The famous Flemington straight saw a true staying battle late Saturday afternoon when Eureka Street fought on bravely to win for his breeder-owner, this year’s Lady Of Racing award winner Barbara Saunders and her husband, Barry.
Speaking post-race, Barbara was thrilled to see her homebred take out a well-deserved win, by putting himself in front and having to dig deep and work hard to the line.
“It is such a long straight to watch, but he was bred to stay, and he could have maintained that pace for another 1000 metres,” Saunders said.
In winning the $120,000 race, Eureka Street also took home an additional $35,000 in VOBIS bonuses as he was nominated by Barbara and Barry to VOBIS Gold.
Trained by Robert Smerdon, Eureka Street will now have a short break of two to three weeks, before he steps up to 2400m and be targeted toward some nice staying races during the Spring Carnival.
“We bred and raced his mum Rathsallagh, an O’Reilly mare, who was very brave running second in the Queensland Oaks, and she was a sister to Paddy O’Reilly who won the Easter Cup at Caulfield and the Albury Cup,” said Barbara.
“We were hoping a Street Cry out of her would be fantastic, and he is, just a beautiful animal, bred to race 2000 metres and beyond.
“He was going to be set for the Derby, but unfortunately an injury at three required a long spell, so we decided to geld him to stop him getting too heavy. If he had the opportunity to race at three, he may have been a real stallion prospect, but on the plus side, we now get to keep him and race him ourselves, which is just sensational.”
“With the pedigree to run over more distance, Eureka Street is one of eight horses currently in work with Robert Smerdon, including last week’s winner Every Faith in the first race at Caulfield. We will see Every Faith at her last start at Caulfield in early September, before heading to the breeding barn this season for a date with Medaglia D’Oro.
“We also have a couple of young ones coming through, and a lovely three year old by Reward For Effort called Belle Prix, which off the back of Ability, Robert (Smerdon) is very keen on.”
The Saunders have half a dozen breeding mares all based at Kim and Liz McKellar’s Ballarat stud Wyndholm Park.
As loyal supporters of the Victorian breeding industry, they have two mares heading to Manhattan Rain this season, two to Magnus and another going to Wyndholm Park’s own stallion Rebel Raider.
They are also eagerly awaiting some exciting new arrivals on the ground with two foals due from Helmet and a Street Boss from their mare, Sienna Sunrise.
Barbara has been involved in horses throughout her life starting early days at pony club in Western Australia. Having ridden ex-racehorses in equestrian events, including dressage and eventing, she also rode trackwork with her sister of a morning. They had to start in the dark, as girls were not allowed to ride racehorses in training.
Eventually, Barbara headed to the sales and bought two thoroughbreds for herself.
“I found that these horses were actually winning real money, whereas I was only winning ribbons (in eventing). The prize money paid the feed bills. Originally I was going to pre-train them and give them to a trainer to race, but I was encouraged to train them myself, so I applied for a trainers licence.”
Although coming up against the ‘boys club’ mentality, Barbara passed the requirements set by the strict stewards of the day and became the first woman to be granted a trainers licence in Western Australia.
“I was set a complicated and technical two hour written test and an one hour interview. I passed, so they had to grant me my licence. After that, none of the aspiring male trainers could pass the same exam, so it was reduced in difficulty considerably!
“I was committed to training and love the thrill, but after meeting my future husband Barry and relocating to Victoria, I gave up my licence. I have always kept my interest in racehorses, but now enjoy the ride as a breeder and owner. It’s a wonderful addiction to have!”