Starspangledbanner ridden by Danny Nikolic wins Race 7 at Caulfield Racecourse on October 10, 2009 in Caulfield, Australia. (Racing Photos)

Rosemont Stud is confident Victorian bred and born stallion Starspangledbanner will return from Ireland for another season in 2023 after being given a year off from shuttling back to Australia.

The stallion was exported back to Ireland last December to stand another season at Coolmore where his service fee this year has risen to 35,000 euros (AUD$53,000).

Starspangledbanner stood for $16,500 at Rosemont last season where he served 70 mares. He covered his biggest book of Australian mares – 116 – in his first season at Rosemont in 2011 at a fee of $44,000.

Rosemont Stud’s general manager of bloodstock Ryan McEvoy said the son of Choisir had been shuttling backwards and forwards for several years and was having a super year in Europe where his service fee had skyrocketed.

“He has had a big couple of seasons up there and this season is probably his biggest to date there,” McEvoy said.

“Coolmore who effectively manages the horse and own the majority of him just felt he needed that breather for the season so that was probably fair enough.

“He is one of those, I suppose, reverse shuttle stallions that has been an effective stallion in both hemispheres.

“He is one of those rare and unique horses that was a champion sprinter in Australia and has been a super successful stallion in the northern hemisphere.”

McEvoy said Starspangledbanner, bred by Tony Santic of Makybe Diva fame out of his mare Gold Anthem (Made Of Gold x National Song), had a tough start to his stud career with some early fertility challenges which resulted in just 31 live foals from his season at stud.

He said it had been perhaps a challenge for breeders to now understand that had overcome those fertility issues and since gone beyond them.

“He has overcome those challenges and is quite an effective stallion in the barn and is exhibiting a high level of fertility now which is great,” McEvoy said.

“Unfortunately those challenges have sort of stayed with him and those breeders probably still need some work to educate them that the horse has turned the corner and as I said is an effective stallion from a fertility point of view.”

The now 15-year-old stallion served 72 mares in 2020 at a fertility rate of 73.4 per cent.

McEvoy said there were some management techniques with Starspangledbanner which had to be implemented to produce the best results.

“Those techniques have seemingly worked with him and he is not a horse that probably wants to get hammered and he is one stallion whose fertility is at its best when his covers are spaced and he is not faced with three, four or five mares a day,” he said.

“There are just little quirks. He is a stallion that likes to be sort of outside and doesn’t like to be cooped up in his box with his rug on. All those little sorts of things that you pick up on that you tend to correlate and form a pattern of what is working for him and what’s not.”

While it would have been satisfying to get a bigger book in the 100 range last season, McEvoy said the stallion still served some nice mares and it was pleasing to see his weanlings sell well.

The Irish bred State Of Rest has been a champion for Starspangledbanner, winning last year’s Group 1 Cox Plate for the Kilkenny-based Joseph O’Brien who had more Group 1 success when the four-year-old gelding won the GB Prince of Wales’s Stakes during the recent Royal Ascot carnival.

The famed English carnival was where Starspangledbanner gained his international reputation by winning the Group Ascot Golden Jubilee Stakes in 2010. A couple of weeks later he won the Group 1 July Cup at Newmarket for Aiden O’Brien, the father of Joseph O’Brien.

Starspangledbanner was an exceptional galloper for Flemington trainer Leon Corstens who trained the gelding to victory in two Group 1 races – the Caulfield Guineas (1600m) and the Oakleigh Plate (1100m) – before the gelding was sold as a stallion to campaign for O’Brien.

And while the horse’s two Group 1 victories in England were both at 1207m, Corstens said that after training Starspangledbanner to the ultimate level at 1600m, he believes the horse could have won a Cox Plate if the race had been targeted.

It’s a thought that isn’t lost on McEvoy.

“Well he won the Guineas so dominantly,” he said.

“And of course So You Think finished behind him in that Guineas and he did go on and win a Cox Plate.

“It’s interesting because he is the sort of horse that would have skipped around Moonee Valley probably on speed. We saw a horse like Shamus Award do that as a three-year-old after coming out of the Guineas (he finished third).

“Three-year-olds that perform that well in the Caulfield Guineas tend to really show up in the Cox Plate. Also to spring to mind are Pierro and All Too Hard.

“I’ve got no doubt that he would have given them a sight.”

While Starspangledbanner has worked well with European mares, his statistics in Australia are strong and come off the back of not having big numbers like other stallions.

And McEvoy said not having big books of mares probably put him on the back foot, but the stallion still had what he says are some real proper horses in Australia at all distances.

He points to the Rosemont Stud bred and raced Brooklyn Hustle (Joint Aspiration) who is a Group 2 and 3 winner headed to the breeding barn this season after finishing 12th in last Saturday’s Group 1 Tatts Tiara (1400m) at Eagle Farm.

It was the 15th Group 1 contested by the five-year-old mare that fell just $160,000 short of $1m in prizemoney.

And Prime Star is a winner of the Inglis Millennium (1100m) which carried a first prize of $1.93m.

Godolphin’s Home Of The Brave won Group and Listed races in Europe before transferring to the stable’s Australian operations where he won two Group races.

“He can clearly get a high-class horse,” McEvoy said.

“The pleasing thing is that he is cementing himself as a proper stallion in the Hong Kong jurisdiction as well. That California Spangle looks like a real star and was second in the Derby and I think he is going to train on and be one of the real elite horses in Hong Kong for the next 12 months.”

And there’s plenty of interest in unraced two-year-old filly Starspangledancer (Karalli) who recently won an 800m Hawkesbury trial by 12 lengths for local trainer Blake Ryan.

The Rosemont bred filly was sold through the stud’s exclusive online sale for $5000 as a weanling and was then passed in on a $20,000 reserve at the 2020 Adelaide Yearling Sale before being sold.

McEvoy said Starspangledbanner had the unique ability to produce a star horse and he hopes to have the stallion back at Rosemont.

“We’ll get through this season and I suppose it’s about determining where he would fit commercially and how well his stock are selling and probably we are afforded the time to have a look at his stock and how they perform,” he said.

“But certainly from our point of view, we’d love to have him back. He is still a relatively young stallion that hasn’t been overworked and we feel like is coming into his prime.

“He is a horse that certainly has a special place in our heart and means a lot and we’d love to think he’d come back.”

McEvoy said they were looking forward to another big breeding season with their stallions headed by Shamus Award (Snitzel x Sunset Express)
“The rise and rise of Shamus, it was we call it,” he said.

“It’s been phenomenal the past 18 months and if you look at that time in isolation he has had five Group 1 winners. Four new Group 1 winners headlined by Incentivise, the highest rated horse in Australia.

“Duais is a super star filly that won the Queensland Oaks and was dominate with her two Group 1 wins this autumn and then it was backed up by the likes of El Patroness who was a dominate winner of the (Australian) Oaks.

“When they win Group 1s they seem to do it in pretty eye-catching fashion.”

McEvoy said Shamus Award was something of a freak as a stallion and one they believe can climb to the top of the Australian stallion ranks where he currently sits at number five and is the youngest at age 11.

Hanseatic (Street Boss x Itameri) was retired to stud last season when he served 195 mares and will cover another full book of mares this season at Rosemont.

The recently retired three-year-old Extreme Warrior (Extreme Choice x Heart Of Thrills) was retired after the Group 1 Goodwood Handicap in May.

“He is probably by the most commercial stallion in the country,” he said.
“What I like about him was that he exhibited Group 1 ability and horses like I Am Invincible, Written Tycoon and Not A Single Doubt displayed that too. You don’t necessarily have to retire with a Group 1 on your CV provided you exhibited that ability and he certainly did that.

“He was a Group 3 and listed winner and had great ratings from the experts. He is a good-looking horse with a great pedigree.”

McEvoy said another of Rosemont’s stallions, Strasbourg (I Am Invincible x Danish Spy), was a handsome horse and that’s why he sold for $750,000 as an Australian Easter Yearling.

He said they were buoyed to see other sons of I Am Invincible at stud, Hellbent and Overshare, in the top ten first-season stallion ranks.

Strasbourg served 109 mares in each of his first two seasons at stud.
McEvoy said it was exciting to see a gun stallion being supported by three up-and-comers.

Yulong continues to expand its ever-growing band of impressive broodmares with the purchase of 13-year-old Baggy Green for $1.7m from a New Zealand dispersal sale last week.

Baggy Green (Galileo x Starspangled) is the dam of four-time Group 1 winner of the New Zealand bred Tofane (Ocean Park) which Yulong purchased for $3.1m from last month’s Magic Millions National Broodmare Sale on the Gold Coast.

Trained by Michael Moroney at Flemington, Tofane won eight races and banked $3.6m in prizemoney.

The six-year-old mare finished second, beaten a length, in her last race – the Group 1 All Aged Stakes (1400m) at Randwick in April.

The Australian-bred Baggy Green, a 1600m maiden at Goulburn during her 11-race career, was purchased by Yulong’s Written Tycoon Syndicate which has bought several other mares including Melody Belle ($2.6m) and Greysful Glamour ($1.5m).

Baggy Green, exported to New Zealand on December 16 2018, is in foal to Tofane’s sire, Ocean Park, and was part of the dispersal sale of Valachi Downs’ broodmares and the latest step in the exit from the market of the Kevin and Jo Hickman-owned Matamata stud.

Baggy Green has also produced the Sydney Group 3 winner No Compromise and Benaud, who finished second in the Australian Derby at Randwick to Hitotsu.

The mare, a half-sister to Group 1 winners Youngstar (High Chaparral) and Funstar (Adelaide), has produced five named foals for four winners and has a rising two-year-old sister to Tofane.

Yulong homebred Hungry Heart (Frankel x Harlech) has also been retired from the track and will be covered by the stud’s champion stallion Written Tycoon this breeding season.

The four-year-old mare was Yulong’s first Australian Group 1 winner when she claimed the Vinery Stakes (2000m) which also won her the crown of Australia’s Champion Three-Year-Old Filly in 2021.

Hungry Heart claimed another Group 1, winning the ATC Australian Oaks (2400m), and also won two Group 2s – the Phar Lap Stakes (1500m) and the Sweet Embrace Stakes (1200m).

Yulong Investments chief operating officer Sam Fairgray said the purchase of Baggy Green, along with Tofane, was just to add some more nice mares to the broodmare band.

He said Hungry Heart was back at Yulong’s stud and would be ready to be served by Written Tycoon.

“We are yet to decide what we’ll do with Baggy Green,” Fairgray said.

“She can go to any stallion and that’s one of the good things with her.
“We’ll make a decision in the next couple of weeks.”

Fairgray said Yulong had now expanded its broodmare band to 360 and they’d continue to add to it as nice mares continued to come onto the market.

“It’s all about trying to get nice mares to support the stallions,” he said.
Fairgray said that all the Yulong mares would most likely go to the stud’s own stallions – Written Tycoon, Tagaloa, Lucky Vega, Alabama Express and Grunt.

As well as purchasing Tofane, Yulong’s Written Tycoon Syndicate also paid a sale-topping $4m for Away Game Away (Snitzel x Elusive Wonder) at the Magic Millions National Broodmare Sale.

Yulong was crowned the leading buyer at the sale, acquiring 63 mares for an aggregate of $29.275m.

Thron Bone ridden by Will Price wins the Neds Punters Toolbox Handicap at Caulfield Racecourse on June 25, 2022 in Caulfield, Australia. (Brett Holburt/Racing Photos)

Widden Victoria’s young stallion Thronum (Snitzel x Helena’s Secret) produced his first winner when the Jerome Hunter-trained Thron Bone scored impressively at Caulfield on Saturday.

Out of Thronum’s first crop, it was the third race start for the two-year-old gelding which was a $200,000 purchase for Graeme Gathercole who owns Rich River Meat Exports Pty Ltd and Graebar Park.

Hunter, based at Mornington, is long-time breeder Gathercole’s private trainer.

Thron Bone made his debut in January when he finished fourth in the Listed Blue Diamond Preview for colts and geldings (1000m) and was then sent for a spell before resuming with a third at Sandown, also over 1000m, on June 11.

Hunter admitted he was surprised that the gelding started at odds of $21 when he scored his win against a good field of youngsters in heat seven of the 2022 Next Generation Sprinter series which carried a VOBIS nominator’s bonus of $7,000 and an owner’s bonus of $23,000.

The trainer is now weighing up whether to back-up Thron Bone in Saturday’s final of the series at Flemington, over 1200m, which also carries VOBIS bonuses and the first prize of $82,500.

A victory would shoot Thron Bone past his purchase price at just his fourth start.

Hunter said he wasn’t surprised by the victory.

“It’s funny because he has shown ability and first up at Sandown he ran an enormous race and got too far back and ran the fastest 400m of the day,” he said.

“So I was going into that race on Saturday fairly confident because I knew we had the favourite to beat (Ghaanati ran second at $1.80) but what he has been showing, I knew he’d be competitive.

“I just couldn’t believe his odds because if you look at his run at Sandown and while I didn’t expect him to be favourite, I thought he’d be the second or third pick.”

Hunter said he knew Thronum as a racehorse and went to the 2021 Inglis Premier Yearling Sale with the colt picked out in his catalogue.

He said he rated the yearling as a lovely type when he paraded.

“And the price tag showed that,” he said.

“It was more on looks, as the stallion’s service fee wasn’t the most expensive.”

Hunter said he was surprised to learn that Thron Bone was Thronum’s first winner.

He has two horses by Thronum. The other is a filly – Bel Thronum – bred by Gathercole out of his mare Bel Price (Esprit x Kel Price) which was a city-winning mare also trained by Hunter.

Gathercole also bred the granddam Kel Price (Keltrice x High Price) which won three races for him. High Price (At Talaq x Reguri) also won four races for Gathercole.

Hunter said both Thron Bone and Bel Thronum were his first two-year-old runners of the season.

“I got them both up and running as two-year-olds and I was very surprised, but both of them have shown ability,” he said.

“Unfortunately the filly ran on a heavy 10 at Geelong but ran an enormous race to finish third.

“Both of them have shown capabilities of winning races. They are both very sound, strong horses.”

Hunter said Bel Thronum’s dam Bel Price was a handy sprinter.

While Gathercole likes to breed from his band of broodmares, Hunter said they breed more than what they buy.

“But we always go to the sales and might pick up two or three a year but the majority are homebreds,” he said.

“Like I said, he (Thorn Bone) was a lovely type and he was our pick in the catalogue and saying that, I didn’t expect him to go for the price he did.

“We might get our money back when a hell of a lot don’t.

“The average for the sale was about $180,000 so he wasn’t overly expensive.”

The gelding is out of the four-time winner Thorsborne (Hinchinbrook), a sister to Group 2 winner Diamond Tathagata, the dam of dual Listed winner Ancestry (The Brothers War) which has won nine races and $539 490.

Thorsborne’s 2020 colt by Palentino was a $5,000 buy for Hyam Racing and Cameron Cooke Bloodstock at the Magic Millions Adelaide Yearling Sale earlier this year.

And her 2021 filly by Fiorente was bought by Gathercole for $8000 at the Inglis Great Southern Weanling Sale earlier in June.

It was no option for Hunter not to have Thron Bone gelded as he was getting too heavy.

“We were probably lucky when we gelded him when we did and he isn’t the tallest horse but was getting very chunky,” Hunter said.

“We’ll see how he pulls up and whether we go to the final (on Saturday), it’s no big deal if we don’t and we’ll pick races for him and we’ll see how he goes and there’s always a two-year-old race floating around.

“Whether he is up to black-type standard, we don’t know but I’m sure if he wins easy at his next start, we might start looking at the early three-year-old spring races.”

Hunter said they had already booked in a couple of their mares to Thronum this season based on the two they’ve raced.

Thronum was a $300,000 purchase at the 2015 Australian Easter Yearling Sale offered by Sun Bloodstock.

The colt went on to win the Group 2 Australia Stakes (1200m) and finished second in the Group 1 William Reid Stakes (1200m).

He was retired from the track in May of 2018 with five wins and two seconds and two thirds from 14 starts.

Widden inherited Thronum when they took over Sun Stud in Victoria last year.

In Thronum’s first season at stud in 2018, he served 122 mares, at a service fee of $17,600, but struggled with his fertility which was just under 50 per cent.

While his fertility has increased, his numbers have dropped along with his service fee which for the third season in a row is $7,700.

Widden Victoria’s Adam Henry said that will limited numbers to race from a first crop that produced 50 live foals, Thron Bone’s win will give the stallion a boost.

“It was a good win and he put the writing on the wall when it ran fourth in a Stakes race at its first start,” Henry said.

“I think he has got Stakes class.”

Henry said that Thronum is from the family of Street Cry and Shamardal and ticks a lot of boxes on pedigree and performance.

“He has done a pretty good job and I think he has only had half a dozen runners for one winner and three placegetters,” he said.

“I am hearing good things from trainers and they like the ones they have.”

The fertility problems Thronum experienced in his first season were perhaps the result of not immediately handling the transition from the track to the breeding barn, according to Henry.

“But he was much better second season,” he said.

“He is doing the job and while he is not the most fertile stallion on the roster, he is still getting them into foal.”

And while Henry said Thronum’s first season fertility problems didn’t help, it wasn’t a “death sentence” by any means and the stallion was adequate in the breeding barn.

Henry said Thronum was an affordable horse for breeders and his progeny had sold for $50,000 to $60,000 in the yearling market again this season.

He said the stallion was a good breed to race option as well.

“He is a son of Snitzel with a good female line,” Henry said.

“He was a good racehorse that good better. He won two at two and won the first Stakes race for three-year-olds in Sydney in early August and won his Group 2 as an older horse and was Group 1 placed as well.”

Henry said people tend to sit on the fence until they see a new stallion’s progeny run and Thronum had shown enough for people to take a punt on him now.

And Hunter and Gathercole had great success with Barb Raider (Rebel Raider x Graebarb) which had a fantastic campaign that ended with a second, beaten a length, in the Group 1 Queensland Oaks at the start of June

Another homebred for Gathercole, the three-year-old filly was also second in the Group 1 Australasian Oaks, beaten a head, but did win two Group 2s and a Group 3 this campaign.

“It was sensational and we had a great campaign and she had seven starts and only once finished worse than second and that’s when she hit a heavy 10 which she didn’t like,” Hunter said.

“It’s just a pity we didn’t get the Group 1 but there are plenty of Group 1s around as she gets older.

“She is in the paddock up in Queensland and she’ll have a light spring and we’ll aim her for the autumn again and there are a lot of mare’s races.

“We are not fussed with what happens over the spring and we might run in one or two but we’ll aim for the autumn.”

Hunter said the Queensland conditions had been perfect for Barb Raider as she takes a break from an extremely lucrative campaign.

He said he wasn’t in any rush to bring her back to Melbourne’s harsh winter weather.

The mare has raced 13 times for five wins, four seconds and two-thirds. She has banked $899,175.

Oak Bridge ridden by Sheridan Clarke wins the Buloke Plumbing 0 - 58 Handicap at Donald Racecourse on June 18, 2022 in Donald, Australia. (Brendan McCarthy/Racing Photos)

Veteran Maldon trainer Brian McKnight and his son Ash had one of those days at Donald on Saturday that they won’t forget for a long time.

The father and son training team produced the winners of the first three legs of the quadrella.

Unfortunately their runner in the fourth leg and the final race on the program – the $31 long shot Savoie – finished down the track in seventh place but was far from disgraced.

And all four runners were Victorian-bred or sired.

Success came in the opening leg of the quaddie when Oak Bridge (Night Of Thunder x Our Oak) got the money as the $5 equal favourite.

The four-year-old gelding has now raced 14 times for two wins and a second for $48,640.

It was bred by Two Bays Farm at Flinders and sold for $22,000 through Stonehouse Thoroughbreds’ draft as a weanling at the 2018 Great Southern Sale.

A year later it fetched $25,000 at the Inglis Gold Yearling Sale.

In an interesting twist, the horse was passed in for $10,000 because of poor results from x-rays, but it was later discovered the x-rays had been mixed up and belonged to another horse.

He was then put back on the market and met his $25,000 reserve.

Night Of Thunder previously shuttled to Darley’s Northwood Park at Seymour.

The second leg of the quaddie was won by San Marino (Rich Enuff x Hostile Witness) which owner Russell Healy, a friend of Ash McKnight, bought online as a tried horse for $9,000 in April 2021.

It had been a $90,000 purchase for Flemington trainer Danny O’Brien who moved the now four-year-old gelding on after two starts, but the son of Woodside Park stallion Rich Enuff had won his first start at Werribee.

The gelding’s record now stands at two wins, a second and a third and prizemoney of $48,825.

San Marino started the second favourite at $3.90.

Logo Logic, the winner of the third leg of the quaddie, was a homebred for McKnight and is by former Blue Gum Farm stallion Canford Cliffs (IRE).

The five-year-old gelding has had 17 races for three wins and a second and a third for prizemoney of $53,273.

He is out of Barrett’s Mark (Churchill Downs x Go Ruby Go) which was bred by the McKnights in partnership with the late Mark Barrett.

The McKnights and Barrett raced Go Ruby Go (Baryshnikov x Petite Jeunesse), a winner of two races, including one at Sandown.

“Mark, who was in the legal industry, loved breeding and was besotted with and had a lot of parts of horses with Nigel Blackiston,” McKnight said.

“When he died the family gave her (Barrett’s Mark) to us.”

Go Ruby Go broke her maiden at Sandown.

McKnight said it was a familiar story with Logo Logic’s sire Canford Cliffs who didn’t return from Ireland after serving only 30 mares in his final season at stud in Australia in 2016.

“Half the trouble with a lot of these stallions is that it’s all to do with moving onto the next one – it’s going to be a better one, it’s going to be better,” McKnight said.

“Nine out of ten of them aren’t.”

The front-running Logo Logic was the $4.40 favourite and won by four lengths.

And the Victorian-bred Savoie (IIovethiscity x Larissar) finished 4.5 lengths from the winner in the fourth leg. IIovethiscity stands at Noor Elaine Farm at Euroa.

McKnight said it’s a case of trying to win races each time you compete but on reflection, it was a big effort from the stable on Saturday with their locally bred horses.

“When you analyse it and we were talking about it before, there would be a lot of stables that have never trained a treble,” he said.

“And yes, it is a big effort.

“To be truthful it probably really hasn’t sunk in what a feat it has been.”

McKnight said they went to the races with good expectations on the back of performances of their horses in trials.

He said San Marino had two serious jump-outs and won them both, including one at Burrumbeet last Wednesday.

“We were fairly confident with him that he’d run a good race and Logo Logic can do it but we just have to keep him sound and has got the worst front feet of any horse that has probably got a bridle on it,” McKnight said.

“But if we can keep him on some soft tracks, he is not a bad horse.”

The McKnights took eight horses to Donald.

Key of Cee (Starspangledbanner x Highleigh) beat one home, Dashing Rebel (Dissident x Tianjin Rock) was third in the 1620m maiden at $26, Mark’s Line (Nostradamus x Mark’s Matilda) was fifth and Hot Seat (Star Witness x Hot Riff) was sixth to stablemate Logo Logic.

“We thought Mark’s Line ($6.50) could win and has just been screaming for more ground but his problem is that he gets back a bit and when Christine (Puls) got off him, she said Harry Coffey blocked her run and I still think he would have been in it had he got through it and had clear running,” McKnight said.

“That’s what happens with backmarkers and unless you get to the outside, you have to be lucky to get a clear path.

“And it was interesting that the three to win were all on pace horses and if you have got a horse that does that it does take a lot of luck out of the equation.”

McKnight said they continue to support the Victorian stallions and rarely venture out of the state.

He said they’ve always averaged eight to ten broodmares each year.

“I turn 75 this year and my son Ash is not a keen breeding man and he’d rather go through all the sales and find a horse he likes with a bit of pedigree that perhaps other people aren’t that keen on because it’s not in the big bracket,” McKnight said.

“He likes doing it and pinhooks a few foals for us to resell and one thing or another. If we don’t sell our horses then they go into our system.

“A lot of people say to me I don’t know how you do it. They say they don’t know how I run all those mares and foals, wean foals and do yearling preps and train as well and we’ve always got 12 to 15 horses in work.

“And lot of times we’ve got two or three pre-trainers for people who want to go on the water walker and things like that.”
McKnight worked at Trevenson Park Stud (now owned by Darren Weir) for 33 years and started when he was 17-years-old and trained his first horse when he was 21.

He said his boss Ed Barty wouldn’t let him train during the breeding season, so his training was restricted from December to August.

“The best horse I had then was a mare called Storm Song (Dies x Random Harvest) and I won five at Flemington with her and one at the Valley and ran second in the Adelaide Cup and dead-heated with Battle Heights for third in the Moonee Valley Cup,” he said.

The lady who was training Storm Song didn’t have any luck with the mare and gave the horse to McKnight who previously expressed interest in adding it to his team of one.

He later bred from Storm Song when she was retired.

McKnight said he bought the adjoining property to Trevenson Park, an 800 acre farm which the family operate as Oakford Thoroughbred Farm and is set up for broodmares and has an equine pool, walker and 2100m sand track.

“We came here in 1997,” he said.

And he hasn’t given up hope of training another treble – but he knows it’s a big task.

NATURE STRIP (James McDonald) with Chris Waller after The King's Stand Stakes Royal Ascot 14 Jun 2022 - Pic Steven Cargill /

Widden Stud owner Antony Thompson described it as a little bit of unfinished business when he was trackside at Royal Ascot to watch Nature Strip reaffirm his title as the world’s best sprinter by taking out the Group 1 King’s Stand (1000m).

Now with a mind-boggling $18.4m in prizemoney, Thompson bought into Nature Strip’s sire Nicconi before the stallion tackled the King’s Stand back in 2010 when he finished an unlucky fourth, beaten 2.6 lengths for trainer David Hayes and jockey Frankie Dettori.

Nicconi (Bianconi x Nicola Lass) had his last race just 24 days later when he beat four runners home, with jockey Damien Oliver, in the Group 1 July Handicap (1207m) at Newmarket.

Just a couple of months after his English assault, Nicconi started what was to become an illustrious stud career when he served a book of 156 mares at Widden Stud in his first season.

Last year he was relocated to Widden’s Victorian stud where he served 188 mares at a service fee of $27,500.

Thompson said he hadn’t been surprised with what Nicconi had been able to achieve as a stallion.

“He was a high-class sprinter himself and ran very well at Ascot and was unlucky,” he said.

“We came away with David Hayes and the Devitt and Gordon families, who raced him, feeling like there was a bit of unfinished business.

“So to come back and see Nature Strip win at Ascot is fantastic and something, I guess, fills a bit of a hole.”

Thompson said the relocation of Nicconi had been a big boost to the Victorian breeding industry.

“A lot has been said about the rise of the Victorian breeding industry and with the stallion power they’ve got and certainly Nicconi is a huge addition, I’d say,” he said.

“He is a horse that statistically has been very solid with his winners to runners and with his yearlings, he is a very commercial horse.

“He has got the world’s best sprinter and he has got a very good filly (Graceful Girl) for Bob Peters that we’ll see back soon, so he is coming into his own.

“He is a very solid stallion and trainers love them. They have great temperaments and I just think they are a horsemen’s horse and those who have Nicconis enjoy them and a lot of them who have bought them and had luck with them are trying to buy another one.”

Thompson attributes Nicconi’s success in the sales ring as a result of his consistency and his ability to produce such a good type.

Rising 17-year-olds, Thompson said the stallion was hitting his straps and starting to fire up.

“With the breeders working out how to mate them and the trainers working out how to train them, they are starting to come out into their own,” he said.

“He works with a pretty good cross-section of mares and when you go through it there is plenty of history and options that work with him.”

Hayes, who now trains in Hong Kong, was a part-owner of Nicconi and trained the entire to two Group 1 victories and rated the horse as the fastest colt to come out of Lindsay Park and the best sprinter he has trained.

And he was always confident Nicconi would become a good stallion after winning the Group 1 Galaxy (1100m) and the Group 1 Lightning Stakes (1000m).

“He was a magnificent looking horse,” Hayes said.

“I was part-owner of the horse and have stayed in him with the Gordon and Devitt families.”

Hayes said that after starting favourite in the King’s Stand, Nicconi blew it at the start when he came out last.

“I think that if he was a gelding, he would have been like a Nature Strip.

He would have been a very, very consistent sprinter and at the top level.

“He was Group 1 but badly needed gelding but went to stud.”

Hayes said they got a good price for Nicconi as a stallion and were able to remain in the ownership.

He said Nature Strip’s timing to beat the best sprinters and win races like The Everest had been amazing and his ability to return every year to win at the same carnival had also been amazing.

“His stake money is incredible,” Hayes said.

Nature Strip (out of Strikeline, by Desert Sun), which has a race record of 38: 21-7-1, has won the last three editions of the Group 1 TJ Smith Stakes (1200m).

And like his sire Nicconi, the seven-year-old is also a winner of the Group 1 Lightning Stakes (1000m) at Flemington in 2021.

The 2010 Lightning Stakes was Nicconi’s last win and he had four more starts later that year – including two in England – before being retired to stud.

Nature Strip didn’t have much luck in this year’s Black Caviar Lightning Stakes and was beaten a short half head by stablemate Home Affairs who faded in this year’s King’s Stand.

Hayes said he doesn’t have any horses by Nicconi in his stable but says there are a few that a winning and doing quite well in other Hong Kong stables.

Nicconi, which served 118 mares last season, has sired 22 Australian stakes winners that have won 52 stakes races.

His service fee has been set at $22,000 this year.

Tuvalu ridden by Jarrod Fry wins the The David Bourke at Flemington Racecourse on June 18, 2022 in Flemington, Australia. (Ross Holburt/Racing Photos)

Merricks Station owner Ben Cooper believes that black-type awaits Tuvalu, a horse he bred from the farm’s broodmare Hangin’ Tough (Exceed and Excel x Ancelin).

Cooper raced Hangin’ Tough with trainers Mathew Ellerton and Simon Zahra and the now nine-year was no champion on the track and managed a second from seven starts.

Her worth as a broodmare is far more significant.

Four-year-old Tuvalu is out of the first crop of Darley Victoria’s stallion, Kermadec who served his biggest book of mares – 129 – in his opening season in 2016.

The two-time Group 1 winning stallion produced four-time Group 1 winner Montefilia from his first crop and then did again with his second crop when Willowy won the Group 1 VRC Oaks.

Tuvalu is the first foal out of Hangin’ Tough and was followed by Prince Imortall (More Than Ready) which is still a maiden after four starts.

Boomer Bloodstock paid $200,000 for Tuvalu at the 2019 Inglis Melbourne Premier Yearling Sale.

Hangin’ Tough’s third foal, the unraced Shut It Down (Lonhro) was sold for $460,000 to Mornington trainer Matt Laurie at Melbourne Premier’s 2021 sale.

And at this year’s sale trainer Lloyd Kennewell paid $250,000 for a full sister to Shut It Down.

Cooper said the mare has a colt by Impending and is foal to Capitalist. She has a booking with So You Think for this year’s breeding season.
“Capitalist will suit her because she does throw medium to larger foals,” he said.

“She is a big mare.”

And he has been impressed with the performances of the Lindsey Smith-trained Tuvalu which has never been out of the money in his 10 starts.

His victory at Flemington last Saturday was his sixth to go with his four seconds. And he is just $1,700 short of banking $300,000.

Cooper believes “there is black type written all over him.”

“Lindsey has been going through the gears with him at the moment,” he said.

“There was a bit of commentary about the Winter Championships coming up in a few weeks.”

Cooper said being out of Kermadec’s first crop and selling for $200,000 was a reflection on what good a type he was at the sales.

“Everyone who saw him at Premier that year loved him,” he said.

“He was a standout from an early age as well.

“And he was just a quality-looking horse. He was a balanced horse as soon as he hit the ground.

“Hopefully he can have a good winter rolling into spring as well.”

Cooper said he had spoken to Laurie about the now Lonhro gelding and believes it will be much like Tuvalu and is going to be a three-year-old rather than an early-going horse.

“Lindsey took plenty of time to get Tuvalu to the races,” he said.

Cooper said they had a broodmare band of around 20 and the farm carries up to 90 horses at any one time.

And with upwards of 20 weanlings and yearlings, Merrick Station carries about 30 spellers for trainers, along with the farm’s racing stock.

Smith said Tuvalu has good potential, especially around this time of the year.

“He is going through his grades okay,” he said.

“He is a big immature sort of horse and he lightens off and I keep thinking that each preparation he’ll mature and could keep going to he is eight or nine-years-old if he is going any good.

“If he is racing for a long time it means he is paying his way and he is racing through his grades at the minute.”

Smith said Tuvalu would be back at Flemington for the final of the Listed Winter Championship (1600m) on July 2.

The $200,000 race carries a first prize of $120,000.

Smith believes that Tuvalu will get to Listed company for a start.

“I thought he may have been a tad better but I have reined it in a little bit now I think I may have to a little bit in front of myself when he ran second to I’m Thunderstruck,” he said.

“You are better off to be surprised rather than disappointed.”

Darley’s head of sale Andy Makiv said Tuvalu had always promised to be a Stakes performer and it seemed only a matter of time before he achieved that feat.

He said the gelding would be well and truly in the mix for the Winter Championship final.

“He could be a Toorak Handicap horse in the spring too,” Makiv said.

Makiv said pound for pound Kermadec was probably the best value stallion going around.

“He had a Group 1 winner in his first crop, a Group 1 winner in his second crop. To have two Group 1 winners in the spring of last year with Montefilia winning the Metropolitan and Willowy winning the Oaks and then Montefilia has gone on in the autumn is a good achievement,” he said.
“There are a lot of stallions going around that don’t get two Group 1 winners in a spring that are standing for a lot dearer.

“He is a pretty handy addition to the Victorian roster.”

Makiv said Kermadec was a good stallion who has shown he could get a Group 1 horse and also produces an exceptional type.

“He is very good-looking himself and throws that, so he gets very good-looking stock,” he said.

“You only have to look at Tuvalu in the mounting yard and he is a physical standout. He throws to himself and they win races.”

Makiv described Kermadec’s service fee of $15,000 plus GST as very “palatable.”

As well as his two Group 1 winners, Kermadec also sired Gundec (Sunup) winner of this year’s Bendigo Guineas (1400m).

“Tuvalu is probably heading that way too, so they are good styles of horses,” Makiv said.

NATURE STRIP (James McDonald) wins The King's Stand Stakes Royal Ascot 14 Jun 2022 - Pic Steven Cargill /

Nature Strip destroyed a crack field of international gallopers in the Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes (1000m) at Royal Ascot to remind the world that when it comes to breeding sprinters, there’s no place quite like Australia.

The son of Widden Stud’s Nicconi became the fifth Australian horse to win one of the globe’s most prestigious sprint races on the opening day of one of world racing’s most revered meetings.

Nature Strip wowed a huge crowd on a gloriously sunny afternoon with a sustained show of speed down the famous Ascot straight to claim the ninth Group 1 of a glittering career.

Whilst he may not boast a race record as unblemished as that of Black Caviar, the last Australian horse to triumph at Ascot 10 years ago, there is no doubt that the Chris Waller-trained speedster can now be considered amongst the fastest horses the country has ever produced.

With Nicconi now standing at Widden Stud’s farm in Victoria, the victory was also another feather in the cap for the state’s buoyant breeding industry.

Speaking after the race, a characteristically emotional Waller paid tribute to a supreme equine athlete which, had it not been for the mighty mare Winx, would have been considered the horse of his lifetime.

“I don’t know what more I can say about him,” he said.

“This means an awful lot to me and my whole team. We don’t get the opportunity very often to take on the rest of the world, so to bring a horse over here and win is very special. It was breathtaking.

“Nature Strip has been a very good horse for a long time, I guess he is now in the twilight of his career but he has learned what it takes to be an exceptional racehorse. He was tricky in his early career, but he has improved with age and it’s an honour to train a horse like him.

“Australia has a massive breeding and racing industry, and to showcase our breeds to the world is very important. Ratings stack up and he is one of the highest-rated horses in the world, but until you do it on the main stage they’re just numbers really. It will remind everybody how strong Australian racing is.”

Part-owner Steve Hansen, who enjoyed a glittering coaching career for the New Zealand All-Blacks, was equally caught up in the excitement of a moment he ranked amongst the greatest of his life.

“I didn’t think I would get this emotional, but I’m actually quite choked up,” he said.

“It’s difficult to compare it to my rugby career, but this is certainly right up there with the most enjoyable experiences I’ve ever had.

“To do it with such a great group of owners makes it even more special, we’ve had the best time since we got here and even if Nature Strip hadn’t won today, I would still have taken some great memories away. But for him to put on a performance like that, it’s just a dream come true really.

“And for the horse to be trained and ridden by fellow Kiwis, and two champion guys, it just tops everything off.”

Victoria - Thoroughbred Country

Barb Ivill was a loved member of Victorian breeding. (Photo:

Barbara Ivill, who passed away last Wednesday aged 89, is being remembered as a wonderful horsewoman who devoted a lifetime to horses, particularly the Victorian thoroughbred industry.

Friends and colleagues say one of her biggest achievements was the mentoring of many women.

Ivill and her late husband Ted established Little Plains Stud on a 100-acre farm at Laceby, near Wangaratta, in 1968.

The Ivills were both well known in the equestrian world before they established their stud which was named after a river in Ted’s New South Wales hometown of Craigie.

They bred thoroughbreds, sold and prepared yearlings and also stood stallions, including Barbara’s beloved Demus.

Back when Barbara celebrated her 80th birthday on May 20 2013, she told of her love of working outdoors with horses and other animals, including her cattle dogs, and said that as long as she was in good physical shape she’d didn’t know when she’d hang up her boots.

“When Ted passed away 17 years ago, he’d been sick for some time, so it wasn’t a huge transition for me to keep running the farm,” she said at the time.

“It hasn’t been easy but it’s been a lot of fun and certainly hasn’t been boring.

“You have to be jack-of-all-trades running a commercial property. I was once a nurse so that’s helped me in the veterinary side of things.”

Little Plains Stud had 15 yearlings go through Melbourne Premier the year Ivill turned 80 and she was certainly no stranger to the sales.

“I remember the first-ever sale at Oaklands when it was owned by Dalgety,” Ivill recalled in an interview.

“It was hot with a howling wind and there weren’t any trees.”

Inglis paid special tribute to Ivill on the opening day of last week’s Great Southern Sale.

Inglis’ bloodstock general manager and auctioneer Jonathan D’Arcy said she had been a great supporter of the company and a constant fixture at the sales.

“I just said that I wanted to mark her passing and send our condolences and wishes to her family and friends and what a remarkable woman she had been,” he said

“She was a great mentor to a lot of young staff that came through the industry.
“She was a wonderful lady and I went up to the farm probably half a dozen times and she was lovely and she will be missed by a lot of people.”

And while Ivill bred many top horses, the Group 3 winning Widgee Turf (Turffontein x Greyhound) was one that she was particularly proud of after selling him for $4,500 as a weanling at the Great Southern Sale in 2014.

Only retired in March of last year, the Patrick Payne-trained gelding raced 42 times for 11 wins, 10 seconds and four-thirds and banked $1.26 million.
Ivill’s long-time friend and neighbour Leeanne Smith, who operates Bucklee Farm at Greta West, between Benalla and Wangaratta, said they were also a show jumping family, which continued with their son, John.

“They were also drovers and Barbara and Teddy would go droving,” Smith said.

“She had been a horsewoman all her life and a very good horsewoman and a very good mentor.”

Ivill sold Little Plains in September 2020.

Smith said that Ivill was well known in the area for foaling down and throughout the industry she was equally well known for mentoring and helping others.

“There was an incentive for Aboriginals, I can’t tell you when but many years ago, but they came to Little Plains and they taught them breaking in and what have you,” she said.

Smith recalls that the Ivills were predominately horse breakers when they first established Little Plains and they then became breeders and stood stallions.

“I was taught years ago by Thelma Harris, she was one of the first stud mistresses in Victoria, and then I went training for a few years and met Barbara up here when I shifted up to Wangaratta,” she said.

“I worked for Barbara doing foaling down and different things during the stud season before going out on my own but she has had many, many good people through her hands.

“She mentored an awful lot of people and I can just picture now some of the girls.”

While Ivill was associated with several top horses, Smith it was Widgee Turf that gave her so much in interest in her later years.

“And earlier Demus was the love of her life. He was a lovely stallion and she sort of reaped the benefits by having him,” she said.

“She truly was a stalwart in the industry.”

Smith, who has operated her stud for more than 25 years, said it was lovely when Inglis recognised Ivill’s involvement in the sales and the breeding industry.

And she said two of Ivill’s grandchildren are also heavily in horses. Matt Ivill has his training licence and sister Grace is an accomplished show jumper. Her other grandchildren are James, Rory, Ned, and Florence.

Smith described Ivill as a quiet achiever, kind, and a stalwart of the industry who was always fair in her dealings and knew the value of hard work.

Stockwell Thoroughbreds’ Mike Becker said Ivill had been a popular figure around the sales for many years.

“She was a wonderful woman,” he said.

“She was unique in several ways and was a great horsewoman in her own right but probably in her later years, and others will reflect on it too, but the number of young girls and women that she employed and taught and imparted her vast knowledge made her a real trendsetter in that area.”

Becker said there would be a lot of women in the industry very thankful for what Ivill had taught them.

It was only fitting that Ivill would be farewelled with a service to celebrate her life in the Grand Oaks Room, Wangaratta Turf Club on Wednesday, June 15 at 11am.

A private cremation will follow the service.

Gold Standard sired his first Group One winner in the JJ Atkins. (Photo: Widden Stud)

They say that timing can be everything.

And there’s been a double dose involving seven-year-old stallion Gold Standard (Sebring x Coniston Gem).

The stallion grabbed the attention of breeders when two-year-old Sheeza Belter (Saxabelle), from Gold Standard’s first crop, won the Group 2 Sires Produce Stakes (1350m) and then won her next start by taking out the Group 1 JJ Atkins Stakes (1600m) at Eagle Farm last Saturday.

Sheeza Belter is the first filly to win the JJ Atkins Stakes since Linky Dink (Keeper x Gimmick) in 2009.

The former Perth galloper, now trained at Randwick by Peter and Paul Snowden, has raced seven times for four wins, a second and a third.
The filly has already put more than $1.4m in the bank for owner Justin Warwick who paid $50,000 for the filly at the Magic Millions Perth Yearling Sale last year.

Bred by prominent Melbourne breeder Robert Crabtree, the Group 2 winning Gold Standard started stud duties at Spendthrift Farm in Victoria but was relocated to Widden Stud when Spendthrift closed down its Australian operation.

While lamenting the loss of Spendthrift to the Victorian industry, Widden has benefited greatly from Sheeza Belter’s outstanding performances.

Despite serving a modest book of 26 mares at a service fee of $5500 last season, there has been an incredible rush for the stallion whose biggest book was 71 in his second season in 2019.

Widden Stud Victoria’s Adam Henry said the rush has come off the back of Sheeza Belter’s Produce Stakes at Eagle Farm on May 28.

“She started her career by winning the WA Magic Millions in her first prep and then went over to the Snowdens and won the Group 2 Sires and now the big Group 1,” Henry said.

“It’s pretty amazing.”

Henry said there were only 25 bookings now left for Gold Standard whose service fee was increased after Sheeza Belter’s JJ Atkins win.

“His service fee has been increased,” he said.

“He was announced at $8,800 but that has since gone to $17,600 and we are honouring all existing bookings in the system but anything going forward will be done at the $17,600.”

Henry said Gold Standard’s book had been capped at 150. He has served 195 mares in his four seasons at stud.

“Pretty much we announced him on the Friday and Sheeza Belter won on the Saturday and I reckon we took 80 bookings over the next couple of days after that,” he said.

“We made the announcement on the 27th of May that he would be standing at Widden Victoria and then on the 28th, the next day, Sheeza Belter won the Group 2 Sires Produce – the million-dollar race.

“And from there the enquiries haven’t stopped. It’s a pretty amazing feat.”

As of Monday, Henry said Gold Standard ($1,537,640) was only $155,000 short of being champion first season with just six runners.

He said the leader Russian Revolution ($1,692,720) has had 40 runners.

Henry said he wasn’t sure why Golden Standard had a small book of mares last season but says the stallion’s lower profile back then was probably a contributing factor.

“But it’s all about what they can do with their progeny,” he said.

“What he is doing at the moment is off 42 live foals and then he has got another 42 (from 2019) to come for next year and then he’ll be serving 150 mares this season.

“Extreme Choice has shown that you can do it from a small book if you are good enough and it looks like Gold Standard is heading in that direction.”

Henry said Gold Standard was attracting a better type of broodmare and had shown what he could do with limited numbers and probably not the best mares in the Stud Book.

He said they were also excited to have another two former Spendthrift stallions – Dirty Work (Written Tycoon x Maidel) and Overshare (I Am Invincible x Savannah’s Choice) – on the roster.

Dirty Work served 155 mares in his first season last year.

“And then we saw through the Magic Millions sale how mares in foal to him were in high demand,” Henry said.

“There were ten that made two hundred grand or more that were in foal to him.

“It’s high demand for him, a son of Written Tycoon.

“And Overshare has had a great start to stud with three runners for two winners and a placegetter, including Annabel Neasham’s filly (Lady Laguna) which has had a couple of Group 2 placings in two-year-old races.

“Overshare has had a great start as well.”

Henry said they were happy to take the baton from Spendthrift and build on what they’d done with the stallions that had been relocated to Widden.

And Henry believes they’d probably be the only Victorian stud to have three stallions – Magnus, Star Witness and Nicconi – on the roster to each have 100 or more winners for the season.

“I don’t know if anyone else could boast that off the one roster in Victoria,” he said.

Victoria - Thoroughbred Country

She Dances ridden by Linda Meech returns to the mounting yard after winning the IVE > Print Handicap at Ladbrokes Park Lakeside Racecourse on June 11, 2022 in Springvale, Australia. (Scott Barbour/Racing Photos)

Deanna Pope was at Randwick last Saturday to watch a friend’s horse race but had her eyes firmly fixed on the television to watch the opening race at Sandown.

But it was only after the race that she realised that she’d bred the winner, She Dances, which her family sold through Blue Gum Farm’s draft for $180,000 at last year’s Melbourne Premier Yearling Sale.

The reason Pope took a special interest in the race was that she has a share in Cusack (Not A Single Doubt x Belle Que) which finished second, beaten three lengths by She Dances (Street Boss x Charleston Dancer).

“The reason I was watching the race because my sister and I are in Cusack and I didn’t know she (She Dances) was in the race because I didn’t know her name,” Pope said.

“After the race a friend text me and  asked if I had bred the winner and I had a look and said ‘oh my God, I did.’

“I didn’t know that I’d been beaten by one of our own and if I’d known I would have had a quinella.

“I knew Pete Moody had her but I didn’t know what her name was so it didn’t even occur to me and because I was in Sydney I didn’t have the book but I usually look at the breeding.

“It was a very nice surprise, I must say. It was good to run second and to find out that we bred the winner was pretty nice and we couldn’t have been happier with our little girl.”

She Dances is owned by prominent owner and breeder Gerry Ryan and former World No. 1 tennis player Frank Sedgman.

The two-year-old filly’s granddam is champion mare Innovation Girl (Rubiton x Bright Gleam), bred by the Pope family who also bred Bright Gleam (Jugah x Voodoo Gleam).

Pope recalls that She Dances’ dam, the specially named Charleston Girl (Lonhro), was small but won a 900m maiden at Murray Bridge from her six starts which also included a second over 1000m at Bairnsdale for trainer Ciaron Maher.

“She just didn’t grow but we knew from her breeding that she was valuable to us and was a favourite,” she said.

“Also with her name, our mum passed away and my sisters and I wanted to name a horse after her and she used to tell us that she was a Charleston champion in Adelaide so we named the filly Charleston Dancer.

“We were hoping she was a super star but she didn’t quite get there on the track, but she might as a broodmare.”

She Dances is Charleston Dancer’s first foal after missing to Exceed and Excel at her first season at stud in 2017.

And she again missed to Exceed and Excel in 2019, but the following season had a filly to Snitzel and is again in foal to the stallion.

The Popes, led by father Des and daughters Deanna, Dale and Danielle, are proud of their breeding record with this equine family which started when they bred Innovation Girl’s dam, Bright Gleam.

Innovation Girl, a seven-time Stakes winner, was by 1987 Cox Plate winner Rubiton who Des Pope – who owns Pope Packaging –  later purchased and stood at Blue Gum Farm.

And just two weeks after suffering a fatal colic attack, the mare’s last foal, Ideas Man (Brazen Beau) picked up $302,000 on debut by winning the Inglis Banner for two-year-olds at The Valley in 2019. The Popes sold Ideas Man for $575,000 at the 2019 Melbourne Premier Yearling Sale and retained some ownership in the now four-year-old which has new owners and is racing in Darwin where he won his last start by six lengths.

Another of Innovation Girls’ progeny, the Listed winner Chloe In Paris (Exceed and Excel) has had success with her first two foals, fillies Bossy Chloe (Street Boss) and Rue Vivienne (Lonhro) and both are already winners.

The third foal out of Chloe In Paris is the unraced two-year-old colt Devereux (Zoustar) which is trained at Pakenham by Moody.

The mare has a filly by Zoustar and another by Brazen Beau and is in foal to Brazen Beau.

Pope admitted that he father had been a bit down about the breeding caper lately as he’d been putting a lot in but not getting much back after selling only one yearling this year.

Hopefully he’ll be happy with Charleston Dancer’s Snitzel filly which was born last September.

“She is a beautiful weanling,” she said.

“And Charleston Dancer is in foal to Snitzel again and she is going back to him again.

“She was the one we chose to go to Snitzel.”

After She Dances won at Sandown, Pope sent her father a text and said “did you see that.”

She said the victory certainly gave him a lift.

The Popes have been keen to get Snitzel into the pedigree of their broodmares.

And while Campbell can’t talk highly enough of the Snitzel weanling, Pope said they were unsure at this stage whether the filly would be offered for sale.

“There is a good chance we might keep her but we’ll see if the next one is a filly so then we’ve got choices,” she said.

“But the goal is to have a Snitzel filly to add to our broodmare band but if we get another one then we can see where we go with them.”

Pope said it was the first time that her father had decided to send one of his mares to an elite stallion. Snitzel stood for $165,000 during Covid, but his fee this season is back at $220,000.

“After Charleston Dancer had that winner on Saturday, I thought that we had made the right decision to send her to Snitzel,” she said.

“ I thought it was a good choice and that we made the right choice with the right mare to send to him.

“You have always got dilemmas.”

Pope said they had retired their broodmare, Group 2 winner Truly Wicked (Rubiton x Dizzy Lass) which they bred and raced. The mare had the last of her12 foals last year, a Frosted filly. One of the first horses the Popes sold was Exceed and Excel gelding Amber Sky, out of Truly Wicked, which won nearly $2m in Hong Kong.

Another mare they bred, Group 3 winner Tyche Goddess (Teofilo x Cornelia Marie) has been retired from the track and has a booking with So You Think.

Chloe In Paris’ first two foals, Rue Vivienne (Lonhro), which has been retired with a couple of issues after winning a 1050m maiden at Oakbank on Easter Saturday, and Bossy Chloe (Street Boss) could be joining the Pope broodmare band.

“Because we have got three adding to our six, we might look at selling one or two,” she said.

“But we have got Hampton Classic (Exceed and Excel x Truly Wicked) in foal (to Kermadec).

“Dad wants to kind of put a cap on it.

“Dad is almost 87 and he still loves it and asks me to send him a list of what broodmares we’ve got and I’ll sit down with him this week and decide where we are going to send the rest of the mares and which ones we might want to keep.

“He is still working in the business and still doing the horses and I am there to back him up.”

Now with two unraced two-years-olds with Peter Moody, including Lake Agawam (Lonhro x Hampton Classic), the Popes up until recently had five horses with South Australian trainer  David Jolly  but retirements and moving some on, including Ideas Man, have been left with just one – another homebred, Larimer Street,

The four-year-old Brazen Beau gelding started his career in Victoria where he won the Listed Valley Pearl Stakes (1200m) at The Valley.  He has added another two wins to that victory since crossing the border.

Larimer Street is by Brazen Beau and out of the unraced Pope mare Original Choice (Redoute’s Choice x Innovation Girl) which produced prolific winners Waltzing Willie (Street Cry) and his full brother Fulton Street.

The Popes originally came from Adelaide where Des Pope had horses with Pat Barnes.

“We moved to Melbourne and Dad got out of it for a little while and then Pat Barnes was over here with Rubiton and it got us all involved again,’’ Pope said.

“And then when we bought Rubiton and stood him, that’s what got us into the breeding side of things.

“We got the nice broodmares out of him.”

While Pope said they race a few “on the side”, it’s the ones they breed that mean the most to them.

They like to get five or six foals a year, but there are no guarantees and usually they average four.

And last season they had five fillies from their mares. Pope says they love them all but have to make the tough decision of which ones to keep.

Victoria - Thoroughbred Country

Victorian stallion De Gaulle has had seven runners for two winners.

Quilly Park’s Richard Anderson is having success in Macau with two horses, including three-year-old Aeroport which is by the stallion De Gaulle that he part-owns.

Anderson bred Aeroport which is out of Quilly Park’s mare Varone (Holy Roman Emperor x Sorren Tessa).

After five starts in South Australia for a second, Anderson decided to try his luck in Macau.

But it’s been four-year-old Yuanno (Pierro x Volted) that has been the star for Anderson and majority owner Yuan Wenzhong.

The four-year-old won a 2000m maiden at Ararat for Cranbourne trainer Trevor Rogers who raced the horse seven times.

“In Australia, we need the speed on all the time,” Anderson said.

“They stack them up here and because he had a few knee issues, if he is striking the ground hard, he jars up.

“But if he is free-flowing and rolling, he doesn’t feel it so we thought we’d send him up there to Macau and have a go at the Macau Derby.”

Since arriving in Macau last year, Yuanno has so far raced six times for three wins, one second, one third and a fourth and has collected more than AUD$120,000 in prizemoney.

And Yuanno is set to tackle some rich races after his recent victory in the Macau Derby Trial (G3).

The gelding’s next target races are the Macau Guineas on 18 June and the Macau Derby on 17 July.

Yuanno’s Derby Trial victory secured the gelding’s place in the G1 Derby (1800m) which carries prizemoney of around AUD$400,000.

Anderson said Aeroport won his maiden and beat two horses that had won a million dollars in local money.

Aeroport gave De Gaulle, which stands at Bombora Downs, his second winner.

“Madame Du Gast gave him his first winner (in January) at Flemington, so the stallion has had seven runners for two winners and three placegetters,” Anderson said.

“I decided to send Aeroport to Macau because he is a front-runner based on all his track work and everything he was doing. When he was with Jon O’Connor (Morphettville trainer) he had to lead or had to be sitting up on the speed and he just wants to go one speed this horse.”

Anderson said all the attention had been on Yuanno who had become something of a superstar since arriving in Macau.

He said they had to make sure he acclimatised to the conditions and luckily he did.

“If there is a chance of winning the Macau Derby then there is the chance of going to Hong Kong to race because you’ve raced and won,” Anderson said.

“And that’s the dream of Mr Yuan (Wenzhong).”

Anderson is hopeful that Aeroport’s win will attract some local interest in the stallion’s progeny in Macau.

And he said that Warrnambool trainer Symon Wilde had bought Madame Du Gast’s full sister for $115,000 at this year’s Melbourne Premier Yearling Sale.

Anderson said it was a great return on a $5500 service fee.

John Allen returns to the mounting yard on Colombe D'or after winning the Danny Beranic Conveyancing 3YO Fillies Maiden Plate, at Geelong Racecourse on June 05, 2022 in Geelong, Australia.(Reg Ryan/Racing Photos)

Race caller Adam Crettenden couldn’t hide his excitement with the scintillating debut win of Colombe D’Or over 1400m at Geelong on Sunday when the three-year-old filly came from last to claim victory by a length.

Starting as the second favourite at $3.10, Colombe D’Or overcame the outside barrier and showed an enormous turn of foot to overhaul the Danny O’Brien trained $2.70 favourite, Shalily.

“By golly, she is steaming home and she gets over the top of them and that’s a remarkable win…..Colombe D’Or, amazing to win there,” Crettenden said during the finishing stages of the race.

And Crettenden’s post-race comments were even more glowing when said he didn’t think the daughter of Swettenham Stud stallion Rubick was any chance with the way the race was being run.

“Goodness she has really let rip in the last 200 metres and when we look at the sectionals out of this meeting, I reckon this will be the best last 600, 400 and 200 out of the meeting, easily,” he said.

“She has just come with a big rush late and got over the top of them and there might be something in this filly.”

David Eustace, who co-trains with Ciaron Maher, said they were a bit cautious before the race with the filly that had taken a bit of time, soon turns four and was having her first start.

“She has strengthened well from her last prep and showed for a horse that should stay that there is a turn of foot there which is a good combination,” Eustace said.

Eustace said he was delighted for the owners of Colombe D’Or, Thompson Creek Thoroughbreds at Modewarre near Geelong, and their other owners, including VRC chief Neil Wilson.

Thompson Creek Thoroughbreds, based out of Glentree South, is a real family affair and is owned by Wes and Sally Ballantine and his sister Marlo and brother-in-law Guyan Stroud.

And Wes and Marlo’s parents Derek, a well-known journalist and former stud master and owner, and Kaye reside at Glentree South where they oversee all the equine activities.

It was Derek who picked out Colombe D’Or at the Magic Millions 2019 Gold Coast National Weanling Sale and paid $32,000 for the filly.

But Wes admits they contemplated pinhooking the filly and had her entered in the following year’s yearling sale on the Gold Coast, but withdrew her.

The filly was bred by Musk Creek Farm in partnership and is out of Lashezz (Zabeel x Lashed). The granddam Lashed (Encosta De Lago x Traffic Watch), was bred by Sir Patrick and Lady Hogan, and won six Stakes races, from 1500m to 2000m, including three at Group 1 level.

Lashezz never made it to the track for Musk Creek, and then her first foal, by Zoffany died after birth, the following year in 2017 she missed to I Am Invincible and Extreme Choice and then produced Colombe D’Or.

Musk Creek’s Scott Williamson said they bred and then sold Colombe D’Or as a weanling through Widden’s draft and then sold her dam in 2019.

After being sold by Musk Creek to Taormina Lodge in Queensland, Lashezz had a colt by Holler, the unraced two-year-old Gallodoro. Lashezz wasn’t served by in 2020 and then was offered in foal to Dubious (Not A Single Doubt x Suspicieuse) earlier this year in an online auction.

Wes Ballantine, who is CEO of Australia’s leading smart meter and energy data supplier Intellihub, said he bought the mare for $10,000. The former Maher-trained Dubious stands in Queensland for $13,200 and was a Group 2 winner over 1200m and a Group 3 winner over 1000m.

“We bought the mare two or three months ago and felt that she (Colombe D’Or) was training well and the mare was passed in for $10,000 in the online sale and we rang up and bought her,” he said.

“If Colombe D’Or can do something, we’ll think about her (Lashezz) mating for the current year but we haven’t thought through where she’ll go.

“And if she can win another one or two then we’ll seriously think about putting her to a top-class stallion.”

He described Colombe D’Or’s win as super impressive.

“She has taken a bit of time to come to hand,” Ballantine said.

“We always thought she had a real little bit of class about her and she certainly delivered on day one.

“We probably didn’t think she’d be that far back and then at the top of the straight we thought she’d come home strongly, maybe for a strong second but she gobbled them up and got the job done.

“She is a beautiful type and it’s the usual thing and if you’re patient and give them time then it usually works out for the best.”

Ballantine said the filly had always thrown to the Zabeel side and her granddam Lashed was a champion racehorse that claimed the ARC Zabeel Classic as one of her three Group 1 victories over 2000m.

“We bought her with half an eye at the weanling sale to potentially pinhook her and sort of went into the next year’s yearling sales and we had some friends who wanted to get involved and we said we have a nice one on the farm and why don’t we keep her,” he said.

“We syndicated her at a good price for a bunch of friends and everyone is going to enjoy the journey.

“And we are not professional syndicators but from time to time we will put a syndicate together with friends and family in different horses.”

Ballantine said they had bought the 120-acre farm and owned the Thompson Creek Thoroughbreds business for five years.

They started off offering agistment to Maher and other trainers but over the past three seasons had focused on broodmares.

“I guess we have become the leading walk-on farm for Rosemont Stud as in a mare feeder farm. Last year we foaled down about 50 mares and in addition to dries, we managed about 75 mares during the season, with the vast majority walking onto Rosemont,” he said.

“We probably would have had about 45 walking onto Rosemont to go to Shamus Award and he is a very attractive stallion in the local area.

“So we manage our own mares plus external clients and I think we have found a niche as there is a real demand for foaling down and broodmare management services.”

Ballantine said they bred a few of their which they race and also go the sales every year and buy some well-bred fillies with the aim to race and later breed from.

This year they have so far bought fillies by Sacred Falls and Capitalist at Sydney Classic Sale and a Deep Field filly at Melbourne Premier.

“We are sort of in the market every year for two or three well-bred fillies in addition to growing our own broodmare band,” he said.

“We have got a broodmare band of about a dozen of our own and we are constantly upgrading both the quality and growing the numbers.

“At any time we probably have about 40 or 50 mares on the farm.”

Ballantine said over the past five years they had taken the opportunity to improve the reproductive facilities at the farm and have a full night watch during the foaling season with the right staffing facilities, the right mare and foal boxes and crushes.

“We can manage dry mares whether it is under lights or with masks on, so we are fully kitted out for the top end broodmare management,” he said.

“Foaling down about 50 is our right number and then when you add usually another 20 or 30 dries, managing that 70 to 80 during the spring is sort of perfect for our farm.”

And Ballantine said they could look at a city race for their three-year filly in July at a distance of at least 1400m or possibly a mile.

The colours that Colombe D‘Or races in are special to the Ballantine family.
“Dad won a Blue Diamond in those colours in 1979 with Star Shower,” he said.

“When we got back into racing about 10 years ago, we were lucky enough to be able to re-register his colours and carry on the tradition.

“He bought Star Shower as a colt at the sales. He had six starts for six wins and was injured in his Blue Diamond win and was the star colt of his generation.”

And Ballantine explains why they named the filly Colombe D’Or.

They had a very good friend’s 50th birthday party which finished at a hotel called Colombe D’Or in the south of France.

“We all remembered it as one of my favourite places of all time, so we said we’d buy a horse together and if she wins a Group 1 we are heading back to Colombe D’Or.”
Ballantine said you have got to have dreams.

Maserartie Bay ridden by Jamie Kah wins the Banjo Paterson Series Handicap at Flemington Racecourse on June 04, 2022 in Flemington, Australia. (Brett Holburt/Racing Photos)

Locally bred Maserartie Bay picked up his second city win in three starts and his third win in four starts when the son of Stockwell Thoroughbreds stallion Artie Schiller (USA) won the fourth heat of the Banjo Paterson Series Handicap (2520m) at Flemington on Saturday.

The five-year-old gelding has good options in the coming weeks, including the $150,000 series final over 2600m at Flemington on July 2 and the $175,000 Flemington Cup 1849 (2800m) on July 16.

After winning the Yarra Valley Cup (1950m) in March and then backing it up with a next start victory at Caulfield (2400m), Maserartie Bay struggled on a heavy track in the Listed Warrnambool Cup (2350m) before bouncing back at Flemington for his eighth win from 23 starts for $430,750 in prizemoney.

Trained by Ciaron Maher and David Eustace, the stable was represented at Flemington by their Ballarat stable’s assistant trainer Jack Turnbull who said the horse had to show he’d recovered from a tough Warrnambool Cup run.

“It was far too soft at Warrnambool, and it took him a while to get over that run. Thankfully the connections have been patient and this race looked ideal for him,” Turnbull said in his postrace interview, Turnbull suggested Maserartie Bay could be targeted at the Flemington Cup.

“He can have a nice breather from now and until then. Hopefully, he can go into that race in as good a form as he was today,” he said after the Flemington win.
Maserartie Bay was bred by Rushton Park’s Kayley and David Johnson who bought the broodmare Navica (Snowland x High Heels) for $30,000 at the 2016 Australian Broodmare and Weanling Sale. The maiden winning mare, sold by Gooree Stud, was in foal to Artie Schiller with what was to become Maserartie Bay.

David Johnson said they were disappointed when they only got $60,000 for him as a yearling at Melbourne Premier in 2018.

“He was a lovely colt, an absolute ripper,” he said.

“And Ciaron (Maher) had seen him up at the farm and when he saw him at the sales he said he bid on him because he thought he was pretty cheap.

“He has been an absolute ripper and is from that really good family. His mum is a half-sister to Desert War (Desert King) and Laser Hawk (Artie Schiller) who were both Group 1 winners.

“It’s a proper staying family.”

After Maserartie Bay, Navica wasn’t served in 2016 and then a mating with Sooboog produced a filly that was purchased cheaply by Adelaide trainer John Hickmott.
The mare remained at Rushton Park to foal down to Sooboog and an attempt was made to put her back into foal to Artie Schiller, but it failed twice and the mare didn’t produce a foal in 2019 or 2020.

Navica was sold again and had a filly to Queensland stallion Knight Exemplar (Exceed and Excel x Charmview).

“She was getting a bit of age on her, the old girl,” Johnson said.

“We struggled to get here into foal again.”

Johnson said Artie Schiller (El Prado x Hidden Light) had been a great sire that had been underrated.

“He is certainly getting on in years now but he has done a very good job for a very long time,” he said.

“He can still get a good horse – he doesn’t know how old he is.

“And Maserartie has been a great horse. Dave Eustace introduced us to the group of owners at Flemington one day and it’s great to see a good bunch of people with a nice horse on their hands.

“They are looking at some cup races and some black-type races going forward. I think he would be a really good country cup type of horse.”

Johnson said Maserartie Bay was a big horse and had taken a long time to furnish.
He said the horse was sold at the Inglis Classic sale branded the Blue Riband session which was for yearlings that based on pedigree would be best as three-year-olds and at distances of 1600m and beyond.

“He has certainly lived up to that,” Johnson said.

Stockwell Thoroughbreds Mike Becker said Maserartie Bay had become a good horse after taking a while to mature and develop his right racing patterns.

Becker said the gelding is well-bred, out of a good mare and his breeders Gooree Park Stud had always been a good supporter of Artie Schiller, a former shuttle stallion now permanently based at Stockwell Thoroughbreds at Diggers Rest.

“He has taken a while but they’ve been patient and they’re getting the rewards,” Becker said of Maserartie Bay who shuttled to Australia from America.

Becker said Artie Schiller doesn’t get much support – he served 18 mares last year – and conceded his commercial days have finished.

“It’s through my own fault as much as anything,” he said.

Artie Schiller was second to Written Tycoon as Australia’s leading first-season sire with what Becker described as a limited crop of modest mares.

A top crop of three-year-olds gave Artie Schiller the title of Australia’s leading second season sire in 2012.

“I didn’t bring him back to Australia in his fourth year and it turned out to be a terrible mistake. It was going to be hard to get mares in that fourth year with the competition and a bit was happening,” Becker said.

“No sooner than he didn’t come than he started getting winners everywhere, so he missed a crop and then by the time he came back the following year he’d gone through the roof.

“Emirates had bought 50 per cent of the horse and I lost control of him which was a shame.

“The world goes by.”

Becker said that an injury and remaining in America in 2010 virtually cost the stallion one and a half missed seasons in the breeding barn.

He said Artie Schiller had missed his commercial opportunity but the reality is that his strike rate has never altered and the stallion has a high percentage of runners to winners and black type runners to winners.

Becker said the stallion’s statistics put him in elite company.

“But he just doesn’t have the numbers running now but he has got a few nice ones coming through the system that I have been following and they are shaping up well,” he said.

“He had three runners in Hong Kong on Sunday and all had good chances, so they are better than average horses.”

Becker said the now 17-year-old Navica was a big, powerful mare but not an easy breeder and it wasn’t through lack of trying that she couldn’t produce another Artie Schiller foal.

“Getting her in foal was one thing but keeping her in foal was another,” he said.
Becker said Gooree Park Stud bred Artie Schiller’s first Group 1 winner in Australia – Laser Hawk – and supported the stallion with mares.

While Artie Schiller was now “flat out” getting 30 mares a year, he said they were comfortable with it.

“His fertility is still good, his libido is still good and he is still Artie,” Becker said.
“I’ve worked with a lot of stallions over the years but I have learnt more off Artie Schiller than I have learnt off any stallion.

“He is a different beast in a lot of ways. If he thinks a mare is ready to be covered, he’ll cover it with gusto. He doesn’t care what the vet says when they should be covered, he makes up his mind when they should be covered.”

Becker said Artie Schiller’s sire, El Prado (IRE) was an amazing story and at one stage, along with Scenic (IRE), was the only two-year-old winning son of Sadler’s Wells – and both were Group 1 winners.

He said for whatever reason El Prado didn’t go to stud in the UK but instead was shipped off to California where had limited opportunities but after a few years became the champion sire of America which was an extraordinary rise to the top and became even greater when moved to Kentucky.

“Artie was a son of Sadler’s Wells and at that time Sadler’s Wells in Australia was a dirty word because a lot of his staying sons had been trotted out and they didn’t work,” Becker said.

“Bringing a grandson of Sadler’s Wells, which he was, to Australia was a bit of a risk.

“But Artie himself was such a great racehorse. He was a sprinter miler which I think makes a stallion. He had won 10 times from his 22 starts and he only finished out of the first four once and that was as a three-year-old in the Breeders Mile when he got knocked out of the race but came back the next year and won it.

“He was everyone’s dream of a racehorse, a real beast.

“His first three dams were all very tough Group 1 winning mares.”

Becker said Artie Schiller had been a marvellous old stallion but sadly most of the owner breeders had disappeared from the industry and those were the ones best suited to breeding a horse by him.

He said the stud’s other stallion Al Maher was a similar story to Artie Schiller.
“He is still proving he can get a good horse, gets a lot of winners but commercially, like Artie, their days have passed them and we understand that.”

He said Artie Schiller and Al Maher, both 20-year-olds, were wonderful stallions and a lot of the new kids on the block would never emulate what those two had achieved.