Dark Alley ridden by Craig Williams wins the McGrath Real Estate BM70 Handicap at Geelong Racecourse on April 26, 2020 (Reg Ryan/Racing Photos)
Veteran stud master Malcolm Boyd echoes what are a lot in racing say about breeders, trainers and owners lacking patience when it comes to producing a genuine, local stayer.
Boyd stands German import Lucas Cranach at his Bullarook Park Stud at Avenal and has slowly watched interest in the stallion dwindle.
Lucas Cranach, trained by Anthony Freedman at Flemington, ran a narrow third in the 2011 Melbourne Cup and then bowed out of racing after a victory at his next start in the Group 2 Peter Young Stakes (1800m) at Caulfield in February 2012.
He started his stud duties in 2013 with 103 mares, followed it up with 96 the next season and then the third year blues struck with only 55 mares. The stallion produced something of a comeback with 87 mares in 2016 and then dropped back to 51, then 32 and last year served only 14 mares.
His stud fee has always been advertised at $5500 and his fertility hovers around 90 per cent.
Boyd admits Lucas Cranach (Mamool/Lots Of Love), who was retired because of injury, hasn’t had the quality of mares that could have made him as a stallion and says lack of patience is the other big factor in why interest in him has diminished.
He is yet to produce a stakes winner and Boyd is unsure if he did whether it would generate any more interest in his stallion, but he hopes it could put him on the map.
And he believes the best chance of Lucas Cranach producing that elusive stakes winner is Dark Alley which resumed over 2418m at Geelong last Sunday after finishing fourth in the Adelaide Cup (3200m) seven weeks ago.
Ridden by Craig Williams and trained at Horsham by Paul Preusker, the four year-old came from last to cruise to a comfortable 2.5 length victory and will now be set for the Listed The Andrew Ramsden (2800m) at Flemington on May 16.
The winner of the race gets a golden ticket into the Melbourne Cup.
Dark Alley was bred by one of Boyd’s long term clients, John Fiteni, who races the gelding with his partner Kathy Stewart. They also race last year’s Group 2 Adelaide Cup winner, Surprise Baby which won the Group 3 Bart Cummings (2500m) in the lead-up to the Melbourne Cup where the five year-old finished fifth, but beaten less than a length.
And Surprise Baby finished second in last year’s The Andrew Ramsden by a short half head.
Boyd said Lucas Cranach’s progeny had enjoyed a lot of recent success on the track, kicked off by Michelle Payne’s Jukila which won at Stawell. Mylex won at Moe on Anzac Day, while Danluca won at the same meeting. All are five year-olds from his first crop. The Cartoonist, another five year-old, won at Canterbury and four year-old Diamond Luke won at Kilmore in recent days.
The 73 year-old said the Lucas Cranach progeny were now getting a bit of age about them and starting to mature and were aimed at their right distance.
“You are dreaming if you think you are going to get a two year-old out of him,” Boyd said.
“It’s nice to get a winner or two out of him. They need 1600m-plus up to two miles.
“We definitely haven’t got enough patient people. About 90 per cent of horses don’t reach their potential because of lack of patience and bad management, but that’s the way the industry is and there’s nothing we can do about it.”
Boyd said if he was training any by Lucas Cranach he wouldn’t be kicking off their racing careers until they were four year-olds or late three year-olds.
He said last year was the stallion’s worst one for serving mares.
“They just say it takes too long and they just don’t want to breed one (stayer),” Boyd said.
“He has got to get a stakes winner before they take notice and that’s the way the game is and I’ve been in it a long time. I know it happens and I don’t make any excuses about it.
“You probably need that stakes winner from the first couple of crops. There would be more interest in him if he could get a stakes winner or two now, but it wouldn’t save his career.
“You have got to get the good mares that go to those other yuppie stallions.”
Boyd’s 300 acre property is on the market and he isn’t sure what lies ahead for Lucas Cranach, but says he deserves to keep serving mares.
And he said he’d been quite happy with what Lucas Cranach had been able to achieve, especially by getting 200 mares in his first two seasons.
“It’s not that he didn’t get the mares but it was the quality of the mares and unfortunately he isn’t going to command them,” Boyd said.
“It’s sad because he can get horses that can gallop over a distances but unless you can get that stakes winner it makes it difficult.
“But Dark Alley might go on and become a stakes winner as he shows a lot of potential.”
Boyd also stands Last Typhoon which is by Street Cry and was the only foal produced by five time Group 1 winning mare Typhoon Tracy who died in 2012.
Despite a modest race record, Boyd said Last Typhoon could be “anything” and his oldest progeny are yearlings. He said there was no better breed stallion standing in Victoria and there was nothing to say he couldn’t throw a good horse.
“It’s pretty tough game and if it was easy, everyone would be doing it,” he said.
“I’ve seen a lot come and go.”
Boyd, who has been in the breeding industry for more than 30 years, started at Camperdown in the Western District before relocating to Avenal about 19 years ago.
And while Boyd is hoping for Lucas Cranach of being capable of salvaging some glory, Dark Alley’s owner John Fiteni could be faced with the happy prospect of having two starters in the Melbourne Cup as he also owns Surprise Baby which he bought for $5000 on an online auction in New Zealand.
Fiteni, who is the construction industry, has been breeding horses at Bullarook Park Stud for nearly 18 years and now uses X Factor Pedigrees and another pedigree expert for his matings which are rated with potential mares
“Everything I do now is rated,” he said.
“That’s how I do my breeding and that’s how I pick my horses before I buy any. We have a ratings system that we use now.”
Under his ratings, he paid $10,000 for an Animal Kingdom/Bianca filly – Minola – which has won her last two starts for Preusker.
Fiteni is perhaps a little lucky to still have Dark Alley which he bred from his mare Bleverdeen (Blevic) at Bullarook Park Stud.
“I took him to the Adelaide Magic Millions Sale and they only offered me $40,000 for him and I said no and I think the bloke’s words were that I had rocks in my head,” Fetini said.
“It takes a long time from a yearling and what he is today.
“Paul has got his sister (Dark Lever) in work at the moment and she’ll go back out to the paddock and then come back in again. Paul likes her and she is bit bigger than Dark Alley.”
Fiteni said he doesn’t get too carried away about the possibility of having two Melbourne Cup runners as a lot can go wrong.
While many breeders want an early runner, Fiteni admits he has probably get 10 or 12 by Lucas Cranach in the paddock but says he is not an easy stallion to breed from and must be sent to the right mare.
It’s just going to take time,” he said.
“But if you don’t get the matching right then you are wasting your time.
“You would think more people in Victoria would be going to Lucas. It’s like all stallions, if they don’t start off good and get winners, they all disappear off the face of the earth.
“You would think the little breeder would go to him and be patient and wait.”
Fiteni said a half-brother to Dark Alley – Peaky Blinders which was by Bullarook stallion Strategic Maneuver – had won four races from 14 starts and was shaping up to be a good horse but sadly passed away of colic.
Fiteni has about 20 broodmares and says he also has a fair bit of success with buying horses from New Zealand without spending a lot of money.
Fiteni, who has a plumbing business, and also looks after the manufacturing for a company called Atco Structures and Logistics, is based in Queensland but is currently working in Western Australia.
He bought Dark Alley’s dam, Bleverdeen, which is a full sister to 2006 Herbert Power Stakes winner, Shewan.