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It’s been a wonderful week for past winners of the Melbourne Cup. Yesterday’s story on The Breed highlighted the wins at Bendigo of Olympica (granddaughter of Let’s Elope, winner of the 1991 Melbourne Cup) and Sunset Café (direct descendant of 1965 Cup winner Light Fingers).
Remarkably, the Cup link didn’t stop at Bendigo – it stretched to the other side of the world. Overnight in Ireland, trainer Lee Freedman’s former grand old stayer, Tawrrific (NZ), who won Freedman’s first Cup in 1989, sired a winner in Ireland, an event made more incredible because Tawrrific has been dead for 11 years!
Tawrific Laois (IRE) – yes they misspelt the stallion’s name – a 10-year-old gelding, won the Munster Handicap Hurdle (3600m) at Thurles in Tipperary. The old horse, having his 56th start (for his fourth win) was expected to win after three good placings – he was backed from 7/1 to start 5/1 favourite.
Punters certainly had faith in that recent form – Tawrific Laois, trained by Seamus Fahey, hadn’t won since June 2007; all his wins are over jumps.
Tawrrific (b h 1984, Tawfiq (USA)-Joyarty (NZ), by Noble Bijou (USA)) was retired from racing in 1991 and stood at stud in Victoria. His type and stout pedigree meant that it was a struggle for the horse to attract commercial mares, although he sired two Stakes winners – Eagle Charge (ch g 1993, ex At Li8berty, by Boucher (USA)) and Roccoco (br g 1993, ex-Merry Manina, by Charlottown (GB)) – from limited opportunities.
Tawrrific was sold in late 1998 to stand as a National Hunt stallion in Ireland. He covered his first, and only, book of Irish mares in 1999 at Timothy Carey’s Tullaghansleek Stud, at Castletown Geoghegan in County Westmeath, before he died from a twisted bowel on July 14, 1999.
That sole crop has resulted in only eight wins from only 85 starters (Racing Post statistics), of which Tawrific Laois has won four. It’s sad that Tawrrific wasn’t able to make a bigger impact on the Irish jumps scene, but he will always be remembered for beating his stablemate Super Impose in the Melbourne Cup, and for being the first Cup runner (he had finished 10th in 1988) and the first of five Cup winners for his Hall of Fame trainer.
Tawrrific, ridden by Shane Dye in the Cup, was part-owned by Victorians Barrie and Midge Griffiths and Ed McKeon, and New Zealander Brian Avery. He also won the 1988 SA St. Leger, the 1989 AJC St Leger and the 1989 WATC Cox Stakes.
Watch Tawrrific win the 1989 Melbourne Cup.
Photo: Tawrrific (left) overtakes Super Impose and Kudz (inside) to win the 1989 Melbourne Cup. Courtesy of Freedman Racing.
In a year when Australia celebrated the 150th running of the Melbourne Cup, the name Let’s Elope was freely mentioned.
The great mare, one of Bart Cummings’ 12 Cup winners, won in 1991, coming from virtual obscurity to also win the G2 Turnbull Stakes (2000m, Flemington), G1 Caulfield Cup (2400m, Caulfield) and G1 Mackinnon Stakes (2000m, Flemington) in one of the most dominant spring performances by a mare. She was the first female since Rivette (1939) to win the cups double.
Let’s Elope (ch m 1987, Nassipour (USA)-Sharon Jane (NZ), by Battle-Waggon (GB)) big and powerful, eventually went to America where her bleeding problems, first suffered in a race in the 1992 Group 1 Japan Cup, could be addressed pre-race with the anti-bleeding drug Lasix.
Under the care of Ron McAnally, Let’s Elope won an allowance race at her US debut and then finished first in the 1993 Group 1 Beverly D Stakes (1900m, Arlington) in Illinois, only to be relegated to third after causing interference in the race (awarded to Flawlessly) – Let’s Elope had a habit of laying in under pressure, as she did when she won the Melbourne Cup and survived a protest from stablemate Shiva’s Revenge.
Part-owner Dennis Marks retired the mare after she fractured a cannon bone late in 1993. Let’s Elope didn’t produce her first foal until April 1996 following a 1995 mating to champion sire Danzig (USA). The result was a bay filly named Yes I Will.
Let’s Elope had a 1997 colt by Storm Cat (USA), named Over The Moon, a Stakes-placed the winner of two minor races, and she returned to Australia in 1998 in foal to Seeking The Gold (USA), covered to southern hemisphere time, to produce a colt, who went on to become the top-class galloper Ustinov – Group 1 placed at two and the winner of the 2001 Group 2 AAMI Vase (2040m, Moonee Valley). Ustinov, who is a handy sire, is Let’s Elope’s only Stakes winner. Another son, Caught Courting (by Danehill (USA)) also was Stakes-placed, and he is standing at stud in Queensland.
Unfortunately, Let’s Elope proved a poor breeder in Australia, leaving only five more foals between 1999 and 2008, when she was retired from stud duty and she lives her life at Chris and Kathie Bakker’s Lauriston Park, Euroa. Chris Bakker is a former manager of Mark’s Seven Creeks Estate.
The great mare’s last foal, Karata, a filly by Elvstroem born in 2008, is unraced, as is her 3YO Elvstroem son, Outback Joe, a gelding, currently in work with Colin Little.
Yes I Will, after being Stakes-placed racing in France, came to Australia with her mother. She won a maiden at Geelong (1318m) in August 2000 before finishing fifth behind Tickle My in the Group 2 Let’s Elope Stakes (1400m) at Flemington in September, shortly before her retirement.
Yes I Will has produced three moderate winners, but her filly Olympica, (2006, by Galileo (IRE)) has won her past two starts for trainer Patrick Payne, including a Class 1 today over 2200 metres on a heavy track at Bendigo. Before that she plugged home gamely to win a 2000m maiden narrowly on a good surface at Seymour.
Olympica, owned by Seven Creeks Estate Syndicate, might not have the class of her famous granddam, but she looks an improving mare who can stay. It’s just good to see a descendant of Let’s Elope showing some winning talent. Somewhere along the journey, I suspect, the blood will prevail and an ancestor of Let’s Elope will do a lot more than winning restricted races around the bush.
Footnote 1: Yes I Will has a yearling colt by More Than Ready (USA) and on October 29, only a few days before the 150th Melbourne Cup won by Americain, she produced a filly by Bel Esprit.
Footnote 2: Two races after Olympica won at Bendigo, another horse with a famous Melbourne Cup connection scored an impressive win. Sunset Café (ch g 2006, Bianconi (USA)-Café Del Mar, by Encosta De Lago) boasts as his fifth dam Bart Cummings’ first Melbourne Cup winner, in 1965, his favourite mare, Light Fingers (ch m 1961, Le Filou (FR)-Cuddlesome (NZ), by Red Mars (GB)).
Footnote 3: Patrick Payne, a former champion jockey, has a long association with Dennis Marks and Let’s Elope’s offspring – he rode Ustinov to win the 2001 Group 2 AAMI Vase at Moonee Valley.
Photo: Let’s Elope in retirement at Lauriston Park.
This story appears in the December issue of Inside Racing, published by Slattery Media – subscriptions available.
It has been many years since horses sired by Victorian stallions have dominated the sprinting ranks as Black Caviar and Hay List have this season.
Black Caviar (pictured) is by Victoria’s leading stallion Bel Esprit (by Royal Academy (USA)); Hay List, bred in Western Australia, is by Storm Cat’s son Statue Of Liberty (USA). Both stallions stand at Eliza Park Stud, Kerrie.
Black Caviar, unbeaten in eight starts, won the Group 1 Patinack Farm Classic (1200m, Flemington) in such spine-tingling fashion that rival trainer Lee Freedman, who prepared superstars Schillaci and Miss Andretti, labelled her the greatest sprinter he had seen.
You probably have to go back about 40 years to the era of two of Australia’s best sprinters, Dual Choice and Century, to find a comparison. These two gallopers represented two of Victoria’s greatest stallions, Better Boy (sire of Century) and Showdown (Dual Choice).
Irish-born Better Boy (by My Babu (FR)), four times Australia’s champion stallion, stood at David Whiteside’s Range View Stud, Carrum Downs; Showdown (GB), by Infatuation (GB), was the top dog at Ken Cox’s famed Stockwell Stud, Digger’s Rest. Showdown won two Australian titles.
Dual Choice and Century were outstanding gallopers from the time they stepped on to the racetrack as two-year-olds. Unlike Black Caviar and Hay List, they didn’t clash, although they did run at the same Flemington meeting in the autumn of 1972 – when Century won his first feature race as a two-year-old, the Group 2 Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m), and Dual Choice, lumping a massive 60.5kg for a mare, chased home Crown in the Group 1 Newmarket Handicap (1200m).
They met three times in the breeding shed from 1979-81, producing two colts – Dual Century (two wins) and Contemplation (five wins).
The enduring Dual Choice won 14 Stakes races – seven that could be considered Group 1 races, and two Freeway Stakes (then regarded as a Group 2), but now the Group 1 Manikato Stakes. Dual Choice won the 1970 Craven ‘A’ Stakes, which is now the Group 1 Patinack Farm Classic.
Century won the Craven ‘A’ Stakes in 1973. He also had the 1973 Group 1 Newmarket Handicap and the 1974 Group 1 Lightning Stakes (1000m, Flemington) among his eight Stakes wins. He went on to join his sire as Australia’s champion stallion in the 1978-79 season from his Victorian base at Mornmoot Stud, Whittlesea.
As the spring breeding season comes to a close, Eliza Park’s owner Lee Fleming and his staff can feel that they have been able to establish a stallion band that will have a national impact – something Victoria has been lacking since Encosta De Lago left Blue Gum Farm, Euroa, to stand at Coolmore Stud, Jerry’s Plains, NSW, in 2004.
It is safe to say that the foundation of Encosta De Lago’s first Australian Leading Sire title, in 2007-08, came from the resulting progeny from his final seasons at Blue Gum. He won it again in 2008-09.
Bel Esprit has always needed that one “big horse” and it has come in the shape of a near 600kg monster mare, Black Caviar. The exploits of Black Caviar already have elevated Bel Esprit (as at November 15) into the top 10 on the Australian Leading Sire list.
Black Caviar’s dam Helsinge is owned by Rick Jamieson, of Gilgai Farm, Nagambie. She has a promising three-year-old brother, Moshe, to Black Caviar, but hasn’t revisited Bel Esprit since. She has a 2009 colt by Casino Prince and this spring foaled a filly by Redoute’s Choice.
Statue Of Liberty, like Encosta De Lago, first stood in Australia at Blue Gum Farm, where Hay List was born in 2005. He didn’t return for two seasons after 2006 after owners Coolmore Stud sold him to Japan. Eliza Park was quick to secure the horse after his early runners, headed by the classy Mic Mac, started to make an impact on the track.
Hay List’s is part-owned and bred by West Australian Terry Davenport, who sent Hay List’s dam Sing Hallelujah (by Is It True (USA)) back to Statue Of Liberty in 2009. She produced a strapping brown colt on September 22.
WHAT A START
Black Caviar is unbeaten after eight runs – the Australian record of nine is held by four famous horses:
Grand Flaneur (retired unbeaten) – 1880-1881; Mollison – 1927-28; Eye Liner – 1964-65; Rancher – 1981-82
The brilliant mare could go past them in the 2011 autumn.
Kitchwin Hills media release:
Exciting 2YO Five O’Clock, in winning at Doomben on Saturday, has given us a timely reminder that Dane Shadow’s youngsters are on the march.
Five O’Clock not only put his hand up as Magic Millions bound, but he also further highlighted the emergence of Dane Shadow as a producer of precocious and speedy young horses.
The colt, described by his trainer Allan Bailey as a “tough bugger”, hadn’t trialled leading into his first start, so it is likely he will take significant benefit from the run. Five O’Clock, after circling the field, loomed quickly and looked set for a comfortable victory only to have his clear running upset in the final few strides. The way he lengthened stride and quickened in the straight suggests this is a youngster of considerable promise.
But the exciting two-year-olds for Dane Shadow don’t stop at Five O’Clock.
The previous weekend another promising son of Dane Shadow emerged from the Listed Merson Cooper Stakes (1000m) at Sandown. The Peter Morgan-trained Danish Shadow, at his first start, produced one of the best runs by a 2YO this season in finishing a tremendous third after being posted six wide on the home turn. The colt would have been excused for trailing off after such a torrid run, but no horse hit the line with more vengeance than Danish Shadow to be beaten less than a length. Danish Shadow, bred by Segenhoe Stud, was a $110,000 purchase at the 2010 Inglis Classic Yearling Sale. The colt looks set for an exciting autumn campaign when he tackles the major Group races for 2YOs.
It appears that trainer Gary Portelli is again Inglis Classic bound after his first starter Shady Favour, a filly by Dane Shadow, ran second at Kembla Grange on Saturday. After leaving the field behind early in the straight, Shady Favour’s fitness gave out late and she was collared by the Testa Rossa gelding Cocky Raider – it was another six lengths to third
The expectation is growing about a number of unraced 2YOs, but none more so than the Clarry Conners-trained Bright Heart. The Dane Shadow-Layette filly, a $200,000 Magic Millions purchase by deBurgh Equine, was most impressive winning her trial at Warwick Farm last Friday in the fastest time of the morning. This filly looks to have gears up her sleeves and Clarry has her bound for the Magic Millions.
This current crop of exciting 2YOs is emerging from only 87 live foals sired by Dane Shadow from his third crop. Already from his first two crops – that averaged only 58 foals each year – Dane Shadow has showed he is a stallion of the highest quality with such stars as the Group 1 winner Shellscape, Group 1 placegetter Hurtle Myrtle and the Group 1 contender Shadows In The Sun.
Already we are seeing an impact from this “relatively” large increase in runners for Dane Shadow, and importantly, some of his youngsters are finding there way into the stables of Australia’s finest trainers of juveniles. The combination of these factors has those buyers and breeders who have backed Dane Shadow optimistic about what the current 2YO season is set to deliver – it appears that Dane Shadow MkII has arrived.
News that last week’s Group 1 Hollywood Turf Cup (2400m) winner Unusual Suspect is heading to Australia should have made more news that it did. I can’t find a reference to it in the mainstream media.
Unusual Suspect’s trainer and part-owner Barry Abrams offered somewhat of a Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid moment when he was asked “what’s next” for the six-year-old.
“Australia,” Abrams said, citing that Australia was a place that would embrace his stayer, who has nine wins from 55 starts, as a racehorse and as a stallion prospect.
“He deserves to be a stallion, but in this country distance horses are not popular stallions,” he said. Abrams will give Unusual Suspect time to overcome his Hollywood Park win, planning to send him to Australia “in a couple of months”.
“My thinking, if I send him to Australia, I can race him there for a year and then retire him to stud,” he said, naming the 2011 Melbourne Cup as an aim.
The Hollywood Turf Cup win broke a run of 16 outs for Unusual Suspect, although he finished a sound second in the California Cup Classic on Hollywood Park’s cushion track late in October. It was his first win since the Cougar II Handicap at Del Mar on August 5, 2009.
Abrams must have been caught up in a bit of international Melbourne Cup euphoria following Americain’s win in the Melbourne Cup on November 2, because he has his wires crossed if he thinks Australia is Mecca for staying stallions, especially those from North America.
We might run the Melbourne Cup, the world’s premier 3200-metre handicap worth $6 million, but Australia is a place for speed, old mate.
Maybe a racing stint is worth a try, but as a stallion, Unusual Suspect is better off with the usual suspects in New Zealand, where his staying prowess will be recognised and appreciated a lot more than it will be in Australia.
Only a few years back, Victorian breeder Walter Altieri imported the Group 1 Keeneland Turf Mile (1600m) winner Nothing To Lose, a son of Sky Classic, to stand at his Newlands Stud, Seymour. Nothing To Lose didn’t attract a single mare before Altieri put him back into work in 2006. Unfortunately the horse broke down after winning a trial for trainer Mick Price at Cranbourne. He now stands Willowbend Park, Queensland, where he has covered around 50 mares a season at a fee of $7700.
It might be a different story if Unusual Suspect can win a decent race here at 2000m, or shorter, but a Melbourne Cup win won’t ensure him a prime place on an Australian stud roster.
We do have some great staying horses standing in Australia. Champions gallopers such as Bernardini, Duke Of Marmalade, Street Cry, Dylan Thomas, Authorize and High Chaparral are just a few, but these are horses of the highest quality and a stretch better than Californian form.
There is another reason why Abrams might think his horse will have some appeal in this part of the world – pedigree. Unusual Suspect is a brown son of the little known Unusual Heat, a son of the great Nureyev, but his dam, Penpont (NZ), is something we know. She was foaled in New Zealand in 1994 and is by the good stallion Crested Wave (USA) from Imposing Star, by Imposing (by Todman).
Imposing Star is from the Sobig mare Black Willow, winner of the Group 1 Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes, the dam of George Hanlon’s former good racemare English Charm.
By the way, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid didn’t make it to Australia despite Cassidy’s urgings that it was a place bountiful in gold and other riches – the two bank robbers were killed in Bolivia.
As a boy my interest in horse racing was fostered by my father, Kevin, a man of good Irish stock, who had a casual affiliation with the local SP, and later the TAB. He had two racing heroes at the time. One was the champion Tulloch, a horse as good as any that has raced in Australia.
I remember the family’s disappointment at Tulloch’s struggling seventh under a big weight (64kg) behind Hi Jinx in the 1960 Melbourne Cup. We watched a replay of the race during a racing show, hosted by Maurie Kirby, that also included a “tipster” dressed as a petrol station owner, who had the inside info.
That tout was really chirpy bookmaker Eric Timms, who later became a good friend of mine when I worked as a racing writer, because the media savvy Timms was for many years the main provider of betting markets for newspapers.
The other hero that had my father muttering about greatness under his breath was the wonderfully enduring weight-for-age star Lord (NZ) (b g 1954, Targui (FR)-Broadway, by Actor (FR)).
It was Lord that tested Tulloch in his glorious comeback win in the Queen’s Plate (2000m) at Flemington in March, 1960, but Lord was more than an understudy to Tulloch. He may have lacked the sheer talent of Tulloch, but he lacked nothing in courage, longevity and impact … year in, year out.
I learned to love Lord by the simple fact that he kept campaigning at the spring and autumn carnivals until 1963, when I was 10 years old and had developed my appreciation for racing far beyond the opinions of my father. Lord and his great adversary Dhaulagiri became my earliest racing heroes.
After Lord’s retirement at the end of the 1963 spring, aged nine, I took to following horses raced by Lord’s trainer Ken Hilton and his chief owner, W.R. Kemball – the colours were white, red band and blue cap – that distinctively had short, one word names such as Future, Proud and Havelock (later raced by Tommy Harrison, who named his Pearcedale stables after him).
It’s good to see Lord’s name come up over the weekend following Zipping’s fourth Group 2 Sandown Classic (WFA, 2400m) win at Sandown. Like Zipping (pictured), Lord also won a feature weight-for-age race in four consecutive years – the Group 2 Memsie Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield.
He won his first Memsie as a 4YO in 1958, returning each year to win it until 1962 when he finished third behind Webster. In 1963, as a 9YO, he finished second to Coppelius.
Lord was an amazing horse, and for all that Zipping has achieved he falls a long way short of Lord on their race records.
Lord won 28 races, 21 of them on his home track, Caulfield, and 20 of them were under weight-for-age conditions. He was a pure Melbourne champion – his only win outside Melbourne was the 1959 All Aged Stakes (WFA, 1600m) at Randwick.
Take a look at this amazing record of Lord’s dominance of weight-for-age races in Melbourne, bearing in mind he had some outstanding rivals, such as Aquanita, Dhaulagiri, Anonyme, Nilarco, Trellios, Sometime, Havelock, Sky High, Prince Darius, Sir Blink, Wiggle, Webster and Skyline:
- Memsie Stakes (4 wins)
- Caulfield Stakes (3)
- Underwood Stakes (2)
- St George Stakes (2)
- C F Orr Stakes (2)
- Queen’s Plate (2)
- Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2)
- Liston Stakes (1)
- Craiglee Stakes (1)
- All Aged Stakes (1)
Lord raced from two to nine. He won three of his five juvenile starts, but didn’t really hit his straps until he turned four – his 20 weight-for-age wins spanned five years.
He showed his ability to lump big weights by winning the 1959 Futurity Stakes (1400m, Caulfield) with 10st 6lb (66kg) under handicap conditions; a year later he carried 66.5kg to finish third behind Todman (64.5kg); and in 1961, he had the same big weight and it took a great horse in Sky High (60.5kg) to beat him.
Despite his wonderful weight-for-age record Lord didn’t compete in a Cox Plate. Hilton realised early on in the gelding’s career that the tight Moonee Valley track didn’t suit his long-striding champion and he protected him accordingly.
Zipping needs to return in 2011 to try to match Manikato’s Australian record of winning the same feature race five times – Manikato won five William Reid Stakes at Moonee Valley between 1979 and 1983.
Manikato also won four Futurity Stakes and Tie The Knot claimed four Chipping Norton Stakes (three at Warwick Farm, one at Randwick). Four other Australian horses have won the same feature four times – Trafalgar (Randwick Plate, Randwick), Doiran (Great Easter Steeplechase, Oakbank), Zama Lad (Yalumba Classic Hurdle, Oakbank) and Royal Snack (Moe Cup, Moe).
The world record holder for repeat feature wins is believed to be the American handicapper Leaping Plum, who claimed eight Grasmick Handicaps, a humble 800-metre race run at one of racing’s backwater racetracks in Nebraska – his first was in 1995 and his last as a 12YO in 2003. He also finished third in 2002.
Murray Baker, back in New Zealand after his triumphant campaign in Australia where his three horses netted $NZ2.3 million in prizemoney, is not resting on his laurels.
Baker, who trains in partnership with his son Bjorn, won the Group 1 Victoria Derby with Lion Tamer and his grand stayer Harris Tweed finished second behind Descarado in the Group 1 Caulfield Cup before finishing a game fifth in the Group 1 Melbourne Cup.
Murray Baker believes his Australian-bred fillies We Can Say It Now and Twilight Savings will fight out Saturday’s Group 1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton.
Both fillies, with stablemate Simply Brilliant, who is out injured, will form the nucleus of a team the Bakers plan to campaign in Sydney in the autumn.
We Can Say It Now and Simply Brilliant are owned by Hong Kong-based Australian Paul Makin, and they are by Makin’s former champion galloper Starcraft, who recorded his second Group 1 success as a sire when Star Witness won the Coolmore Stud Stakes (1200m, Flemington) on Derby day. Star Witness won the Group 1 Blue Diamond Stakes (1200m, Caulfield) as a two-year-old.
Baker believes that We Can Say It Now is “something special”.
“I think she could be the best filly I have trained. Her win at Te Rapa (in the Listed Sarten Memorial, 1400m, on October 25) was outstanding. She ran brilliant sectional times and du Plessis (jockey Mark du Plessis) said he didn’t let her go,” Baker said.
The filly, from the eight-time winning mare We Can’t Say That (by Generous (IRE)), has drawn barrier 1; Twilight Savings is in barrier four.
The fillies were to clash in racing against the colts and geldings in last Saturday’s 2000 Guineas (Group 1, 1600m) at Riccarton, but Baker scratched We Can Say It Now because of the heavy track. Twilight Savings ran a slashing race to be beaten into fourth place behind Jimmy Choux, beaten a half-length.
Before that Twilight Savings thrashed a smart field of older horses at weight-for-age in the Listed Red Lion Plate (1200m) at Rotorua on October 16.
“She had a setback which meant she was first-up off a limited preparation at Rotorua, but she was outstanding to win after racing wide,” Baker said.
“I knew going into the 2000 Guineas, jumping from 1200m to 1600m, that she was a run short, and it cost her the race. She hit the front at the 200m, but her condition gave out. She is going to be a lot fitter and more suited to the mile this week.”
Twilight Savings is by Secret Savings (USA) from the Danehill mare Ghemashah. Like a lot of good horses these days, she has a double cross of the great Star Kingdom on her dam side through Bletchingly and Luskin Star.
Simply Brilliant, who pulled a muscle in a track gallop after being frightened by a large bird on the track, is by Starcraft from the Danehill mare She’s A Pretender, a sister to the Victoria Derby winner and Melbourne Cup runner up Nothin’ Leica Dane. This also the family of stars Leica Show and Leica Lover.
Star Witness and the Makin fillies, all from Starcraft’s first crop, are likely to launch Starcraft’s stud career to new heights, especially if We Can Say It Now can win the 1000 Guineas.
Starcraft (pictured) stands at Arrowfield Stud this season at a fee of $38,500 (inc. GST).
Two horses have just left Bart Cummings’ Flemington stables, Saintly Place. One went with great fanfare and gnashing of teeth amid tears of sorrow; the other slipped quietly away with a rub on the nose and a pat on the rump for a job well done.
While all the attention has been on champion So You Think’s sale to the Coolmore conglomerate, Group 1 winning mare Allez Wonder retired her racing gear without much as a murmur.
Whereas the Cummings team is rueing the fact that there is a lot of unfinished business with So You Think who,despite winning two Cox Plates, is still well short of reaching his peak, Allez Wonder left nothing else to do on the track.
Cummings, in his true style, got the absolute out of the daughter of Redoute’s Choice. Her crowning moment came when she sneaked along the rails and between horses late to win the 2009 Group 1 Toorak Handicap (1600m) at Caulfield.
It was only the third win for Allez Wonder, and she hasn’t run a place in 10 starts since – eight at Group 1 level – for her owners, including Dato Tan Chin Nam and the queen of racing’s Twitter world, Su-Ann Khaw (better known as @inkmarksofsu), whose syndicate, Suez Thoroughbreds Pty Ltd, manages the mare.
In keeping with how much Allez Wonder is valued by her owners, there is no rush to have her covered by a stallion in November. She’s off to a leisurely life in a lush paddock to rest and let down for the 2011 breeding season.
No stallion has been selected, but the options for this valuable mare are endless. Maybe she is waiting for her boyish beau, So You Think, to retire to Coolmore in NSW next year. It’s a perfect match.
I have seen many better Group 1 winning mares than Allez Wonder, but the fact she achieved a high level on the racetrack is a great tribute to her and her trainer. She is a mare who needed the cards to fall for her in her races, as they did when Michelle Payne steered her home in the Toorak.
She is a finicky mare. She didn’t like a bit of spit on the track, nor did she like a slow pace, and to push to her out of the gate early usually meant a stubborn reaction at the end of her races. But on her good days she was good.
She had proven herself at Group 1 level as a 3YO filly, when she charged home to finish third behind the champion Samantha Miss in the Crown Oaks (2500m, Flemington), and in the 2009 autumn looked a serious Group 1 AJC Oaks (2400m, Randwick) prospect after winning the Listed Nolen Classic (1600m) at Kembla Grange. But wet tracks saw her flop in the Group 1 Storm Queen Stakes (2000m, Rosehill) and the Oaks.
In the stable, and on the social networks, Allez Wonder was called “baby girl” … this girl has grown up and it’s time to become a mother.
Photo: Allez Wonder (Michelle Payne) parading before the 2009 Group 1 Caulfield Cup.
With a name like Jimmy Choux, Saturday’s Group 1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas winner could easily be suspected of having parentage of Scottish and French origin.
Instead, Jimmy Choux (pictured) may well have been named Bluey Smith, as he’s an all-Australian boy. His pedigree is a thesis of what is good about the archetypal Australian sprinter.
Jimmy Choux, a bay colt by Thorn Park from Cierzo (NZ) (by Centaine), has four crosses of the great Australian speed influence Star Kingdom. Throw in a healthy sprinkle of Century, Better Boy, Vain, Rego, Bletchingly, Wilkes, Orgoglio, Showdown, Biscay and Todman and there we have it, the recipe for perfect Aussie-sprinter pie.
Three of the four pedigree lines of Jimmy Choux are Australian-made, the exception being Thorn Park’s sire Spinning World (by Nureyev (USA)), the brilliant American-bred, French-trained chestnut. However, Spinning World is an honorary Aussie, having spent much of his breeding life at Coolmore Stud, Jerry’s Plains, NSW, where he sired Thorn Park, a son of Denise’s Joy’s great-granddaughter Joy (by Bluebird (USA)).
Jimmy Choux’s dam Cierzo, is inbred to Star Kingdom 5×5x5 through Centaine’s dam Rainbeam (out of Todman’s daughter Rain Shadow); Cierzo’s dam Gale is by Bletchingly’s son Wild Rampage; and Gale’s dam, Imposing Choice, is by Todman’s son Imposing.
The fourth addition of Star Kingdom comes through Joy, whose dam, Christmas Spirit, is by Bletchingly (a grandson of Star Kingdom) from the Showdown mare, Joy And Fun.
The consistent Jimmy Choux, trained by John Bary, won his (and Bary’s) first Group 1 on a rain-soaked Riccarton (Christchurch) track that was rated a heavy 10. He’s better than a wet-tracker, having won the Group 2 Hawkes Bay Guineas (1600m) on October 2.
Bary, 40, has been in Melbourne campaigning The Hombre, who finished fourth in last Wednesday’s Kyneton Cup. Bary, based at Hastings on the east coast of the north island, has been training for less than two years.
Destiny played a part in the result. Bary, a former top-rated polo player with a six-goal handicap, has his roots in Christchurch, as he is the great-great-grandson of racing pioneer George Stead, a NZ Racing Hall of Fame inductee who was a long-time secretary of the Canterbury Jockey Club, which controls Riccarton.
Jimmy Choux held off a strong challenge from runner-up He’s Remarkable (by Pentire (GB)) and the Murray Baker-trained Twilight Savings (by Secret Savings (USA)). He has now won five of his 11 starts and just short of $NZ800,000 in prizemoney.
Jimmy Choux’s jockey Jonathan Riddell, 32, is in the unique position of having won three Grand National Steeplechases and two Grand National Hurdles on the Riccarton track, as well as a Group 1 race on the flat.
The fact that the G1 Patinack Farm Classic (WFA, 1200m) at Flemington didn’t live up to its billing as the “clash of the sprinting titans” meant very little. In the end it was still one of those rare “I was there when” experiences in racing.
I was there when Vain won the Patinack Farm Classic (Craven ‘A’ Stakes) – albeit then a handicap run on Derby day – by 12 lengths from Our Faith in 1969. The brilliant chestnut colt blitzed his rivals in a display of speed I haven’t seen since.
Vain went on to win the G2 Linlithgow Stakes (WFA, 1400m) on Oaks day and backed up two days later to win what is now known as the Emirates Stakes (1600m), carrying 5kg more than weight-for-age.
My brother, Kerry, and I stood on the famous Flemington lawn and, bouncing on the balls of our feet to see, watched Vain streak away from his opposition. It was spine-tingling and unforgettable. Jockey Pat Hyland later said, “I just grab on to a clump of mane and hang on, if I don’t I could I fall out the back.”
Black Caviar’s exhibition today came close to giving me the same chill and thrill. When jockey Ben Melham clicked her up at the 300 metres, the big mare lowered her head, lengthened her stride and put three lengths on a field of great sprinters. What a horse.
The much-awaited clash with Hay List didn’t eventuate when the big horse from the west flopped, finishing sixth, 11 lengths behind the winner. Hay List, the winner of 12 of 14 starts before today, was off his game today after a serious of minor setbacks, and while jockey Glyn Schofield offered no excuses, expect Hay List will return to be a more formidable rival in the autumn.
Vain, a chucky chestnut ball of muscle, was physically nothing like Black Caviar, now unbeaten in eight starts; she possesses a cruising speed I have only seen in Vain. She’s a monster mare, almost 600kg, with a monster stride. For all her size, her movement is effortless and carried her clear of the pack with ease.
Melham, having his first ride on her following Luke Nolen’s suspension, has a first Group 1 win to remember. Scarily, he said after the race, “I didn’t find the bottom of her, she did it easily.” Her time of 1min 7.96secs was .086secs outside Iglesia’s 2001 course record –– on a track that was well away from fast.
Trainer Peter Moody, his voice hoarse from cheering, was quick to rebut any suggestions that the mare now HAS to go overseas. “Bugger overseas,” he said, “let them come here and take us on.”
Moody followed up with a dig at this week’s sale of So You Think to the Irish: “We have just lost one champion to overseas. Let’s keep this horse here for everyone to enjoy. She’ll put bums on seats.”
However, Moody did concede that a trip to Dubai for the Dubai Sprint (1200m) on World Cup night at Meydan late in March is a prospect, but only after Black Caviar tackles the Melbourne autumn sprints, kicking off with the Group 1 Lightning Stakes (WFA, 1000m) at Flemington in February – and a return clash with Hay List and the brilliant colt Star Witness, who ran a wonderful race to finish a clear second to the mare – well clear of the Group 1 winners Ortensia and All Silent.
The connections of Hay List and Star Witness may prefer to dodge Black Caviar, and the thought of a Royal Ascot campaign without her sharing the plane will appeal to them. Go to England to dodge the local champ!
Star Witness is an exceptional talent. He backed up from his Group 1 Coolmore Stud Stakes on Derby day win with another outstanding performance. It took an exceptional horse to beat him. He’s only three, but he has a lot to offer. He, too, will be a better horse in the autumn. Unfortunately, trainer Danny O’Brien knows the colt is a duffer around turns (despite his Blue Diamond win at Caulfield), so he is restricted to racing the horse down the Flemington straight – of course, all the big Group 1 sprints are run on straight tracks in England.
There is a twist in the comparisons of Black Caviar to Vain (by Wilkes (FR)), as she is inbred 3×4 to the great horse. He’s the reason for the scintillating speed, and other breeders with mares with a hint of Vain in the bloodlines should look at Bel Esprit as a mate.
Black Caviar’s sire, the Eliza Park-based Bel Esprit (by Royal Academy (USA)) is from the Vain mare Bespoken. Black Caviar’s dam Helsinge (by Desert Sun (GB)) is from Song Of Norway, a daughter of Vain.
Eliza Park, Kerrie, near Romsey, also stands Black Caviar’s close relation Magnus, the Group 1 winning son of Flying Spur and Helsinge’s dam, Scandinavia. Breeders with Bel Esprit mares should consider Magnus as a likely mate for the mares to get another source of doubling Vain and at the same time reverse Black Caviar’s pedigree.