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POSTED BYON Apr 30, 2013
When the wind changed on that terrible February day in 2009 that we now call “Black Saturday”, the raging ball of fire turned on Jo Horton’s...
POSTED BYON Apr 18, 2013
Where have all the stallions (prospects) gone … with apologies to Peter, Paul and Mary (and apologies to those who have no idea who Peter, Paul and...
POSTED BYON Apr 15, 2013
It wasn’t a surprise that Written Tycoon will return to Victoria after Queensland breeders didn’t quite warm to the stallion last season when...
POSTED BYON Apr 4, 2013
Reliable Man will provide his sire Dalakhani with an immediate boost to his upcoming Australian stud career if he can cause an upset win in...
POSTED BYON Apr 3, 2013
Zed, as with his unusual name, has had an unusual life. Last spring the impeccably bred son of Zabeel was standing, literally, in the snow in the...
POSTED BYON Apr 2, 2013
It was exhilarating watching Animal Kingdom win the Group 1 Dubai World Cup (2000m) at Meydan on Saturday night. It was especially pleasing to see...
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When the wind changed on that terrible February day in 2009 that we now call “Black Saturday”, the raging ball of fire turned on Jo Horton’s property at Whittlesea, at the head of the Plenty Valley, north of Melbourne, in the shadows of the aptly named Mount Disappointment.
She knew she had only minutes to get some of her horses out of harm’s way.
One of those was Potter, an eight-year-old thoroughbred stallion who was new to the farm. Horton remembers the bedlam, the searing heat, the wind, the dark, the burning cinders and the terrible, frightening sound of horses screaming.
“I didn’t know him (Potter) that well. He’d only been with me a short time and stallions can be difficult, but I knew we had only one chance to get him into the float. I said to him, ‘This is your one chance … walk on,’ and he walked straight on to the float,” she said.
After delivering Potter to safety, Horton and her son Quentin returned to fight the fire, but despite their courageous efforts they lost some of their prized Arabian mares in that dreadful inferno. It has been tough since, re-fencing the farm and erasing the nightmare of the experience.
Out of the misery came some joy on Monday when Horton took the short trip from Whittlesea to the Kilmore races to watch Potter’s first foal, born in 2008, compete in a 1112-metre maiden.
Not only did Tennessee Lad (b g 2008, Potter-Soroya (NZ), by Zabeel (NZ)) win by 3.5 lengths, but also the gelding, who showed brilliant speed, looks set to race through the classes. For Horton to witness Potter’s boy—his only foal from the 2007 breeding season—after all she has been through with the stallion was an uplifting experience.
Who is Potter and what’s his story?
Potter (b h 2000, Torrential (USA)-Tennessee Magic, by Bletchingly) has had a varied life and he could easily have finished on the equine scrap heap after finishing his racing career with a fifth placing and a mouthful of bush dust at Port Lincoln in January 2007.
Born at Vinery in Scone, he was sold as a yearling to Lloyd Williams in 2002 for $45,000. After one unplaced run for Williams, Potter was moved on. He won four races for Gerald Ryan in NSW and Qld before Morphettville trainer Stuart Gower gave him a try in 2006 for no wins, but Darryl Carrison got Potter to win three races at the tuna fishing village of Port Lincoln from a handful of starts.
Potter was given to a Port Lincoln girl as a show horse after a career that read: 34 starts, seven wins and $97,460 in prizemoney.
In the meantime, Horton, a keen student of pedigrees, was scanning the Stud Book for a stallion with the right mix of blood—featuring the American stallions Fappiano and Dr Fager—for her small farm. Through a process of hard study and a bit of luck she came across Potter, who was by Torrential (b h 1992, Gulch (USA)-Killaloe (USA), by Dr Fager (USA)), a half-brother to Fappiano, a champion racehorse and outstanding sire, whose son Defensive Play had considerable success at stud in New Zealand.
“Everyone has their breeding idiosyncrasies and mine was Fappiano and Dr Fager bloodlines,” Horton said. “But what I also liked about Potter was his bottom line; he was out of Tennessee Magic. He is a beautifully bred horse.”
Horton, like a dog after a bone, rang every trainer who had handled Potter until she finally got the phone number of the girl at Port Lincoln, who told her that the stallion was no longer a stallion. “She said she had him gelded so he could be a show horse, so that was that.
“A few weeks later, I got phone call saying that because it was a windy day, the gelding procedure was put off. I don’t know what the wind had to do with it, but now the horse is with me.”
Potter, the stallion saved from the knife by a Port Lincoln vet’s aversion to working on a windy day, is another wonderful story that makes thoroughbred racing in Australia much more than the indulgences of Sheikhs and the stoushes between Singo and Gai.
Photo: Potter at Zamar Park, where he was kept while Plenty Valley Thoroughbred farm was being restored after the fires. Picture: Bruno Cannatelli.
Where have all the stallions (prospects) gone … with apologies to Peter, Paul and Mary (and apologies to those who have no idea who Peter, Paul and Mary are, click here).
After three years where Group 1-winning Australian-bred colts have flooded the stallion market, the dominance of fillies and mares in the open 3YO and aged races at Group 1 and 2 level in the past 18 months has left our major studs battling for new commercially appealing local stallions.
Which is why there seems to be some sort of desperation to get the star 3YO colts All Too Hard—to go to Vinery—and Pierro—on the verge of being sold—to the stallion barn at the end of this season. It’s will be a shame for Australian racing to lose three champions—Black Caviar, All Too Hard and Pierro—at the same time, but that’s another story.
So far this year, fillies have won the three Group 1 races for 2YOs—Overreach (Golden Slipper), Guelph (ATC Sires’ Produce Stakes) and Miracles Of Life (Blue Diamond Stakes). Fillies also won the Group 2 VRC Sires’ Produce (Twilight Royale), Magic Millions Classic (Real Surreal) and the Group 2 Silver Slipper Stakes (Sweet Idea).
The first colt home in the Golden Slipper was Darley’s promising Sidestep, a son of Exceed And Excel, who will get his chance for a Group 1 victory in the spring. It’s likely the colt will be set for the Group 1 Golden Rose (1400m, Rosehill) in September after trainer Peter Snowden sent him for a spell following his Slipper run.
Pierro (by Lonhro) won the Golden Slipper in 2012 and he’s become hot property as a stallion for a reported price tag of $35 million, irrespective of whether he wins Saturday’s Group 1 Doncaster Handicap (1600m, Randwick).
The 2011 winner Sepoy covered a big book at a fee of $66,000 at Darley last spring and Sebring (2008 winner) has started his career off in great fashion at Widden Stud, standing alongside the highly successful Stratum, who won the Slipper in 2005. These four are the only Golden Slipper-winning colts since Catbird won in 1999.
This year we had first-crop yearlings by a large number of high-profile Group 1-winning Australian-bred stallions, headed by Manhattan Rain, Denman, Nicconi, Onemorenomore, All American, Duporth, Turffontein and Wanted. Von Costa De Hero and I Am Invincible join them as Group winners.
The Australian-bred stallions with foals on the ground include Star Witness, Reward To Effort, Hinchinbrook, Rothesay, Stryker and Beneteau (now dead).
Last year’s long list of first-season sires are headed by Group 1 winners So You Think, Sepoy, Helmet, Foxwedge, Musir, Toorak Toff, Master Of Design, Skilled and Ilovethiscity, and the quality Group 2 winners Smart Missile and Trusting, and Black Caviar’s non-Stakes winning brother Moshe.
So breeders with a penchant for the local stallions—and that is most breeders these days—have had a wealth of stallions to choose from in recent years, but there is a dearth of them this year.
Already Coolmore Stud has announced that Exceed And Excel’s brilliant son Excelebration with shuttle from Ireland to the Jerry’s Plain farm, and he could be the Irish mob’s only new stallion unless they can secure Pierro.
Arrowfield Stud has set a fee of $38,500 for Kentucky Derby and Dubai World Cup hero Animal Kingdom, but again no new Australian blood for the farm—ditto Pierro factor.
Swettenham Stud reports that Americain, American-bred with a French accent and an adopted Australian, has a full book, which is great news and an indication how Australian breeders will support stallions from overseas that they recognise and know handle Australian conditions.
Take note Arrowfield and Darley regarding Animal Kingdom, who, I think, should be set for the 2013 Cox Plate to showcase his talent and good looks to the Australian public before kicking of his stud career with Darley’s American operation in 2014. Again that’s another story
Photo: Pierro in full flight.
It wasn’t a surprise that Written Tycoon will return to Victoria after Queensland breeders didn’t quite warm to the stallion last season when moved to be “top dog” in Eliza Park’s new northern venture.
However, what is a surprise is that Woodside Park, Tylden, will stand the stallion after buying out Eliza Park’s equity in the syndicate.
It’s good news for Woodside Park and great news for Victorian breeders.
Written Tycoon stood five seasons at Eliza Park’s Kerrie property, just north of Melbourne, before he was moved to Queensland. In 2010-11, he was awarded the title of Champion Australian First-Season Sire that saw him cover 198 mares in 2010 and 152 in 2011.
Last year, he covered only 107 mares, at a fee of $15,400.
What might have been good for Eliza Park wasn’t good for many Victorian breeders, who were disappointed to loose access to the son of Iglesia last year.
I believe that Written Tycoon’s fee at Woodside Park will be a reduction on the Queensland fee, around the $12,500 mark, although no official announcement has been made.
I also understand the syndicate that owns the stallion is not relocating the horse because of any possible sale of Eliza Park—expressions of interest in the entire Eliza Park operation closes on April 26, although, according to owner Lee Fleming, it will be some weeks before any possible sale could be finalised.
Written Tycoon (ch h 2002, Iglesia-Party Miss, by Kenmare (FR)) has sired three Stakes winners, including the Group 2 Caulfield Sprint winner Howmuchdoyouloveme and Group 3 Gunsynd Classic winner Trump.
The handsome chestnut has sired 60 winners from 162 named foals (99 runners). His progeny also includes Masthead (3rd G1 Blue Diamond, 4th G1 Golden Slipper) and Alezan Thunder (3rd Magic Millions 2YO Classic) and the unbeaten Tasmanian Stakes winner Grand Tycoon.
Woodside Park has had a change in administration at the top. Owner Peter Rowsthorn has handed over the running of the business to his son Mark, who has the respected Murray Tillett as his bloodstock manager.
The business has closed its racing arm, Wadham Park, and former general manager and trainer Dale Sutton has moved on.
Mark Rowsthorn has announced he will be concentrating on the breeding side, which in many ways has been part-financing the racing business in recent times. The palatial Woodside Park farm started with Irish Derby winner Grey Swallow (Daylami) and Caulfield Guineas hero Econsul (Pins) as resident stallions and stood Foreplay (Danehill) for two seasons before he relocated to Wattle Grove Stud, NSW, last year.
Written Tycoon is the perfect stallion to relaunch Woodside Park as a commercial farm, according to Tillett.
“A lot of Victorian breeders were disappointed he moved to Queensland last year. We feel he is the right horse for Victoria and we are excited to have him at Woodside Park,” he said.
Reliable Man will provide his sire Dalakhani with an immediate boost to his upcoming Australian stud career if he can cause an upset win in Saturday’s Group 1 George Ryder Stakes (1500m) at Rosehill.
The Aga Khan Studs today announced that Dalakhani (gr h 2000, Darshaan (GB)-Daltawa (IRE), by Miswaki (USA)) will stand his first Australian season at Sam Hayes’ Cornerstone Stud, Angaston, South Australia in the coming spring.
Dalakhani, the winner of four Group 1 races, including the 2003 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (2400m) and the 2003 Prix du Jockey Club (French Derby, 2100m) has been a wonderful success as a stallion in Europe—he stands at the Aga Khan’s Gilltown Stud in Ireland.
Dalakhani has sired five Group 1 winners. Apart from Reliable Man, his honour roll boasts Irish St Leger winner Duncan, Chinese White (Pretty Polly Stakes), Conduit (Breeders’ Cup Turf and King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes) and Moonstone (Irish Oaks).
Cornerstone has announced that Dalakhani will stand for a fee of $22,000 (inc. GST), quite reasonable for a horse of his race performance and stud record, especially for breeders following the current trend (call it a growing desire) towards breeding stayers.
Reliable Man (gr h 2008, Dalakhani (IRE)-On Fair Stage (IRE), by Sadler’s Wells (USA)) kicks of his Australian racing career under the care of Chris Waller. Like his sire, Reliable Man is a grey who won the Prix du Jockey Club. In Reliable Man’s case it was a commanding 5.8-length victory that stamped him as the star 3YO middle-distance colt in France in 2011.
Later in the year he won the Group 2 Prix Niel (2400m) at Longchamp before finishing 15th behind Danedream in the Arc.
The Prix Niel was Reliable Man’s last win — in six starts since the Arc, the entire ran in five Group 1 races and one Group 3 race with a best effort third behind Cirrus de Aigles in the Group 1 Prix Ganay (2100m) and second in the Group 3 La Coupe de Maisons-Laffitte (2000m).
However, he ran well in two starts at Ascot last year—fourth, beaten three lengths, behind So You Think in the Group 1 Prince Of Wales Stakes (2000m) and fourth behind Danedream, beaten only 1.8 lengths, in the Group 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2400m).
Reliable Man’s most recent run was eighth behind Joshua Tree in the Group 1 Canadian International (2400m) at Woodbine on October 14.
Reliable Man was trained at Chantilly by Alain de Royer Dupre, of Americain fame. He will be raced in Australia by his breeder Sven Hanson in partnership with a group of Australians, including Andrew Ramsden and Rob Ferguson, and New Zealander Gerard Peterson.
Hanson’s first great horse was the filly Fair Salinia, winner of the Epsom Oaks, Irish Oaks and Yorkshire Oaks in 1978. Fair Salinia is the grand-dam of Reliable Man.
The grey has had two trials at Warwick Farm for Waller—both fourths—and he should be fit and fresh for his first Australian start. He is a winner on slow ground, so the chance of a slow track could be in his favour. Whether he’s sharp enough to be competitive with star three-year-old Pierro remains to be seen, but he’s a class horse capable of running a very forward race.
Dalakhani will shuttle to the southern hemisphere with his Gilltown barn-mate Azamour, who will stand at Nick King’s Brighthill Farm in New Zealand.
Azamour (b h 2001, Night Shift ((USA)-Asmara (USA) by Lear Fan (USA)) won four times at Group 1 level—St James’s Palace Stakes (1600m), Irish Champion Stakes (2000m), Prince Of Wales’s Stakes (2400m) and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2400m).
The handsome bay stands 16.2hh and his winners include the unbeaten Group 1 Prix Diane (2100m, French Oaks) winner Valyra. Azamour will stand at a fee of $NZ12,000.
Photo: Reliable Man (Gerald Mosse) winning the 2011 Prix du Jockey Club at Chantilly.
Footnote: Freezy, an imported daughter of Dalakhani, was an impressive winner for owners Peter Carrick and Australian Bloodstock and trainer Anthony Freedman at Caulfield last Monday. Freezy, a grey, is a half-sister to three outstanding gallopers—Group 1 winner and Melbourne Cup third-placegetter Jakkalberry and the Derby Italiano winners Crackerjack King and Awelmarduk
Reliable Man, at his second start in Australia, won the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) at Randwick, beating star colt It’s A Dundeel. Unfortunately, Reliable Man pulled up sore. His racing future is in doubt.
Zed, as with his unusual name, has had an unusual life.
Last spring the impeccably bred son of Zabeel was standing, literally, in the snow in the high country on New Zealand’s South Island covering a full book of mares—all Clydesdales.
The stallion is part of a big tourist operation, Erewhon Station, near Mt Hutt, north of Ashburton. Erewhon is famous for its Clydesdales and for providing tourists with an unforgettable experience on a working farm. They flock from all parts the world to Erewhon for a “Lord Of The Rings experience”, riding or driving carts through the trails of the mountain ranges that provided Lord Of The Rings film director Peter Jackson with most of the scenery for his famous mythical trilogy.
Last Saturday, one of Zed’s thoroughbred sons, the aptly named Survived, gave Zed his first Stakes winner when he won the Group 3 Manawatu Classic (2000m, 3YOs) at Awapuni. Chasing home Survived (b g, from Liberal, by Generous (IRE)) was another son of Zed, the Murray Baker-trained Usainity (b g, from Day Tripper, by Bin Ajwaad (IRE)).
Survived, trained by John Bary of Jimmy Choux fame, has won four of his six starts. He produced a powerful last-to-first burst to win the Manawatu Classic and the gelding looks headed for better things.
The performance of these two promising stayers and a number of other well-performed horses by Zed has resulted in a sudden interest in the stallion, whose topsy-turvy life has taken another turn for the better.
Zed is equine royalty. He is the result of a 2001 mating between Zabeel and Baker’s former top-class mare Emerald Dream (by Danehill (USA)), winner of the Group 1 Waikato International Stakes and a three-quarter sister to Danewin and Commands from the famous Eight Carat family.
Bruce Perry Bloodstock bought Zed at the 2004 NZB Karaka Premier Yearling Sale for $400,000. He was headed to Australia to be trained by Lee Freedman when tragedy struck. A Montjeu colt went berserk in a float he shared with Zed on the way to the airport and badly lacerated one of Zed’s hindlegs.
The flight to Australia was cancelled and after considerable time convalescing, Zed found himself in the stables of Baker at Cambridge.
“He had enormous ability. He won his first start for me as a 3YO and I put him straight into the Group 3 Waikato Guineas, but he broke down going over the crossing at Te Rapa,” Baker said.
“I tried him again as a 4YO, but he went sore again. It was a shame.”
Zed was retired and stood at Sam Williams’ Little Avondale Stud, Masterton, and boosted by a promotion of a free service ($NZ500 booking fee only), he covered 131 mares in 2007. The numbers dropped each year until 2011 when he covered 30 mares before he was sold to Erewhon Station for a new life.
Last season Zed was available to South Island breeders for a $NZ1000 fee, but there were no takers. Erewhon was interested in Zed to produce the much sought-after Clydesdale-thoroughbred cross, perfectly suited as a tough and athletic riding horse.
This week the phone is ringing hot at Erewhon, and it’s not just to book a holiday in the high country.
Photo: Zed pictured at Little Avondale Stud in 2010.
Facebook: Erewhon Station
Footnote: Since this story was written, Zed has found a new home at Mark Corcoran’s Grangewilliam Stud, Wanganui. He will stand the 2013 spring season at a fee of $4500 plus GST.
On top of that Survived has gone on to win the Group 3 Hawkes Bay Cup, beating the older horses. Usainity travelled to Sydney and won the Group 3 Frank Packer Plate and trainer Murray Baker produced another exciting son of Zed, Ambitious Champion, to win successive races.
It was exhilarating watching Animal Kingdom win the Group 1 Dubai World Cup (2000m) at Meydan on Saturday night.
It was especially pleasing to see the perseverance of Barry Irwin’s Team Valor and trainer Graham Motion rewarded after Animal Kingdom has had an exasperating run of luck since his 2011 Kentucky Derby win.
And it is exciting that Animal Kingdom is now part-owned by John Messara’s Arrowfield Stud, who bought into the stallion earlier this year with the view of standing him at Arrowfield’s Scone farm this spring.
In the meantime, the chestnut will be trained towards a run in the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes (1600m) at Royal Ascot in June. A win there will seal Animal Kingdom’s greatness—the winner of three internationally renowned Group 1 races on three different surfaces (Churchill Downs sand/dirt, Meydan tapeta and Royal Ascot turf).
However, there remains a doubt Australian breeders will warm to Animal Kingdom, despite his wonderful record and handsome looks.
Certainly, 10 or 15 years ago I would have said yes they will, but the landscape in Australian breeding has change. Breeders are a lot more wary of imports and their attention is far more firmly fixed on the locally bred stallions—horses proven in our conditions and with familiar sire lines.
Animal Kingdom is by a Brazilian stallion, Leroidesanimaux (by Candy Stripes (USA), by Blushing Groom (FR)), who, despite his outstanding race record in America, is a mystery to many Australian breeders. Animal Kingdom’s dam line also is a mixture of German, American and British bloodlines.
There is nothing wrong with German bloodlines. The great Galileo has a wonderful German background on his dam’s side, but he’s by a champion, well-known sire in Sadler’s Wells.
Which is why I believe Messara and Irwin are taking a risk retiring Animal Kingdom while he is at the top of his game without first taking the opportunity to showcase his talent in Australia.
The Cox Plate beckons for Animal Kingdom. If not the spring, perhaps the 2014 autumn carnival, which features perfect races such as the Futurity Stakes (1400m), Australian Cup (2000m) and Ranvet Stakes (2000m).
Last spring, Arrowfield Stud struggled to attract a big book of mares to the outstanding North American turf champion Gio Ponti (by Tale Of The Cat (USA)) despite the fact the stallion is by a sire-line we are familiar with and he won seven times at the highest level.
This was a quote from Messara on Gio Ponti on the Arrowfield website: “His athleticism, good looks and Tale Of The Cat’s proven compatibility with Australasian bloodlines make him (Gio Ponti) a very exciting addition to our roster.”
A wonderful recommendation, but Gio Ponti covered only 53 mares last spring at a fee of $22,000 (inc. GST).
Animal Kingdom will be the seventh Kentucky Derby winner to stand in Australia. The first, Thunder Gulch, stood at Coolmore in 1996, a year after he won the Derby. In seven seasons in Australia, the son of Gulch sired 18 Stakes winners from 580 foals, including three Group 1 winners—Tempest Morn, Tully Thunder and Shot Of Thunder.
Thunder Gulch was a sound investment for Coolmore, but his impact has long diminished.
The next to come was Real Quiet (by Quiet American (USA)), who won the Derby in 1998 and stood at Vinery Australia in 2000, 2001 and 2002. He sired 135 foals and produced three moderate Listed winners. Real Quiet lived up to his name. He’d tiptoed out of the country before we knew he was gone.
Fusaichi Pegasus, a big, boisterous stallion by Mr. Prospector, won the Derby in 2000 and stood at Coolmore for seven seasons from 2001.
There was a massive boom on Fusaichi Pegasus and he was very well supported—he covered 123 mares in his first season in Australia at a fee of $110,000. Even in his final year in Australia in 2007, thanks to EI, he covered 152 mares. Fusaichi Pegasus sired 25 Stakes winners in Australia, including the champion Haradasun. While his sons are doing a fair job at stud, his daughters remain well sought after.
Darley’s Street Sense (Derby in 2007), by Street Cry (USA), has been a bit disappointing (and also in the US). His oldest progeny are three. Vinery’s Big Brown (2008), by Boundary (USA), has yearlings sell this year, while Super Saver (2010), by Maria’s Mon (USA), stood at Eliza Park in 2011, but didn’t return after his 64 mares produced only 34 foals.
It’s safe to say that a jury of Australian breeders remains locked away on the value of Kentucky Derby winners.
Which is why I believe Animal Kingdom could sidestep any anti-North American and pedigree bias by winning in Australia. It should be a must that Australian race clubs should be chasing Animal Kingdom.
Instead of the Moonee Valley Racing Club repeating the nonsense PR stunt of last year when they “invited” Frankel, among others, to compete in the Cox Plate, the club’s CEO Michael Browell should be on the phone to Messara and Irwin and make them an offer too good to refuse for the 2013 Cox Plate.
The arrival of Animal Kingdom for a Cox Plate, especially after a victory at Royal Ascot, will certainly give the Cox Plate more pre-race significance in a spring build up dominated by the internationals in Australia for the Melbourne Cup.
If he wins at Royal Ascot and a Cox Plate, Animal Kingdom will have stamped himself as an unequalled international champion. He will be a horse Australian breeders will find easy to love and he can start his stud career in American in early 2014 to a full book of mares and a big book of high quality mares at Arrowfield the following spring.
You know it makes sense. (Apologies to Sam Kekovich).
While it’s no secret that Murray Baker loves a “traveller” to bring to Australia in search of the rich prizemoney, the last horse the New Zealand trainer expected to be packing from his Cambridge stables with a passport was Serpent.
Serpent (ch g 2009, Chinese Dragon (USA)-Twizzle (IRE), by Arazi (USA)) was so slow that Baker expected the gelding to be on the next “slow coach out of town” rather than a flight across the Tasman.
“He showed me nothing in four trials (in the space of 12 months) to warrant taking him to the races, but he surprised me when he did run second in a very week 1600-metre maiden at Counties (in December) at his first start, which gave me some hope he might be a stayer,” Baker said.
On March 16, Serpent led throughout to win the Listed New Zealand St Leger (2500m, Trentham)—his third consecutive win—in a performance that had Baker studying the Inside Racing magazine for suitable races in Melbourne for the gelding.
“He’s had six runs in his first race preparation, but he seems to be standing up to it well, and improving,” he said.
“At this stage he will fly to Melbourne for the Galilee Series Final (Listed, $120,000, Flemington, 2500m) on April 13 as a lead-up to the VRC St Leger (Listed $151,500, Flemington, 2800m, April 25).
“If he’s still going well enough I may look at the South Australian Derby (Group 1, 2500m, Morphettville) in May, but I don’t want to overtax him.”
Baker said Serpent is thriving on racing and relishing the increase in distance.
“He hadn’t done much in his first three runs to suggest he was a good horse, but (jockey) Opie Bosson recommeded we put blinkers on him and ride him in front. He hasn’t been beaten since.”
Baker said Racing Victoria handicappers had told him Serpent would get “around 60kg” in the Galilee Series Final. “It’s a lot of weight, but he has won at Listed level against four-year-olds (Serpent was the only 3YO in the race) in the St Leger. I have to run him somewhere as he will need a hit out before the St Leger—it’s good prizemoney and Flemington is a perfect track for him.”
Baker’s only other NZ St Leger winner was Sir Vigilant in 1985. Sir Vigilant was Baker’s first good horse and he also won the 1985 Group 2 Wellington Derby (2400m). He also was first horse Baker campaigned in Australia, in Sydney in 1986.
“He’s a lot like Sir Vigilant, not brilliant, but a strong, improving stayer.”
Baker said the form of Serpent is a boost for his long-time friend Rex Fell, who is battling cancer. Fell’s farm, Goodwood Stud, stands Serpent’s sire Chinese Dragon. Goodwood sold the colt at the 2011 Karaka Select Yearling Sale for $NZ25,000.
“I’m glad he won for Rex’s sake. He had a lot of faith in Chinese Dragon, but Serpent is only his second winner,” Baker said.
Chinese Dragon is by Stravinsky (USA) from the Alydar mare Fabulous Fairy, a winner over 1800 metres in Great Britain. The second dam, Fairy Footsteps (by Mill Reef (USA)) won The One Thousand Guineas (1600m, Newmarket) and the granddam of the outstanding galloper and good sire Desert Prince.
While Stravinsky (by Nureyev (USA)) is essentially a sprinter-miler influence, Chinese Dragon comes from an outstanding European family that has produced many champion stayers, including the Epsom Derby winner Royal Palace, a half-brother to Chinese Dragon’s third dam, Glass Slipper, who also is the dam of the English St Leger winner Light Cavalry.
Chinese Dragon, who won his maiden over 1200m at The Curragh in Ireland, won seven races in America. The most important win was the Group 2 San Francisco Mile (1600m, Golden Gate) and four other Listed races on the west coast from 1600m to 1800m. He also was Group 1 placed at a mile at Santa Anita.
The dam of Serpent is the Irish import, Twizzle, who is by former champion Arazi (USA), by Blushing Groom (FR). Interestingly, Arazi, who stood in Victoria for many years, also is the dam-sire of Americain (by Dynaformer (USA) from America (IRE)).
Serpent has a very interesting pedigree for those breeders who like to mate like with like. Stravinsky is by a son of Northern Dancer from a Blushing Groom mare, while Arazi is by Blushing Groom from a Northern Dancer mare.
Footnote: Murray Baker trains Serpent in partnership with Andrew Forsman.
Photo: The handsome Chinese Dragon at Goodwood Stud.