Victorian stallions produced extraordinary results in three of the biggest races on the Melbourne and Sydney racing calendar on Saturday.
The first three placings in the richest race on turf – The Everest (1200m) – were filled by sprinters with Victorian links.
And the Caulfield Cup was won by boom horse Incentivise, who was sired by 2013 Cox Plate winner Shamus Award, now a resident stallion at Rosemont Stud.
There was also Victorian homebred Nonconformist (Rebel Raider x Good Thinking) that finished second in the Cup, taking the gelding’s prize money to $1.53 million.
The Everest winner Nature Strip, who started his racing career at Caulfield, is out of Victorian mare Strikeline (Desert Sun x Strike High) and was sired by Widden Stud’s Nicconi, who has relocated to Victoria.
Masked Crusader, sired by Swettenham Stud’s Toronado, finished second, beaten by a head, while another Victorian homebred, Eduardo (Host x Blushing), was a half neck from the winner.
The weekend’s results have had a huge impact on the latest list of top money earning sires in Australia, with Nicconi becoming the leading sire, Shamus Award fills second spot, and Toronado is fifth.
Shamus Award has now gone past his famous father, Snitzel, on the table.
The top five, as of Monday morning, are:
Data sourced from Arion Pedigrees.
Swettenham Stud principal Adam Sangster said it was a remarkably great day for the Victorian breeding industry, also pointing out that both Nature Strip and Masked Crusader were sold through the Melbourne Premier Yearling Sale.
“It was seriously good for all involved,” Sangster said of The Everest trifecta.
“The first two were sold at Inglis Premier, and the next one was a homebred, and it is a testament to Victoria and Victorian breeding.”
In another link with Victorian breeding, Host (Hussonet x Colonna Traiana) who was standing at Swettenham Stud when he sired Eduardo, who started his racing career in Victoria with Cranbourne trainer Sarah Zschoke.
Sangster said Host (CHI) finished his career in South Australia at Ralph Satchell’s Will Grove Stud. The stallion passed away last year.
“Nicconi is by Bianconi who also stood at Swettenham,” Sangster said.
“Bianconi stood at Swettenham all his career, and his best sprinter was Nicconi.”
Sangster said there was a lot of depth in the Victorian breeding industry, and it would continue to thrive.
The original owners and breeders of Eduardo, Victorians Jane Kaufmann and Nick Cresci, retained shares in the horse, which finished down the track in last year’s The Everest when he was sold to a syndicate headed by Sydney trainer Joe Pride.
Cresci and Kauffman went halves in Eduardo’s Fantastic Light (USA) broodmare, Blushing which was in foal to Domesday, when they paid $4000 for her at the 2010 Melbourne March Thoroughbred Sale.
“She was cheap,” Cresci said. “There are definitely no complaints now.”
Cresci said they had an offer to sell the horse last year, and a price was agreed upon, and he kept “a fair share of him”, and Kauffman also retained a share.
“A syndicate was formed, and up he went to Sydney,” he said. “It’s worked out fantastic.”
Eduardo has now won $4.7 million.
Rosemont Stud’s Anthony Mithen said Incentivise’s Caulfield Cup victory was an awesome performance by a horse that people will be still talking about decades from now.
“He seems a special type, and the stallion’s numbers are showing that he is a bit of a special commodity as well,” Mithen said.
“It’s amazing that the Victorian breeding industry has the stallion that provided the Caulfield Cup winner and the stallion that provided The Everest winner, standing in our state.”
Mithen said the Victorian breeding industry was certainly making inroads.
Nature Strip wins the $15 million Everest, followed by Masked Crusader (Toronado) and Eduardo (Host).
Widden Victoria’s Adam Henry agreed that Nicconi’s arrival at the Kerrie stud was great timing for local breeders and said Nature Strip had been a dominant sprinter for a long time and now had 18 wins and was just short of $18 million in prizemoney which was bolstered by last Saturday’s cheque of $6.7 million.
“He has proven himself to be the world’s highest-rated sprinter,” Henry said.
“He is one of 40 stakes horses for Nicconi, so he is not a one-trick pony, and he has been doing a good job for a long time and is a real boost for the Victorian industry to get him down here; as part of Widden’s expansion into Victoria.”
Henry said it was great timing to have the stallion standing in Victoria, and he’d already displayed his prowess in the stallion barn and is something of a one serve special.
“He has been popular, and his fertility is fantastic, and at one stage there, he got 19 out of 20 mares in foal,” he said.
Henry said Nicconi was a great stallion and option for mares being served late in the season that require one cover.
Nicconi has 130 mares booked so far and siring The Everest and the first two-year-old winner of the season, Cavalla (Bella Corona), for Caulfield trainers Mick Price and Mick Kent Jnr, has given the dual Group 1 winner even more prominence.
Henry said Nicconi would continue serving right through to December.
He said it was good to see the Victorian population of broodmares being served by Victorian stallions.
“We want to keep improving the roster here at Widden and keeping those mares in their home state,” Henry said.
It was also a big day for Stockwell Thoroughbreds, with Art Cadeau winning the $1.3 million The Kosciuszko (1200m) at Randwick.
The five-year-old is by Stockwell stallion, Artie Schiller and his first prize of $685,000 on Saturday took the gelding’s prize money to $1.34 million.
Art Cadeau ran down Handle The Truth, who is sired by Widden’s Star Witness, who also now resides in Victoria, to win by a head.
Winning jockey Tommy Berry said he couldn’t believe the noise generated by the crowd of 10,000.
“I haven’t heard anything like it,’’ Berry said.
“I’ve had some pretty big wins at Randwick in my career, but that is as big a cheer as I’ve ever got.
“It just shows you that people have gone through such tough times, not just the racing industry but so many people have had to endure lockdown.”
And despite finishing second in the Caulfield Cup, there were no complaints from Danielle Henwood, whose family bred Nonconformist who was set for the big race last year by trainer Grahame Begg after the gelding won the Group 2 Alister Clark Stakes (2400m) at Moonee Valley.
Danielle, who races Nonconformist with her family, said it was sad that the stayer, which has now been sent to the paddock for a spell, would never be replicated after the sire Rebel Raider and the dam Good Thinking both passed away in 2019.
Good Thinking’s last foal, an unraced three-year-old named Undercover Agent (Master of Design), is also owned and bred by the Henwood family, won an 800m trial at Cranbourne last month for Begg.
Nonconformist went into the Caulfield Cup after a first-up sixth in the Group 2 Lawrence Stakes (1400m), fourth in the Group 3 Feehan Stakes (1600m), victory in the Group 3 Federation Cup (2000m) and a nose second to Probabeel in the Might and Power Stakes (2000m).
Danielle, whose late grandfather was Theo Howe, who trained many top jumpers as well as the talented Group winner King Phoenix, said it was unbelievable to get a horse like Nonconformist.
“We tried to create a little bit of a dynasty with the family, and we have only had success with one horse. We own the grand-dam Rowenchelle, and then she had four foals, and Good Thinking (three wins) was the last foal she had.
“We tried to create that little bit of Dynasty, but it didn’t really work, and they were all hacks except for this one.
“Good Thinking won a couple of times and was beaten very narrowly over two starts over a mile and over 1800m at Flemington.”
Danielle said that while Nonconformist, who has now won $1.5 million, could have run in the Mackinnon Stakes in three weeks, he deserved to head to the paddock.
She said that they were up against the freakish Incentivise and the Caulfield track was heavy, but the plan wasn’t to go and finish a nice 12th.
“The ground wasn’t suitable, but I think it was his class and 51 and a half kilos that sort of got him to the line,” Danielle said.
“We threw around the idea of the Melbourne Cup, but before this preparation, he’d only been to 2400m once – the Mornington Cup – and it was just a bridge too far.
“I wouldn’t say the Melbourne Cup is off the radar, but it’s still a big jump, and not many of them run a solid 3200m.”
Danielle said it was truly amazing to have bred a horse that finished second in the Caulfield Cup behind a “freak.”
“At the end of the day, he is our horse, and it’s just lovely,” she said.
Begg said it was an advantage to send Nonconformist out for a spell during the Spring.
Asked about the possibility of the five-year-old getting the 3200m of the Melbourne Cup, Begg said: “I suppose you don’t know until you try.
“But we will give him a bit more time to mature up a bit more, and he is a five-year-old who has only had 19 starts, and we have been looking after him, not that he has got any issues or things like that. Far from it.”
The Spring is only heating up for Victorian horses, and there is no doubt we will continue to see some history-making results in the weeks to come.