Above: Palentino standing at Sun Stud

The Group 1 heroics of Palentino took Jenny Watson to new heights as a thoroughbred breeder, but she never dared dream that she might be back there again just four years later.

Palentino’s half-brother Junipal (Reset), who is trained by Ciaron Maher and David Eustace, shapes as one of the top chances for Saturday’s G1 Toorak H. at Caulfield and Watson, who runs Macleay Thoroughbred Stud in Tasmania’s Meander Valley, can hardly believe that she has another shot at being a Group 1 breeder.

“To get one Group 1 winner is incredible, but to breed a half-brother that might be a Group 1 winner as well. is out of this world,” she told TDN AusNZ. “I’ll be glued to the TV on Saturday, I can tell you that.”

Macleay Thoroughbred Stud operates at the smaller end of the commercial scale, with seven broodmares currently at the Westwood-based farm, around 25km south-west of Launceston. The resultant 4-6 foals a year are usually sold either privately or through weanling or yearling sales.

The humble family-operated farm burst to prominence with the emergence of a son of Teofilo (Ire), Palentino, who won both the 2016 G1 Australian Guineas and G1 Makybe Diva S. He was bred out of a mare named Palatine Hill (Palace Music {USA}), who Watson had purchased for just $25,000 at the Inglis Great Southern Sale in 2011.

“I loved Palace Music and I loved Sovereign Red, who is her damsire and she was a half to two stakes winners. I always try to pick mares who are full or half relations to stakes horses. She was a good racemare herself. She was a nice type as well and ticked all my criteria,” Watson said.

“She was a good racemare herself. She was a nice type as well and ticked all my criteria.” – Jenny Watson

Palatine Hill was in foal to Rock Of Gibraltar (Ire) when purchased and after producing a filly that spring, who would go on an fetch a modest price at the sales, Watson heeded the guidance of advisor and Bluebloods editor David Bay in sending her to Darley shuttle stallion Teofilo (Ire).

The resultant chestnut colt made a huge impression on Watson straight away and he fetched the top price, $85,000, at the 2014 Magic Millions Tasmanian Yearling Sale. Purchased by trainer Darren Weir, he went on to be a star on the track.

At just his third start, Palentino won a Listed race at Flemington, and less than a week later, his younger half-brother by another Darley stallion, Reset, arrived at Macleay Thoroughbred Stud.

“He was a nice type, probably not quite the class of Palentino, because Palentino was an absolute Rockstar,” Watson said of Junipal. “He was really nice horse, had a beautiful head and a gorgeous front end. He was a really nice foal but he wasn’t quite at the level of Palentino, who was really one out of the box.”

While pleased with the Reset colt, a difficult pregnancy for Palatine Hill, plus the commercial realities of running a small operation, meant she would not produce another foal for the Watsons.

“Junipal was the last foal I bred out of her. When she was carrying Junipal, she got a displaced colon and was very sick,” Watson said.

“She was foaling late that year and at the time, I thought, if you manage to carry to the pregnancy, I’ll give you a year off. I didn’t mate her that year and then I got that offer to buy her. At that stage, she was rising 17 and empty, so I moved her on. There are always bills coming in that you need to find money for.”

Renowned Victorian breeder Robert Crabtree purchased Palatine Hill privately and she has since gone on to produce colts by Medaglia D’Oro (USA), Snitzel and Magnus, while she is in foal to Mikki Isle (Jpn). Her Snitzel yearling colt realised $300,000 to Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott through the Bhima Thoroughbreds draft at this year’s Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale.

Above: Snitzel x Palentine Hill (colt)

Taking the early option

Junipal was also sold privately as a weanling to a group of owners, including Mick Johnson, who enjoyed Group 1 success with top-class mare Kenedna (Not A Single Doubt).

“He was always a cracker of a foal with heaps of personality,” Watson said. “As I get older it seems easier to sell them as weanlings than run them through to yearlings. I still hold onto a couple, but I do try to sell as weanlings if I can.

“I tend to sell a few through the Great Southern Sale and then through the Tassie Magic Millions Sale.”

While Junipal has always had plenty of talent, and was stakes placed as a spring 3-year-old, he always shaped as a less precocious type than his half-brother. While also placed in a G3 Sunshine Coast Guineas, he won only one of his first 13 starts before breaking through at metropolitan level at Moonee Valley in August 2019.

A subsequent Randwick win saw him then contest his first Group 1 race, the Epsom H. last spring, where he found himself out of his depth.

However, given a longer spell since last spring, he has returned a much-improved horse this time in, recording impressive wins at both Moonee Valley and Caulfield at his past two starts.

“He’s stepped up big time this year. He did well last year winning the Shoot Out Mile at Randwick, but this year, he seems to have gone to another level,” Watson said.

“I thought he was probably at that city class level but Reset could always pull one out of the box. He has surprised me with what he has done but I am thrilled that he has been able to do that.”

Palentino’s first crop making an impression

As well as the emergence of Junipal as a genuine Group 1 contender, Watson is also relishing the prospect of seeing the first crop of now Sun Stud resident, Palentino, hit the track this season.

“I’ve bred a couple and I really like them. They are very much like him in that they are horses that want to go somewhere. They are always interested in something new and if they go anywhere, it’s always at a million miles per hour,” she said.

“I believe that Lindsay Park have one they are happy with and Ciaron Maher has a couple and Robbie Griffiths, so they are in all the right stables and people are telling me that they are showing a bit of early promise.”

Palentino, who stood his first two seasons at $17,600 (inc GST) and stands at $14,300 (inc GST) in 2020, 39 of his first crop sold through the yearling sales in 2020 at an average of $41,307 and a top price of $160,000.

“Hopefully, he can get a couple of 2-year-olds come through,” Watson said. “He’s throwing a lot of chestnuts, with quite a bit of white on them. The ones I’ve bred and the ones I’ve seen have been really nice, well conformed horses like himself. He seems to throw a bit of scope as well.”

Article courtesey of TDN