Victorian breeders got off to flying start at The Valley for Friday night’s Manikato Stakes meeting when the Julie Scott trained Wicklow Town won the rich VOBIS Gold Star (1500m) to pick up a first prize of $96,250. Bred and raced by Scott’s son Michael Matthews, connections also scored a Super VOBIS nominator’s bonus of $7000 and an owner’s bonus of $23,000.
Scott described it as unbelievable when told Wicklow Town had broken the track record.
“He’s just a happy horse,” Scott said.
“He doesn’t go to the track very often and does most of his work on the treadmill. He’s just a trier.”
Scott is reluctant to race the gelding on hard tracks and has despatched him to the paddock but he’ll be back next year to tackle the Winter Championship, hopefully on wet tracks.
Wicklow Town is by Irish stallion Canford Cliffs which shuttled to Blue Gum Farm from 2012 to 2016, but support for him unfortunately waned. He continues to produce winners from his Australian matings.
Another Friday night winner at The Valley over 2040m was Thought of That which is part-owned by trainer Ciaron Maher.
Thought Of That (So You Think) was bred by Tarcoola Stud’s Ken Williams and is out of his mare, Hold Me Closer.
It was the third successive win for Thought Of That, the last two in town, and takes his career earnings to $461,860. The five-year-old is already a Group 3 winner over 2000m
In his postrace interview, Maher said Thought Of That, which he recently purchased, had been a frustrating horse.
“But I’ve hardly got a horse in the stable that can go with it but he just wasn’t taking that to the track.
“One of the owners, Dr Goel, was quite keen to retain him and said would I keep a share – I’d train him better if I kept a share.
“He’s got a new string to his bow, he’s been jumping a few hurdles and been enjoying it. A great result.”
Saturday’s Cox Plate meeting kicked off in style when first starter Semillion (Shalaa x Sistonic) won the opening race – the Inglis Banner (restricted listed) on debut over 1000m.
The two-year-old, trained by Team Hawkes, was bred by Robert Crabtree and sold through Phil Campbell’s Blue Gum 2021 Melbourne Premier Yearling Sale daft for $300,000 to Mark Player of International Thoroughbred Solutions.
Sistonic is by 22-year-old Bel Esprit which continues his stud career in Victoria at Widden after starting duties in 2003.
“He was very popular at Oaklands during the Premier Sale inspections but Mark actually opened the bidding on him at $300,000 and blew everyone else out of the water, something he’s been known to do before too,’’ Campbell told Inglis.
“He’s a very shrewd judge of a yearling and he can be very shrewd with his bidding approach too.
“This colt was part of a fantastic sale for us this year, we ended as leading vendor for the fourth time in seven years so we’ve been at the top of the tree for a while now and we look forward to continuing that at Premier in 2022.’’
Semillion’s win gave Blue Gum their third victory in the race from the past eight runnings following previous successes with Fontiton (2014) and Ideas Man (2019).
“He’s a colt we always rated very highly but to be brutally honest, he’s probably one I didn’t have pegged as an early 2YO so the fact he’s come out and won the Banner on debut in October really goes to show how much natural ability he has,’ Campbell said.
The hot spring for Victorian stallions continued across the country on the weekend, spearheaded by Rosemont shuttle stallion Starspangledbanner who produced Cox Plate winner State Of Rest.
The Irish bred horse just held out Darley bred three-year-old Street Boss colt Anamoe by a short half head and then had to survive a protest from Craig Williams who rode the second placed horse.
The outcome of the race loomed as crucial for Anamoe and the four-year-old State Of Rest as far as having the Group 1 Cox Plate on their CV when they venture to stud.
Anamoe had already won two Group 1 races – the Sires Produce (1400m) at Randwick and the Caulfield Guineas (1600m) which was the colt’s lead-up race to the Cox Plate.
State Of Rest warmed up for the Cox Plate with Group 1 success in the Derby Invitational (1910m) at Saratoga where he won by a length at odds of $22.
It was another big day for trainer Grahame Begg when Lunar Flare, by Widden Stud stallion, the 2013 Melbourne Cup winner Fiorente, won the $1 million Group 2 Moonee Valley Gold Cup (2500m) on Saturday.
Lunar Flare, a six-year-old mare, was at one stage discussed as a possible Melbourne Cup contender but the plans were abandoned.
The mare was bred and raced by John Valmorbida of Mojo Thoroughbreds in Victoria.
Begg said it was wrong to suggest that he was kicking himself for not keeping the horse in the Melbourne Cup.
“I don’t know about kicking myself but we knew what we were doing so we thought she wasn’t quite up to that,” he said.
Begg said Lunar Flare would now be aimed at the Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
He said he only previously trained one other horse by Fiorente which had won a moderate race.
“She is the main one,” he said.
“You just have to be patient with them and that’s the problem. People here don’t want to wait for them.
“They are bred to be older horses and they don’t really come to their full potential until they are five or six-year-old.”
Begg said Lunar Flare had been absolutely outstanding and a model of consistency.
“We had a few doubts with the track deteriorating a little bit but she’s hard fit, came off a good mile-and-a-half run a few weeks ago and what a great job.
“We’re so pleased to win for the connections. Great race to win, fair dinkum, a million dollar race.”
Begg said he didn’t leave the mare in the Melbourne Cup because he thought at the time she’d got beaten when it was time to pay up and I thought it was a bit hard to try and run her in the Cup Cup after a disappointing run.
The prestigious Group 2 weight for age Crystal Mile was another big result for Victorian stallion Magnus, who also stands at Widden, when Just Folk one by half a length.
The five-year-old gelding, which has now won five races, is Victorian bred, and trained and part-owned by Joshua Julius at Bendigo who described the feeling as “pretty surreal.”
“It is obviously not the most regal of Crystal Miles ever run but we thought with the form that he is in, it was good to see those two horses go one-two in the VOBIS Gold Star and they were out of the Seymour Cup as well,” Julius said.
“To come out and do it is a massive thrill.
“Cassie – my fiancé – and myself, we’re lucky to be leasing a fair majority of him off my grandparents. They bred him at home and to have him here doing this for us is massive.
“A group winner in my grandparents’ colours, too, it is just huge.
“His uncle is Tears I Cry who I was lucky to strap him when he ran third in this race. This family has been terrific for our family.”
The Morning Rise Stud bred Ruby Tuesday scored over 1600m at Randwick, while Yulong stallion Written Tycoon sired Sale Cup winner Milton Park.
The success on the weekend resulted in four of the top eight stallions in the country currently standing in Victoria.
There is no doubt that the Spring is about to get a little bit hotter for Victorians.