search the site
This story appears in the latest edition of Inside Racing magazine.
Next year’s yearling sale season—which kicks off at the Magic Millions Gold Coast Sale in January—will certainly be the prime time to sell a colt or filly by Australia’s leading sire Lonhro.
For one thing, the sellers paid a low fee of only $33,000 for Lonhro in 2009—he rose to $88,000 in 2010 and $77,000 this year—and also, Lonhro’s owners, Darley, has flagged its intention to be in the market to top up on Lonhro yearlings.
Until now, a relatively small number of Lonhro yearlings have been available each year due to the fact a large percentage of the mares he has covered were owned by Woodlands Stud and Darley, who both preferred to race the offspring.
Not so in 2009, when Lonhro covered his biggest book of mares (212) at a time when Darley had already committed not to support the stallion, preferring high-profile imports such as Street Cry, New Approach and Bernardini.
At the time, Darley had good reason, not only did they have barns and paddocks full of unraced yearlings and weanlings by Lonhro, but also it must be remembered that Lonhro’s star wasn’t shining brightly in mid-2009. The former star racehorse started the 2009 spring with a boast of only four Stakes winners, and some reservations from trainers and breeders.
The turnaround in Lonhro’s fortunes has been almost miraculous. By the end of the 2011 Spring Racing Carnival, his Stakes winners tally had leapt to 30. It has been an incredible two years for Lonhro, which has seen him to climb to the top of the 2010-11 Australian leading-sire table, knocking off older stalwarts champions Redoute’s Choice and Encosta De Lago
The rush for Lonhro came after his first star offspring emerged, and very much in his own black image—the brilliant Denman, who won the Group 1 Golden Rose at Rosehill in September 2009. Many others have followed, including the 2011 Group 1 winners Beaded and Benfica, and top-class Group winners Obsequious, Demerit, Parables and Pinwheel.
Importantly for those with a Lonhro yearling to sell this season, Darley intends to make up for the lack of Lonhro yearlings on its books by returning to the sale yards to buy the best. This is a general change in policy as Darley has moved away from the Australian yearling sale market in preference to breeding its own stock.
There are 28 Lonhros catalogued for sale at the Gold Coast and the reports from the yearling inspectors are that there are some beauties. Vendors have good reason to have a spring in their step.
The Magic Millions sale will kick off with a Victorian flavour when the first yearling to step up into the sale ring will be a colt by Victoria’s leading sire Bel Esprit from the Snippets mare, Gavroche. The colt, to be sold by Sam Hayes’ Cornerstone Stud (the old Lindsay Park) as agent, is a brother to Victorian trainer Jason Warren’s exciting young sprinter Bel Sprinter.
It’s a fitting way to start the sale, as Snippets won the Magic Millions race on the Southport in 1987, and in doing so started a sale-race phenomenon that is unmatched anywhere else in the world.
Snippets was the perfect, precocious juvenile for the sale and the race, and he went on to become a wonderful stallion. Similar expectations abound for Sebring (ch h 2005, More Than Ready-Purespeed, by Flying Spur), whose first progeny will go under the hammer on the Gold Coast. Sebring was bought by Gai Waterhouse and Star Thoroughbreds at the 2007 Magic Millions for $130,000. In 2008, the colt brilliantly won the Group 1 Golden Slipper before retiring to Widden Stud in the Hunter Valley.
The Sebring youngsters will be much sought after, as, too, will be the progeny of a stellar list of high-class Australian-bred first-season sires, including Northern Meteor (by Encosta De Lago), Reaan (Hussonet), Real Saga (Tale Of The Cat), Kaphero (Danzero), Murtajill (Rock Of Gibraltar) and Mutawaajid (Redoute’s Choice).
Add this imposing bunch to a similar line-up of top-flight shuttle stallions with their first crop yearlings, including the Group 1 stars Duke Of Marmalade (Danehill), Henrythenavigator (Kingmambo) and Myboycharlie (Danetime), and the Epsom Derby winners New Approach (Galileo) and Authorized (Montjeu). Also on offer will be the first Australian foals of Kheleyf (Green Desert), Europe’s leading first-season sire of 2008 and the promising young sire Teofilo (Galileo).
Two of the highlight lots in January will be an Exceed And Excel colt from the 2006 Magic Millions winner Mirror Mirror (offered by Strawberry Hill) and the Coolmore-bred colt by Encosta De Lago from Piccadilly Circus, who is a half-brother to the latest top sprinter and exciting sire Fastnet Rock.
2012 Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale
Sessions 1-5: January 11-15
Saturday’s longshot Group 3 WA Champion Fillies Stakes winner, Eight Till Late, has a most interesting pedigree, and not only because she is the first Stakes winner from the Lonhro-Redoute’s Choice cross.
Eight Till Late went into the WA Champion Fillies Stakes (1600m, Ascot) a maiden from only two starts and an outsider at $41, despite the fact top jockey Paul Harvey was in the saddle. Interestingly, it was Harvey’s only ride for the day.
Eight Till Late, trained by Shane Edwards, is Lonhro’s 32nd Stakes winner, and her dam, Future Choice, is by the champion sire Redoute’s Choice (by Danehill (USA)). But Eight Till Late attracts most attention for pedigree buffs by the fact she is inbred to Lonhro’s famous family.
Future Choice is from the good broodmare Lady Of Destiny, a daughter of the former fantastic racehorse and top-class sire Grosvenor, whose dam My Tricia is also Lonhro’s third dam.
My Tricia (by Hermes (GB)), a daughter of Bart Cummings’ former top racemare Gay Poss (by Le Filou (FR)), produced Concia to a mating with First Consul (USA), and Concia is the dam of Lonhro’s very fast dam, Shadea (by Straight Strike (USA)).
While this is the first Stakes winner by Lonhro from a Redoute’s Choice mare, the Darley stallion is the sire of seven Stakes winners from mares by Danehill (four) and two of his other sons, Flying Spur and Commands. The best of them is the promising Group 1 winning juvenile Benfica (from a Danehill mare).
Eight Till Late also comes from another of Cummings’ best-known families—her fourth dam, Bourbon Lassie (by Mellay (GB)), is the dam of four Stakes winners, including the Cummings-trained Victoria Derby winner Omnicorp, a son of Grosvenor, and the Sandown Cup winner Pharostan (by Imposing) and classy mare Crimson (by Zabeel (NZ)).
Eight Till Late was bought by agent Damon Gabbedy (Belmont Bloodstock) for $45,000 at the 2009 Magic Millions National Weanling Sale.
Last year the WA Champion Fillies Stakes was won by Dreamaway, who went on to win the Group 1 WA Derby and Group 3 WA Oaks, both over 2400m at Ascot. Other smart winners of this race include Catechuchu, Kim Angel, Jungle Mist and Frivolous Miss.
I couldn’t quite come to terms with Tim Habel’s story in today’s Herald Sun bemoaning the small field of five in tomorrow’s Group 2 Zipping Classic (2400m, Sandown) and blaming Australia’s dearth of stayers as the reason.
The Zipping Classic (ex Sandown Classic) rarely attracts a big field because of the simple fact that it is a weight-for-age race—why would the average stayer want to take on a Melbourne Cup winner at level weights, especially when there is a handicap option, the Sandown Cup (3200m), on the program? The Cup has attracted 10 starters.
Furthermore, these staying races are being run at the end of a long campaign that had plenty of options for Australian stayers. For example, we had no trouble filling fields for the Group 1 Caulfield Cup (2400m, Caulfield), Group 2 Herbert Power Handicap (2400m, Caulfield), the Group 3 The Lexus (2500m, Flemington) and the Listed Bendigo Cup (2400m).
Weight-for-age races rarely attract bumper fields, so a weight-for-age race over 2400 metres for tired stayers at the end of the carnival is rarely going to fill the starting stalls. A look through the records of Sydney’s autumn staying highlight, the Group 1 The BMW (WFA, 2400m, Rosehill), will show that race often attracts small numbers.
This lamenting about our staying stocks is getting tiresome, especially the claim that we can’t breed good stayers—tell that to the breeders of Viewed and Shocking, two recent Melbourne Cup winners who are Australian bred. Also, the Caulfield Cup winner, Southern Speed, Cox Plate winner, Pinker Pinker, and Bendigo Cup winner, Tanby, who are Australian bred.
Breeding a stayer is not the issue—training one is.
The French-bred Melbourne Cup winner, Dunaden, could easily have been born in Australia. Dunaden has a terrible pedigree—he’s the only Stakes winner under the first EIGHT dams and the only Stakes winner by his sprinter/miler sire, Nicobar, a son of the speed influence Indian Ridge.
Dunaden, who cost only 1500 euro as a weanling because of his shoddy family, could easily have come from any farm in Australia. In his case, he was lucky that people along the way recognised his talent and his good attitude, but more importantly he was trained to stay.
His owners didn’t need to be especially patient, as the little horse raced as a late-season two-year-old, like many Australian horses.
It’s the attitude towards teaching horses to stay that needs to change, not breeding stayers.
Top New Zealand trainer John Wheeler made his name in Australia in the 1980s with two Australian-bred “speed” horses he bought in Australia, Our Poetic Prince (by Yeats from a Biscay mare) and Flying Luskin (by Luskin Star from an Authentic Heir mare). Our Poetic Prince won a Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m) and a Group 1 Tancred Stakes (2400m)—now The BMW—while Flying Luskin won a Group 1 Wellington Cup (3200m).
Wheeler told me that he believed that most horses could be trained to stay, or at least trained to get more ground than their pedigrees might suggest. Both Our Poetic Prince and Flying Luskin, according to Wheeler, were trained to stay.
Maybe we should pay the great Bart Cummings or Australia’s best-credentialled “strapper”, Lee Freedman, to take some seminars on how to train a Melbourne Cup winner. Not the worst idea I have come up with.
At the moment, Australia has more high-class staying sires than ever before, headed by Epsom Derby winners New Approach and Authorized, So You Think’s sire High Chaparral, Shocking’s sire Street Cry and recent additions such as French Derby winner Lope De Vega and Victoria Derby winner Monaco Consul.
We also have some of the best Sir Tristram and Zabeel bloodlines in our female families, so there is no excuse that our breeding industry is ignorant of stayers, although there certainly is an unhealthy push from breeders and racing administrators towards precocious speed.
Malua Racing’s Troy Corstens told me recently that the easiest syndicate to put together after the yearling sales was his “Stayers’ Syndicate” of horses bought in New Zealand—“I could have done it three times over”—so it also is not true that Australian owners are not interested in stayers, or lack the patience to own one.
There has been a flood of money heading overseas in search of a Melbourne Cup winner, and that won’t stop, but it will slow down when someone takes the time to study the results (and the bank balance)—so far one winner, Americain—from a small fortune spent.
Lloyd Williams has forked out a ransom in Europe buying Group 1 winners, Epsom and Irish Derby placegetters and countless others by Galileo and Montjeu, and he’s hardly had a Cup starter from a barn full of expensive imports.
That’s money that could and should be spent in Australia. Those at the head of the Australian breeding industry should not only be worried about that exodus of money, but also should be working on ideas to encourage Australians to breed and buy stayers—maybe bonuses for horses aged four and older winning races beyond 1800 metres would encourage investment and also encourage administrators to programme more staying races.
In France, they have it right. No wonder horses are difficult to buy from France, where the French-bred owners’ bonus scheme carries on for the racing life of the horse—whereas our SuperVOBIS and BOBS schemes are aimed at the more precocious of the breed.
Maybe it’s time to stop the sooking and take some action.
Photo: The Australian-bred Pinker Pinker, winner of the G1 Cox Plate.
There’s not much else to say about Black Caviar as her unbeaten streak marches to 16, but I’ll try.
The big mare strolled home to win her second Group 1 Patinack Farm Classic (1200m) at Flemington without raising a sweat or jockey Luke Nolen releasing his grip on the reins. She ran the 1200 metres in 1.08.32—only 1.2 secs outside Iglesia’s track record. Has a horse ever gone as fast in second gear?
It was on this race last year that Black Caviar launched her career beyond the promising to stardom. It was her first Group 1 win and she treated a crack field of rivals with contempt.
Twelve months on and a lot has changed. Black Caviar has now won seven Group 1 races and her challengers are falling like soccer players after an ankle tap. The procession of her wins now is against opposition, although more than capable at Group 1 level, but vastly inferior to one of the great champions of the Australian turf.
Racing’s ardent followers, and even trainer Peter Moody, are enjoying the ride, but there is a feeling of going through the paces. Black Caviar needs a challenge and we need to be able to marvel at what she can achieve, rather that cheer another “walk in the park”. The growing hoards of non-racing fans couldn’t care less.
Certainly, the Group 1 Winterbottom Stakes (1200m, Ascot) in Perth a few weeks will be a tougher assignment for Black Caviar than her three jog-trots in Melbourne this spring.
The simple fact she will have to travel into strange surroundings and compete against opposition unknown gives us hope of some sort of contest. Many “a eastern stater” has accepted the invitation across the Nullabor only to find the reception hostile and uncompromising. I am not suggesting that Black Caviar won’t be lauded, but the parochial people from Perth will give her no easy ride. Jockeys will try to take her on and put her out of her comfort zone.
Moody said he will make a decision on a Perth trip for Black Caviar after seeing how she is on Monday or Tuesday. The horse comes first.
In the autumn, Black Caviar will be set for races beyond 1200 metres for the first time in the Group 1 C F Orr Stakes (1400m, Caulfield) and the Group 1 Futurity Stakes (1400m, Caulfield). That task alone will spark a lot of interest—as I said there is nothing more exciting that a trip into the unknown. Moody is confident Black Caviar can be even more imposing and dominant over more ground against horse without her amazing turn-of-foot.
After that, Moody has the option of taking the mare to Sydney for her 20th start in the Group 1 Queen of the Turf (1600m, Randwick) before heading to England for Royal Ascot in June.
If all goes to plan, Black Caviar will present to the Queen on the famous Royal course near Windsor unbeaten in 20 starts. There will be nothing ho-hum about that.