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Beltoro ridden by Teo Nugent wins the Maluckyday Living Legends Plate at Flemington Racecourse on January 14, 2023 in Flemington, Australia. (Photo by Reg Ryan/Racing Photos)

When you’re offered around $1.2 million by wealthy Hong Kong owners for a horse that won his first two starts, it would be an easy decision for a lot of people to have grabbed the cash back in 2020.

Victorian syndicator Delbridge Racing’s managing director Mark Leo admits he would have taken the money, but a democratic vote among the other group of more than 20 owners rejected the offer for Beltoro (Toronado x Believabeel).

The now five-year-old gelding, which Leo bred at Three Bridges Thoroughbreds, went another 10 starts before winning his third and race and it was another 12 starts before he scored his fourth win at Flemington last Saturday.

The Flemington 1600m victory, at start 24, came 10 months after his Bendigo victory over 1500m.

Beltoro raced in Group company after his second win, at Flemington, and also finished fourth in the St Ledger Trial (2200m) at Bendigo and since then his races have been no further than 1600m.

With three seconds and four thirds, Leo described Beltoro as a consistent horse that hadn’t always had things go his way in races.

“But everything did on Saturday and he took advantage of it,” he said.

“I was really pleased for the horse because he deserved a win, and for the owners as well. They are a good group and have been involved in it for a long time.”

Many of the owners also raced Beltoro’s dam Believabeel (Zabeel x Chatto Creek), which only had one start at Kyneton in a 1469m maiden, and are partners in her progeny.

“We bred Beltoro and we have had three from the mare Believabeel and they’ve all won,” Leo said.

“He is the second one from the mare to race.

“Believabeel was a Zabeel mare and Kav (trainer Mark Kavanagh) purchased her (for $120,000) at the Sydney Easter Sale and she only had one run but it wasn’t a bad run but she did a tendon in a training accident.

“So it’s been a long road to hoe.”

Believabeel’s first foal by Americain was named Amicabeel and the mare won two races. The next foal, by Toronado, died after birth. The mare’s third foal to race Belluna (Puissance De Lune), like Beltoro, is trained at Ballarat by Robert Hickmott and so far has raced 11 times for one win and is entered in a 1300m race at Wangaratta on Thursday.

Believabeel missed to Puissance De Lune in 2021, but is in foal to Widden Victoria’s Nicconi and while the Delbridge Racing crew tend to breed stayers, they thought they’d attempt to inject a bit of speed into the progeny

Leo and his syndicate members have also bred a full brother to Beltoro, an unraced two-year colt named Torbelo which is in the Ballarat stable of Ciaron Maher and David Eustace.

“Beltoro has been the best one so far so we hope he can kick on after the weekend,” Leo said.

“Torbelo has had a couple of preps but just needs a bit more time and he is up at Three Bridges.

“With Three Bridges, I have been there for 20 years with the Listons.”

Leo said some of the owners in Beltoro and Believabeel and her progeny had been with him since he started his syndication business in 2002.

“But some are reasonably new,” he said.

“A share in Beltoro changed hands during preps after someone moved on, a new person came in, so it’s a varied bunch but the majority of them know each other well as they’ve all been involved in the mare.”

Beltoro has now won $391,500 which is obviously well short of the big Hong Kong offer which Leo said was rejected because the owners wanted to have fun racing the horse.

He said it just wasn’t about money.

“They just wanted to have a horse with good ability to go the races,” Leo said.

“I admit I was keen to sell but that’s the way it goes. It was a really good offer and they were prepared to go higher but I stopped discussions because I knew they wouldn’t sell and it didn’t matter how high they went.

“They were wasting their and our time.”

Leo said to get $100,000 to $80,000 for a 10 per cent share for the sale of Beltoro wasn’t perhaps life changing when it was split around and trying to get everyone to agree to sell was a challenge.

He said only about 10 per cent of the owners wanted to sell and the rest wanted to keep going which made the decision pretty clean cut.

“The offer was over a million,” he said.

“They (buyers) asked me to come back with a figure but I said look they are not going to sell.”

Beltoro raced in the Group 1 Australian Guineas (1600m) at his fifth start and ran sixth to Lunar Fox, beaten 2.75 lengths, after drawing an inside barrier which Leo said wasn’t ideal for the horse which flashed home.

“It was a really good run on the weekend and we are going to Sandown in three weeks in a 1800m benchmark 100 and he has run second in a benchmark 100 before but this is the first time we are getting out beyond a mile since his three-year-old days,” he said.

Leo said he had wound down his operation over the past 10 years after constantly having about 25 horses on his Delbridge Racing books.

Now he tends to just syndicate the progeny of Believabeel and from their other broodmare Cinnamon Girl (Denman x Indian Spice).

While $1.2 million is a lot of money to knock back, Leo said he never heard any of the owners say that they wished they’d sold to Hong Kong.

“No one ever mentions it to me but whether they say it amongst themselves when they are having a few drinks and worry about it, but I can assure you on Saturday they wouldn’t have been,” Leo said.

“They made the decision for the right reasons and it hasn’t been a topic of conversation at all.

“I suppose the way they look at it is that he has won nearly $400,000 and he has had 24 starts and probably 80 per cent of them have been in the city, so they have had plenty of fun.

“If you have a look at his record there is only a couple of times when he has been out of the top six and he could have won a few more but for barriers and if things had gone his way.

“But they are rapt and just love him as a horse and they were talking on the weekend about how much enjoyment they had got out of it.”

The syndicate has four horses with Hickmott, including Cinnamon Girls’ two unraced Inference full brothers – three-year-old Spiceline and two-year-old Epice Dieu.

Leo said he supports the Super VOBIS scheme which had contributed $27,000 in bonuses to Beltoro’s overall prizemoney.

It was also a good week for Three Bridges Thoroughbred when a colt they offered by Swettenham Stud’s Toronado sold for $850,000 at The Magic Millions Yearling Sale on the Gold Coast.

The colt, the equal highest price paid for a Toronado yearling, is out of the Three Bridges bred mare Tereka (Pierro x Trial Of Secrets).

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