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Don’t be surprised if Coolmore springs a surprise by not returning its new sprint star Starspangledbanner to Australia for the 2010 breeding season.
Starspangledbanner (ch c 2006, Choisir-Gold Anthem, by Made Of Gold (USA)) has almost a full book of mares at a debut fee of $33,000 (inc. GST) – he is due back in Australia after the Group 1 July Cup (1200m), run at Newmarket on July 9.
There is a very strong chance that, should Starspangledbanner win or run well in the July Cup, the Coolmore hierarchy will aim the colt for the 2010 Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs on November 5-6. That will eliminate him from the Australian breeding season that starts on September 1.
I believe Coolmore’s Australian arm is already considering contingency plans if that is the case.
A win in the July Cup, over racing’s toughest undulating straight course, will likely lift Starspangedbanner’s rating to the top sprinter in the world – he currently sits second behind Hong Kong’s Sacred Kingdom.
At this stage, after his dominant Group 1 Golden Jubilee Stakes (1200m) win at Royal Ascot, the Australian-bred colt is a firm favourite to take the double.
It is obvious that trainer Aidan O’Brien or senior owner John Magnier will seek to increase the value of Coolmore’s new star by aiming for the Breeders’ Cup, where the options are the $US2 million Sprint (1200m, Dirt), the $US1 million Turf Sprint (1000m) and perhaps the $US2 million Turf Mile (1600m), considering the son of Choisir has already won a Group 1 at that distance in Australia (the 2009 Caulfield Guineas).
The July Cup also will include the Australian-bred and trained Nicconi (by Bianconi), with Australian champion jockey Damien Oliver replacing international star Frankie Dettori, and Alverta (by Flying Spur). Nicconi will fly back to Australia on the stallion shuttle to cover his first book at Widden Stud at a fee of $22,000 (inc. GST).
Pictured: Starspangledbanner winner the 2009 Group 1 Caulfield Guineas. (Bruno Cannatelli).
I was home on Sunday watching a race at Warrnambool when a horse of modest form, by Coolmore’s ex-shuttler Footstepsinthesand, came on to the screen. I muttered what a distinct disappointment the unbeaten Group 1 Two Thousand Guineas (1600m, Newmarket, UK) winner had been at stud, especially in Australia.
Blow me down, the next day Footstepsinthesand (pictured) sired the first two winners of the day – two well-named youngsters, who broke their maidens at Echuca and Muswellbrook.
Ballydoyle (f 2, ex-Whistles ’n’ Bells, by Danzero), trained by Chris Hyland, debuted with a win at Echuca; at Muswellbrook, Beachcomber (g 3, ex-Kashcrop (NZ), by Kashani (USA)) broke through at his third start for trainer Kris Lees.
Foostepsinthesand (br or blk h 2002, Giant’s Causeway (USA)-Glatisant (GB), by Rainbow Quest (USA)) stood at Coolmore in the Hunter Valley for two seasons, covering 101 mares in 2005 but only 65 in his second stint in 2006. Coolmore saw that the writing on the barn door and has since kept him off the shuttle express.
Despite his unbeaten record from only two starts and a Classic to his name, Australian breeders didn’t warm to Footstepsinthesand. He wasn’t a robust stallion and he had the Giant’s Causeway legacy of offset knees – inherited from Giant’s Causeway’s sire Storm Cat. Footstepsinthesand remains on Coolmore’s roster in Ireland, where he is the sire of the 2010 Group 2 Railway Stakes (1200m, The Curragh) winner Formosina.
Footstepsinthesand is not the first Two Thousand Guineas winner to fail to have an impact as a sire in Australia – in fact, there’s a long list. Before him came Darley’s Refuse To Bend (by Sadler’s Wells (USA)) and King’s Best (Kingmambo (USA)), Coolmore’s King Of Kings (Sadler’s Wells (USA)) and Independent Stallions’ Tirol (Thatching (IRE)). New Zealand, too, wasn’t exempt from Guineas winning stud failures, headed by Entrepreneur (by Sadler’s Wells (USA)) and Rodrigo de Triano (El Gran Senor (USA)).
On the other side of the ledger, Guineas winners Rock Of Gibraltar (by Danehill (USA)) and Golan (by Spectrum (IRE)) have done a sound job in the southern breeding barns.
The most recent Two Thousand Guineas winner to come to Australia is Coolmore’s Henrythenavigator (Kingmambo (USA)), whose first foals (from 144 mares covered) will be born in 2010. Henrythenavigator stands this coming breeding season at a fee of $33,000 (inc. GST).
The Victoria Racing Club has announced any horse balloted out of the 2010 Emirates Melbourne Cup field will receive a consolation in the shape of a $100,000 bonus if it can win the Group 3 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2600m), run on the final day of the carnival.
The Queen Elizabeth Stakes has traditionally been the race targeted by horses that miss out on a run in the Cup.
The VRC board also approved a distance change for the Queen Elizabeth Stakes from 2500 metres to 2600 metres in an effort to provide an extra, albeit minimal, staying test for all runners.
It’s an interesting decision by the VRC, as the bonus comes in the wake of concerns by some owners and trainers that this year’s Cup, the 150th running of the great race, will be loaded with overseas horses – those that come across for the race as well as a host of horses, more than 20, that have been imported by Lloyd Williams, Lee Freedman, David Hayes and Chris Waller – thus making it very difficult for the locals to secure a start in the 24-horse field.
And this year, we might see the return of the Japanese-trained horses following the lifting of equine influenza bans, which have prevented them from running since Delta Blues and Pop Rock fought out the race in 2006.
VRC chief executive Dale Monteith agrees that missing out on a Cup start is one of racing’s disappointments. “It is arguably every owner’s dream to have an Emirates Melbourne Cup runner, and to get as close as having a Cup final acceptor, yet miss out on a place in the field of 24, would be an extremely frustrating and disappointing experience.
“The VRC board has been highly innovative in providing a tangible consolation opportunity to disappointed Cup connections, in the form of a realistically achievable $100,000 race bonus.
“The club’s offer will also act as an incentive for connections to continue to participate in the Melbourne Cup carnival program; on average, about 40 per cent of the horses balloted from the Emirates Melbourne Cup, from year to year, do not race at the carnival in other events. This statistic is likely to improve, with the bonus opportunity now in place,” he said.
Picture: Englishman Luca Cumani eyes the Melbourne Cup.
The announcement by the Singapore Turf Club and Aushorse that they are joining forces to produce a seven-race series with bonuses for Australian-bred 2YOs in Singapore in 2011 is a welcome boost for the Australian breeding industry.
It will heighten Singaporean interest in Australian-bred yearlings with speed pedigrees in 2011 (for the 2012 series), especially horses in the low-to-middle price range, which is the appealing buying range for Singapore trainers and owners.
The Australian selling companies, Inglis and Magic Millions, will participate in the series by offering bonuses of $S25,000 and $S30,000 (alternately in the first four races) to winners bought at Australian yearling sales. Aushorse provides the bonus for the other three races.
The series will start in February with a $S100,000 race over 1000m on the Polytrack, with the Australian bred and sold horses racing for a $S25,000 bonus.
If any of the first six races are won by a horse not bred in Australia or not sold at any of the yearling sales, the bonus will jackpot to be added to the $S75,000 on offer as the bonus for the seventh race of the series, the $S400,000 Group 2 Singapore Golden Horseshoe (1200m), run on the turf at Kranji in May.
The series also gives incentive for Australian trainers and owners to speculate on yearlings at the sales with the principle objective of preparing them for the Singapore buying market. Horses eligible for the bonuses will be in high demand, especially as the 2011 series, starting in February, was announced after the last Australian yearling was sold at the Magic Millions National Sale on Gold Coast on Monday.
Of course, with a wealth of Australian trainers based in Singapore, and rules that allow Australians to race in Singapore, the opportunity is there for Australian yearling buyers to consider sending their horses to Singapore to race.
Total sum for the series will be $S1 million made up as follows:
a) Inglis race in February – $S100,000 ($S75,000 base stake plus $S25,000 bonus) over 1000 metres on Polytrack
b) Magic Millions race in February – $S100,000 ($S75,000 base stake plus $S25,000 bonus) over 1000 metres on Polytrack
c) Inglis race in March – $S75,000 ($S55,000 base stake plus $S20,000 bonus) over 1100 metres on Polytrack
d) Magic Millions race in March – $S75,000 ($S55,000 base stake plus $S20,000 bonus) over 1100 metres on Polytrack
e) Australian sponsored race in April – $S125,000 ($S95,000 base stake plus $S30,000 bonus) over 1200 metres on turf
f) Australian sponsored race in April – $S125,000 ($S95,000 base stake plus $S30,000 bonus) over 1200 metres on turf
g) Singapore Group 2 Aushorse Singapore Golden Horseshoe in May – $S400,000 ($S325,000 base stake plus $S75,000 bonus) over 1200 metres on turf
NOTE: the Singapore dollar is worth about 80 cents Australian.
Pictured: The Australian-bred Rocket Man (by Viscount) is the top rated horse in Singapore.
On Derby Day in 1968, I tuned into the radio to listen to Vain win the Maribyrnong Plate (1000m, Flemington). As much was I was excited by Bill Collins’ gushy call of the great colt streaking away to win by eight lengths, hard held, with Pat Hyland clinging to a clump of mane to keep his balance, my interest was elsewhere.
At the 2YO barrier trials, run earlier in the spring at Flemington on a Sunday in front of a big crowd (oh, the memories), I took meticulous notes and marked my horses to follow; taking particularly interest in the new sires. One horse that caught my eye was an impressive trial-winning performance by raw, leggy colt by first-season sire, the imported Bluescope (USA).
The colt, named Big Scope, had run third behind Vain (by Wilkes (FR)) in the Debutant Stakes (900m) at Caulfield; before that he also chased home Lone Wolf (by Lupus (GB)) in the Maribyrnong Trial (1000m, Flemington).
On Derby Day, he was outpaced and green, but he kept trying and hit the line hard, although Vain was in another race.
On the final day of the Melbourne Cup carnival, Big Scope backed up for his fourth run in five weeks, in the 1200m Flemington Stakes. The colt relished the extra trip, and careered away with a most impressive win by six lengths, with Lone Wolf in his wake. Trainer Artie D’Alton declared prophetically: “If Big Scope can win that easily, how good is Vain?”
Big Scope’s dam was Illawong, a Deville Wood (GB) mare, who went on to produce two other brilliant Stakes winners, also by Bluescope – I’m Scarlet (Theo Marks Quality, Canterbury Stakes, Northern Slipper Stakes and Expressway Stakes) and Tumberlua (Villiers Stakes and Keith Mackay Handicap). I’m Scarlet sired three Stakes winners in Western Australia.
Unfortunately, that hard early racing took its toll on Big Scope and he didn’t reproduce his spring juvenile form, but he, along with another smart pre-Christmas youngster, Bluedora, did much to boost the profile of Bluescope, who went onto sire two Doomben 10,000 winners in Bengalla Lad and Blue’s Finito.
And where does this reminiscing all lead? To race one at Narromine on Monday and the easy winner, Crooked Smile, trained by Tracey Bartley of Sniper’s Bullet fame.
Crooked Smile had been beaten into third place at Gilgandra at her debut, but the 3YO filly is headed for better things than the outer bush circuit.
Her pedigree suggests that, too. She is the first foal, by Encosta De Lago, of the top-class racemare Skewiff (b m 1997, Mookta–Centrullah, by Century). Skewiff, a hardy, but talented mare for trainer Darren Weir, won the 2004 Group 3 Rose Of Kingston Stakes (1400m, Flemington) and the 2005 Group 3 Frances Tressady Stakes (1400m, Flemington). She raced until she was eight.
Skewiff’s dam, Centrullah, is a granddaughter of Big Scope’s dam, Illawong – a study of her pedigree on the Stud Book website took me back more than 40 years.
(In 2007, The Thoroughbred magazine published a story about cantankerous old Centrullah and her then yearling colt by Beckett (IRE) – view that story).
Skewiff (pictured) was sold at the 2006 Inglis Australian Broodmare Sale for $450,000, in foal to Encosta De Lago, to agent Jamie Walter.
Bluescope (USA) (b h 1958, Helioscope (USA)–Blue Jeans (USA), by Bull Lea (USA)) – his granddam, Blue Grass (USA), by Blue Larkspur (USA), won the Kentucky Oaks.
Illawong (br m 1958, Deville Wood (GB)–Plea, by Confessor (GB) – Illawong’s granddam, Constant Hope, was a daughter of dual Melbourne Cup hero, Peter Pan.