagating profusely the goodness that has defined the Silver Fire legacy the world over.

A champion herself at the Richmond Show in the UK, it comes as no surprise that one of the most enduring spheres of influence for Silver Fire, generations on, remains in the international show ring. In addition to her monumental influence upon the show scene in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and South Africa, Silver Fire has had a much more profound influence upon the Australian show ring than one might suspect at first glance. Analysing just thirty seven years of Australian National Champion Senior Mares alone, Silver Fire is present in the pedigrees of an astounding twentyfive, a number that excludes the five Straight Egyptian Simeon Stud-bred and/or owned winners, as well as Mulawa’s first Pure Polish champion and Bremervale’s US-bred imported champion. Not surprisingly, many of these twenty-five iconic winners have multiple crosses to Silver Fire in their pedigrees, boasting links to Sindh (13 times), Silver Crystal (6 times), Silver Glint (4 times), Somara (3 times), Silver Moonlight and Silwan (each twice), and Greylight, Spindrift, Silwara and Silver Magic (each once). Most surprisingly, the National Champion Mare with the most numerous and diverse crosses to Silver Fire is the Mulawa-bred Always Valentine MI (DA Valentino x Always An Angel by SK Shakla Khan), who traces directly tail-female to the double Banderol-bred Arabian Park Lady Constance, an essential link which blesses her with two crosses to Sindh, and a cross each to Silwan and Silver Moonlight. This unexpected connection also makes her full brother, Vangelis MI, the Australian National Champion Stallion with the most Silver Fire heritage in his pedigree, as well as elevating her daughter, A Vision MI, a former Australian National Champion Yearling Filly and the reigning Gold Champion Junior Filly at the Dubai International Championships, to superlative Australian-bred ambassador status for the Silver Fire Family on the global stage, as she adds yet another three crosses to the immortal matron – two through Sindh and another through Silver Moonlight – to her pedigree via Parkview Audacious, paternal grandsire of her own sire Allegiance MI.

Caroline Sussex of Binley Stud, when addressing the worldwide Crabbet Convention with both an historical perspective and a comprehensive status update on Crabbet bloodlines all across the globe, had this to say of the lone 1926 arrival at Crabbet Park, ‘The importance of Silver Fire for beauty and style cannot be underestimated.’ Given the fact that she and her mother, Rosemary Archer of Worth Stud, have known, bred and stewarded more intensely line-bred Silver Fire descendants than perhaps anyone else, her assessment of the enduring impact of this maternal legacy carries immense significance. Understood together with the extraordinary pervasive influence within the sport of endurance, as well as within other demanding athletic equine disciplines, that she continues to exert with compounding positivity, there is everlasting cause to celebrate the mare that ushered in a global breeding revolution, setting the world aflame, while burning eternally bright, with an undeniable and unmistakably identifiable Silver Fire.