The Group 1 Oakleigh Plate at Caulfield on Saturday featured a quality field of 18 runners with victory going to talented Written Tycoon mare Booker, prepared by Matt Ellerton and Simon Zahra of Ellerton Zahra Racing.
Booker drew gate 14 but was given a perfect ride by Dean Yendall to produce the best run of her career when surging home out wide to win the 1100 metre sprint by three-quarters of a length over Lonhro colt, Encryption.
The victory was a triumph for Victorian breeders and owners Barrie and Midge Griffiths, whose best-ever mare, the Caulfield Cup winner Mannerism was honoured earlier in the day with the running of the Mannerism Stakes.
The couple can now claim an exceptional 14 Group 1’s including a Melbourne Cup with Tawrrific, three courtesy of Northwood Plume and a Thousand Guineas with Azzurro, with Booker finishing a whisker second in the Group 3 Northwood Plume last spring.
“We usually buy around half a dozen fillies every year and place them with Matt and Simon who do such a great job,” Griffiths adds. “We then sell the good ones after they have finished racing: like Heatherly who was purchased by Sir Owen Glenn for $1.6 million at last year’s Magic Millions National Broodmare Sale,” Barry Griffiths said.
“We just love racing them … good times, good friends.”
It was a deserved result for Booker too whose record includes victories in the Group 2 Tranquil Star (defeating 3-time Group 1 winner Shoals), Group 3 Kevin Hayes, a lip second behind Merchant Navy in the Group 3 McNeil, third in the Group 2 Danehill and a long neck fourth by less than half a length in last year’s Oakleigh Plate behind Russian Revolution.
“It’s very satisfying … she’s a bit older and stronger now. She’s certainly a deserved winner of a Group One. She’s a quality mare, and hopefully, this is her preparation to shine. I think she’s got good improvement in her too from today.”
Ellerton will consider a start in the Group 1 Newmarket Handicap, but is spoiled for choice with Booker, who has options going forward in almost every state.
“She will make her way to Sydney, maybe Brisbane and Adelaide, as there are good races for her everywhere,” he said.
The victory registered Ellerton’s 17th career Group 1 victory, having had previously scored in the Oakleigh Plate with Miss Kournikova (2001) and River Dove (2003) and he said “Booker is bigger and stronger than both of them.”
The sixth Group 1 winner for Woodside Park Stud’s Written Tycoon, Booker is the first foal of Noondie, a three-quarter sister by Flying Spur to stakes-winner Tranquility from stakes-winner Creatrix and hails from the family of dual Group 1 winner, Umrum.
The rise and rise of Booker also justifies the assessment of Barrie Griffiths who first spied Booker at the 2016 Melbourne Premier where he purchased the Written Tycoon filly for $230,000 from the Mill Park Stud draft.
“I’ve been good mates with (Booker’s co-breeder) Bill Rigg for a long time and he suggested I go and have a look at his filly,” Griffiths recalls. “In all the years I’ve been going to the Melbourne sales she was, quite literally, the best-looking filly I had seen and not surprisingly, she was a bit more expensive than what I normally pay.”
Mill Park, who sold the full brother to Booker at Inglis Premier last year for $600,000 to Bruce Perry Bloodstock, will be offering the current yearling from Noondie, a colt by Starspangledbanner at Inglis Premier next week as Lot 348.
“He’s a big, strong, powerful, progressive-looking colt who I suspect will be even more popular with buyers now, given Booker’s great win,” Mill Park’s Chris Watson said.
Noondie has a weanling colt by Written Tycoon’s Golden Slipper winning son Capitalist and is in foal again to Written Tycoon, who covered 160 mares last spring at Woodside Park at a fee of $110,000.
Written Tycoon has 28 lots at Inglis Premier Yearling Sale, two lots at MM Adelaide Yearling Sale, 18 lots at Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale and two lots at Inglis Melbourne Gold Yearling Sale.