Owner Danielle Henwood admits it’s sad that her promising stayer Nonconformist won’t be replicated in any way after the gelding’s sire, Rebel Raider passed away suddenly.
Out of the mare Good Thinking, Nonconformist was bred by the Henwood family and after just two starts broke his maiden status in January and then last Friday night won the Group 2 Alister Clark Stakes (2040m) at Moonee Valley.
Touted as a possible lightweight chance in a Caulfield Cup, the Grahame Begg trained Nonconformist has had three wins, one second and two thirds from his six starts.
And Danielle, whose grandfather was the late Theo Howe who trained many top jumpers as well as the talented Group 1 winner King Phoenix, says it is simply unbelievable to get a horse like Nonconformist.
“He is a dream come true,” she said. “He is unbelievable. Horses like this don’t come along all that often and we are very, very fortunate to have him, that’s for sure.
“We tried to create a little bit of a dynasty with the family and we have only had success with one horse. We own the grand dam Rowenchelle and then she had four foals and Good Thinking (three wins) was the last foal she had.”
“We tried to create a little bit of dynasty but it didn’t really work except for this one.”
“Good Thinking won a couple of times and was beaten very narrowly over two starts over a mile and 1800m at Flemington.”
Danielle said that when Good Thinking didn’t fire in her last preparation she was sent to Rebel Raider who gained fame after winning the 2008 Victoria Derby as a $101 outsider.
Rebel Raider, trained by Leon Macdonald in South Australia, finished his career with six wins from 21 starts. He also won the Group 1 South Australian Derby in 2009. With his stallion career commencing slowly he was relocated to Wyndholm Park in Victoria where he died in January last year.
Danielle said her family, including her mother Denise and father Daryl, all raced Good Thinking along with some other horses.
“Then my father said I am sick to death of these horses hanging around,” she said.
So I asked Dad if I could take Good Thinking which he said: ‘Yep.’ ‘’And I took her off his hands and asked mum if she wanted to go halves and she said: ‘Yes, thanks very much.’
“So needless to say my father is not particularly happy but that’s the way life works sometimes.”
He doesn’t have a share in the horse and Danielle describes him as a particularly unlucky owner.
“And given that he was very happy to pass up the mare, the horse (Nonconformist) was extremely difficult to syndicate. He was by Rebel Raider who in his own right was good enough but being out of a staying mare we were going to produce something that could stay. People are keen to enjoy a horse that is up and running when they are two.
“So he was put out there and amongst our family and friends (many who have owned winning racehorses) none of them were keen in taking a share in the horse because he was needed more time.”
A syndicate was formed with family friend Declan Eames, Danielle’s mother Denise, cousin Wayne Henwood, and his cousins Nick Henwood, Melanie Elston and Anthea Walsh.
Her father Daryl holds the claim to fame with Nonconformist as the registered breeder.
Danielle has been around and worked with horses for many years and remarks her late grandfather might be giving them a bit of help from up above.
People send mares to different stallions for a variety of reasons, but Danielle doesn’t attempt to sugar coat the reason why they elected for Rebel Raider.
One reason was that Rebel Raider’s location and he was relatively close to where the mare was agisting.
“We spell all our horses up at Willaroon (Thoroughbreds) at Benalla and it was convenient. Without sounding terrible, he was cheap and she is not terribly well bred by Hold That Tiger,” Danielle said.
“Knowing that we were going to keep the horse to race we didn’t want anything that was too commercial’’ she said.
“He ticked all the boxes and looked pretty good.”
Danielle said Nonconformist had done more than anyone could have expected by going from a maiden to a Group 2 winner in one preparation.
“He has got himself a well earnt break and I know there has been talk of Caulfield Cups but we’ll just sit pretty for time being and let him have his spell and then work it out closer to the time,” she said.
“The prize money is purely and simply an added bonus, but money can’t buy the experiences of having a winning racehorse. It’s super exciting.”
Good Thinking has a Master of Design colt that has gone to the breakers and Danielle said he is identical to his half-brother.
“You will never replicate what we have which is terribly sad” she said.
Grahame Begg said he is absolutely delighted to have a horse like Nonconformist in his Caulfield stable.
“I am delighted, absolutely delighted,” Begg said.
“He is a very progressive horse and every time we have raised the bar, he has delivered.
“For a first racing preparation, he has done a fantastic job.
“Rebel Raider has been doing a pretty good job but this one looks like he is the best he has produced so far.
“He has got good solid winners from a very limited books of mares.”
Begg admitted that Nonconformist had been a work in progress and a very quirky horse which he believes is apparently a trait of Rebel Raider’s progeny which aren’t always straight forward.
“But he has always had something about him” Begg said.
“He was a great doer in the stable and he had about three preps for me before he raced. We didn’t think he was quite ready to go and we just rotated him a bit to give him every chance to mature.
“We didn’t race him until he was a spring three year-old so he has just really developed and has come on in leaps and bounds.
“He is going to the paddock this week. He was bred and reared up at Willaroon so he is going up there to spell.”
Begg said he would have discussions with the owners over the next few weeks to discuss what is and isn’t achievable.
“You never know, he could be a light weight chance in a Caulfield Cup,’’ he said.
“He is an evolving horse and everything we have asked him to do, he has done well.”
And Begg is happy with another stable star – Mildred – which is owned by his 89-year-old father, Neville Begg, a former champion horse trainer who was inducted into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame in 2016.
The two-year-old filly will line-up in Saturday’s Golden Slipper at Rosehill.
“My father is absolutely delighted,” he said.
By Hinchinbrook, out of Victorian mare Tempest Tost, Neville Begg paid $45,000 for the filly at the Inglis Classic Sale.
“She wasn’t an expensive filly and the mare had a good record on the racetrack,” Begg said.
“Tempest Tost hasn’t been sensational as a broodmare but the filly was very athletic as a filly and from day one we liked her.”