Issue 26, September 17
THE BIG HORSE: Unbridled’s Song is a lot lighter in colour than he was when he stood at Arrowfield Stud 10 years ago.
Singing a different tune The results of the Keeneland September Yearling Sale – down more than 30 per cent on average – suggests that the global financial crisis is still hitting hard in the northern hemisphere. There is a perception that a continued decline is unlikely at Australia’s yearling sales in the first half of 2010: Australia’s economy has been less affected by the recession than North America and Europe – although we will be doing well to hold our position on this year’s figures – down 25 per cent down, across the board, on 2008 figures. Economies aside, there remains a lot of difference between what happens in thoroughbred breeding north of the equator and in Australia and New Zealand. The incredible success of the big grey horse, Un b r idl e d’s So n g (1993, Unbridled (USA)–Trolley
Song (USA), by Caro (IRE)), is one example. Unbridled’s Song is generally regarded as a failure in Australia, but he’s top of the tree on his own dirt track patch. Four of the top seven yearlings to sell at Keeneland so far are by Unbridled’s Song, who won the 1995 Group 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (1600m) before his much-heralded arrival in Australia to stand at Arrowfield Stud in 1997. I remember inspecting Unbridled’s Song in his first season, and my amazement when the big horse was led from his box. “Steeplechaser,” was my unkind remark, although it was taken well enough by the Arrowfield staff because I wasn’t the first or last to make a similar assessment of the monster 17hh steely grey. Unbridled’s Song was a struggle for broodmare owners, too. It was difficult to
find the right mare to suit him, and he only covered 88 mares in his first season, and only 63 in 1998 and 78 in his last Australian season in 1999. Yet a study of his Australian figures suggests he did a lot better than the failure tag he carries – 10 Stakes winners from only 181 live foals is far from a flop. His best horse, and only Group winner, was the tough gelding Grey Song, who won the 2002 Group 3 VRC St Leger and the 2005 Group 2 Blamey Stakes, and was runner-up to Mummify in the 2003 Group 1 Caulfield Cup. Unbridled’s Song stands at Taylor Made Farm, Kentucky, at a fee of US$125,000. It’s worth noting that Taylor Made believe the big horse produces his best results when mated to big, heavy mares – a contrast to what you’d expect was put to him in his time at Arrowfield. DANNY POWER
D e f init ely R eady’s record breaking 1000m win (55.07 secs) at Sandown on Wednesday was helped by a fast surface and a gently pushing tail wind, but also he was aided by a pedigree that boasts a cross that is really proving hard to fault. Definitely Ready is yet another fine produce from the mating of a Danehill mare to star young sire More Than Ready (by Southern Halo (USA)). So far three of More Than Ready’s five Group 1 winners – Benicio, Sebring and Perfectly Ready – are from Danehill or Danzig-line mares. The brilliant Group 2 winner More Joyous is from a mare whose dam is by Danehill, while the dual Magic Millions winner Augusta Proud is from a mare by a son of Danzig, Danehill’s sire. In Definitely Ready’s case, he is from the one race winner Defiant, a Danehill mare who is from the 1997 Newmarket Handicap winner Ruffles (ch m 1992, Zeditave–Paris Miss, by Opera Prince). There are solid genetic reasons why More Than Ready nicks so well with Danehill – MTR’s grandsire Halo (by Hail To Reason) is closely related to Danehill. Halo’s dam Cosmah (by Cosmic Bomb) is a halfsister to Danehill’s great granddam, the wonderful Natalma (by Native Dancer), who also is the dam of the breed-shaper Northern Dancer. Definitely Ready cost trainer Mark Kavanagh $140,000 at the 2008 Magic Millions Gold Coast Premier Yearling Sale.
Hayes has big plans for Nicconi, including a trip to Dubai next year, as well as a shot at Royal Ascot in June. Wins at either of those venues will make Nicconi a shuttle prospect . It will be very interesting to see where Nicconi will eventually find a home after he retires. His part-owners and breeders Les Gordon and Peter Devitt have strong links to Lindsay Park, but the further Nicconi climbs in his rating, the less likely he will stand in South Australia, and maybe that prospect has slipped by.
WORDS BY DANNY POWER
Hankering for the Derby Watching Peter Moody inspecting a yearling is a time consuming experience. Moody is never in a rush when he finds something he likes. The big man, rarely without a cigarette out of the side of his mouth, watches from all angles; he likes to see the yearlings walk, a lot, and sometimes he just parks against a rail, occasionally studying the catalogue, but usually studying the horse. He has a good eye, and that eye found Hanks, the impressive 3YO gelding who is unbeaten in two starts and shaping as a Group 1 Victoria Derby (2500m) prospect. Hanks (b g 2006, Encosta De Lago–Sister Fromseattle (USA), by Seattle Slew (USA)) was sold as a yearling for NZ$150,000 on Moody’s bid at the 2008 NZB Karaka Premier Yearling Sale, from the Curraghmore Stud draft. The colt was one of a batch of yearlings sent across the Tasman by Coolmore Stud, specifically for the New Zealand sale. It’s not hard to understand Coolmore’s thinking, because Hanks, a big, raw, stretchy horse would have been a square peg in a round hole at either the Magic Millions or Inglis Easter Sale. Hanks has a wonderful pedigree. His dam is a halfsister to leading sire Dehere (Deputy Minister-Sister Dot, by Secretariat), but Hanks has none of the precocious speed of the family. When he won at Sandown on Wednesday, he came hard, wide out, with long, loping strides to win easily. He looks every bit a stayer, and Moody has high hopes for him.
BENICIO, photographed at Vinery in 2008 on his daily prance to the breeding shed.
The backing of Benicio Vinery Stud general manager Peter Orton is an astute judge, and when he makes a prediction that B enicio (b h 2002, More Than Ready (USA)– Mannington, by Danehill (USA)) will make it as a stallion, we should take notice. But even Orton’s optimism would be tested for him to invest in a bet to win $250,000 ($2500 at $101), as one punter has, that Benicio will be the leading first-season sire of winners this season. The bet, with Sportingbet, came after one of Benicio’s first crop, Be navarr o, had trialled impressively against older horses at Muswellbrook on September 9. Benavarro is from the Entrepreneur mare Navarro, a speedy winner of five races in Queensland. While Navarro is out of a Sir Tristram mare, she gets her speed from her second dam Most Illustrious (ch m 1984, Bletchingly-Lorne, by Minor Portion (IRE)), a halfsister to the fast Stakeswinners Hemisphere and Purpose. Benicio might be by More Than Ready, and he may have
won a Group 1 Victoria Derby (2500m), but he has matured into a powerful stallion, in the image of his maternal grandsire Danehill. For the record, Benicio is now $81 with Sportingbet to win the first-season sire’s title. Stratum (by Redoute’s Choice) is a hot favourite at $2.20, ahead of Snitzel (by Redoute’s Choice) at $5 and Jet Spur (by Flying Spur) at $6.
Nicconi’s stocks on the rise I doubt there was a more impressive winner last Saturday at Moonee Valley than Nicconi (b h 2005, Bianconi (USA)–Nicola Lass, by Scenic (IRE)) in the Group 3 Ian McEwen Stakes (1000m). The son of Swettenham Stud’s underrated sire Bianconi (by Danzig (USA) charged home with a tail wind, breaking 33 secs for his last 600m. Trainer David Hayes, who owns a slice of the 4YO entire, has helped boost Nicconi’s stallion stocks by declaring the horse “the best sprinter I have trained”. Nicconi is a magnificent individual, who has the perfect build for a stallion – not tall, powerful, masculine and correct.
Dubawi, a son worth watching The success of Darley’s Shamardal (b h 2002, Giant’s Causeway (USA)–Helsinki (GB), by Machiavellian (USA)), in both hemispheres, draws attention to their “new boy” for the 2009/10 season, Dubawi (b h 2002, Dubai Millennium (GB)– Zomaradah (GB), by Deploy (IRE)). Both were similar types of racehorses in performance and racing style – slick turn of foot and excellent at the 1600m classic distance. Physically, the two horses are different. Shamardal, is a stronger, heavier stallion, whereas Dubawi is a neat, compact athletic horse who stamped his yearlings very much in his image. Dubawi’s first crop in Europe has been so successful, he is favoured to earn the title of Champion First Season Sire. His prospects were boosted by a Group double last weekend at Doncaster – Poet’s Voice (Group 2 Champagne Stakes) and Sand Vixen (Group 2 Flying Childers Stakes) – and he currently has 19 individual first crop winners. Dubawi, who matches well with Northern Dancer line mares, stands at Darley Kelvinside, Aberdeen, NSW, at a 2009 fee of $16,500 (inc. GST).