Forest Flower became a favourite of racegoers due her diminutive stature; but what she lacked in size she more than made up for in courage and ability.
Standing at just 14 hands and 2 inches she had a job to see over the racecourse rails on her first start at Newbury in 1986. Ridden by Steve Cauthen she skipped clear of a useful field to win decisively and in so doing booked a trip to Ascot for the Queen Mary Stakes (Gr3). At the royal meeting Pat Eddery took over in the saddle and never had a moment of worry as the little filly won in exciting fashion yet again. The Cherry Hinton Stakes (Gr3) came next and it was the first time that Forest Flower met the highly talented filly Minstrella. In the race Forest Flower was made to work for the first time as she was pushed right to the line by her tall grey rival; the press at the time likened the two protagonists to David and Goliath, such were the physical differences between the two fillies.
The next round came in Ireland in the Heinz 57 (Gr1) at Phoenix Park and it was Minstrella’s turn land the spoils in an epic duel that was one of the highlights of the flat racing season. Next stop for Forest Flower was the Mill Reef Stakes (Gr2) at Newbury and another victory there set up another clash with her old rival back at Newmarket in the Cheveley Park Stakes (Gr1).
This turned out to be as controversial as it was decisive in deciding which horse would be crowned champion two year old filly of the year. Forest Flower won the race in good style by two lengths from Minstrella, but had to survive a lengthy steward’s enquiry after the race due to an incident in which she bumped her main opponent at the two furlong marker. Although the incident had in no way affected the result of the race, the ambiguity of the existing rules made it possible for a horse to be disqualified for interference of any nature.
The connections of the second horse appealed against the decision of the local stewards, Portman Square hosted an enquiry involving lawyers and video replays run in slow motion over and over again. The deciding question was had Tony Ives, Forest Flower’s Jockey made sufficient moves to try and prevent his mount from bumping her rival. By the end of the enquiry the appeal panel had taken the opinion that although probably the moral winner Forest Flower’s jockey had been guilty of a riding offence that by strict definition of the rules required the horse to be disqualified and placed last.
Thankfully for the future of racing the case was a catalyst in the abolishment of the rule that saw many worthy winners deprived of their prize through interference that had no bearing on the result of the race. It was widely expected that the pony sized Forest Flower would not be nearly as good a three year old as she had been at two; and in a late spring she was slow to come to hand.
Having missed all of the recognised trials she ended up missing The English Guineas as well. Plans were changed and she was re routed to take on Minstrella and ten others in the Irish One Thousand Guineas (Gr1) on the Curragh. The favourite on the day was Michael Stoute’s talented filly Milligram, who had finished second at Newmarket and went on to win the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Gr1) at the end of the year.
However, it was “Flower Power” that emerged victorious in Ireland, with a typically gutsy performance and a sharp reminder to any who had doubted that she would train on, that this was no ordinary filly. Sadly she only ran one more race and ravaged by a serious virus Forest Flower never regained her true form and was retired in 1987.