Larneuk Stud’s Neville Murdoch matter-of-factly but modestly says he’s had some more significant days on the racetrack than what he experienced at Pakenham on Saturday.
But he admits it was still a big day, one of those special times when everything goes to plan or even exceeds the best laid plans.
Murdoch had a first starter in the opening two 1200m maidens on the program and both were three-year-olds by Cluster, one of the four stallions he stands at his Euroa stud.
Both winners were trained by Greg Eurell at Cranbourne, and both were bred and are owned and raced by Murdoch.
Casa Bendita, out of Dena (Cape Cross x Jadeite), scored by a length in the opening race at $12, knocking off the $2.10 favourite, Glamzelle.
And then stablemate Redemption, out of Angel of Capri (Archway x Blue Capri) won the second race by half a length after starting at $20.
First prize for each race was $12,650, plus Murdoch picked up a Super VOBIS nominator’s bonus of $3,600, a Super VOBIS Owners Bonus of $8,400 and a VOBIS Gold bonus of $20,000.
Murdoch walked away with $70,100. Plus, he admits having a big day on the punt, even though he failed to take the running double – which paid $186.20 with the TAB –because he said he didn’t know how to put it on. He now knows how to do it.
And there was more early luck for Murdoch on Saturday with the Ken and Kasey Keys gelding Rock Artist winning the last two-year-old race of the season at Moonee Valley. Rock Artist is by Wandjina which will stand his first season at Larneuk this year after transferring from New South Wales.
Murdoch knew he was having a big day when Eurell texted him after the second race with the message: “Now you’re just showing off.” The message came with a couple of smiley faces.
And he admits that with the start of the breeding season only a few weeks away, the two victories by Cluster and another Wandjina win will hopefully give both stallions some much deserved recognition.
“I certainly wasn’t complaining on Saturday,” Murdoch said.
“It was really good VOBIS prizemoney on top of it all, so I wasn’t complaining at all. There was $3000 and $7000 per race and then there was another $20,000 bonus.
“I have added it all up, but it’s better than a kick in the ankle.
“And I can assure you that I did better on the punt too.”
Much to his dismay, Murdoch only learnt how to do a running double late on Saturday night.
“I was only talking to Kenny four or five weeks ago, and he told me that he had a real nice Wandjina,” Murdoch said.
“And it won like an absolute superstar. It was very impressive.”
While he was impressed that the Keys training partnership could get a two-year-old win out of their horse, Murdoch believes the Wandjina breed are better as they get a bit older and more mature.
“It’s a bit like Cluster,” he said.
“With those two that won on Saturday, we’ve had issues with them and the filly split her head open at the pool when she was playing up
and we didn’t even know whether she’d get back to the race.
“So she did a real good job.
“Redemption is a bigger horse, and we’ve always had a bit of time for him, but he fractured his fetlock, so we’ve had to be patient with him.
“But it just shows what happens with a bit of patience.”
Murdoch said all of his stallions – newcomers Endless Drama (Lope De Vega x Desert Drama) and Wandjina (Snitzel x La Bamba) join Cluster (Fastnet Rock x Tarcoola Diamond) and Wolf Cry (Wolf Cry x Starfish) – were good sires but it was often difficult to tell that to breeders who were seduced by the first season sires.
Cluster gelding Rocket Tiger drew plenty of attention last season when the then two-year-old won his first start at Canberra and then his next at Randwick. He then ran second in the Group 2 Silver Slipper and third in the Group 3 Black Opal and then was unplaced in the Group 1 Golden Slipper. The gelding has had five starts for two wins, one second and a third.
Murdoch races a lot of his progeny and says they plan to do more through syndications. He doesn’t put his horses through the weanling or yearling sales for a variety of reasons, but has sold quite a few out of the paddock to some leading trainers.
“I think the last one I sold at the sales was four years ago or thereabouts,” he said.
“I don’t prep them so by the time you that and pay fees, it’s not my market.
“I am very comfortable racing them, that’s what I do. We sell a few out of the paddock, and I had a bloke come down from the top end of New South Wales, and they bought two or three out of the paddock.
“Greg Eurell has bought a couple out of the paddock. Tony Noonan was up the other day and Corstens has bought them out of the paddock and we don’t sell them for huge money but if I can get $30,000 or $40,000 it’s cheaper than going to the sales and getting 30 grand for them.”
Cluster only served 11 mares last year, but Murdoch expects the stallion to be busier this season. His biggest book was 68 in his first season in 2015. His service fee remains at $6600.
He said breeders had to be patient with Cluster’s progeny, and there were plenty of other studs, as well as Larneuk, that offered nice stallions at an affordable price that produced plenty of good winners.
Murdoch said he aimed to attract more mares to Wandjina, who first stood for $33,000 at his first season at Newgate in 2015 when he served 153 mares. His books continued to be in the hundreds until 2019 when he served 16 mares on a service fee of $22,000 and then served 36 mares last year when his fee was halved.
Wandjina only produced six live foals from his 2019 coverings.
Murdoch said he was obviously aiming to do a lot better with the Group 1 winning stallion that will stand at $8800.
“But you just don’t know,” he said
“You take a stallion like him that was standing at twenty-odd grand or whatever it was, and four years later he is standing here at $8800 and then get thirty-six mares to him the year before last.”
Murdoch said he hoped that Wandjina’s progeny would get better as they get older.
He said Wandjina would get rolling again if he could produce some stakes winners.
And while Murdoch has had two winners on the same day before, he agrees it was a fine achievement, including for Eurell, to have two first starters win on the same day.
Now as four-year-olds, he said Casa Bendita and Redemption would probably head to town after both winning over 1200m.
“But we have got some other nice horses coming through,” he said.
“It was a big buzz day on Saturday.”
It certainly was.