Cranbourne trainer Robbie Griffiths is already talking-up the prospects of his home town Cup winner King Magnus being aimed at next year’s $5 million All Star Mile at Flemington.
Griffiths, who trains in partnership with Mathew de Kock, was thrilled to win the Listed $500,000 Cranbourne Cup (1600m) with a horse that ticked so many boxes for the local racing and breeding industries.
The six-year-old is by Widden Stud stallion Magnus and was bred locally. It was Magnus’ 25th Listed winner.
And for Griffiths, the race was something of an emotional victory after spending almost a lifetime involved in racing at Cranbourne.
“For me the victory was outstanding in so many ways,” he said.
“As a young fellow, mum and dad moved to Cranbourne in 1972 when I was only three.
“I grew up in Cranbourne, did my apprenticeship as jockey there and became a trainer there and you hope that one day you connect yourself into local folklore.
“To win the Cranbourne Cup was outstanding but to do it as the inaugural TAB Cranbourne Cup at 1600m and to do it in my first year in the training partnership with Matthew and to etch yourself in the local history of the Cup all rolled into one was a very, very special day.”
The only blemish in King Magnus’ 10 current race campaign was his first first-up run at Sandown in June when he put in buck-jumping display and finished last of 13, with his official losing margin being recorded at the maximum of 99 lengths.
Griffiths suspects the possibility of a tightened girth on a small saddle may have been responsible for the rodeo-like display, but then a Sandown second and two consecutive wins at Caulfield followed.
The runs leading into the Cranbourne Cup were in higher grade races and full of merit. King Magnus finished fourth, beaten a length in the Listed Sofitel Stakes (1400m), then was beaten less than a length in the Group 3 Moonga Stakes before again going down by less than a length in a blanket finish in the Group 1 Cantala Stakes (1600m).
Interesting the Cranbourne Cup was only the third attempt – and his first success – at 1600m.
After the Cantala, Griffiths was extremely confident going into last Saturday’s Cranbourne Cup.
“I just really thought he’d win, I really did,” Griffiths said.
“Mat and I had him really ready for the Cantala and we were really confident of a cheeky run and he delivered. He loomed up and at one point I thought he was going to win us a Group 1 but got beaten in a blanket (finish).
“When you come off a Group 1 race like that you automatically think you are going to be $2.50 or $3 favourite in a country cup but full credit to Neil Bainbridge (Cranbourne Turf Club chief executive) and his team to attract a field of that calibre for the race.
“The fact that we started $10 just shows how open and high quality it was. It was really a top quality event.”
Griffiths said the timing of the Cranbourne Cup was a flow on from the Cantala and the four day Melbourne Cup carnival which allowed horses to continue to advance to other meetings including the Sandown carnival, Perth or Hong Kong.
But King Magnus is heading to the paddock for a spell.
Griffiths is huge wrap for the capabilities of Magnus who he said the stable jokingly refer to the stallion as Triple M – Magnus Means Money.
“They have been brilliant for us and we love them. They have been inexpensive to breed or buy and they have been such great money-spinners for their ownership group,” he said
“We just keep winning with them.
“And they get better with age.”
Griffiths said the stable had raced 26 by Magnus for an amazing25 individual winner.
“I think he has done great job for Victorian breeders because he is affordable and his durable and they go on all ground and the result on Saturday for those owners in a $500,000 race was fantastic,” he said.
While Griffiths said King Magnus would be aimed at similar races during autumn, he said they’ll nominate the gelding for the “fairy tale race” – the All Star Mile where the bulk of the field for the richest 1600m race in the world is decided by a public vote.
“He has come from nowhere to somewhere so he is going to have the romance vote and the fairy tale vote so I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets a lot of people backing him,” he said.
“I spoke to Greg Carpenter (Racing Victoria), before he won the Cup actually, about nominating him and we’ll do that and then we’ll have the normal autumn approach as well where we’ll look at the feature handicaps.
“Whether we travel to Sydney, we’ll just see what happens.”
The feats of King Magnus continue to make the racing game exciting and worthwhile for first time breeders and owners Larissa and Peter Joyce who milk cows on their 210 acre dairy farm in the Strzelecki Ranges, past Warragul in West Gippsland.
The husband and wife team were in an ownership group of six that raced King Magnus’ dam Influential Miss (Carnegie x Perilla) which won four races and had seven minor placings for Mornington trainer Pat Carey.
After the mare was retired, four of the owners, including the Joyces, decided to buy her as a breeding prospect. Influential Miss produced Influential Girl (Magnus), followed by King Magnus and then her last foal, the moderately performed Wanted Miss (Wanted).
When King Magnus bought up his first two Caulfield wins in July, his full sister, Influential Girl, also raced by the Joyces and trained by Robbie Griffiths and Mathew de Kock, finished third on the same day.
The six-year-old Influential Girl has raced 26 times for five wins, five seconds and three thirds for nearly $200,000 in prizemoney.
Larissa said one of Influential Miss’ owners was breeder John Pratt and he used the late pedigree expert Diane Neylon to advise on matings and did the breeding for Influential Miss and recommended the stallion Magnus.
Peter Joyce said they had done well from both Influential Girl and King Magnus from the two matings with the stallion.
“Influential Miss was only small and her last win was on Melbourne Cup Day in 2010 when she won (over 1700m) and we thought she would go onto bigger and better things.
“They are not very big horses but they have big hearts and Influential Miss got a bit of weight and ran a few places in handicaps after her last win.”
Larissa said it was great for Griffiths to win his hometown Cup with King Magnus that was originally headed to the paddock after Cantala but pulled up so well that it was decided to have a crack at the Cranbourne race.
“If he hadn’t have recovered well from the Cantala, he wouldn’t have ran,” she said.
The Joyces were recently forced to retire the seven-year-old Influential Girl which last raced in August.
“She had a tendon injury and we had to retire her and we have sent her to Starspangledbanner,” Peter said.
“It wasn’t career ending but it was a 12 month injury and she would have been eight by the time she came back. And you couldn’t guarantee she was going to come back to what she was, so the decision was pretty easy to make.
“We got into Starspangledbanner just before the Cox Plate (won by his son State Of Rest) so it worked out well.”
The Joyces said Griffiths gave them a few ideas on potential stallions and in the end they opted for Rosemont’s Starspangledbanner.
With only three foals, Influential Miss’ last foal was Wanted Miss in 2016 and she failed to get into foal to Palentino at her last attempt in 2020.
The 16-year-old mare is now living a leisurely life, but bigger things lay ahead for her son.