Above: Magnus, sire of Front Page | Standing at Sun Stud
Trainer Geoff Duryea’s decision to chance his hand at the breeding game with a talented but injury-plagued mare by Bel Esprit is paying double dividends, with Saturday’s Listed Creswick S. victor Front Page (Magnus) joining his sister News Girl as a city winner.
In partnership with a few others, the Duryea family raced Stacey Lee (Bel Esprit), who had cost just $20,000 as a weanling and had shown plenty of promise in a career which saw her win five races but never realise her potential.
Geoff convinced the rest of his family that Stacey Lee was worthy of persisting with as a breeding prospect and they sent her to Sun Stud’s Magnus, looking for a similar double-cross to Vain as which had produced the legendary Black Caviar (Bel Esprit).
“She was a really good mare but she had bad knees. You could never get her to 100 per cent,” Duryea said of Stacey Lee.
“She was always injured and so we nursed her through her career. We were very rarely able to have her at the races 100 per cent fit.
“She was a really good mare but she had bad knees. You could never get her to 100 per cent.” – Geoff Duryea
“I talked the family and a couple of friends into buying her out and breeding from her. I just said, we would be mad if we don’t breed from her. That’s how it happened.”
Above: Geoff Duryea
The first foal was a filly, who has proven a terrific front-running money-spinner for the Corowa-based Duryea family. News Girl won two of her first three races at Albury and then headed to ‘town’ running two close-up seconds at Caulfield, the second in the G3 Kevin Hayes S.
Having endured a run of eight defeats, she returned to form with successive wins at Caulfield over the Christmas-New Year period. She was subsequently again placed in stakes company, this time in the G3 Bellmaine S. before recently winning again at Caulfield. In an 18-start career, she has racked up five wins and over $320,000 in prizemoney.
But her little brother, Front Page, is on an even sharper rise to stardom. He debuted with an easy win at Albury back in February and after a couple of defeats then put together back-to-back wins at Albury and Wangaratta.
Duryea decided to put him in the deep end in stakes company on Saturday and was rewarded when Front Page saw off his rivals to win down the Flemington straight with surprising ease by 2.75l.
“He did us proud on Saturday. It’s taken a while for the penny to drop with him, he is just starting to put it all together. He’s always shown us plenty of ability at home and it’s just been about him getting his act together. He’s certainly switched on now,” Duryea said.
“He did us proud on Saturday. It’s taken a while for the penny to drop with him.” – Geoff Duryea
With both Stacey Lee’s foals now city winners, it augurs well for the 2-year-old half-sister by Stryker named Page Three, but Duryea is in no rush with her.
“She’s got a pretty good temperament. I got her to the jumpout stage and she’s a bit like the other two in that she is a little bit slow maturing, so I turned her out. She seemed alright though. She’s got a fair bit to live up to now,” he said.
Duryea is mindful of comparisons between the siblings especially given both Page Three and the weanling filly by Dundeel (NZ) are from different sirelines.
“The two Magnuses are similar and one of the reasons we went to him, was because it gave a double cross of Vain. He was a chestnut and both these are chestnuts. The Stryker filly is brown and the Dundeel filly is bay,” he said.
Duryea hasn’t actually seen the Dundeel filly as yet, as she is at Riversdale Farm up at Scone, with Stacey Lee, who is the family’s only broodmare, now in foal to Rubick.
While he believes News Girl and Front Page both have improvement to come, he is just happy enjoying the journey with friends and family for now.
“We’re pretty happy about it and the people that are in the horses have been clients and friends for years and years, so it’s worked out good,” he said.