Prince Of Sussex ridden by Michael Dee wins the Ladbrokes Showdown at Caulfield Racecourse on April 27, 2019 in Caulfield, Australia. (Pat Scala/Racing Photos)

For a bloke who raced harness horses because he couldn’t afford a thoroughbred, Paul Dugan has experienced some pretty good luck since switching codes.
The move to thoroughbreds came when Dugan said he could afford it after becoming a little bit more financially stable after making some wise investments.
“I have always loved thoroughbreds and they’ve always been my number one passion but it was an affordability type of thing that I got into harness at first,” he said.
“And then once I got a little more financially secure I got into some thoroughbreds.”
Dugan has had some big results in the annual Victorian Owners and Breeders Race Day when Prince of Sussex won the inaugural running of The Showdown (1200m) – with a first prize of $522,500 in 2019.
The gelding was then sold to Hong Kong, where he races as Lucky Express, for $1.7m.
Dugan, again in unison with Mornington trainer Matt Laurie, raided the rich VOBIS meeting at Caulfield last month when Chartres picked up the $275,000 first prize on offer for the VOBIS Sires Guineas (1600m) for three-year-olds.
Both Prince of Sussex and Chartres are by Swettenham Stud stallion Toronado.
Dugan paid $145,000 for Prince of Sussex at the 2018 Inglis Melbourne Premier Yearling Sale and bought Chartres direct from the gelding’s breeders who retained a quarter share.
“We only had Prince Of Sussex for three runs, and he won two lucrative races,” he said.
“It’s tempting to keep them because it’s hard to get a good horse and there is a lot that can go wrong with them.
“And when they are geldings, I suppose that attracts the Hong Kong buyers too.
“I just thought it was a lot of money to knock back. And a lot of my mates, I probably had five old school mates in him, and I thought if we sell and make a good profit then they’ll probably stay in the game for a while.
“And they have and they’ve followed me and bought a few other horses with me since then.”
Dugan owned the majority of Prince of Sussex.
His luck continued when he saw Chartres in the Inglis catalogue last year, but the horse was withdrawn when Covid disrupted the live auctions.
“I saw that it was bred at Swettenham so I rang Sam Matthews (stud general manager) and he said it wasn’t going through the ring,” Dugan said.

“When I spotted it, it was at the Premier Sale (catalogue) and he was quite a striking looking horse and he did remind me a bit of Prince Of Sussex.
“And when I went through the mare’s breeding and watched her races, it took me a little bit and Sam quite liked the horse as well and the breeders wanted to stay in which was quite good.
“The breeders kept 25 per cent of it and I took the rest and divided it between mates. Pretty much all of the Prince of Sussex people are in Chartres.
“It was only $40,000, so it wasn’t expensive.”
Professional pedigree analyst Kristen Manning and her co-breeders bred Chartres off a $22,000 service fee on a share foal basis with Swettenham Stud Principal Adam Sangster. The much in demand Toronado will stand at $88,000 this year, up from $49,500 last year.
After having success on the track, Dugan decided to buy a couple of broodmare mares which are kept at Swettenham Stud.
He admits the bug has well and truly got him with his “two and a half” broodmares.
Dugan owns half of Rainbow Girl and is the outright owner of Freeze The Charges and Ever And Ever.
Along with some mates, Dugan raced Rainbow Girl (Pierro x Free Spirited).
“We kept her to breed from and she had a Toronado colt which we sold as a weanling,” he said.
“She is in foal to Ghaiyyath.”
He bought the unraced Ever and Ever (Shooting To Win x Whateverwhenever) in foal to Toronado.
Dugan soon learnt that breeding is a tough game and admits doesn’t know he long he’d do it for.
“It’s not that easy,’’ he said.
“I more or less do it so I can race the horses with my mates, not so much to sell them.”
Dugan and his mates had a vote to decide whether to keep or sell the weanling Toronado colt out of Rainbow Girl, with the economics winning out.
He said being a first foal, the colt was a little small but they decided that the sale would pay for the next service fee and also the upkeep of the next foal until it is a two-year-old.
“So we’ll get the next one for free,” he said.
“It was a good opportunity and if it comes out and becomes a champion then we still have the mare. So there is no real downside.
“The one (Ever and Ever) I bought in foal to Toronado lost the foal after four or five days but I had a free return and she is back in foal to Toronado.
“I’d only been in the breeding game at that stage for about a year and then to lose one sort of knocked me around and I thought do I want to do this anymore.
“I can understand why people get frustrated with it and it can cost you $80,000 or something to get them to the sales and they are getting sold for fifty or sixty.”
While there are lots of stories where yearlings are sold for $300,000 or $400,000, Dugan said there are plenty of examples where they don’t make what they cost to get to the sales.
Dugan said Freeze The Charges (Ad Valorem x Deep Freeze) had a foal at foot by Exosphere when he bought the mare, but he finished up by losing the foal.
“It hit me pretty hard,” he said.
“I lost two in probably a year and a half. It is a tough game.”
Freeze The Charges has a colt by I Am Immortal and is in foal to Rubick and is so impressed with what I Am Immortal has produced that he’ll probably go back to the stallion this year.
Dugan said he hadn’t bred that great horse yet, the thing that every breeder wants to do.
He is hoping that Rainbow Girl might give him that horse.
Also trained by Laurie, the six-year mare had eight starts for two wins and two seconds. She was beaten half a length in the Listed Crockett Stakes (1200m) at Moonee Valley.
“She was a really good mare but we didn’t see the best of her because of a throat injury,” Dugan said.
“We thought she could have been a Group horse.”
It’s a similar story with Chartres’ dam The French House (Dylan Thomas x Deraismes) which was also poised for better races, also after eight starts for a win, a second and a third, but injury halted her career.
Dugan said he did have an enquiry from Hong Kong about Chartres and while he referred the agent to Laurie, they are keen to keep the horse.
“Everything is for sale of course but we want to keep on racing him,” he said.
“I cashed out once and I don’t want to do it again, but how can you say you won’t do it when they come to you with a ridiculous offer.
“It would probably be harder to let him go because we have made our money once.
“And this horse has made his money. You can’t buy that enjoyment they give you when they win a nice, lucrative race.
“The VOBIS Sires was a good race and was probably his target for six months.
“The horse has done an amazing job. When I bought him I thought he wouldn’t race until he is mid-three sort of thing which he is about now, but look what he has done.
“He was a November foal as well.”
Chartres won his second start, a two-year-old maiden (1206m) at Sale which Dugan said was amazing for a Toronado juvenile.
Although Chartres was unplaced over 1600m in the $500,000 The Coast (1600m) at Gosford last Saturday, Dugan said the three-year-old had done his job this preparation.
Now retired, Dugan was a printer at Southdown Press which produced many publications, including Best Bets and The Truth.
“This is just a little hobby,” he said.
“Breed a couple of and race them with my mates. I don’t want to sell too many of them.
“They basically pay me to get them to that stage.”
Dugan said his only provision is that he sends his mares to Victorian stallions and will support Swettenham as much as he can.
And with two big pay days from VOBIS races, it’s no wonder he is a massive supporter of the scheme.
“I love the VOBIS scheme and the VOBIS Gold,” he said.
“The VOBIS Sires Guineas which we just won, it was such a restricted race for good prizemoney. You are crazy if you don’t target it.”
There’s no doubt more and more trainers and owners will continue to target the big VOBIS races that offer bigger pay days.