Spice Girls big hit in Victoria

There was plenty of Victorian spice about Melbourne Cup bound Warning’s victory in the Group 1 Victorian Derby on the opening day of the Spring Carnival.

Sired by the same stallion – Declaration of War – that produced Flemington trainer Danny O’Brien’s Melbourne Cup winner – Vow and Declare, Warning’s female side was developed over many years by Victorian breeder C. Euan White.

It started with half-sisters Lemon Spice by Prince True (USA) and Berberia by Jackson Square.  They were both bred by the famous Arundel Stud, a top stud of its time, and owned by the well-known Cockram family.

Warning’s dam is Livia, the grand dam is Flying Spice and the great grand dam is Lemon Spice who started the Spice named family.

And it was the Ford family who also played a leading role in the breeding of the horses.

Bloodstock agent John Ford and his late father, Frank, a legendary  bloodstock agent and exporter of all classes of bloodstock, recommended to White to purchase  a half share in four thoroughbred fillies bred by Arundel Stud which was then under the management of Ted Cockram.

The four fillies were trained by leading Caulfield trainer Geoff Murphy in a partnership of Cockram and White. And they had luck with three of the fillies winning races, but it was Berberia that was the most successful.  She was a stakes winner of five races and amassed $317,850 in prizemoney.

She won stakes races at Group 2 and 3 level and was Group 1 placed in the Flight Stakes (1600m) at Randwick in 1990, with Darren Gauci in the saddle.

Buoyed  with the ability shown by Berberia early in her career, Lemon Ice’s next  foal, Lemon Spice, by Prince True USA), was purchased by White and again raced in partnership with Cockram.

Lemon Spice won three races, including two as a two year-old, both at Moonee Valley, and was trained at Flemington by Steve Richards.

Lemon Spice and Berberia went to stud and the Spice Family was created, with Lemon Spice and her daughters producing many winners, including Chattanooga which had the last of its 14 wins for Caulfield trainer Mick Price in 2005. Flying Spice had three wins and produced nine winners, including Halekulani, Livia, Gitan, Bon Aire, Ponte De Lima, Cumin, Flight Plume, The Explorer, Little Charm, Cooktown and Lemon Ruski which produced three winners.

Ford assisted White with the matings of his broodmares, bookings of the selected stallions and assessment of the resultant foals for their type, conformation and suitability for sale as yearlings or to be retained for racing.

“The colts were usually sold at the yearling sales in Melbourne and the Sydney Easter yearling sales,” John Ford said.

“Some of the fillies which were  retained to race included Flying Spice, Livia, Ponte De Lima, Flight Plume, Spice Dancer, Favorite Spice, Quinta Lago and Totola.”

“Flying Spice went to Encosta De Lago and she produced one foal that made $700,000 in Sydney one year.

Warning ridden by M Harley wins the Super Impose Stakes at Flemington. (Pat Scala/Racing Photos)

“Livia, the dam of Warning, was sold privately after her racing career to her present owners.”

“However, all the other mentioned mares continued their breeding careers under the ownership of Euan White and his family.”

“It is interesting to note that Berberia produced Lord Revoque winner of five races and one of the first horses trained by Chris Waller after he arrived from New Zealand.”

“Livia’s dam, Flying Spice, went to Galileo in probably his first or second year when he came out to Coolmore and Euan White raced her  (Livia) and David Hayes trained her to a couple of wins.”

“The significance is that the Spice family produced a Derby winner when most of the family were sprinter milers.”

Ford said he recently visited White, who in his eighties, and he quipped that it would have been nice to have owned the Derby winner.

Ford said most of White’s mares were based at Tim Johnson’s Ealing Park stud near Euroa. Tim took over the stud, which has since been sold, from  his parents, Geoff and Mary Johnson.

In an ironic twist,  Tim Johnson’s 28 year-old son, Will, is managing owner of Warning and is a bloodstock agent who is about to launch his own business.

“Euan’s mares stayed at Ealing Park which my parents owned,” Will Johnson recalled.

“Even the grand dam (Lemon Spice) has got the WJ, my great grandfather’s (Walter Johnson) brand on her.

“It was quite funny that a family I had seen growing up, before you even realised what you are looking at, is then the female family of the horse that has won the Derby in ownership.”

“It’s kind of doing the full circle, from seeing the family to owning one of the progeny, and it’s kind of cool in itself.’’

Warning is trained by Anthony

Freedman at Flemington and his son, Sam, is a long-time friend of Johnson who said the trainer loved the Declaration of War colt at the sales and recommended they buy him with a group of stable clients.

Johnson said the Declaration of War and Galileo cross had already produced other Group 1 winners, including Winning Ways which won the Queensland Oaks in June.

“Like most Australian families, there is speed on the pedigree,’’ he said.

“What our horse has done was a dream come true rather than a scientific plan put together.”

Johnson said the three year-old gelding would come back into work in a couple of weeks and a possible target would be a race like the Australian Derby.

“Without being a plan, a dream for every  Australian is the Melbourne Cup and if we are in the position where he has a strong autumn  carnival and could bring his Flemington form through those autumn months, then the dream would still be alive,’’ ohnson said.

“But we would be very much be guided by Anthony who has had more success than most tasting cup success and the group of owners are very much supportive of whatever Anthony thinks is best for the horse. It’s one step at a time now.”’

Bookies are cautious with Warning odds in the 2020 Melbourne Cup and some are offering odds of $31.