Wangaratta trainer Chris Davis reckons the trade of a Jack Russell pup for a two-year-old filly that had seriously dangerous manners has been the swap of the century.
The horse in question, now the nine-year-old Just Stellar, notched up her 14th win at start number 106 at The Valley last Friday night.
With a handful of city winners, the mare has become Riverbank Farm stallion Redente’s highest money earner with stakes of $354,782.
Just Stellar kicked off her career at The Valley in September of 2016 with a 12 length second last, and leading into her victory on Friday night, she finished last on the same track earlier this month.
Davis, who has been licensed since 1993, said he received a phone call from Riverbank Farm’s Russell Osborne who told him that he had a two-year-old filly that he wanted picked up.
“He said there was nothing wrong with her but they couldn’t get into the box with her and the breakers refused to take her anymore,” he said.
“She is fairly well jet black and looks like a panther and then looks like a lion when she attacks you.
“Russell didn’t want his daughters hurt.”
Davis said he collected the filly and took her to Benalla breaker and horseman Peter Moffat who had her for four weeks and finished breaking her in.
The filly returned to Davis’ Violet Town farm where her preparation was completed.
“You had to be wary, but she was rideable and steerable as Peter Moffat is a magnificent breaker and gives horses a great mouth,” he said.
“We have our own 2000m track at home and trained her there for a few months and she was ridden on a daily basis and was an unbelievably safe horse when you put a rider on.
“She wasn’t dangerous to handle but would just get out of my room. What we worked out with her was that she was protecting all the other horses in the stables alongside her, so we’d take them all away so she was left last and then she would walk up to us because there was no one left to protect.”
It soon became apparent that the wayward filly had plenty of talent when she started winning trials against open class horses.
Davis explained that Osborne’s wife, veterinarian Dr Caroline Duddy, was at his farm to pregnancy test a couple of mares and she noticed a couple of Jack Russell pups and said her husband would love one of them.
“And I was only too happy to give her a puppy for Just Stellar,” he said.
“And that puppy cost Russell $350,000.
Davis said Just Stellar was extremely sound and tough and also raced in Sydney and he throws her in the deep end when they feel it is right to take her to town.
As well as her 14 wins, Just Stellar has 12 seconds and 14 thirds. Jockey Teo Nugent has ridden the mare to six victories.
Davis spells and breeds horses at his 300 acre farm at Violet Town but now trains a team of 22 on course at Wangaratta.
Davis went fulltime training seven years ago.
Davis had hoped to have a crack at The All Star Mile but concedes that while a nine-year-old mare with more than 100 starts would attract plenty of public votes, she wouldn’t have a high enough rating to qualify for the race.
She’ll be aimed for another city race in the coming weeks.
Davis, who has seven children, likes to support Riverbank farm stallions with his broodmares.
Villianaire, by Redente and out of Dubian Gold, has won three races and ran a second at Flemington at the start of the year for Davis who also bred the gelding.
“We have bred a couple by Redente as we like to support Russell and Caroline as they are friends and been good to us,” Davis said.
“I believe that Redente is the most underrated stallion in Victoria.
“Because he was unraced, he didn’t get the superstar mares, but I believe he is not utilised enough by leading breeders.”
Just Stellar’s full sister She’s Just Rosie, also bred by Riverbank Farm, won three races and has an unraced gelding – by another Riverbank Farm stallion, Boulder City (Snitzel x Vegas Showgirl) – which was bred by Davis’s daughter Dimity.
“We have bred another Redente filly, a full sister to Benefique (Springfield Lass), and have another Redente gelding we bred. They are both in paddock having a spell and will come in during the next couple of weeks,” Davis said.
“We have got mares here that still need to go the breeding barn now in December and we don’t mind being late because we bred for ourselves. We home breed here and I love supporting Redente and have got three mares to bred and I have got a Boulder City and I have got two mares I’d love to send back to Redente again.
“There is no rush for us to breed as it’s a long process.”
Davis said he also receives support from Dr Nigel and Meredith Berry of Illowra Stud and John Richards from Goldacres.
And Riverbank’s Caroline Duddy said that while they bred Just Stellar, she was extremely difficult to handle on the ground.
“We got her broken in and she came back from the breakers and they didn’t have the highest opinion of her,” she said.
“We were considering our options but weren’t going to proceed with her and we swapped her for two Jack Russell pups with Chris Davis.
“She is very challenging for him. She has booted them, bitten them and given them a really hard time, but I think full credit to Chris for persisting with her because she is having an unbelievable run. It’s just incredible what she is doing.”
Duddy said Redente (Redoute’s Choice x Stella Cadente) had again received plenty of support from a lot of local trainers and repeat breeders and would serve a similar number of mares as last year – around 45.
“He has got a lot of loyal supporters around our area,” she said.
“He has had a nice book of mares this year. He has reached that stage where he is very consistent.”
Duddy said they’d been happy with the support of their other stallions, including Prince Of Caviar (Sebring x Black Caviar) and Boulder City.
“A lot of people had come back to Wayed Zain (High Chaparral x Zyoon), so we are sort of waiting for them to come through,” she said.
“We have probably had our biggest year yet on the farm.”