The win of Chartres in the $500,000 VOBIS Sires Guineas (1600m) at Caulfield last Saturday wasn’t just a triumph for Mornington trainer Matt Laurie and owner Paul Dugan who combined to win the first running of the inaugural $1m The Showdown in 2019 with Prince of Sussex.
Dugan, who sold Prince of Sussex (now racing as Lucky Express) immediately after The Showdown victory to Hong Kong for $1.75m, bought Chartres because he reminded him of his former star galloper.
Both horses were sired by Swettenham Stud’s Toronado.
And while Laurie and Dugan were ecstatic with the win, the roar of the group that bred the three-year-old, led by Kristen Manning, was deafening as the gelding crossed the winning post.
It was particularly pleasing for Manning, who identified Toronado as the perfect stallion to mate with Chartre’s dam The French House (Dylan Thomas x Desaismes), a mare and family that she’d been associated with for a long time.
“We have had success as breeders, but we have never had a Saturday winner before,” Manning said.
‘” We have had horses win on Sundays and Wednesdays and things, but there is something about a Saturday afternoon.
“It’s that weird transition when you name a horse that nobody else knows who they are, and suddenly everyone does. It’s always a thrill.”
Manning said the success of Chartres went back quite a few years and began when the Moroney stable bought a Victorian bred horse in Sydney – a Grand Lodge (USA) filly, a product of the stallion’s last crop.
Manning loved the pedigree of the filly, she was out of Assertive Lady (Assert x Cairene), and bought a small share, but the majority of owners were based in New Zealand.
“She was trained by Moroney, and we got to go and play like we were the biggest owners, but we were the smallest because the other owners weren’t there,” she laughed.
“I had the privilege of naming her Deraismes and was quite proud of it because she was by Grand Lodge out of Assertive Lady and Maria Deraismes was the first female leader of the Grand Lodge.
“I had a tiny share of her, and she won two at Sandown and was Stakes placed.”
When the ownership group decided to retire the mare, they sold her back to the breeders, Tim and Brian Kelly of Bloodhound, who happened to be Manning’s friends.
“They sold her back to them, and they do a lot of pedigree research, and she went to Dylan Thomas (Danehill x Lagrion) and had a foal who died on its first day,” Manning recalled.
“So they sent her back to Dylan Thomas the next year. They are part of a pedigree group, and we get together once a month, and it’s been going for about 25 years.
“We call ourselves the Victorian Pedigree Group but nothing really official. We meet up at a pub and then go back to the Kelly office and just talk about pedigrees.”
It was at one of those gatherings that the Kellys said they were syndicating the filly they’d bred from the second mating between Dylan Thomas and Deraismes and asked Manning if she’d like to take the remaining quarter share.
Manning syndicated the share, and some of the owners who had raced Deraismes accepted the offer to stay involved.
“We called the filly The French House because Dylan Thomas (Welsh poet) used to frequent the pub at Soho called The French House, and he once left his book there when he was drunk,” she said.
“We actually visited there when we went to London last time, so it was quite a buzz.
“It’s one of the longest-running pubs in London and is quite famous, and the name sounded like a winner to me.”
The French House was given to Darren Weir to train, and he thought she was Group 1 quality and set her for the Australasian Oaks at Adelaide when injury intervened with a tendon issue a Flemington at her eighth and what turned out to be her final race.
“Even though on paper she only won a maiden at Kilmore – she ran fifth in two listed races – she was quite unlucky,” Manning said.
“As the other owners weren’t breeders, they put her in the sale at Inglis in June, and I went up to get her, and we happened to get her for $1400, which was amazing. There was a bit of a knock-on Dylan Thomas at the time, and the family wasn’t really happening, and on the paper, she was just a maiden winner.
“At the time, I wasn’t in a position to have another mare, but I didn’t want to let her go, and one of the things was that she had the most beautiful movement and was only little. She had this beautiful action and just floated over the ground and thought I’d be mad not to get her.”
Manning gathered the support of a few friends, who had never previously bred a horse, and they all started putting money into an account to cover the costs and hopefully build up a bank to pay for a service to a decent stallion.
Manning used her expertise as a pedigree analyst to identify Adam Sangster’s shuttle stallion Toronado (High Chaparral x Wana Doo) at Swettenham Stud.
“I just thought he was a wonderful match for her, but he was way out of the league,” Manning said of the service fee.
“I thought I’d see if I could get a foal share, but Adam Sangster said we don’t do them but write down your thoughts, so I sent him what I thought was a pretty convincing letter, and he agreed.
“I’ve just been speaking to him, and he said it was the first foal share he ever did.”
But it wasn’t instant success with the in-demand Toronado.
The first foal produced in the mating with The French House was a filly which was totally unexpected on type from what Manning had envisaged.
“The French House is quite similar in looks to Toronado,” Manning said.
“She is small but has quite similar markings to Toronado. But out came this chestnut with four white feet and a huge white face, and I am still not genetically sure where she came from.
“Rebecca Waymouth bought her (Auclert), and we stayed in, but she went amiss, and the other owner bought us out, and she went to Shalaa, and I believe she is in foal.
“This fellow was the second foal and came out exactly as I thought, and he just looked like a Toronado from day one.”
Chartres was foaled down at Neville Murdoch’s Larneuk Stud.
Being a foal share, they were forced to sell, and the colt was headed to Melbourne Premier before the pandemic struck.
Rather than going through an online sale, Sangster withdrew all his yearlings, but in the meantime, Dugan had gone through the catalogue and thought that Chartres looked like Lucky Express (Prince of Sussex).
“He told me that one of the reasons he bought Prince Of Sussex was the mother had only won a maiden but had been thought highly of, and it was the same thing as our mare,” Manning said.
“He watched the videos of our mare online, and then Swettenham gave him my number, and he rang, and we hit it off, he is a lovely bloke, and we agreed on a price which was just $40,000.
“We just doubled the service fee so that we’d break even if that.”
Manning told the owners when they agreed to the foal share to not be too concerned if they didn’t race the first two because she was determined to “make’’ the mare and gave her a good start to what they wanted to achieve in the future.
She said nearly all the breeders of Chartres bought back into the gelding.
“I think we have set the mare up, which is good because she is only young,” Manning said.
“She had a beautiful Love Conquers All filly the year before last but unfortunately got to eight weeks and died of an infection. It hurts even more now.
“We gave the mare that year off because she got a bit of stress colic after losing the foal.
“Now she is in foal to Brave Smash.”
All the owners of Prince of Sussex are also in the ownership of Chartres, along with most of the breeders of Chartres.
Offers came from Hong Kong after Chartres won his maiden at Cranbourne at his fourth start. The three-year-old, which finished third in the Group 3 Zeditave Stakes (1200m) at Caulfield in February, has now raced eight times for three wins, a second and a third for $443,500 in prize money.
Manning said that she and the other breeders were delighted that Dugan invited them back into the horse, and they are hopeful Chartres won’t be sold.
She said all the other breeders – including Vin Lowe, Steve Dainton, Patrick Hines, Amanda Nemaric, Ryan Butters, Felicity Hawker, Howard Clement and Nick Lovett – all agree on one thing.
“It’s a different level of thrill when you breed them,” Manning said.
“A lot of those people couldn’t afford to breed a horse and to bring them in to share it, and I am really thrilled for them.
“It really elevates it, and the Kellys were there to watch it too.”