Gippsland bred Savatoxl is poised to join equine’s million dollar club.
Bred on Sheryl and Mark Atkinson’s Drouin South Angus farm, Carrington Park, the six-year-old gelding made a name for himself in Alice Springs and Darwin before heading to Tony and Calvin McEvoy in Melbourne.
The gelding’s victory on Saturday – the 17th of his career – in the Group 2 Schillaci Stakes (1100m) at Caulfield has made him a fancied runner in the Group 1 Manikato Stakes (1200m) at Moonee Valley on Friday, October 22.
Already with a Group 1 victory in this year’s The Goodwood (1200m) at Morphettville, the gelding has now won $914,450 in prize money.
It’s not bad for a horse that was unwanted in the 2017 Melbourne Premier Yearling Sale. Passed in for $14,000 on a $20,000 reserve, he was sold a couple of months later for $8000 at the VOBIS Gold Sale to the Alice Springs Turf Club who then sold the then colt soon after at the Red Centre Yearling Sale.
The horse was sold in Melbourne through Ryan Arnel’s Stonehouse Thoroughbreds at Eddington and while the colt was by first season sire Kuroshio, he described him as a “smashing type.”
Arnel sold a Brazen Beau colt (Bengal Bandit) out of Savatoxl’s dam Li’l Miss Hayley for the Atkinsons for $380,000 at the 2019 Melbourne Premier Yearling Sale. But the now four-year-old gelding has recently left Mick Price’s stables for Lauren Abbott at Eagle Farm.
After deciding to retire from breeding thoroughbreds, the Atkinsons sold Li’l Miss Hayley which has since had a filly to Needs Further and is again due to foal to the stallion.
Alice Springs trainer Will Savage bought Savatoxl, along with locals Bianca and Tyson Gordon, and the gelding had 11 starts at Pioneer Park at Alice Springs where he won his first two races and then won another six on succession, including the Northern Territory Guineas and Chief Minister’s Cup – both over 1600m.
The horse’s final race up the top end before heading to the McEvoy stables was in the 2020 Darwin Cup (2050m) when he finished sixth.
Savage recalled this week that Savatoxl wasn’t a big, strong yearling but was a nice type and well put together.
“He had a good walk, straight legs and all that sort of stuff and he had good breeding and was out of a good mare,” he said.
“Li’l Miss Haley had thrown a few winners before him and that was good enough because we were looking at Alice Springs and not the big stuff.
“He was good enough and right from the word go he started showing potential, even as a green two-year-old and he get stronger and better the longer he went.”
Savage said that when he studied Savatoxl’s breeding he wasn’t really looking at his sire Kuroshio but more so his sire, Exceed and Excel, and the dam’s sire line.
He said the $18,000 he paid for Savatoxl was the biggest price of the eight yearlings offered in the Red Centre Sale.
“It was probably a big price for up here in Alice Springs,” Savage said.
“Usually $10,000 or $12,000 is tops.”
Savage laughed about the horse now being a cheap buy.
“You can say that again,” he said.
“In Alice Springs we were hoping he could win a Guineas or something like that or a $35,000 race which he did and broke the track record.
“The only reason we went for those longer races in Alice Springs is because that’s where the money was and we knew we had that above average horse and just chased that little bit of extra prize money.”
Savage said there was no need to race the gelding over longer distances as he’d proven himself at the ultimate level as a sprinter, but he still thinks he is a 1400m horse.
He said Tony McEvoy said he is 1200m horse and is happy as long as he is winning.
Savage said Savatoxl’s name was pronounced Sava-to-excel.
“Kuroshio is by Exceed and Excel that’s where the xl comes from and sava is from Li’l Miss Harvey’s father Savabeel, plus sava is short for Savage which is us,” he said.
“There is bit of a double meaning with the sires put together, a little bit of them and then it was me.‘’
Savage said they were looking forward to the Manikato Stakes, a race Savatoxl been set for and the Schillaci Stakes was just a sort of a “pipe opener for the big one.”
In his postrace interview, Tony McEvoy marvelled at Savatoxl’s 17th win.
“What a culture that is,” he said.
“Gee we’re excited to having him back as well as that.
“Before, he was doing everything so easily that I thought he may have just needed it.
“That was a strung out race. They went very quick and it just shows how tough he is.”
McEvoy recalled his first race with Savatoxl was in the Balaklava Cup (1600m).
“He ran third and ran very well but just didn’t run out the mile. He came to me in such great order and in form.
“We tried a couple of times at 1400 but at this level I knew that he needed up to 1200 metres max and he’s turned out a great short course horse.
“The guys in ‘Alice’ had such great faith in this horse and I was pleased that they made the phone call to send him down to us.”
Savatoxl wasn’t the only headline act for Victorian breeders and studs on Saturday.
The Burnewang North bred Lombardo (I Am Invincible x Swinging Babe) won his third consecutive race for trainers Mick Price and Mick Kent Jnr when the gelding scored in the listed Village Stakes (1200m) at Caulfield last Saturday.
The five-year-old has now won six races and had one third from 10 starts.
He raced in partnership with Burnewang North’s Cathy Hains and went into the race on the back of a four-length win at Moonee Valley and a win at Morphettville.
Lombardo will also be aimed at the 1200m Manikato Stakes, according to co-trainer, Price.
“This was the build-in to a possible run in the Manikato. Why not?” Price said in his postrace interview.
“He handled Moonee Valley; he likes to get his toe in. That’s not the case today but he does like to get his toe in.
“13 days to the Manikato, why not? He can run along, he’s got a big stride. He doesn’t have to be ridden off the speed, he’s versatile but he’s a first three or four type horse.
“I think it is great for Cathy Hains. She went into bat for her own horse and said ‘I’ll take him home to my property and spell it for three months for nothing’, and hence it has got her colours on so I’m very happy for her. She backed her horse.”
Asked about progressing to the Manikato, Price said: “You’ve got to progress, don’t you. I know he only won a benchmark 84 there but I think given the horse handles Moonee Valley it is worth it.”
The victory of Aim in the Silver Eagle (1300m) at Randwick on Saturday gave breeders a reminder of his sire Star Witness which has relocated from New South Wales to stand at Widden’s Victorian operation. Nicconi has also relocated from NSW.
Aim, out of Vintage Strike, has now won four races from 16 starts and has $1.6 million in prize money which will increase significantly if he can share in the spoils of the $7.5 million Golden Eagle (1500m) at Rosehill on October 30.
It was high fives all round for Rosemont Stud’s Anthony Mithen and Nigel Austin when Sneaky Five when the Group 3 Thoroughbred Stakes (1200m) at odds of $26 at Caulfield on Saturday.
Unbeaten in her three starts, the three-year-old Fastnet Rock filly has just pushed past $1 million in prizemoney, picking up $302,000 in the Inglis Banner (1000m) at Moonee Valley last October and then $581,000 at her next start in the Golden Gift (1100m) at Rosehill.
While the $120,750 Sneak Five picked up at Caulfield on Saturday can be described as loose change compared to her first two pay cheques, it pushed her beyond the $1 million mark by $3,750.
Rosemont paid $305,000 for Sneaky Five (Fastnet Rock x Small Minds) at the 2020 Melbourne Premier Yearling Sale.
After the first win, Rosemont’s Anthony Mithen said the filly had impressed them since the first day they saw her at Melbourne Premier in the Goldin Farms draft.
“We were lucky enough to have one extra bullet to fire over the top of Brae Sokolski who was at $300,000 and we had marked her at $300,000 too but thought bugger it, what’s an extra five grand,” he said at the time.
“We had a sneaky extra five on her and that’s where the name came from.”
Trainer David Eustace, who trains in partnership with Ciaron Maher, admitted that they didn’t expect her performance at Caulfield.
“She was obviously a long time off the track and the team have done a great job just to get her back and firing.
“To be honest, we really didn’t expect that. She is a bit of a sleeper at home. She’ll come on plenty for it.
“She just didn’t come up in the spring in her work and she had quite a tough spring campaign as a two-year-old. She ran two races and won on a wet track. We made the decision to give her a good long break.
“She went to the farm at Rosemont who have been really supportive the whole way through. They allowed us to take our time and tell us when she’s ready. She proved that she is and she is going to kick on from there.”
Sneaky Five hadn’t raced since her Golden Gift victory in November of 2020.