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.