Neville Murdoch can still manage a chuckle when he recalls what could have been a life-changing moment.
He was offered the choice of two stallions – O’Lonhro and I Am Invincible when the pair finished their respective racing careers about a decade ago.
Murdoch, who has owned Larneuk Stud near Euroa for 20 years, opted for the son of Lonhro which stands at his stud for $5500, while I Am Invincible started his stud career with a service fee of $11,000 but in a typical rag to riches story, stood last season at $247,500.
Murdoch was happy to tell the story after O’Lonhro produced his first stakes winner when Mamzelle Tess won the Group 2 Sunline Stakes at Moonee Valley on Friday night.
“If you want to have a bit of a laugh, I was offered I Am Invincible at the same time as O’Lonhro,” Murdoch said.
“The same owners owned both of them and all of the so called experts said don’t buy I Am Invincible.
“I was clever wasn’t I? You’d never be able to buy him now.
“We never even discussed money and in the end he never got sold.
“It was a toss of the coin type of thing.”
“O’Lonhro is out of the same family as well but has never had the numbers he deserves.’’
Murdoch watched Mamzelle Tess’ victory from Asia, but cut short his trip because of the coronavirus and has arrived safely back in Australia.
“I watched it from overseas actually and I was so rapt because the lady who bred the mare, Margaret Naismith, is just a brilliant lady,” Murdoch said.
“The mare has been so brilliant for them and I had $100 on her each way at $24 or $25. It was fantastic.
“And it was a fair field she beat too. She always starts at big odds and it’s crazy.”
Murdoch said has had a long association with Margaret and they still have Mamzelle Tess’ dam Phoenix Crown (Sarason) on the stud as a nanny mare.
“The mare (Phoenix Crown) hadn’t produced anything special before but this one was a beautiful type and we just hoped it could race well fo her,” he said.
“And it’s turned out, she is a good winning horse.”
O’Lonhro, according to Murdoch, is an underrated stallion that has never been given a top line of mares.
“I don’t know what he is running at now but at one stage he was running about 62% winners to runners.” Murdoch said.
“It can be frustrating that he doesn’t get the support he deserves.”
“He has done well for us and we have a good loyal base of people who breed from him every yea.”
While O’Lonhro has had plenty of winners, Murdoch said Mamzelle Tess was the best the stallion had produced so far.
Cranbourne trainer Cindy Alderson also had a talented son of O’Lonhro, the gelding named O’Lonera that has won six races and earnt $562,550 in prizemoney. Murdoch’s homebred O’Tauto shows plenty of promise after having two wins from 10 starts and already has won $221,000. The gelding will be back for the spring following a small set-back injury.
Murdoch said he hopes that the latter years of O’Lonhro’s stallion career might be his best ones and Mamzelle Tess’ is leading the charge.
Murdoch is not expecting much of a change in the breeding season for O’Lonhro “He’ll probably get his 30 or 40 mares from reliable breeders.”
“But saying that, who would know. If Mamzelle Tess can pull a couple more races off and O’Tauto comes back and does what we think he can do, you never know.”
“It’s going to be a tough year and who knows if even the shuttle stallions will come to Australia with everything that’s going on so the support may remain locally.”
O’Lonhro served 33 mares last season but Murdoch reiterated that he doesn’t get big numbers but his winners to runners’ ratio are good and he deserves successful progeny.
“When you are dealing with $5000 stallions they can come from anywhere,” he said.
“And she came from nowhere as well.”
Murdoch said he wouldn’t be surprised if O’Lonhro produces another stakes winner and has been delighted to see the recent success on the track.
Margaret Naismith appreciates how lucky she was to win the Sunline Stakes, especially with the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus.
Margaret also bred Mamzelle Tess’ dam (Phoenix Crown). She bought the grand dam – Phoenix Empress – at an Inglis sale.
“We had show horses and I got into the breeding industry by accident as one does,” Margaret said.
“I was looking for another broodmare and I paid $500 for her. She was a New Zealand bred mare and she won four races. I bought her as Phoenix Empress and that’s who she was listed as in the sales.
“Then I found that she’d had a name change when I looked at her pedigree so she is listed as Arctic Star which was her original name.”
Margaret said that when she met the Murdoch family many years ago when she sent a couple of mares to their stallions but says nothing special was produced.
She said it was an easy decision to go to O’Lonhro.
“With the money I had to go for a sensible service fee and he was a stunning looking horse.Neville just treated me so well from day one and we have stayed good friends all that time,” she said.
“And she was foaled on my birthday – August 9 – I couldn’t have asked for anything more.
“She was an early foal and Neville said straight away it’s the best one you’ve had.”
Margaret owns Mamzelle Tess and has a lease arrangement share with some family and friends.
“Because of her modest breeding she always went along a little underrated.” she said
Mamzelle Tess is a rising eight year-old and with the lease to expire on July 31, Margaret says her mare won’t be racing into the new season.
“I don’t want to keep her until she is too old to be a successful broodmare and she has more than exceeded all expectations and I think this is the right time to finish her racing career.’ she said.
“The plan is to sell the mare. I have enjoyed the breeding I have done so far and I’m too old to go down that track again. I know all too well how things can go wrong and time can get away with.”
Margaret said she would leave the mare with trainer Leon Corstens at Geelong and he would determine if she would keep racing until the end of the season.
Margaret said Corstens plan to give the mare a couple of easy weeks and will then look for another race.
“She has got better with age. ” Margaret said.
Leading into her victory in the Sunline Stakes, Mamzelle Tess had finished second, beaten less than half a length in the Group 3 Tressady Stakes (1400m) at Flemington.
Mamzelle Tess has had 47 starts for eight wins, seven seconds and 13 thirds.