The lightning raid of Sydney gelding Looks Like Elvis at the Pakenham Cup meeting netted the seven-year-old’s owners a big payday.
As well as the first prize of $96,250, the Victorian-bred gelding picked up an owner’s bonus of $23,000 and a nominator’s bonus of $7,000 for winning the VOBIS Gold Bullion (1400m) which was restricted to VOBIS Gold qualified horses.
Bred by Doug McLennan and Mark Casey, Looks Like Elvis was sold through Rosemont Stud’s draft at the 2019 Inglis Classic Yearling Summer Book.
The gelding was purchased for $110,000 by Eagle Farm trainer Bryan Dais, on behalf of stable clients, but has been under the care of Warwick Farm trainer Jarrod Austin since August, 2020.
Now with nine wins, 12 seconds and six thirds for $858,560 in stakes, it was Austin’s first win with the son of the Group 1 winning All American which was part-owned by Clinton Casey, a former Richmond president and brother of Mark Casey.
Austin said the big VOBIS money was the lure behind targeting the race which they finally got to after a couple of setbacks with planned lead-up races that never eventuated.
“It’s a funny story, but we originally had him set to run in The Gong (a $1 million dollar race) and then two weeks later he was going to come down and run in the VOBIS race,” Austin said.
“But he didn’t end up getting a run in The Gong and got balloted out and was the first emergency, so it changed all our plans and then we decided to run him the following week at Rosehill in The Festival Stakes and then when the heavy 10 came up we changed plans again.
“So we headed off to Melbourne. It was always on the radar but we couldn’t get a run anywhere. It looked like a nice race for him on paper, and the main thing was getting back onto a dry surface and it was such a long time since he’d been on one, but he showed what he could.”
It’s not the first time the owners of Looks Like Elvis have targeted a VOBIS race. The gelding ran third in the VOBIS Gold Star (1500m) at The Valley in 2019 and followed his two previous unplaced runs in the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) and the Listed Cranbourne Cup (2025m).
Austin said the owners were always keeping their eyes on the VOBIS races.
“The VOBIS seems like a really good system and there is great prize money,” he said.
“It works well. You are getting an advantage by racing against restricted horses in that sense because they have to be in that scheme.
“It’s a big bonus to be in the scheme.”
Austin said he was lucky to get hold of Looks Like Elvis and a few others when owner Jim Critchley relocated to Sydney and took his horses with him.
And the Looks Like Elvis name has certainly given the horse a bit of a cult following and guarantees he attracts attention where ever he races.
After last Saturday’s 2.8 length victory over Winning Partner, Austin said Looks Like Elvis would probably return to Melbourne on New Year’s Day to have a crack at the Listed Chester Manifold Stakes (1400m) at Flemington.
“He has won a lot of money, and all of it is without winning a black-type event, and he has run numerous placings in Group and Listed races without breaking through,” he said.
“It’s a lot of prize money for a horse that hasn’t won black type so he has been a real good money-spinner.”
Austin Looks Like Elvis is in great form and has been happy with all four of his runs this preparation which includes a narrow second in the Group 3 Bill Richie Stakes at Rosehill and third in the Listed Ladies Day Stakes at Hawkesbury.
And winning jockey Brett Prebble couldn’t have been happier with the win and didn’t miss Rosemont Stud’s Anthony Mithen in his postrace interview after he was replaced by Jamie Kah on Way To Go Paula which finished fourth after starting as the second favourite at $4.40.
Prebble, who had ridden Way To Go Paula to second place at the mare’s previous start said: “That was enjoyable – when you get the a— off one and then you go and beat ‘em it’s a nice feeling.
“He’s a lovely horse that’s been running in some pretty good
races against good horses. He hasn’t been on a Good (3) for a long time and he loved it. When I let him go, he really showed a good turn of foot and just put them away.
“I watched all his replays, and he wants to please, but he’s been drawing bad barriers and had to go back, and in all fairness, he’s been running against good horses.”
Mithen said they foaled down Looks Like Elvis at Rosemont as the mare Savalook (Savabeel x Look At Moiye) had a booking with the stud’s Starcraft.
“We sold him at the classic sale,” he said.
“He was VOBIS because of us and then knocked off Way To Go Paula which was our big hope and I sacked Brett Prebble from Way To Go Paula which he was non-too pleased about and picked up the ride on Looks Like Elvis.
“He let me know all about it in the postrace interview. I text him and said fair call and hats off to you and Brett and he came back with a thumbs up.
“All is fair in love, war and racing, I suppose.”
Mithen said Looks Like Elvis, which had won its first race in two years with the Pakenham win, was a good representation of what they can breed down the Surf Coast way, although all the credit goes to McLennan and Casey.
And for breeder Doug McLennan it was a good result as they still have Savalook which has been a good producer for their stud.
Savalook’s first foal – American Diva – a full sister to Looks Like Elvis, was retained by McLennan and Casey who sent the mare, a winner of eight races, to stud last year and she has since produced a filly by Crackerjack King (IRE) and is in foal to Darley’s new stallion Ghaiyyath (Dubawi x Nightime).
Savalook, who is also in foal to Darley’s Ghaiyyath, was covered by All American four times, but missed one, year while a filly died in an accident before making it to the track.
The mare’s mating at Rosemont with Starcraft produced Ammoudi Bay which is still racing and has also won eight races, while the next foal, also by Starcraft, was sold to Hong Kong and races as Bond A Star but is yet to be placed from 10 starts.
The mare has two fillies by Crackerjack King, a colt by Sepoy and a filly by Artie Schiller.
“The three-year-old Crackerjack King filly (Let’savalook) is in work and there is a four-year-old mare (Avenue Of Heaven) in work with John Smerdon on the Gold Coast and she hasn’t raced yet either but is ready to race,” he said.
“We sold two at the sales, including Ammoudi Bay and Symon Wilde trained it and the full brother (Bond A Star) went to Hong Kong.
“Robert Smerdon bought Ammoudi Bay ($80,000) but when he got rubbed out the horse went to Symon Wilde.”
The colt by Sepoy was bought by the owners of Looks Like Elvis.
And McLennan said the filly by Artie Schiller is what he describes as “a bit of class.”
“I have also got a Frosted yearling filly out of (Group 2 winner) Antarctic Miss and I have a Street Boss yearling filly out of My Unicorn and the three of them are absolutely outstanding,” he said.
“Even though the other two are by sires a little bit higher up the tree, the Artie Schiller is an absolute standout, and anyone who comes to the property asks ‘who is that.’
“Savalook missed to Artie Schiller last year.”
McLennan, who he says he is the best of mates with Casey, operates their 40 acre farm and usually breed from eight broodmares a year.
And while he said they’d often go interstate for stallions, he learnt that for all the costs they were better off to going to a good Victorian stallion.
“I normally to go a few stallions at Godolphin (Darley) and I think I’ve got three Frosted colts and a Frosted filly on the property and I’ve got a couple Street Bosses and this year one mare is in foal to Frosted, two are in foal to Ghaiyyath and a couple to Artie Schiller,” McLennan said.
“I still don’t know why people don’t rate Artie Schiller. You look at the results every week and he has two or three winners in town.
“I think I’ve got two mares in foal to him again this year.”
McLennan said Savalook was a New Zealand mare that they paid $60,000 for but she never made it to the races after shattering a shoulder.
“She went up to Ballarat Veterinary Clinic and had it all put back together again, and I can remember taking the staples out, and I think there were 75 staples,” he said.
“And that’s the reason she never raced.”
And as for businessman Casey, he leaves all the horse business to McLennan.
“I know is that they have four legs and that’s about it,” Casey quipped.
“Doug does all the breeding and is my partner in the horse breeding.”