Ivan Holloway always knew it was going to be a big ask to bring Mamzellle Tess out of retirement after it wasn’t her time in the breeding barn and then aim her for the $5 million All-Star Mile.
After paying $110,000 for the Group 2 winning mare at the Inglis Digital Online Sale last May, Holloway sent her to Merchant Navy, a stallion he has long admired, but the mare failed to get in foal.
Holloway noted that the daughter of Victorian stallion O’Lonhro was perhaps retired due to her age, rather than her form as she’d won the Group 2 Sunline Stakes (1600m) at her second last start in March last year before being sold as a breeding proposition.
Her last race before Holloway bought the mare was in April last year when she ran a respectable fourth, beaten three lengths, in the VOBIS Gold Mile at Caulfield.
The eight-year-old returned to the track after 43 weeks in last Saturday’s Group Bellmaine Stakes when she finished seven of 11, beaten less than three lengths.
The first stage of the comeback was successful, but Holloway admits getting enough publicity and the necessary votes to get the mare into the richest mile race in the world will take some doing.
If she gets in, Holloway said it be would be a fairy tale.
The Irishman, who heads a global infrastructure company, is in the closing days of spending two weeks in quarantine after returning to his native country on business.
He was more than happy with what her saw of Mamzellle Tess’ comeback run.
“To be honest, nine months off the track, you couldn’t have wished for more,” Holloway said.
“She ran really well. It just seemed that she got tired the last 100m and she ran seventh in a Group race and was nine months off the track, was two and half lengths of a Group 1 winner who I know who was carrying a big weight but you couldn’t wish for a better return for a mare that was going to the breeding barn who then took a U-turn.
“I am very happy with her.”
Mamzellle Tess’ inability to get into foal to Merchant Navy left Holloway “twiddling” his thumbs as he’d more bad luck the previous year when he had a couple of barren mares.
With a year to kill before he sends the mare back to Merchant Navy, Holloway pondered about his options which including leaving her in the Hunter Valley until the next breeding season or bringing her back to Victoria.
In the end he decided to ring the mare’s trainer Leon Corstens for his opinion if it was a feasible option to bring her back into work.
“He had trained her for the last four or five years so I rang Troy and we had a quick chat with and asked him what he reckoned about bringing Mamzelle Tess back into training,” Holloway said.
“He said straight away, yes why not. When she came back to him she’d had good break that she normally wouldn’t have and came back better than ever.
“It was a solution time leaving her somewhere on a farm until the next year and by the looks of it she has got some potential.
“Originally what I liked about her was the toughness and that’s why I bought her, more than pedigree, so I think she has got a good chance of showing something this year.”
He has leased her to Corstens.
Holloway was looking for value when he saw Mamzelle Tess come on the market and thought he did well to pay $110,000 for a Group 2 winning mare who won more than $600,000 in prizemoney in her 49 starts.
Now with the comeback run a success, Holloway needs the public vote get her into the top 10 and split 10 per cent of any prizemoney with charities Pinchapoo and the Peter Mac Cancer Foundation which his business has previously supported.
“We are trying to give something back and create a bit of interest and with only a few days to go, she hasn’t been in the eye like all other horses over the spring and such,” Holloway said.
“She is probably a bit forgotten so how to get her there is the next question.
“I am not into marketing and social media so I am sort of old school in that that way and I am looking to other people for ideas.”
Holloway has reduced his broodmare band in recent years but currently has six after learning what he says was a valuable lesson in the breeding game – quality over quantity.
He breeds to race and sell and admits he’s tried to make the breeding pay for the racing.
“But it hasn’t quite worked out yet,” he laughed.
“It’s not a sprint; it’s a marathon this game. I love it and love all the aspects of it and you learn from the people in the industry.”
Racing has been a lifetime obsession and love for Holloway who recalls to going to races all over Ireland as a child.
He then went into the ownership of horses which he said started with a leg, a tail and then he owned a couple of broodmares in Ireland.
“And then when I came over here I started getting into it a bit more seriously about six years ago,” he said.
“I brought a couple of broodmares from Inglis and Magic Millions and started small and the just built it up.
“I brought over horse from Ireland to race and my thing is to try bringing over a horse every year and try to make it work it that way. I also bring over foals and yearlings.
“I started off buying tried horses and bringing them over but now it’s more breeding the horses over there and giving them their initial training in Ireland and they come over her if they are good enough to earn the flight over.”
Holloway has had some success and bad luck with Pivotal (GB) mare Procrastination (GB), which cost him $180,000 at the 2016 Magic Millions Broodmare Sale.
He said the mare, which was in foal to Exceed and Excel when he bought her, won two races in France and was stakes placed and more interesting is out of Rubiton mare Dilly Dally which won two Group 2 races over 1200m in Australia.
Holloway sold the Exceed and Excel colt at the 2018 Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale for $200,000 to Bill Mitchell who bought him for a Hong Kong client. Named Excellent Proposal, the now four year-old won three of his four starts in Australia before making his way to John Size in Hong Kong where he has won four of his six races, including his last start victory in the Group 1 Hong Kong Classic Mile at Sha Tin to take his career earnings to $AUD1.8 million.
“Unfortunately the mother died after the second foal which I still have and he’s a Vancouver colt which is nearly ready to go with Robert Kingston,” he said.
Now a three-year-old, the colt is named Potato Pete as Holloway explained he names the horses after his children. Another of his horses is named Sophia’s Choice after one his daughters.
Holloway laughed when he explained that Potato Pete is his son’s nickname.
Sophia’s Choice, by Fastnet Rock and a winner of three races, is expected to join Mamzelle Tess in the breeding barn later this year.
“It would be a great fairy tale if things happened for Mamzelle Tess this year and then she went to the barn,” he said.
Holloway said he was with Segenhoe stud master Peter O’Brien when Merchant Navy (Fastnet Rock x Legally Bay) won the Group 1 Coolmore Stud Stakes (1200m) at Flemington. He was also at the Curragh when the entire won the Group 2 Greenlands Stakes (1207m) and also witnessed the victory in the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee (1207m) at Royal Ascot.
After being based in Australia for eight years, Holloway’s love of racing has continued to grow.
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