One is a racehorse, two a novelty

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One is a racehorse, two a novelty

There’s a bit of talk around at the moment about twin racehorses following the racetrack appearance in England of twin two-year-old fillies by Invincible Spirit. It’s worth a read CLICK

Here’s my story on the rare twin yearlings sold at the Inglis Autumn Yearling Sales in Melbourne in 2o12, with some updates.

When a set of twin fillies walked into the famous Trentham sales ring in New Zealand in 1966, the event was treated as a novelty. The yearlings, selling as a package, were led by two of the famed Skelton brothers and the press gang lapped it up.

To add to the moment, they were bought by Beryl Sidey and her win sister Joyce Thompson. It couldn’t have been better scripted.

Beryl’s son, Tom Sidey, a prominent racehorse owner in Dunedin, remembers it well. He suspected that a bit of the fun and frivolity at the sale may have  played a hand in the decision for the twins to buy the twins.

“The fillies didn’t amount to much on the racetrack, they (twins) rarely do,” he said.

However, the fillies—named Bemai and Joymai, after the sisters—were royally bred, being by Bourbon Prince from the Sabaean mare Incomparable, whose dam, Peerless (by Beau Pere), won the New Zealand Oaks.

This is one of New Zealand’s great families, as Peerless’ third dam was the legendary Eulogy, the dam of five Stakes winners, including New Zealand Derby winner Commendable and the Oaks winner Praise, who in turn produced five Stakes winners. Eulogy’s daughter, Homage (Peerless’s granddam), also left five Stakes winners, including two Derby winners, Courtcraft and Honour.

It was of no surprise that both fillies left their mark as broodmares. Bemai’s daughter Minnihaha (by War Hawk) produced the top galloper Bloodstone, winner of the 1989 Riverton Cup and the 1990 Ashburton Cup, while a granddaughter, Minshu (by Tom’s Shu), produced Burton to win the 2002 Timaru Cup and 2003 Canterbury Gold Cup.

Joymai is the dam of the champion jumper Bymai, a winner of the 1980 NZ Grand National Hurdles and the 1984 Grand National Steeplechase in an illustrious career.

Twins are a rarity in thoroughbreds—about 3 per cent of mares conceive twins—especially in modern times because of scanning techniques which usually sees one of the twins “eliminated” following a scan 30 days after conception.

Which is why there was such a fuss over the set of twins sold at Inglis’ Autumn Yearling Sale at Oaklands Junction on April 30, 2012.

The pair, a colt and a filly, was offered by Barb Ivill’s Little Plains Stud, near Wangaratta, and they certainly created a lot of interest. I believe it is the first time a set of twins was sold at an Australian yearling sale since 1968 when two fillies, by the stallion Comet, went through the ring in Adelaide. That pair, offered by Bruce Chisholm’s Khancoban Stud in NSW, also was packaged as one lot and sold for $600 to Don Leahy.

This time the yearlings, by Shinzig from the Royal Handout mare Babouska, were separated into two lots—the colt sold for $10,000 and the filly went through for $7000.

There isn’t much that Barb Ivill hasn’t seen in her 79 years, but she definitely enjoyed the experience of selling the unique yearlings. It’s a credit to her and her staff how well they presented, and despite the novelty, they were strong and athletic enough to suggest they will make it as racehorses.

The colt was bigger than the filly—he was the first born and he dominated the room in his mother’s womb. Usually, one of the twins doesn’t survive because of the lack of nourishment, but in this case, although the filly was smaller, she was strong and didn’t take long to catch up to her brother.

Ivill bought Babouska in foal to Shinzig at a sale at Oaklands Junction in June last year. it wasn’t until very late in the pregnancy that she noticed that something wasn’t quite right. “She was very big. I thought she’s either having twins or going to have a very big foal,” she said.

Babouska was an outstanding mother—she nursed both foals right from the get go, and she enjoyed her celebrity status.

“We rug our foals, so we put them in matching blue blankets. They were in the front paddock, but people kept stopping to look at them, so much so, we had to move them.”

Ivill particularly likes the filly. “She is tough. She has had to fight all her life—from in the womb and since she was born, and she hasn’t taken a backward step. I think she is a runner.”

While it is true, twin foals rarely make a name on the racetrack, they have played a significant role in the breeding world. Gunsynd’s dam, Woodie Wonder (by Newtown Wonder) was a twin, foaled at Woodlands Stud, near Denman in the Hunter Valley.

More significantly, Lady Giselle (by Nureyev), the dam of the great Zabeel, was a twin. She was so small in her first breeding season that Sir Tristram refused to mate her, but she returned the following year to conceive and from that mating produced one of the greats of the breed.

Interestingly, Hades, winner of the 1999 New Zealand Derby, was by Zabeel (whose dam was a twin) out of Anna’s Choice (by Vice Regal), who was a twin.

The other famous horse whose dam was a twin is the wonderful grey Gunsynd—his dam Woodie Wonder (by Newtown Wonder from Woodstand) was unraced, but her twin brother Newtown Star won three races.

Update: Ivill’s prediction that the filly “is a runner” didn’t prove correct. Named Brave Tween, she didn’t make it to the races. Her brother, named Arnidan, has been placed once in eight starts.

Photo: Babouska with her twins by Shinzig.

 


Faith has no Reason

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Faith has no Reason

Yesterday at Canterbury, trainer Chris Waller produced an exciting 2YO filly, Seventhchic, to win impressively.

It was a performance of a potential Stakes-class filly, but it had not only Waller wondering about the filly’s unknown sire Seventh Reason, but also had journalists scrambling to find out more about the former $2 million yearling and failed racehorse who was thought to be in Tasmania, although the Stud Book showed no mares covered last season.

In 2012, I wrote a story in Inside Racing magazine about Seventh Reason as he was about to start a stud season at Jubilee Farm at Freshwater Creek in Victoria.

This morning I rang Ken Bridge in Tasmania. He “owns” Seventh Reason (the stallion is still owned by his breeder John Singleton and some syndicate shareholders) and had no idea that his pride and joy, who is well looked after on a farm near Launceston, had produced a winner in Sydney.

He hopes my phone call is the first of many calls that might help resurrect a stagnant stud career for the royally bred son of Sadler’s Wells.

This is my story from 2012, with an addendum at the end:

Right from the day he took his first steps, Seventh Reason was coveted as a special horse, a prince of colts. He was the unique product of a stellar northern hemisphere mating to southern hemisphere time, a collision of world-class bloodlines.

His sire is the great Irish stallion Sadler’s Wells and his dam, the Oaks winner Sunday Joy was also the result of a northern hemisphere mating—in her case, her dam, Joie Denise, was sent to Japan to be mated to the champion stallion, Sunday Silence.

Since then his life has been coddled with unparalleled adulation, extraordinary enthusiasm, unbridled faith and inevitable disappointment.

The adulation and enthusiasm went hand in hand after Rob Waterhouse opened the bidding of $2 million on the colt at the 2007 Magic Millions Yearling Sale, and promptly scared off all the opposition. In stepped his wife, Gai, the champion trainer whose enthusiasm for a purchased yearling, or anything racing, can’t be bottled.

In the case of Seventh Reason, a colt with the international sire and the dam line of Australian thoroughbred royalty, Waterhouse set the bar as high as Steve Hooker could vault.

“The most fabulous colt I’ve ever seen!” she thundered.“There’s never been a horse in the southern hemisphere bred like him. You’ve got three dams—the mother (the Sunday Silence mare Sunday Joy), the grand mother (Group 1 winner Joie Denise) and the great grand mother (champion racehorse and broodmare Denise’s Joy)—all Oaks winners.

“You can’t buy them. He’s the most wonderful horse to ever go through a sale ring in the southern hemisphere. He’s fabulous.”

But there’s more.

“They’d pay £10 million ($AUD24m at the time) for him in the UK. You just can’t buy them. I’ve just been to Kentucky, three months ago, and you can’t buy them. This is the horse of the sale. This is the horse of the year: just outstanding. I’m very lucky to be able to buy it.

“You cannot buy a horse with that sort of breeding anywhere in the world for that sort of money. I’m absolutely over the moon. It’s the most exciting thing that’s ever happened for me: Oh, other than being married and my children!” Waterhouse said.

One last fling.

“He only has to win a Listed race and he’s worth it (his price tag)—actually 10 or 20 times that,” Waterhouse enthused. “He’s poetry in motion.”

Seventh Reason was syndicated—breeder John Singleton kept 20 per cent—but the colt, despite his grand looks, unmatched pedigree page and all the expectation, when under the saddle didn’t live up to the hype.

And so came the disappointment. Seventh Reason went from prince to pauper—he finished his racing career modestly with a 12th of 14 in an Ipswich Class 2 (1350m) in May 2011, his only run for trainer Darlene Duryea. For Waterhouse, his record read 14 starts for two wins and only $44,290 in prizemoney. A win at Canterbury over 1900 metres was his best performance.
Seventh Reason was a grinder on the track. One-paced, and lacking all the dash of his female line, which includes his champion half-sisters Tuesday Joy and More Joyous. No doubt, Waterhouse would have loved to have gelded him to see if there was ability hiding behind amorous intentions, but the colt’s owners refused.

Last year, Seventh Reason stood his first season on the Queensland farm of part-owners, John and Janette Dougherty. Unheralded, he covered only 15 mares, and soon after the breeding season, the Dougherty’s disbanded their thoroughbred interests.

In stepped an orange farmer from Mildura with the faith. Geoff Redman, a man with as much passion for thoroughbreds as he has for citrus, had bought a mare, Kissed by A King (by Desert King), who came with a free service to Seventh Reason.

“Buying the Desert King mare alerted me to the stallion. I made some inquiries, and I was able to get a 10-year lease on him,” Redman said.

Seventh Reason will stand at Jubilee Stud, Freshwater Creek, near Geelong, and Redman hopes the handsome bay will cover more than 40 mares. “If I get 40 mares, it was be a reasonably good year—if I get 60, I will be tickled pink.”

(Author’s note: Seventh Reason got 17 mares that produced seven foals, one of which is the impressive Chris Waller-trained Seventhchic)

Helping Redman market the stallion is the Tasmanian-based breeder Ken Bridge, a veteran of the Hunter Valley breeding scene who shares Redman’s passion for Seventh Reason and the pedigree—for good reason, because Bridge, back in 1972, foaled and raised Denise’s Joy for her owner, Gai Waterhouse’s famous father, champion trainer Tommy Smith.

“Ken and I have raced a few horses together, and because I spend most of my days on a tractor, he said he’d handle the inquiries into the horse, he’s as passionate about the family as I am … ‘it’s the best family in the world’ he says,” Redman said.

Bridge’s marketing expertise is already working, because there are 12 mares booked to take the trip across Bass Strait from Tassie to Freshwater Creek.

Redman, despite his great leap of faith in his horse, knows that it will be tough for Seventh Reason to make his mark. “I know he’s not a commercial stallion, but I believe the pedigree will come through. He is the perfect horse for those breeders who want to breed to race, and those who want to breed a stayer.

“The Sadler’s Well line, especially the next generation, is having an impact all over the world, with horses like Galileo, Montjeu and High Chaparral. I don’t think there is a stallion in the world like Seventh Reason, with a pedigree that boasts three Oaks winners as his first three dams.”

Redman and his faithful band of merry men (and women) are a rare breed that underpins Australia’s thoroughbred industry. May his experience with Seventh Reason prove to be as sweet as a Sunraysia Navel.

Addendum:

Seventh Reason covered no mares in 2013, and only two mares in 2014, with one foal, a colt, born in Tasmania to the More Than Ready mare Southern Storm.

Geoff Redman had Seventh Reason in Victoria for only one season in 2012.

The stallion now stands at Garry Dawkins’ Auburnvale stud, near Launceston, not far from Ken Bridge, who when I rang him yesterday had no idea that Seventhchic had won impressively at Canterbury. He had no idea the filly even existed.

Seventhchic is owned by breeders Michael and Helen Keegan, who also were part-owners of Seventh Reason when he raced for Waterhouse. The filly is from Euro Chic, who is probably the best mare Seventh Reason has covered—Euro Chic (by Dehere) is closely related to champions Bint Marscay and Filante.

The news was music to his ears.

“He has another two-year-old filly (Joyous Reason) here in Tasmania who is a cracking type and has plenty of ability. Her dam is a blood sister to Silent Witness.”

Bridge said Seventh Reason served a “couple” of mares last season but they haven’t been returned to the Stud Book as yet. He added that there is proof in his winner Seventhchic and the promising Joyous Reason that the stallion can produce quality racehorses if given the chance to cover mares with a good pedigree.

“He’s in very good condition, a beautiful horse, you wouldn’t get a better type and he deserves to get more mares.”

Bridge said talk that Seventh Reason has low fertility are false. “He’s very fertile, but he’s mostly covered old and bad breeding mares, so it’s hard for him to get foals.”

Anyone interested in Seventh Reason can contact Ken Bridge on 0498 099 734 or visit the website www.seventhreason.com.

PHOTO: Seventh Reason selling as a yearling.


Living in air only Bart has breathed

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Living in air only Bart has breathed

If there were any doubts that Lee Freedman was “back in the game” they was dispelled in the 10 minutes immediately after Our Ivanhowe (ex Ivanhowe) finished ninth behind Magnapal in the Group 3 Foundation Cup (2000m)—Naturalism Stakes—at Caulfield on Saturday.

Freedman was on focus. He was sucking in and converting the post-race information from jockey Ben Melham as well as observations from his brother and co-trainer Anthony and a crew of part owners. He was like a whale shark filtering a column of plankton.

It was like the old days, and I’d seen it before, but not for a long time. “That was good,” he said. “He had 60kg … he only needed a bit of sting out of the ground. His sectional times were excellent”.

“I tell you what, put Protectionist (last year’s Melbourne Cup winner) in that race with 60kg—even last year—and he wouldn’t have gone any better.”

The post-race powwow tossed up the suggestion that Sydney might be the go for the former German stayer who relishes soft ground. “It’s wet up there and The Metropolitan (2400m at Randwick on October 4) is his race,” said part-owner John O’Neill. There were nods of agreement, but not from Freedman.

“The Metropolitan is a graveyard race for the Melbourne Cup. I’d rather keep him here. Besides, he risks a penalty if he wins The Metropolitan.” (Our Ivanhowe has 56kg in the Melbourne Cup—it’s a weight that Freedman believes is a winning weight for the German Group 1 winner (of the 2014 Grosser Preis von Bayern (2400m) at Munich) who cost his syndicate of high-profile owners enough to pay for a lifetime of long lunches.)

Freedman has his plan for “the big German” and Sydney’s not in the equation.

It’s hard to erase bad experiences from any memory, and Freedman dallied  with The Metropolitan as a Melbourne Cup prep-race came in 2009 with another import, the talented Speed Gifted. The gelding won The Metrop on wet ground and rocketed to the top of the Cups betting charts, but struggled to recapture his form back in Melbourne. There were injury issues that compounded that, but like a man who has had a bad prawn, Freedman remembers the experience more than the reasons.

Freedman also knows his Cup history. Only five horses have won The Metropolitan and the Melbourne Cup—the most recent was Macdougal in 1959.

The fifties was a strong decade for the doublers, with Straight Draw (1957), Dalray (1952) and Delta (1951) winning the pair. Interestingly it had been almost a century before the previous winner of the double, Tim Whiffler in 1867! Saintly, in 1996, came off a third in the race, but the mere fact he had run in the event caused Bart Cummings to change his regular routine of a start in Caulfield Cup on the way to the Melbourne Cup. Saintly became Cummings’ first Cox Plate-Melbourne Cup double winner. The race has dropped in quality in recent years, although the John Hawkes’ trained Railings came off The Metrop to win the Caulfield Cup in 2005.

Earlier on Saturday, I found Freedman out the back behind the grandstand having a smoke—like an errant schoolboy not wanting to get caught. For me it was a good sign … back in the “old days” when he was at the top of his game, a nervous gasper was usually reserved for the expectations of springtime.

Following the death of Bart Cummings, Freedman is left with the mantle of Australia’s greatest living Melbourne Cup trainer—for 30 or so years he’s been playing second fiddle to the great man, who died with 12 to his name against Freedman’s five.

Only two multiple Cup-winning trainers are alive—Freedman (equal next with Archer’s trainer Etienne De Mestre) and Irishman Dermot Weld with two. Freedman is so far up the top of the Cup winners’ tree that the current dominant trainers, such as Waller (none), Waterhouse (one) and Moody (none), have a long climb just to shake his hand. Those with four wins in the great race have been dead longer than Phar Lap.

Freedman is in air only Bart has breathed, and even that’s down-playing the Cummings’ miracle; more to the point is that Freedman is biding his time at base camp while Cummings was enjoying the view from the peak of Everest.

After Freedman, now 59, had won his fifth (Makybe Diva, 2005), he was around the same age as Cummings was when he won his sixth, with Gold And Black in 1977, when the great trainer was a few days short of 50 and his hair was more sooty than black or grey. Cummings’ eighth (Hyperno) came at the end of his 52nd year, and then it was another 11 years until Kingston Rule in 1990.

Freedman’s most recent involvement in the Cup was as a caretaker of Lucas Cranach (third behind Dunaden in 2011), also from Germany, a few weeks after he retired from trainer and handed the job to his brother Anthony. Freedman returned to training last November.

Freedman made two encouraging, profound statements as he signed off from the discussion after the Foundation Cup.

“He’s a Melbourne Cup horse.” That alone should be enough to spark your interest. But he added. “All we need is a bit of rain on Cup day and he’ll be right in it.

“I have 45 days to go to get him right,” he said with a wry smile and turned on his heels to go and check on his horse.

Those 45 days might boil down to the last 24 hours to top off a Cup preparation for a man who has followed a lot of the Cummings’ mantra in getting a horse spot on for a race like the Melbourne Cup.

As Roy Higgins once said of Cummings—he has the ability to not only peak a horse on Cup day, but at 2.40 (the old starting time of the Cup) on Cup day.

Few have that gift; and there’s nobody alive who has it more than Lee Freedman.


Nothing smelly about Malachi’s pedigree

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Nothing smelly about Malachi’s pedigree

Like eating a durian, scratching the surface of a seemingly obscure pedigree can unearth some wondrous hidden gems.

Those who have tried a durian will understand what I mean when I use this often-maligned Asian fruit as an analogy—once you can get past its prickly skin and stinky odour, it’s a joy to savour.

For anyone, such as myself, who is intrigued by the history of racing and the depth of pedigrees, a study of Our Boy Malachi’s background provides a similar revelation.

This wonder from Queensland, who carries the moniker of the “Rockhampton Rocket”, has won 17 of his 19 starts and has a pedigree of such little commercial appeal that the inconsequence of his parentage remains a talking point even after the gelding won the Group 3 Hall Mark Stakes (1200m) at Randwick on April 18—his third consecutive Stakes win.

Our Boy Malachi is a 6YO chestnut gelding by Top Echelon from Rusticate, by Rustic Amber.

Top Echelon, a son of Umatilla, didn’t win at Stakes level, but was a consistent galloper who finished second behind Lovely Jubly in the 2002 Group 1 The TJ Smith (1600m) at Eagle Farm. At stud he has sired four Stakes winners since he covered his first book of only three mares in 2003.

Top Echelon, a grey who is now almost white, stands for a fee of only $4000 at Oakwood Farm, Haigslea, between Brisbane and Toowoomba.

Last year, on the back of the success of Our Boy Malachi and another top-class son, 2014 Stradbroke Handicap winner River Lad, Top Echelon covered 107 mares, a massive boost on the combined 39 he had served in the previous two seasons.

Our Boy Malachi’s dam, Rusticate, by the former good Victorian stallion Rustic Amber (by Thatching, and the sire of the brilliant Sequalo and Brawny Spirit), was a speedster who won twice, including a 2YO race at Doomben, from six starts and had produced eight foals for six handy winners that campaigned around Queensland’s provincial tracks until Our Boy Malachi—born in 2008 and her last foal—came along.

Our Boy Malachi might wear the badge of Queensland with honour, but his pedigree is as Victorian as Bill Lawry, and rich in quality and history.

The most significant influence on both sides of this pedigree comes from David Hains’s Kingston Park Stud and it’s brave importation of mares and stallions from Europe in the 1970s and ‘80s. In this case the Italian stallion Claude and the German-bred mare Ada Hunter.

The two imports produced winners of Australian Horse of the Year—Claude (ITY) is the sire of Rose Of Kingston (HOTY 1981-81) and Ada Hunter (GER) is the dam of the almost incomparable Kingston Town (HOTY 1979-80).

Top Echelon’s dam, Advisory, is by Hains’s 1990 Melbourne Cup winner Kingston Rule, an imported son of the great Secretariat from Rose Of Kingston, who is by Claude (by Hornbeam (GB)) from the gifted racemare and wonderful broodmare, Kingston Rose (b m 1971, Better Boy (IRE)-Sojourner, by Toastmaster).

This a deep Australian family that traces back to the early imported mare Levity (GB)—coincidentally by Kingston (GB)—who is the dam of the 1873 Melbourne Cup winner Don Juan, who was bred in South Australia but trained by James Wilson at the famed St. Albans Stud and stables at Geelong.

This family has another place in history—as the one that first launched Bart Cummings’s father Jim as a trainer in Adelaide in 1916. After he arrived from Alice Springs, he won races in Adelaide with Opera Bouffe (by Comedy King (GB)) who had Levity as her fourth dam.

Opera Bouffe, when mated to Cummings’s top-class colt Anton King, produced the Classic winners, Opera Queen (VRC Oaks) and Opera King (SA Derby). She also is the fourth dam of Sojourner, who is a half-sister to one of Australia’s greatest juvenile fillies, Proud Miss (by Orgoglio from Wee Cushla). Proud Miss won 10 straight as a 2YO before finishing second behind Birthday Card in the 1962 Golden Slipper Stakes at Rosehill.

A further study of Top Echelon’s dam line finds that his grand-dam, Swank, is by the sensational Vain from Sunset Sue, a sister to the equally imposing Gunsynd (by Sunset Hue from Woodie Wonder, by Newtown Wonder GB)).

This also is a deeply influential Australian family with ties to the Melbourne Cup—Woodie Wonder’s third dam, Gallant Elsa, is the dam of 1943 Melbourne Cup winner Dark Felt.

The family traces back to the imported mare Elsie (GB) (by St. Simon), a 1887 mare who produced the 1904 VRC Oaks winner Red Streak, who in turn produced the 1925 VRC Oaks winner Redshank and the slick sprinter Red Dome, who won the 1920 Newmarket Handicap.

This is the second link of this family to St. Albans Stud. Elsie was raced in England by the Duke Of Portland. She won once as a 2YO before St. Albans’s James Wilson bought her with the intention of crossing her with the blood of Carbine, who at the time was in the ownership of the Duke in England.

Red Streak, born in 1901, was by Carbine’s best Australian-based sire son, Wallace. The Carbine-St. Simon (or visa versa) cross was to become a revelation in England and appears in most modern pedigrees through the influential stallion Nearco.

The “Kingston” influence on Our Boy Malachi’s dam line comes through Rusticate’s third dam, Kingston’s Hope (ch m 1981, Bletchingly-Ada Hunter (GER), by Andrea Mantegna (FR)), a sister to the great Kingston Town.

Ada Hunter produced eight foals. Apart from Kingston Town—her second foal born in 1976—she also produced to Bletchingly the Stakes winner Private Thoughts, who, unlike Kingston Town, remained a colt and covered mares for 10 seasons with limited success.

Our Boy Malachi’s pedigree reminds me a bit of another famous Queensland galloper, the incredible Vo Rogue. He, too, was by obscure parents (Sir Ivor and Vow), but he was a direct descendant of one of New Zealand’s greatest and most influential broodmares, the imported Eulogy (dam of five Stakes winners, most champions) and her daughter Pennon, the dam of four Stakes winners.

Our Boy Malachi was bred by Colin Donovan, who died in January. The gelding started his career in Rockhampton with trainer John O’Sing, who had him for 12 wins from 13 starts before deciding he could do no more with a horse better suited in the city. Donovan and his partners sent their star to John, Wayne and Michael Hawkes in Sydney last year. (Footnote: Michael Hawkes trained Rusticate).

Donovan told Chris Roots of Sydney Morning Herald last year that he was “just a bloke from the bush trying to breed one good enough to win a race or two at Rockhampton.”

Little did he know that Our Boy Malachi (Malachi is Hebrew for messenger of God) is no bush battler, but represents a pedigree flowing strong with the blue blood of thoroughbred royalty.

Photo: Our Boy Malachi


Waller tacking towards yearlings

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Waller tacking towards yearlings

When Chris Waller took to the stage at the Savoy Hotel on Melbourne Cup eve, he said all the right things that needed to be said about his former superstar colt Zoustar, who was being launched as a Victorian stallion at the gala function organised by Woodside Park Stud’s Mark Rowsthorn.

However, Waller sneaked in a line about his intentions to concentrate more on buying yearlings in 2015 than spending big on overseas tried horses, as he has done in recent years.

I was able to grab a few minutes with Waller in between living up to his promise at the New Zealand Bloodstock Karaka yearling sales late in January.

In simple terms, Waller realises that buying tried stock in Europe, especially in the lower end of the market where he has been quite successful, will not give him the dream of training a Melbourne Cup winner. Also, the prices for these European “discards” have reached stratosphere levels.

That’s despite Waller and his buying team, headed by long-time friend and bloodstock advisor, Guy Mulcaster, having tremendous success with their European horses, including Kelinni, who ran fourth in the 2012 Melbourne Cup behind Green Moon, three-time Group 1 winner Foreteller, Moriarty (Brisbane Cup), Opinion (The Metropolitan) and Stand To Gain (Sydney Cup), He’s Your Man (Epsom Handicap) and My Kingdom Of Fyfe (Queen Elizabeth Stakes).

“You are buying somebody’s cast-off—they are not going to sell you their good horses. As much as they might improve or be suited by our racing conditions, they are not going to win a Melbourne Cup, and that’s everybody’s dream,” he said.

Waller’s decision to go “local” traces back at least two years when the prices of European tried horses rose quicker than summer asparagus, mainly on the back of unprecedented interest by Australians in buying European stayers. Ironically, it was a trend that he helped foster.

“There are tremendous opportunities with staying horses for three-year-olds. You can’t buy a Derby horse in Europe, so we decided to target that area,” he said.

Waller and Mulcaster set about forming a syndicate of like-minded owners and sought six yearlings at the 2013 Karaka sales. Five out of six of those yearlings are going to “make the grade”, according to the trainer, but one already has in a big way—Preferment won the 2014 Group 1 Victoria Derby at Flemington.

It’s like a golfer getting a hole-in-one from six attempts.

“We have come here (New Zealand) to buy another five or six staying prospects. They are all pre-sold,” Waller said.

Interestingly, it is not the out-and-out stayer that Waller and Mulcaster are looking for—the days of those old-time staying New Zealand-breds winning a Melbourne Cup are long gone.

“What we target are horses with a 1600-metre pedigree. If they have speed, we have a horse that can run in all the good races around that distance, but if they are slow, we can train them to stay,” he said.

Preferment is typical of that approach. While he is a son of the great staying sire Zabeel, he comes from a fast Australian family. His dam, Better Alternative, is by Golden Slipper winner Flying Spur (by Danehill) from a fast mare, Ancient Lights (winner from 1000m to 1200m), who is a half-sister to Group 1 Salinger Stakes (1200m)-winning Ancient Song.

Waller said that apart from buying in the familiar territory of New Zealand, he will be targeting staying prospects at the Australian yearlings sales, especially with the wealth of high-class staying sires shuttling to Australian farms. And he will continue to “pick the eyes” out of the European horses that become available to buy at the right price.

It’s not so much the depth of the pedigree, but how you train them. Waller seems to have that down pat.

Photo: Chris Waller (left) and Guy Mulcaster (right) on duty at the Karaka Sales. This once I am willing to excuse Mulcaster’s “golfing” slacks.


Toronado — a star recruit

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Toronado — a star recruit

If Swettenham Stud was an AFL team, the consensus would be that coming into the new breeding season, “it has recruited well”.

The refreshing and aggressive approach of Swettenham’s owner Adam Sangster is helping keep the Nagambie farm at the forefront in the minds of breeders.

Three new stallions join a roster of six for the 2015 spring breeding season. Only one of those stallions—the champion European sprinter Equiano (bv Acclamation (GB))—has progeny old enough to race, and his first crop are two-year-olds this season.

It’s an exciting time for Swettenham Stud as it not only is turn over its stallion roster to find that elusive star stallion, but also it is offering breeders a variety across the board that few other farms can boast.

The first weanlings by 2010 Melbourne Cup winner Americain (by Dynaformer (USA)) will go under the hammer in May, while the recent yearling sales season has seen buyers happy to invest in the first crop of brilliant speedster Master Of Design (by Redoute’s Choice).

Recently, Sangster announced that top-class local gallopers Puissance De Lune (by Shamardal (USA)) and Trust In A Gust (by Keep The Faith) will cover their first book of mares this spring.

However, the big news is that Europe’s champion miler of 2013, the exceptionally handsome Toronado (by High Chaparral (IRE)) will shuttle to Swettenham this spring.

Sangster was able to do a deal with Sheikh Joaan al Thani’s Al Shaqab racing and breeding operation to secure Toronado, who is currently covering his first mares at England’s National Stud.

Of course, Sangster had a good “in” at the National Stud—his brother Ben is the chairman.

The British National Stud has been in the doldrums for many years, but is making a resurgent under the new management. In its halcyon days, champions such as Mill Reef, Blakeney and Never Say Die stood at the Newmarket farm. Toronado is the first of a new wave of high-profile stallions to stand there.

Toronado, trained by Richard Hannon snr, was unbeaten in three starts as a juvenile—his best win was the Group 2 Champagne Stakes (1400m) at Doncaster. He emerged as a star at three. While he was beaten a nose by Dawn Approach in 2013 Group 1 St James’s Palace Stakes (1600m) at Royal Ascot, he reversed the result with a dominant win in the Group 1 Sussex Stakes (1600m) at Goodwood in which his time of 1 min 36.29 seconds was quicker than Frankel in his two wins in that race.

Toronado, under the care of Richard Hannon jnr, returned to Royal Ascot last year to win the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes (1600m) before beating all but the champion Kingman in the Sussex Stakes. After the Queen Anne, jockey Richard Hughes said: “I haven’t gone as fast over a mile at Royal Ascot in my life. We were going a five or six furlong pace.”

What should appeal to Australian breeders is the fact that Toronado was not only a star juvenile who trained on, but also at his best on firm tracks and he rates as the fastest son of High Chaparral—the fastest sons of champion stallions are often their best sire sons.

Toronado is a beautiful individual—very much in the Dundeel (also by High Chaparral) mould, but perhaps with more muscle and size.

Sangster said that while much about Toronado appeals to him as a stallion prospect for Australia, perhaps what appeals to him most is that the stallion is a perfect fit for the plethora of Danzig-line mares in Australia.

Toronado will stand for a fee of $22,000 (inc. GST). Swettenham Stud has set Puissance De Lune’s fee at $11,000, while Trust In A Gust, who has a late autumn and winter racing campaign to complete for trainer Darren Weir, will cover his first book at $13,200.

The Victorian breeding industry is in its best place for years.

With Zoustar (by Northern Meteor) standing alongside the emerging Written Tycoon (by Igelsia) at Woodside Park, Brazen Beau (by I Am Invincible) and Helmet (by Exceed And Excel) at Darley and Toronado at Swettenham, Victorian breeders can finally brag that they are spoilt for choice.


All white and irresistible

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All white and irresistible

There have been some famous horses born at Windsor Park Stud, near Cambridge, but none more special than this white princess who attracted the attention of TVN commentator and Racing Victoria track-walker Sam Hyland on a recent trip to New Zealand.

White horses are rare in thoroughbreds, but this filly is no fluke because her mother, The Opera House, also is white—and she was the first white horse sold at auction in Australia.

The Opera House, by Zabeel from Carmina Burana (by Star Way), made headlines at the 2008 Magic Millions Yearling Sale on the Gold Coast when John Singleton paid $280,000 for her.

The Opera House, who won one race from nine starts for trainer Kris Lees, had a lot more going for her than colour—apart from the fact she is a daughter of the great Zabeel, she also is a three-quarter sister to the champion Might And Power, which is why Windsor Park Stud’s Rodney Schick bought her as a broodmare in 2013.

“We owned her grand-dam Benediction, bred her dam and also bred Might And Power. We don’t have (members of) that family on the farm anymore, so it was her pedigree more than her colour that attracted us to her,” Schick said.

“There are no other white horses in her pedigree and her first two foals (a bay by Big Brown and a chestnut by Pluck) weren’t white, so we weren’t expecting this foal to be white. We nearly died when her white head poked out at the birth.

“She’s become a bit of a celebrity. Importantly, she’s a very attractive filly, athletic with a lovely head and a great temperament.”

The filly is by Windsor Park’s former top stallion High Chaparral, who now stands at Coolmore Stud in NSW.

The filly gets her white colour from a proliferation of bloodlines in her pedigree of two descendants, the famous broodmare Selene (a bay) and The Tetrarch (a spotted grey), who appear in the pedigrees of many of the world’s white horses.

(Danny Power and Sam Hyland travelled to New Zealand as guests of New Zealand Thoroughbred Marketing.)


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