For Victorian breeder Susan Zeitz, her now four-year-old mare Sunrise Ruby could be the one that makes the frustrations of breeding all worthwhile.
Susan, who has a band of eight broodmares accommodated at Mike and Brodie Becker’s Stockwell Stud, is enjoying the success of the mare that scored her fourth and most significant win of her five start career with a victory at Randwick in The Highway (1200m) on Saturday for Albury based trainer Mitch Beer.
And Susan said Sunrise Ruby, related to champion mare Black Caviar, isn’t doing too badly for a horse that spent nearly a year off the scene when the mare pulled up lame after her second start and was given time to get over the injury and to also finish growing.
“She has exceeded all of our expectations by a country mile,” she said.
“You appreciate the good times because there are plenty of disappointments and setbacks.
“When I started in the game, I never understood how much resilience you needed just to cope, and my admiration for farmers and breeders went through the roof as I realised how tough the game was.
“But then you have a day like Saturday and you say ‘that’s why I do it.’”
With a first to last victory on Saturday, Susan said she was surprised that half the country didn’t hear her screaming.
Sunrise Ruby will spend a week in the paddock, recuperating from her gutsy win, and a decision will be made after her next run whether she’ll go again before earning a longer break.
Susan believes the mare is still six months away from being fully furnished and will be a better horse in the autumn.
“She is a big girl, and we won’t be running her on firm tracks. You just don’t put horses like her on firm ground,” she said
Sunrise Ruby is by Casino Prince (Flying Spur) and out of the mare Scarletta (Distant Music x Danavia) that was bred by Robert Crabtree and trained by Jason Warren at Mornington to one win and a third from seven starts.
Susan said the mare had broken its pelvis and she later paid $25,000 for her at the 2010 Melbourne August Thoroughbred Sale.
The big attraction for Susan was that Scarletta’s grand-dam Scandinavia produced Black Caviar (Bel Esprit x Helsinge) and All Too Hard (Casino Prince x Helsinge).
“I had seen Black Caviar race and win her first five starts, and one of them was at The Valley, and I remember it vividly, and I said I’d like one of them,” she said.
“I went to the sales, and there she was (Scarletta) and another relative of the family in the sale which was an earlier lot number and went past my reserve.
“So I bid on her and got her. I sent her to Bel Esprit, and she had a filly (Esprit Joy), and she ended up at the Magic Millions Yearling Sale and that’s where I met Mitch Beer because Jason Warren bought the filly (for $62,500).
“She ran third at The Valley and went out for a spell and got bitten by a snake and died.”
Scarlet Magnolia (Magnus) was then bred by Susan, out of Scarletta, and sent to Warren but slashed a tendon during pre-training and was retired to the breeding barn unraced.
Again demonstrating how tough breeding can be, Scarletta’s next foal (by Bel Esprit) was born dead and then the mare missed the following season to Helmet.
Scarletta then produced Rarer Than Rubies (now a six-year-old by Bel Esprit), Sense of Expense (Zoffany), Sunrise Ruby (Casino Price) and Scarlet Prince (Casino Prince).
The mare was not served in 2018 but has a filly by Shalaa (IRE) and missed to Vino Rosso (USA) last year but this season has a booking with Hanseatic.
Susan retained Rarer Than Rubies, a winner from nine starts, and she is due to foal down to Magnus. She is sending the mare back to Magnus this season.
Sunrise Ruby’s full brother, Scarlet Prince, has had two starts for a second and a third, and was sold by last year, and she has retained a small share in partnership with other owners. The three-year-old colt is also trained by Beer.
The Shalaa filly is headed to next year’s Melbourne Premier.
Susan said she had bought Scarletta before Black Caviar was “truly famous.”
“It was just liking the pedigree, liking how Black Caviar ran and just loving that Vain, Snippets and those type of bloodlines and being able to fiddle with those as much as one can,” she said.
“It looks like Black Caviar’s dam (Helsinge) had all her luck with the first few foals, and then it petered out, mine was all bad luck at the start, and it’s coming late. It’s like it is in reverse.
“It is just great to see the mare produce a horse that can truly run.”
Asked what got her involved in breeding, Susan quipped: “A mistake.
“I have always loved horses. And then a friend of a friend had a mare with a foal that she wanted to get out of. And then the foal got severely ill and died after I bought it, and then I thought if I am going to do this I am going to get serious and that’s when I started to buy a few horses and breed a couple.
‘’I am a bit of a research nut and read the Ken McLean books and the Tesio books and pretty much anything I could get my hands on.
“But I discovered there was no manual on how to breed a racehorse in the sense of being successful every time and it was a bit of a shock, but I gradually increased the broodmare band. I try to be smart about my choices because I can’t compete with the big studs with the dollars they have, and I really have to find my mark and punt that I am doing well.”
While Susan said she’d done well with a few she’d bred, Sunrise Ruby is obviously the best so far.
The first winner she bred was Letter From Paris (U S Ranger x Plaisir De Gain).
The now 10-year-old won one race from her 17 starts – a 1200m maiden at Mornington early in 2015.
“She was out of Plaisir De Gain who was a Fusaichi Pegasus mare out of a full sister to Danehill Dancer. I thought I was so clever buying her and she won, then ran second and then a fourth at Flemington on a firm track and never ran properly after that,’’ she said.
“I kept her to breed from, and she had an Alpine Eagle filly which I have kept to race, and she is out in the paddock now and looks like she is going to be a three-year-old.”
Susan is keen to keep the links with the Black Caviar family going and now has three broodmares out of the family – Scarletta and two daughters, Rarer Than Rubies and Scarlet Magnolia which has an unraced three-year-old Bel Esprit filly, Magnolia Belle.
“This is my 10 year plan coming in,” she said.
“If it works, I am a genius, and if it doesn’t, it was a good try.
“I have carefully bred back to try to get a genuine three-quarter in blood to Black Caviar. I call it the Sara Lee effect, without hopefully offending the brand, because they used to say with their Danishes you roll them, fold them and fold them and roll them again.
“It is mixing the gene pool and trying to get the right ones to switch on.”
A second filly out of Scarlet Magnolia by Denman is also being retained by Susan.
At the moment she has two yearlings headed to next year’s Melbourne Premier but says she has to sell more of the progeny to balance the books.
She has six foals due this year and will have a look at them before deciding if she’ll retain any or head to the sales.
Susan is a consultant/lawyer in workplace relations, and she says it keeps her occupied during the day when she’s not thinking what she’ll do with the horses she is breeding or racing.