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ADAM SANGSTER MY FAITH IN VICTORIA

V O L .1 N O.1 S P R I N G 2 0 07 $ 6 .9 5

INC .GS T

HALL IN THE FAMILY STORY OF AN ORPHANED OUTLAW THE BEAUTY OF THE TURF

CRAIG WILLIAMS IN HIS OWN WORDS


GREG NORMAN NEVER SETTLES FOR SECOND BEST. NEITHER SHOULD YOU.


MEMBERSHIP

CORPORATE & GROUP GOLF

WEDDINGS AND EVENTS

Being a Member of Settlers Run means much more than just playing the Greg Normandesigned championship golf course in weekly competitions and honour board events. Members will also enjoy a range of additional benefits, such as discounts in the Golf Shop, Settlers Bar and Bistro, unrestricted access to the health club and tennis facilities and access to Troon Golf’s world wide Troon Advantage Program.

The Greg Norman-designed championship golf course, luxurious clubhouse facilities, exclusive access and the Troon experience, all make Settlers Run the ideal venue for your next successful corporate event.

The state-of-the-art clubhouse facilities, surrounded by the natural beauty of the golf course and extensive gardens, provide the perfect backdrop for your special event or conference. The Golf and Country Club’s Executive Chef and enthusiastic events team, will work hand-in-hand with you to create a professionally delivered occasion that surpasses all your expectations.

Troon Golf has been managing corporate and group golf outings around the world for more than two decades and has mastered the art of ensuring your corporate golf outing is truly memorable for all involved.

To learn more about our exclusive Membership packages and how to join Settlers Run Golf and Country Club, please contact our Sales and Marketing Manager. Troy Eichelberger T. 03 9785 6072 E. teichelberger@settlersrungcc.com.au For land sales, please submit all enquiries to: T. 03 9785 6788 E. landsales@settlersrun.com.au

www.settlersrun.com.au

chilli_6193

1 Settlers Run Cranbourne South Vic 3977


VO L .1 N O.1 S P R I N G 2 0 0 7

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CHASING THE DREAM ON THE COVER: CRAIG WILLIAMS, TAKEN AT FLEMINGTON RACECOURSE BY SEAN GARNSWORTHY FOR GSP IMAGES

PUBLISHED BY

Geoff Slattery Publishing MANAGING EDITOR

40

PLATE BLOOMER

24

Geoff Slattery PUBLICATIONS MANAGER

Alison Hurbert-Burns alisonh@geoffslattery.com.au PRODUCTION EDITOR

David Bonnici CONTRIBUTING EDITOR

Danny Power

THE OUTLAW – A SON OF A GUN

ART DIRECTOR

Andrew Hutchison DESIGNER

Joanne Mouradian PHOTO EDITORS

Serena Galante, Tom Kearney

20 HALL IN THE FAMILY

40 PLATE BLOOMER

PRODUCTION

From humble beginnings, the Cox Plate has become Australia’s premier weight-for-age race.

PUBLICATIONS COORDINATOR

A letter from Stephen Allanson, chief executive officer, Racing Victoria.

A look at a riding dynasty, which has played a significant role in Australian racing for more than 70 years.

8 THE RESILIENCE OF RACING

24 THE OUTLAW – A SON OF A GUN

An editorial by Danny Power.

Part one of an ongoing series following the life of a promising Victorian-bred colt.

6 SPRINGING INTO ACTION

10 CHASING THE DREAM An essay about the vast and colourful spectrum of thoroughbred racing, by Geoff Slattery.

14 WINNING – IT’S BETTER THAN SEX Craig Williams discusses lessons he has learned so far during his career in the saddle. 4 THE THOROUGHBRED

The lineage of Victoria’s great stallion Better Boy is dying out.

37 FAITH IN THE NEW BREED Two recent Caulfield Guineas winners have an integral place in the resurrection of the Victorian breeding industry.

Lucy Quinn ADVERTISING ACCOUNT MANAGER

Pippa McKee pippam@geoffslattery.com.au ADVERTISING SALES

44 MY FAITH IN VICTORIA Adam Sangster tells why he has made Nagambie the new home of Swettenham Stud.

49 THE FASHION STAKES 30 END OF THE LINE

Troy Davis

Four Melbourne fashion identities explain racing’s connection with their industry and provide a few style tips.

54 THE MEASURE OF A MAN Stephen Howell meets Racing Victoria’s chief handicapper, Greg Carpenter.

Richard Ostroff, Chris Nunn CONTRIBUTORS

Bruno Cannatelli, Ben Collins, Adrian Dunn, Sean Garnsworthy, Andrew Garvey, Rhett Kirkwood, Stephen Howell, Peter Ryan PHOTOGRAPHY

GSP Images Ph: (03) 9627 2600 visit gspimages.com.au SUBSCRIPTION ENQUIRIES

Astrid Lawton astridl@geoffslattery.com.au ALL CORRESPONDENCE TO THE EDITOR, THE THOROUGHBRED

AFL House, 140 Harbour Esplanade, Docklands, VIC 3008 Ph (03) 9627 2600 Contributions welcome, visit thethoroughbred.com.au The Thoroughbred is published quarterly. Next edition, Summer 2007-08 Geoff Slattery Publishing thanks Racing Victoria Limited for its support of The Thoroughbred.


16 CLUBS

40 BIG H&A MATCHES

10 PRE-SEASON MATCHES

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FINALS

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FOOTY IN 2008

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REASONS TO SUPPORT YOUR CLUB

VISIT AFLMEMBERSHIP.COM.AU OR PHONE (03) 9643 1900


WELCOME

SPRINGING INTO ACTION

W

elcome to the first edition of The Thoroughbred – Australia’s only thoroughbred racing lifestyle magazine for Victorian owners and breeders. This unique publication, produced by Geoff Slattery Publishing (GSP), celebrates the world of thoroughbred racing – the people, the issues, the carnivals – national and international – the fashion, and of course, the horses. GSP have covered the best the racing world has to offer, looking behind the scenes, talking to some of the main players, and featuring the colour, excitement and passion that makes this sport truly unique.

6 THE THOROUGHBRED

This first edition, Spring 2007, is free to all Victorian based Gold card owners and Victorian breeders and we hope it is well received so that it becomes a quarterly magazine for all to enjoy. In celebrating Victoria’s Spring Racing Carnival, our thoughts do remain with all the racing participants who have been affected by the Equine Influenza crisis. The Spring Racing Carnival was officially launched in Melbourne on Wednesday, October 3 and concludes on Wednesday, November 21 2007.

I look forward to seeing you at the Carnival and l hope you enjoy this first edition of The Thoroughbred and thank GSP for working with RVL to make this magazine possible. Yours sincerely,

STEPHEN ALLANSON CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER RACING VICTORIA LIMITED


IT’S BIGGER THAN YOU THINK 3 OCTOBER – 21 NOVEMBER 2007 springracingcarnival.com.au


EDITORIAL

The thoroughbred industry will bounce back from whatever Equine Influenza can throw at it, writes DANNY POWER.

A

ustralian racing, in the often used words of top jockey Greg Hall, has been ticketty-boo for some time. In recent years, the industry had a growth factor comparable to the All Ordinaries. High stakes; record yearling sale prices on the back of a burgeoning breeding industry; international tributes for the heroics of horses like Miss Andretti, Takeover Target and Karasi; world class trainers and jockeys; an international spring carnival; and a confidence that would make Tommy Smith seem shy. It was only in June that we watched a normally controlled Lee Freedman overcome with emotion after his mare Miss Andretti won the Group 2 King’s Stand Stakes (1000m) at Royal Ascot. The win meant so much to Freedman, who tearlessly had won five Melbourne Cups. Australia had succeeded again on the world stage, and Australians had recognised the importance of “going global”. It was almost laughable 10 years ago, that even a trainer of Freedman’s ilk could harbour ambitions to train a winner in front of the Queen at Royal Ascot. Suddenly, Freedman and his fellow Australian trainers, are packing their diaries with 8 THE THOROUGHBRED

the dates of the major races in Europe and North America. But suddenly, ticketty-boo became oh-oh! In a space of three weeks in August, the Australian racing industry was left coughing and spluttering by a gregarious bug that has spread like an infectious tsunami from Sydney along Australia’s eastern coast, leaving in its wake a devastation which will take years to recover. Only for Australia’s vastness and the luck that racing and breeding in NSW is concentrated north of Sydney, and thus established a virus-free void between Albury and Goulburn, has Victoria been saved from a calamity that could easily arrive, on the breath of a north wind. All this Equine Influenza drama indicates what a tenuous thread holds together any industry that relies on the health of its participants. The common catch phrase “the world of racing has become

‘The Australian racing industry was left coughing and spluttering by a gregarious bug that has spread like an infectious tsunami’

THE JOY OF VICTORY: Jockey Dwayne Dunn on Tawqeet after winning the 2006 BMW Caulfield Cup, part of a record- breaking 2006 Spring Racing Carnival. The threat of Equine Influenza challenged the 2007 Carnival, but measures taken by authorities protected Victoria from the virus crossing the border.

smaller” has come to haunt us. The enormous advantage to our breed of shuttling stallions thanks to pioneers like Robert Sangster is under question. From adversity rises some good. If there is any positive to be derived from the EI outbreak, it has been the recognition from government and business that the Australian racing industry is a vital cog in the economic wheel. No racing, no money for extra hospital wings and new x-ray machines, but the effect goes beyond that. The ramifications of EI have been so widespread and so immediate that some of racing’s extras, in the space of weeks, are faring worse than those on the land who have been suffering in a 10-year drought. Track riders, farriers, horse dentists, float drivers, horse-breakers and tote workers alike have been shut off from income quicker than a swift kick from a nervous yearling. The good has come via the amazing way racing’s people have rallied for each other. Track riders, sent packing unable to pay

rent, are sleeping on the floors of their trainer mates. People are suffering, yet most have selflessly stuck rigidly to the bio-security rules to prevent the spread of the disease. There is good in that our security protocols at our quarantine centres will be challenged and upgraded to prevent other obnoxious diseases from entering and infecting our herds. Racing people are an incredible resilient bunch. We always have all felt sorry for the odd trainer who is sent to the dole queue for the transgression of an ink-drop of illegal substance, but this time it is whole communities in the same situation who are marking time while this virus storm passes over. Racing will bounce back. Like the punter in the local TAB, cursing and shaking his fist while a losing ticket is tossed in the air, as he walks to the form guide for the next at Benalla … the track riders will mount again, the foals will be born with immunity and we will be able to shake hands with our trainers in the winners’ stall at Flemington.

PHOTO COURTESY OF RVL

THE RESILIENCE OF RACING


AN ESSAY ON RACING

Chasing the dream GEOFF SLATTERY has

been enchanted by the call of the turf, a love passed on to him by a father who loved the punt; a career that began writing form for The Truth, and a mob of colleagues who loved the Chase for the elusive winner. This is his tribute to the Chase, to winners, to losers and to the vast majority of us who fall somewhere in between.

T

here is so much appeal with the world of the thoroughbred it’s hard to know where to start. Is it with the beauty of the horse, and the extraordinary lineage extending to the 18th century, and the Byerley Turk and the Darley Arabian? Is it the chance that the cross of an underachieving stallion, and an unraced mare can deliver a champion? Is it the patina of the sport, and the fact that so much of it has remained unchanged for centuries?

Is it the thrill of the race, the pounding of the hooves, the bravery of the jockeys? Is it the intrigue, the whispers about good things, and slows? Is it the occasion, the dressing up, and dressing down, or the new sexiness that comes in carnival time? Is it the serious faces of the bookies as they examine every inbuilt computer that God gave them to stay an inch ahead of the punter, whether desperate, learned or just hoping? Is it the punt, and the beauty of winning, and the wonderful stories that come when you lose, or should have won? Truth is, it’s all of these things, and the wonderful fact that they apply at places as far apart as

Ascot and the wilds of Africa; from the outback of Australia, to the hill country of South America. The Chase is on.

A

ttitudes may change, and mobile phones will become repositories of form, and selections, and races broadcast live on ever-expanding LCD screens, but the more technology surrounds the sport, nothing changes on the track. Every morning on every track throughout the world, optimism flows when a newly broken colt has his first serious gallop. The track in the morning half-light is a place of remarkable peace, and challenge, a mix unknown to most of us. It is a rare joy to follow and observe a


skittish two-year-old moving from stall, through saddling, to the mounting of the jockey, and the slow walk through the tunnel and on to the track. When it’s the first time, and the “green” owner is watching every move, getting in the way, not realising the inherent danger lingering at every corner, with every movement the colt makes. The jockey is in total control, although often hunched within himself, or herself; like birds fluffi ng feathers against the cold, the jockey will use every experience to ease the pain of the biting wind. A quick nod from the trainer, “five in evens, let him run home from the furlong”, and a quicker nod in reply. The easing through the trot, to canter, to even time to full on gallop is a thing of might and power, the definition of potential

exposed; a silhouette racing against the rising sun, the power of the thoroughbred in full throttle. The colt returns home, head lower, fl anks brindled with sweat. The jockey is more alert now, warmed up by the vigour of the gallop, the flow of adrenalin. “How’d’e go?” “’e went good.” The potential has now been unleashed. We know what we know, not what we hope. He can run, he’s a chance. The colt has a shower, hosed down with freezing water, steam rising from his still heaving fl anks, is scraped down, and walks calmly to his stall, for a roll and a feed and a nap. It’s been like this forever.

T

he stables are eternal, but those that have lasted for hundreds of years are truly works of art, with so many stories to tell. There are skylights above, and hatches along a 20-metre corridor. Along the way, the alert animals poke out their heads, wondering at the new scent. Hooks are covered with leather. A saddle lies on the floor, as polished as a table at Versailles. The dog in the corner is either bored, secure with the

knowledge that if the visitor is with the boss it’s okay; more likely, he’s stretching the chain, barking with fury, eyes glazed like Leigh Matthews in his latter days in a Hawthorn guernsey. There’s a routine here as well. The stablehands have cleaned it all once, and now they’re on the way around again, scooping up manure, filling feed boxes, polishing gear. The boss might well be strolling through, observing, thinking, lost in his own thoughts. But in


AN ESSAY ON RACING

any stables anywhere, the boss is king or queen, aloof from the stable-hands, track-riders, star jockeys. The boss is the boss – cross him (it’s still mainly him) at your peril. There’s a confidence in the air, successes have been aplenty. But there’s also a stark reality. The tide can turn in a wink.

Our colt is a thing of beauty, huge of arse, tiny of flank, a spitting image of his great-great- grandsire, Star Kingdom

PHOTO BY ALISON HURBERT-BURNS

T

12 T H E T H O R O U G H B R E D

he Chase extends to computer screens across the globe. Experts and “experts” chasing the nick that will produce the next Secretariat, or Shergar or Star Kingdom. If we cross this with this, and avoid a saturation of Northern Dancer here, and if we throw in some of the blood of Eight Carat even though it’s a little distant, but … maybe it will work. And we need size and scope on the male side. The beauty of the stallion is not just in his record on the track, but his capacity to throw his like; and better, his proven ability to upgrade the progeny of the mare. We know Redoute’s Choice can do it, but who can afford him? We need the next young star, something affordable, something that nicks with the old mare down the back paddock. But deep down we know, on our budget, that it will be a fluke as much as computer science. We put on airs and graces and visit the studs, and get on the mailing lists of the sale yards. We feel like Sheikhs, and we love the illusion. Can any of these people really know we’re dreaming? Of course they do, but they, better than anybody, know that it’s all about the dream. Dreamers

become lucky, become clients. And even Sheikhs can’t guarantee the nick.

W

e’ve been lucky, part of a mare that came from last on the turn to win at Caulfield, and we backed her at $13.50. We’ve felt the glory, and we know what it’s like to win the Cup, or the Derby, or the Newmarket. The only difference is the status and the crowd, and the lack of interest from the paparazzi. We’ve been in the committee room; we’ve taken the calls and texts of congratulations, even though we left everything to others and merely tagged along for the ride. We were, and are, the “green” owner. We’ve loved it, and tried to leave it, but we can’t. We’ve bought again, a pure dream – a colt whose stallion never raced, but is saturated by the blood we love, the lost blood of Star Kingdom, and Wilkes through Vain. He was cheap, but until he races, he’s priceless Our colt is huge of arse, tiny of fl ank, still to grow, but a spitting image of his great-great-grandsire, Star Kingdom. So he should, the two-year-old by Zephyr’s Tornado – Evening Frolic (now named Midfielder) has a triple dose of Star Kingdom’s blood (4 x 5 x 6). We’re one of 12, optimists all, believing that the colt in the paddock will make it; will come from last, and take us into the committee room.

THE RACEHORSE: Midfielder (far left) carries the blood of the great Star Kingdom and the hopes of his owners.


POETRY IN MOTION The beauty of the Chase, the hunt for the winner, the wonder of the punt – to me – has never been better represented than by C.J. Dennis in a poem called A Post-Cup Tale, published in the Melbourne Herald in 1927, the year Trivalve, with Bobby Lewis up, won the Cup at odds of 6/1. It was Lewis’s fourth win, a record he retains with Harry White, and trainer James Scobie’s fourth as well. Scobie’s first winner was with Clean Sweep in 1900. Not only is Dennis’s work a thing of great passion, it’s drenched with deep knowledge of the mysteries of the turf, and the maybe of the punt, but extraordinarily, it was written and published within 24 hours of Trivalve’s win! Anybody who has written anything would understand what genius is required to get even close to

the quality of these words in such a short time. Like in all Melbourne Cups, there is a wonderful after story connected to the win of Trivalve (who carried the blood of Carbine in a 3 x 4 pattern). The official Melbourne Cup website (www.melbournecupclub.com. au) reports that after Trivalve’s form dropped off after the autumn of 1928, he was retired from racing. The website reports: “(Trivalve) ended up siring stock horses in the Northern Territory, where he tragically died of snake bite.” So, if you pick up a yearling for a hundred quid at the Alice Springs stockyards, by an unknown sire from an unknown dam, who knows, the youngster may be filled with the blood of the great Carbine! – Geoff Slattery

MAGNIFICENT: Attractive Trivalve looks every bit superior as he stands with his strapper after winning the 1927 Melbourne Cup.

A post-cup tale I’ad the money in me ’and! Fair dinkum! Right there, by the stand. I tole me wife at breakfus’ time, Straight out: “Trivalve,” I sez “is prime. Trivalve,” I sez. An’, all the week, I swear ther’s no one ‘eard me speak Another ’orse’s name. Why, look, I ‘ad the oil straight from a Book On Sund’y at me cousin’s place When we was torkin’ of the race. “Trivalve,” ’e sez. “’Is chance is grand.” I ‘ad the money in me ‘and! Fair in me ‘and I ‘ad the dough! An’ then a man ‘as got to go -Wot? Tough? Look, if I ’adn’t met Jim Smith (I ain’t forgave ‘im yet) ‘E takes an’ grabs me be the coat. “Trivalve?” ’e sez. “Ar, turn it up! ‘Ow could ‘e win a flamin’ Cup?” Of course, I thort ‘e muster knoo. ‘Im livin’ near a trainer, too. Right ‘ere, like that, fair in me fist I ‘ad the notes! An’ then I missed -Missed like a mug fair on the knock Becos ‘is maggin’ done me block. “That airy goat?” ’e sez. “E’s crook!” Fair knocked me back, ‘e did. An’ look, I ‘ad the money in me ‘and! Fair in me paw! An’, un’erstand, Sixes at least I coulder got -Thirty to five, an’ made a pot. Today I mighter been reel rich -Rollin’ in dough! Instid o’ which, ’Ere’s me - Aw! Don’t it beat the band? I ‘AD THE MONEY IN ME ‘AND! Put me clean off, that’s wot ’e did ... Say, could yeh len’ us ’arf a quid?

By C.J. Dennis, first published in the Melbourne Herald, November 2, 1927 C.J. Dennis died in 1938, and has no known relatives. His work was immortalised by a one-man play performed by the actor John Derum in the early 1990s. A wonderful tribute to the works of Dennis can be found online at middlemiss.org/lit/authors/denniscj

T H E T H O R O U G H B R E D 13


LESSONS I‘VE LEARNED

Winning? (it’s better than sex)

14 T H E T H O R O U G H B R E D

I

was bred into horse racing.

My father (Allan) was a very good jockey and is now a horse trainer; my mother’s side of the family, the Harrisons, are trainers, and are like the Hayes’ of the South Gippsland area; and both of my brothers (Jason and Damien) are trainers. With those bloodlines, it’s little wonder I became a jockey.

I hated being around horses for

a period of about 12 months from the age of 14. I had a couple of minor falls and while I didn’t suffer any major injuries, I lost all confidence in just being around horses, let alone riding them. I didn’t go near them for a while. It was a bit difficult to avoid them because every day before school one of our chores was to feed the horses. I was lucky my brothers looked after me because I was too wary to even feed them. My cousin – the late Travis Harrison – inspired me to literally ‘get back on the horse’. Travis had

just taken out his apprenticeship and I went to watch him have his first ride at Stony Creek (South Gippsland). He had three rides and he won the second one, in a big cup race, on Persian Tattoo – on a horse trained by his father, my uncle Kevin. It was an amazing feeling to be part of that, and I wanted a piece of it. When we got home, I told Mum and Dad “I want to be a jockey”. I literally got back on the

horse. Travis was a driving force for me. We drove each other to become elite riders, and we became great competitors along the way, but most importantly, we became great support for each other. We dared to dream aloud. Travis

and I would steam up the mirrors in the bathroom and pretend we were in a sauna trying to make the weight before a race. We’d talk like we were top jockeys: Travis would be the stable rider for Bart Cummings and I’d ride for Colin Hayes; he’d win the Melbourne Cup, I’d win the Golden Slipper and we’d dead-heat in the Cox Plate. We had our careers mapped out and following a similar path. It was quite ironic because when we finally became jockeys we hated saunas! I was overweight, chubby, fat – however you like to term it. Under

Racing Victoria’s new procedures, I wouldn’t have been even allowed to take up an apprenticeship because of the weight factor. When I went there to apply for a three-month trial period, I was very heavy – 56 kilograms. Considering most apprentices start at 35 to 40 kilograms, I was a heifer. But Dad stood up for me. He told them: “Yes, he’s heavy. But he’s keen, and he loves the industry. If he can’t get his weight down in three months, all it will do is change his dreams. Give him a chance and maybe we’ll keep him in the industry anyway.” They

saw fit to give me the three-month trial period. Then the pressure was on to lose the weight. I embarked on a weight-loss program. I was very lucky

because my parents were very supportive and they sought the best nutritionists they could find. Then I went to a dietician, Karen Inge, who is now the head of sports nutrition at the Victorian Institute of Sport. To lose weight, you must eat, but it was a matter of changing the food I ate. I realised that the food I’d been eating wasn’t as nice as the food I was meant to be eating. Even if it isn’t nice, you must tell yourself that it is. But the weight doesn’t just fall off you – the other aspect is exercise. Dad helped me with that too. While I was apprenticed to him (in 1993), he told me that if I walked every day I wouldn’t have to do the extra chores after the morning track-work. It was a bit of a double-edged sword, but it was fantastic for me. I walked 8-10 kilometres every day and when you listen to guys like Tony Martin and Mick Molloy (on radio), it’s actually quite enjoyable. I got an early insight into the pleasure of winning. When I had

my first winner (Pride of Demus, in Ballarat, on July 22, 1993), I pulled up beside a jockey and he told me “It’s better than sex”. I said: “OK, no worries,” but I’d never had sex to that stage, so I

PHOTO BY SEAN GARNSWORTHY

Craig Williams won eight Group 1 races in Season 2006-07 to become Australia’s champion jockey. Since returning from Hong Kong in 2005, the 30-year-old has formed an incredibly successful partnership with trainer David Hayes, winning five Group 1 races on Miss Finland, and the 2006 Cox Plate on Fields of Omagh. He has won the last two Scobie Breasley Medals and this year was named Victorian racing personality of the year. Here, Williams opens up to BEN COLLINS about weight problems, racing overseas, the euphoria of winning big races, and the tragic death of his cousin and best mate Travis Harrison.


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LESSONS I‘VE LEARNED

I lost my best mate. Travis was only

18 when he died tragically in a car accident. He’d died because of his dedication to the jockey’s lifestyle. He’d celebrated a friend’s birthday, hadn’t had a drink, and it was a combination of ‘wasting’, which is monitoring your weight and riding light, early mornings and long days, and it ended in him falling asleep at the wheel. My grandfather summed it up best when he told our family that we’d been so lucky before then that we hadn’t lost anyone so young, and some had gone to wars. It was the hardest thing I’ve had to deal with. Travis had his whole life in front of him. I know Travis rides with me. He continues to inspire me. I promised I’d dedicated my first Group 1 winner to him, and I did, on Grand Echezeaux in the Australasian Oaks (2000m at Morphettville) in Adelaide in 2000. I always think about Travis and I often visit his grave and talk to him. When I ride a good race, I’m sure he’s putting his hand up and taking credit for it, and when I ride a bad one he’s probably blaming me! Only race-car drivers have a harder time getting health insurance than jockeys. That sums

up the risks and dangers. We all know the risk we take when we get in the saddle. A former progolfer friend of mine, Vaughan Somers, says being a jockey is like driving down the freeway at 110kph and then slowing to 60 and banking everyone up behind you for the next 20 kilometres, by which time everyone’s angry, hot, screaming, and then you open the door and just jump out. Everyone’s aware of it, and the way jockeys are riding now shows that, as competitive as horse racing is, everyone respects each other as people and sportspeople. I feel that out on the track and I think

it’s extremely important in modern horseracing. I’d always wanted to ride in Europe. Whenever I saw footage

of European racing, I thought “I’ve got to get over there; it would be fantastic to experience it”. It looked like a different culture and atmosphere, and they portray their horses as the most magnificent beasts on earth. I was always curious. Dad always said after a tough Spring Carnival, you should always take a break to recharge the batteries. As it turned out, at the time I was going out with an English girl I’d met here in Australia, so I thought: “Why don’t I go to England?” Vaughan Somers introduced me to former England soccer player Mick Channon, who was a horse trainer. A year earlier, Mick Channon had purchased the Queen’s property at West Illsley. I went there and rode for him for 18 months of my two-and-a-half years in England. Comparing Australian racing with European racing is like comparing chalk and cheese.

Over there, I rode on different tracks, and different undulation tracks which you don’t see in Australia. On one of the tracks, you go in both directions in the same race – you do a figure-eight. They have a different type of racing pattern, different jockeys, and a different training set-up to get the horses to the races. And that was just in England. When I went across to France, that was completely different again in terms of track design, tempo, the way jockeys raced, etc. The racing scenes in Germany and Italy had their own uniqueness. In such a small area, you’re riding in all these countries with all these variables and getting such vast experience, and riding against world-class jockeys. It was an invaluable experience. I was in the top 25 jockeys in the UK in my fi rst year there.

The horses went really well. I was lucky to ride a horse called Tobougg

PHOTO BY SEAN GARNSWORTHY

couldn’t measure it against the thrill of winning a race. That was his description of a win in a minor race; imagine how he’d describe what it was like to win a big race!

‘I’ve got a feeling for a lot of the horses, for their strengths and weakness, likes and dislikes, and their little idiosyncrasies.’

STABLE JOB: Craig Williams and one of his favourite Hayes-trained horses, Spielmeister, at Flemington.

T H E T H O R O U G H B R E D 17


LESSONS I‘VE LEARNED

– we won two Group 1 races (the Dewhurst Stakes and France’s Prix de la Salamandre). Racing in Hong Kong made me a more complete race jockey. I didn’t

The horse-trainer-jockey relationship can be a lethal combination. You need that

three-way relationship to be harmonious if you’re going to have success, and David Hayes is a great trainer and a great boss at Lindsay Park. You see it not just in his horses, but in all the staff members when he’s around, and how he makes the whole place work. Everyone is happy around him because he involves them, and he makes them feel part of a huge, successful organisation. A jockey needs to know his horses intimately. One of the

reasons we’ve been successful is that I’ve ridden nearly every horse in the stable. I’ve got a feeling for a lot of the horses, for their strengths and weakness, likes and dislikes, and their little idiosyncrasies, which adds another couple of per cent to the result. Sometimes you can be wrong in your assessment of a horse too, and that’s also a good learning experience. And when you ride them in the morning, they can give you a different impression than they would during the day, so that’s another thing to take note of. Morning track work is as important as race day. It’s where

most of the work is done. Race day is just when everyone gets to 18 T H E T H O R O U G H B R E D

TIME TO SHINE: (above) Williams and trainer David Hayes enjoy the fruits of their successful partnership.

PHOTOS COURTESY OF MVRC

think I could beat the experience of European racing, but three years racing in Hong Kong certainly did that for me. It was full of worldclass jockeys riding horses with the same-size motors. It’s like having everyone jump in go-karts that go the same speed. It made me realise that racing positions and tempo are so important. In Hong Kong, I was also lucky enough to ride for David Hayes, which gave me the greatest grounding for teaming up with David when I came home to Melbourne (in mid-2005).

BRIDLED JOY: (left) A jubilant Craig Williams after his 2006 Cox Plate win on Fields Of Omagh.

see the result of all the work that’s gone on behind the scenes. That’s why it’s so important for you to be focused on the job at hand every morning you step out for work. You can’t just turn up on the day and expect to ride a winner. You have to do the preparation with the horse, even if, at times it doesn’t matter how prepared you are, if your horse isn’t prepared, you won’t stand a chance. But I’m thorough with my homework on my horse and, of course, the opposition. You get the best out of 90 per cent of horses through kindness and encouragement. If the horse

didn’t think that the person on their back was worthy of getting the best out of them, with whatever means that may be, they just won’t go for them. Kindness has worked for me. I aim to use the whip less, but more effectively. That’s what has

worked for me, but that’s only my opinion – it varies from jockey to jockey. And it doesn’t work for every horse.

To win a big race in front of a big crowd is what all jockeys live and die for. There are a lot

of ups and downs in racing, but when you’re lucky enough to ride a horse like Miss Finland✱, like I have been, and you win a big race on a horse like that, which you’ve ridden for nearly her whole life, it’s so rewarding. I get a special kick out of achieving something I’ve worked for. If I have a special rapport with a horse or a trainer or the owners, it drives me even more. When you win for a family or a horse you’ve spent a lot of time with, it’s all your Wimbledons and your Australian Opens all rolled into one. “You can’t beat a sportsman in form.” That’s a great quote from

Vaughan Somers, and I think he’s right. There’s no better form than a sportsman in form. When people say: “He’s won one, he can’t win two”, that’s when I reckon I will win two. When they say: “He’s won two, he can’t win three”, that’s when I reckon I will win three. When everything’s flowing like that, you don’t second-guess yourself – every decision you make is the right one.

And all the so-called hard work seems to be so much easier. You’re thriving on the work because you’re mentally and physically conditioned to it and your mind is just so clear. But it’s important that you keep doing all the hard work because if you don’t do it, that feeling won’t last long enough. You have to be consistent, and I pride myself on my strike rate. You can’t afford to celebrate for too long in the race game. It’s important

to enjoy your successes, but it’s even more important that you quickly move onto the next one, because you have to make sure the winners keep coming. It’s a very competitive industry and if you want to get ahead you can’t stand still for too long. Craig Williams rode Miss Finland to victory in five Group 1 races in 2006-07: the MRC One Thousand Guineas (1600m), the STC Golden Slipper Stakes (1200m), the VRC Oaks (2500m), the STC Arrowfield Stud Stakes (2000m) and the VRC Australian Guineas (1600m). His other Group 1 wins were the Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes (1400m) on Rewaaya, the Tattersall’s Cox Plate (2040m) on Fields of Omagh, and the AAMI Stradbroke Handicap (1400m) on Sniper’s Bullet.


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FROM THE ALBUM: (clockwise from top left) Bob and Honora Hall with Bob Jnr, Ron and Noreen; drama at the barriers for Brian Hall; Ron Hall on Hiatus at Flemington; Ron brings his work home in 1939; Ron the apprentice; Ron takes a tumble; 1930s newspaper article predicting that Ron “should go far in this game�; The Clerk of the Course escorts Ron and Forest Blaze.

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Hall in the

family Four generations of Halls have made horse racing their life, a connection to the track that almost spans a century. BY PETER RYAN

S

ince the 1930s, Halls have won leading apprentice awards, jumps jockey premierships, Melbourne Cups, a couple of Golden Slippers and a Cox Plate. Throw in Grand National and Cup Hurdles, and the Queensland Derby in harness racing, and you have just part of the story. Speak to 84-year-old Ron, and his two sons, Ron Jr, 55, and Greg, 50, and you get the rest: a family as likely to make a quip, tell a self-deprecating story or offer a cheeky laugh, as a yearling is to toss its head when handled. “They’re a beautiful family, the Hall family. They have got hearts of gold,” says Greg, when asked for a description of the clan. It all began with Robert, who rode and trained in India in the

early 1900s. He had two girls and seven boys, including Ron who recalls still being in nappies when his father fi rst put him on a horse in Broken Hill. The family moved to Mildura and Ron, along with his brother Bob, learned to ride the family donkey. They would entertain the crowd occasionally at the Mildura Show, both of them on top of the donkey, one holding the mane, the other the tail. At the age of 12, Ron had his first race, on a horse called Portmirth at Mildura. He thinks it was 1934, although bets would be taken on it being 1935. Two years later Ron arrived at Melbourne’s Spencer Street Station from Mildura to begin his apprenticeship with Jack THE THOROUGHBRED 21


HALL FAMILY

Jury at Caulfield. It was tough and, despite being with his brother Bob, he was homesick. “I nicked off from the boss and went home for a fortnight,” says Ron. “The old man bustled me back down and I never looked back. I went right on with it then.” He sure did. He finished riding trackwork just under five years ago, aged 80, after stopping race riding in 1969. It was only in August this year that he handed in his trainer’s licence. In between he lived a life, and achieved greatness in racing. A leading apprentice in the ’30s, he missed the ride on Cups double winner Rivette in 1939 after a fruit cart ran over his leg. “It was a nice kick up the bum,” he says. Then the war interrupted. His brother Bob had lost his battle with weight – an ongoing struggle for the Halls – and would not ride again after the war. Ron, who also

joined the war effort (but never saw active service) and battled with his weight, became a jumps jockey post-war. He was brilliant. He won the jumps jockey premiership three seasons in succession, 1945-46, 1946-47 and 1947-48, and then took it back off his mate and rival Brian Smith in 1952-53. Legendary jockey ‘Scobie’ Breasley is said to have rated Ron as Australia’s best rider. Asked his memories of that time, a cheeky grin unfolds on Ron’s lined face, and he says, “All good.” Jumps riders were stars in that era and Ron, sometimes referred to as Ol’ Ronny, was one of the best. His son, Greg, remembers walking through town with his father and everyone saying, ‘good on ya, Ronny.’ “He was really, really famous,” says Greg. Ron was tough, competitive and a larrikin. But he loved it. When he gets wound up, the stories roll on like a seasoned jumper setting the pace mid-race. Like how he slept in an old train carriage on the Glenhuntly side of the Caulfield racetrack. There would be good days, and days not as good. He won the 1941 and 1948 Australian Hurdle and the 1947 Grand Annual Steeple.

‘These were the days when jumps were far more daunting and unyielding than today’s brooms.’

MAKING A SPLASH: Ron Hall on Innisfree, after son Greg rode him to win the 1978 Stradbroke Handicap. TRIPLE JUMP: (below left) Brian Smith on Teedum, Ron Hall (Quixotic) and Cliff Bickham (Formidable) in the Brierly Steeple at Warnambool, 1947. IMAGES COURTESY OF THE HALL FAMILY

Remember these were the days when jumps were far more daunting and unyielding than today’s brooms. One day he would take three horses, SmokeScreen, Mr Virtue and Mirella, by train to Seymour to a six-race program. All would win. Sixty years later, at the same track in November 2005, his grandson, Vince (Ron Jr’s son) would ride half the card too, with five winners – Haggis, Metro Gold, Ali Alydar, Smart Choices, Smash and Grab – saluting the judge. Ron’s voice rises with wonder as he relays that fact: “How about that, hey?” Reece Wheeler rode a winner that day at Seymour too. He is now engaged to Simone Hall, the daughter of Ron Jr. Then there was the day Ol’ Ronny nearly fell from Banarca in front of the stand at Moonee Valley in the ’50s. An old photo shows him hugging the 64 chance’s neck in front of a stunned crowd of more than 20,000 people. “It had grass in the bit,” recalls Ron. “It went on to win.” Falls were an occupational hazard. He can remember overcoming two broken femurs, five collarbones and a couple of broken noses; but there were more. He’s not exact on the detail, just the impact. “You may as well sign on to your licence, I’m going to break this and break that.” Going to extraordinary lengths to ride was just part of Ron’s life. To maintain a riding weight, he’d run two laps of Flemington racetrack in a plastic suit and overalls, then sit in his car under the hot sun. A pool of sweat at his feet, and a book of rides to pay the bills, would be the result.

In the ’50s he moved to Adelaide so he could train and ride. One day, he rode the first winner, and trained the next four. By this stage his younger brothers, Brian (BV) and Joe, were starting to emerge as jockeys too. Joe was apprenticed to Ron while Brian was a leading apprentice too, working with Jack Meagher, before joining Tony Lopes. The Halls rate Brian, who passed away two years ago with cancer, very highly. A genuine nice guy is the description most heard. Of Brian’s riding Ron Jr gives strong praise of his uncle: “He was from a hard, tough school of very, very good riders.” Both Brian and Joe would move from riding to training. Joe became a legend in South Australia, remaining near the top of that state’s training premiership at the end of the 1990s. In 1963, he would have a son: David Hall. Brian would have a son too: Robert Hall. Both would emerge in their own right. Of Ron’s other siblings: Max would ride as an amateur in Mildura, and snag a couple of rides in Melbourne. Jim would, in the words of Ron, ride a bit too. Ray, they say, was too heavy. Noreen would settle a hop, skip and jump from Epsom racetrack, while Gwennie would marry two jumps jockeys, Kevin Callaghan and Johnny Chapple. By 1969, Ron finished race riding, aged 46. He had been a master of the start in the days of the tape, and a genius at judging a race. For all his fun, and battle with the pounds, he was a natural racer. “I’d nut it out,” he explains. “If the race changed, you’d adjust yourself. I was pretty switched on there and I knew my jumpers: that one moves, that one hangs, sit behind him, don’t go around him.”


By 1969, Ron’s boys were starting in racing too. Ron Jr was 17 and already a leading apprentice. He had ridden one half of a running double with his dad at Moonee Valley one day in the late ’60s. The boy rode The Shot, his father Augie. Weight curtailed Ron Jr’s years on the fl at. Like his father, he headed over the jumps. Brilliant in the saddle, but quiet about his achievements, Ron Jr was superbly balanced. “I had a bit of success,” he says, interrupting as I reel off his achievements. He won the 1972-73 jumps jockey premiership, helped by riding Handy Lou to eight successive jumps wins to equal the then record set by Air Fox in the 1940s. He won the 1973 Craiglee Stakes on 1970-71 Horse Of the Year, Gay Icarus. He won two VRC Grand National Hurdles, two Cup Hurdles on Melbourne Cup day, the Moonee Valley Hurdle three times and countless other races. “The atmosphere of riding on Cup Day is sensational,” he says. In the early ’80s, he gave race riding away and took up driving harness horses with Ted Demmler. He thought it would feed his competitive hunger. “We had some terrific horses, Impressionist, Defoe. We had a good time.” Ron Jr is now workplace assessor at Racing Victoria, an underwhelming title for someone so respected within the business. He’s a mentor to both apprentices

and their masters and ensures riders’ safety is a priority. I ask Ron Jr his main message to young riders. “Keep ’em straight,” he says, more than half-joking. At 21, his brother, Greg Hall, won the 1978 Stradbroke handicap on Innisfree, the horse his father trained in Queensland. Greg began riding trackwork and working at Chicquita Lodge as a 12-year-old. He also fought the weight and doubted he would have a stellar career on the flat. He rode his first race at 14 and worked as an apprentice for seven years, on five dollars a week. He was always going to be a jockey. “I’m not saying I didn’t have a choice,” he says. “But in one sense it wasn’t a choice because that is all I knew.” Greg guesses he was blessed with light bones, to last on the flat as long as he did, but he too earned every ride. For 10 years, sweating became a weekly ritual. Hall would often start the week at 59 kilograms and get down to 50 by the end. “When I was heavy and struggling to get rides, there were a couple of times when I wanted to give it away, there is no doubt,” concedes Greg. “I wasn’t that successful until late. “Even though I struggled with my weight I kept fighting, fighting, fighting.” He became a champion jockey and won the Melbourne Cup, Sydney Cup, Adelaide Cup and Brisbane Cup. He also won a Cox Plate, a VRC Derby, two Golden Slippers and three Blue Diamonds. He rode 128 group winners including 44 Group Ones. He is the only man to win a Melbourne Cup and Cox Plate on different horses in the same season. Greg was also a fierce competitor and quick with a joke. HALLS OF FAME: (above) Greg, Nicholas and Ron Hall. TRACK WORK: Ron Hall (left), on Kingston Campbell in 2002. He rode his last horse, after turning 80, a few months later.

PHOTO BY BRUNO CANNATELLI

The next generation

It’s a record he’s justifiably proud of: “I look back on racing more now than I did when I was riding because you never get the chance to stop and smell the roses.” He’s not the only one proud of his achievements. A painting of Greg astride Danzero – the 1994 Golden Slipper winner – sits in his father’s kitchen. Joe’s son David Hall stole the nice-guy smile and cheeky eyes from his father – evident from old photos of Joe. After leaving school he began working for his father in the morning and for South Australian bloodstock fi rm, ABCOS, after lunch. He started training at Morphettville in 1988, then took his operation to Melbourne in 1993. Several setbacks nearly saw him give up but, being a Hall, that scenario was unlikely. Nine winners at the 1999 Flemington Carnival showed he could succeed in Melbourne. On Melbourne Cup day, 2003, he trained Makybe Diva, to the first of her three consecutive Melbourne Cup wins (Lee Freedman trained her in 2004 and 2005). In 2004, Hall gained a licence to train in Hong Kong, the country that made one of his former horses, Silent Witness, a star. David still trains there, and is the trainer of the next big thing Hong Kong sprinting, Absolute Champion. The Late Brian Hall’s son Robert stayed in the business too. A former jockey, between 1988 and 1991, Robert was a VRC starter for 10 years, before injuring his leg while a barrier attendant. He is now a form analyst.

Generation Next Ron Jr’s son Vince became an apprentice in the late 1990s. He had been presented with other options going to school in Berwick, but wanted to be a jockey too and worked for David at Flemington. In 2000-01 he was Victoria’s leading apprentice with 49 wins. Again, weight would catch up with him, but not before racegoers caught a glimpse of his talent. He won the 2002 Edward Manifold Stakes on Coupe, one of his nine group wins. He now works with Sydney trainer Jason McLachlan. The effort of Greg’s son, Nicholas, would blow all the Halls away. Nicholas had hardly been near a race track and was attending school in Brisbane when he rang his father and said ‘I want to be a jockey.’ Greg responded as only a father can: “I said, ‘What about the half a million I’ve spent on school fees.’ He said: ‘I’m smart.’ I said: ‘You don’t have to be smart to be a jockey, look at me’.” Along with the rest of the Halls, Greg has watched Nicholas’s progress with wonder – living proof that the family might have a special gift to make horses run for them. “I shake my head every time he goes around,” he says. In August, Nicholas Hall took the title of leading Victorian country apprentice for 2006-07. “I think there is a lot of inherited ability or natural ability,” says Ron Jr. – Apart from when Greg Hall rode in Hong Kong in the 1980s, there has been a Hall family member riding in Victoria since Bob was apprenticed in 1935.

THE THOROUGHBRED 23


THE BREED

The Outlaw

- a son of a gun

When a cantankerous old mare died suddenly in October 2005, she left her owners Don and Sue Leahy devastated, and her month-old colt with an uncertain future. The Thoroughbred is tracing the life of the colt, a chunky allVictorian bred son of imported sire Beckett. We follow the trail from his planned conception and early life as a fostered orphan, to his sale as a yearling and first gallop for trainer Robbie Griffiths. Future editions of The Thoroughbred will follow the ongoing adventures of this budding racehorse and those who’ll help mould his life in the competitive world of Victorian racing. BY DANNY POWER

24 THE THOROUGHBRED

D

on and Sue Leahy of Bendigo owed a lot to Centrullah, one of the last breeding daughters of the former great Victorian stallion Century. Centrullah was the first mare the Leahys bought, in 2000, to kick start their boutique breeding venture, and despite all her idiosyncrasies, old Centrullah has been the catalyst behind a hobby that has grown into an obsession. Brian and Sue McKnight, from Maldon, are two of Victoria’s best at preparing a horse for a yearling sale, and it was their Oakford Thoroughbred Farm that expertly presented the cheeky Beckett-Centrullah colt at the 2007 William Inglis Melbourne Premier Yearling Sale at Oaklands Junction. Robbie Griffiths paid $60,000 for the colt, who is a half-brother of Griffiths’ former brilliant fi lly Arena Star and the multiple Group winner Skewiff. The Leahys kept faith and retained a share, while leading Victorian studmaster Mike Becker, who stands Beckett at his Independent Stallions at Nagambie, also bought into the youngster. The commercial future of the young stallion Beckett, a Group 1 winning Irish-bred son of Fairy King (now standing for his fourth season in Victoria), rests on offspring like the still unnamed Centrullah colt.

THE MATING

Breeder Don Leahy decided that his ageing but prized mare Centrullah, after the multiple Group-winning success of her daughter Skewiff, deserved to be upgraded to a high profi le stallion. “We picked out Fastnet Rock at Coolmore Stud for her,” says Leahy. “We knew it was a bit risky sending her to the Hunter Valley, as she is not an easy mare to handle. In fact she is an old rogue, and she could have caused havoc at Coolmore, but she deserved her chance to upgrade to a stallion of that quality.” Leahy says he expected Fastnet Rock’s service fee to be around $30,000, so when Coolmore announced a $50,000 (plus GST) fee for the son of Danehill, he felt that price was too steep for his budget. “We looked at what was available locally,” he says. “Mike Becker (principle of leading stud farm Independent Stallions, Nagambie) knew the mare well, and he advised us to look at his new sire Beckett (fee $11,000). We struck a good deal and that is where she went.” THE BIRTH AND THE LOSS

When 22-year-old Centrullah produced a chunky, brown colt on September 4, 2005, the birth went without complications. The old mare might have had a mind of her own, but she was a wonderful

Anonymous: The colt, by Beckett from Centrullah, is yet to be named . PHOTO BY SEAN GARNSWORTHY


THE BREED

‘THE OUTLAW’S’ BLOODLINE NORTHERN DANCER

BY NEARCTIC

FAIRY BRIDGE

BY BOLD REASON

GROOM DANCER

BY BLUSHING GROOM

AMERICAN ORDER

BY SLEW O’ GOLD

BETTER BOY

BY MY BABU

ROYAL SUITE

BY REGO

STEEL PULSE

BY DIATOME

ILLAWONG

BY DELVILLE WOOD

(SIRE) BECKETT (IRE) GROOM ORDER

CENTURY (DAM) CENTRULLAH NATIVE RHYTHM

mother. Although the Leahys were very pleased with the quality of their Beckett colt, they were a little disappointed Centrullah hadn’t produced them the filly they wished for to carry on the bloodlines. Less than four weeks later, Centrullah, with her colt at her side, was floated to Eliza Park, Kerrie, near Romsey, to be mated with Bel Esprit. The first scans three weeks later showed the old mare, as usual, was safely in foal. Leahy says Centrullah’s physical condition belied her age, which is why it was a shock to him when the mare died after suffering a severe bout of colic on October 29. This left her little colt an orphan, and forced the Leahys to urgently seek a foster mother – a preferred option to the arduous task of hand rearing. “We fostered him onto a trotting mare who, after we got some feed into her, produced as much milk as a dairy cow,” says Leahy. “She was a very good foster mother, who reared him well. He lacked for nothing despite the fact he was an orphan.” It wasn’t long after his weaning in the autumn of 2006 that the Beckett colt started to show the signs of his heritage, in particular the defi ant attitude of his mother. Sue Leahy tagged him with the nickname “Ned Kelly” because he was a bit of an outlaw with a distinct dislike to authority. 26 THE THOROUGHBRED

Don Leahy says like most of the Centrullah stock, he had it in him to be defi ant, but has developed into a “lovely colt”. The Beckett colt went in to the Leahy’s spring system of yearling education. It was during this time, in October 2006, that trainer Robbie Griffiths dropped in at the Leahys’ Bendigo property to inspect their yearlings. The orphaned colt, a half-brother to Griffiths’ former brilliant filly Arena Star, caught his eye.

THE YEARLING PREPARATION AND THE SALES In January 2007, the BeckettCentrullah colt was sent from Leahys’ Bendigo farm to Brian and Judy McKnight’s Oakford Thoroughbred Farm at Maldon, to be prepared for the 2007 William Inglis Premier Yearling Sale at Oaklands Junction in March. The McKnights have more than 40 years’ experience in preparing yearlings. Usually they give the

“He had come on very nicely. I liked the way he walked and I was keen to bid on him, says Griffiths. Don Leahy says he put a reserve of $60,000 on the colt. “I think if he was by a sire that people knew he would have bought $30,000 or $40,000 more, but he went into the sale ring without us knowing too much about who was interested in him.” Griffiths bid the reserve and the colt was his. In tribute to Centrullah, and the influence the old mare has had on their lives, the Leahys retained a share.

THE TRAINING Griffiths was attracted to the Beckett-Centrullah colt because he was a half-brother to his former slick fi lly Arena Star, who had cost him $40,000 at the 2002 Melbourne Premier Yearling Sale. “I liked Beckett,” says Grifffiths. “He is from the same sire line as Encosta De Lago (both are by Fairy King) and we always are trying to look for that new stallion to make an impact. He appealed to me as the right type of horse with the right genetics to do well in Victoria. “Arena Star was a really top filly. This bloke looks a little like her, but I think he is more like Skewiff, who was a top class mare.” Griffiths has great faith in the broodmare Centrullah.

He had come on very nicely. I liked the way he walked and I was keen to bid on him.

PHOTO BY MARTIN KING

FAIRY KING

colts and fillies a 10-week sales preparation, but the yearlings that come from the Leahys are in such good condition that six to eight weeks is sufficient for them. Such was the case with the handsome Beckett-Centrullah colt. Judith McKnight remembers him as a cheeky little fellow who initially tried to exert his authority on his new carers. The colt was a quick learner who soon worked out that Brian McKnight was boss, and what was required of him under the strict regime of a yearling preparation that involves hours of walking (by hand and on a walking machine), grooming, high protein feeding and being taught to stand and present himself to prospective buyers. Sale yearlings are required to be very fit, because at the sale complex they could be asked to be paraded in front of trainers and bloodstock agents as much as 20-30 times a day. It is tiring, stressful work for both horse and handler. “Brian likes his yearlings to be user friendly and the (Beckett) colt, once he settled into his new environment at the sales, gave us no problems,” says Judith McKnight. “We went there with a bit of uncertainty as Beckett was a new sire, but this colt was quite popular.” Trainer Robbie Griffiths liked the youngster’s development since he had seen him at the Leahys’ as an October yearling.

LOT 405: The colt impressed at the 2007 William Inglis Premier Yearling sale.


PHOTO BY SEAN GARNSWORTHY

FREE TIME: The colt is being given time to “freshen up” before starting his training in time for the autumn races.

“History says that some of the stallions she has been to haven’t done that great a job, but she has been able to leave six winners and two quality horses like Skewiff (by Mookta) and Arena Star (by Spartacus). “As it turned out, Arena Star was only one of a handful of decent horses Spartacus left.” Grifffiths says he has been interested in the colt since fi rst seeing him several months earlier at the Leaheys’ farm. “Sometimes you notice at the sales how much a horse has come on since you saw him in the paddock, and often these are the horses that are going to keep improving,” he says. “The yearlings that don’t keep improving can often be the horses that lack a bit of constitution when they are racehorses.”

Griffiths gave the Beckett colt a couple of months off in a paddock after the sales to freshen up before embarking on his training regime. “My father John broke him in during the winter and then he came into my stable at Cranbourne to continue his education,” he says. “He ran good sectional times, which was very encouraging, but I had to stop on him when he started a growth spurt. I turned him out for a spell at Fulmen Park (near Mornington) on August 14.”

He is very well balanced and he is growing out balanced as well.

THE FUTURE Griffiths plans to give the Beckett colt time to develop by allowing him to spend most of the 2007 spring in the paddock at Fulmen Park. “I will be guided by Lee Powell (from Fulmen Park), as he is as good a judge as any as when the colt will be ready to return to the stable,” says Griffiths. “I want to have him in for the autumn and if he is good enough we can have a crack at the good 2YO races. If not, at least he will be fully educated and trialled up for either Easter, May or be kept for the early spring 3YO races. “When the colt hits the track it will basically be up to him how quickly he wants to develop. He is very well balanced and he is growing out balanced as well, which means he is not totally high in the rump and down in the wither during his growth spurts.”

Griffiths says the Beckett colt is “not as sharp” as Arena Star. “He has a nice economical stride (he doesn’t lift his legs very high) and he covers a lot of ground, so he will be more like Skewiff and get up to 1600 metres in distance. He will have speed to be a sprinter, but I think he is the ideal horse to run up to a mile like Skewiff and probably Sam Sung A Song (smart Sydney horse trained by Gerald Ryan) who also is from his family.” Griffiths is confident the colt will grow into the ideal size for Australian racing. “I find the big horses are too restricted on our turning tracks. The medium size horses (around 15.3 hands) are perfect for our racing.” Although the colt still has a way to go before he proves himself as a potential race winner, the trainer is surprised that three of 10 shares in him are yet to be sold. “I thought he would be one of the first of the horses from the sales to be sold,” he says. “I will often buy stock by a stallion that is off the boil commercially. One year I bought yearlings by Royal Academy and Rubiton because the market for them was off at the time, and I had good results. Most stallions have their good and bad seasons. Overall the better ones get around eight per cent stakes horses to winners, so there will be times when their percentage in a particular period is low.” It’s worth noting that Griffiths was one of the first trainers to speculate early on current champion sire Redoute’s Choice. “I bought a Redoute’s Choice filly as a yearling in his second season for $65,000 because he had had an average first season with his 2YOs,” he explains. “I thought he still might kick a goal; what I didn’t realise was that he would do it blindfolded from 80 metres.” The Beckett-Centrullah colt will return to Griffiths’ Cranbourne property around Melbourne Cup time to prepare for his first serious trials in January. NEXT ISSUE: Learning to be a racehorse.

THE THOROUGHBRED 27


THE BREED

THE KEY PLAYERS SO FAR THE SIRE Beckett (IRE) 1998. Dark bay stallion by Fairy King from Groom Order. Beckett was the highest priced yearling sold in the world in 1999. He was bought by noted authority Demi O’Byrne for 1.7 million guineas at the 1999 Tattersalls Houghton Sales, England, on behalf of Coolmore Stud’s John Magnier and Michael Tabor. The colt, consigned by Roy Strudwick’s Ballygallon Stud, went into the ring with an 80,000 guineas reserve, but such was his wonderful conformation – also helped by a vigorous bidding duel between O’Byrne and Sheikh Mohammed’s agent John Ferguson – his price soared beyond expectations. Beckett is a son of the Coolmore stallion Fairy King and the Groom Dancer mare Groom Order. Fairy King, a brother to champion sire Sadler’s Wells, is best known in Australia as the sire of champion racehorse and stallion Encosta De Lago and the Arrowfield Stud-based shuttle stallion Falbrav, the winner of six Group 1 races. Beckett, the racehorse, lived up to his good looks. From only six starts, he won three races including the 2000 Group 1 National Stakes (1400m) at The Curragh, Ireland, in an illustrious juvenile season that saw him 28 THE THOROUGHBRED

IRISH BLOOD: Big things are expected from Beckett’s career at stud.

rated the United Kingdom’s equal top two-year-old (with Darley Stud’s Tobougg) with a Timeform rating of 116. Beckett was retired to TallyHo Stud, Ireland as a 3YO after a virus swept through trainer Aidan O’Brien’s stables. A halfshare in the horse was secured by a syndicate of Australian breeders headed by Mike Becker of Independent Stallions, Nagambie, and David Neate, of Tara Farm, Torquay. At stud in Ireland, he has sired 23 winners from 65 runners (statistics at September 5, 2007). He stood his first season at Independent Stallions, near Nagambie in Victoria, in 2004 at a fee of $11,000 (inc. GST). The result of 106 matings produced 71 foals, of which one was a brown colt from the mare Centrullah. The Aussie part-owners bought

100 per cent of Beckett in 2006. The stallion, who no longer shuttles to Ireland, will serve his fourth book this season. His first crop has just turned two. Mike Becker said Beckett appeals as the ideal horse for Australian conditions. “His sire Fairy King has done better in Australia than his more famous brother Sadler’s Well because he can leave more speed, which suits our racing,” he says. “We don’t expect Beckett to leave precocious juveniles, as do few of the Northern Hemisphere sires, but on his pedigree and type, we are expecting Beckett to have more influence when his stock get to 1600 metres as 3YOs.” Becker was so impressed by the Beckett-Centrullah colt, sold at the Melbourne sales for $60,000, that he bought a share in the youngster.

THE DAM Centrullah 1983. Brown mare by Century from Native Rhythm. Centrullah is a daughter of former champion Victorianbased sire Century, a son the great Victorian stallion Better Boy. Her dam Native Rhythm is a daughter of American import Steel Pulse and the exceptional broodmare Illawong. Illawong is the dam of the stakes winners Tumberlua (Villiers Stakes) and Apollua (Flight Stakes), I’m Scarlet (Expressway and Canterbury Stakes and second to John’s Hope in the 1972 Golden Slipper) and Big Scope (Flemington Stakes). She was initially owned by Barrie Griffiths, who later went on to own and part-own 1989 Melbourne Cup winner Tawrrific


PHOTO BY BRUNO CANNATELLI

and the 1992 Caulfield Cup winner Mannerism. Centrullah, a big mare with shocking front legs, was retired to the breeding shed without ever being broken in. Her breeding career began ingloriously when her 1986 mating to Lord Seymour failed to produce a foal, and her first foal, Baxetto (by Gain Control), who arrived in 1988, could only manage four placings from 25 starts. She had a number of owners before Don Leahy, from Bendigo, bought her in 2000 for $18,000. She had a North Reef colt by her side and she was in foal to Spartacus. Centrullah’s quality bloodlines eventually came to the fore. Her two best offspring are the top-class race fillies Skewiff (by Mootka) and Arena Star (by Spartacus).

Skewiff has won the 2004 Group 3 Jayco Stakes (1400m) and the 2005 Group 3 Schweppes Stakes (1600m), both at Flemington. Arena Star was a brilliant juvenile who won at Moonee Valley and was twice placed at stakes level. Centrullah’s 2005 colt foal by Beckett was her 13th and her last. Although, she was mated to Bel Esprit on September 29 2005, she died a month later from an attack of colic, leaving her colt at foot an orphan.

THE VENDORS Brian and Judy McKnight, Oakford Thoroughbred Farm, Maldon. Brian and Judy McKnight have been involved in the thoroughbred breeding industry for more than 40 years. For 33

years, the McKnights ran one of Victoria’s leading thoroughbred nurseries, Ed Barty’s Trevenson Park Stud, at Maldon. In 1996, they started their own broodmare agistment and yearling preparation business after purchasing a neighbouring 365 hectares to Trevenson Park. Oakford Thoroughbred Farm has become a prominent name at the Victorian yearling sales. In March 2007, Oakford Thoroughbred Farm took four yearlings to the William Inglis Premier Yearling Sale at Oaklands Junction. They sold the four yearlings for an aggregate of $320,000, averaging $80,000 per yearling, which placed them 13th on the vendors’ averages list (for four yearlings or more). Their top priced seller was lot 71, a bay colt by Rory’s Jester from Love From Above (by Scenic), who was bought by Newcastle trainer Paul Perry for $95,000. They were happy with the $60,000 they received for a cheeky little Beckett/Centrullah colt.

THE BREEDERS Don and Sue Leahy, Bendigo. For Don and Sue Leahy the art of breeding racehorses, which started in 2000 as a hobby, has become an obsession. Not that the Leahys, of Bendigo, are complaining. Their obsession in breeding quality racehorses gives them tremendous fulfilment and rewards. Their first foray in to breeding began with the purchase of the mare Centrullah in 2000 for $18,000. The daughter of Century was in foal to Spartacus and had a colt by North Reef at foot. They sold the North Reef colt, which the Leahys prepared and presented, at the 2001 Melbourne sales, for $30,000. In 2002, the resultant Spartacus foal, a brown filly, was sold at the Melbourne sales to trainer Robbie Griffiths for $40,000. That filly, Arena Star, gave the Leahys the impetus

to expand their breeding operation. The couple own two properties. Their broodmares are kept on 70 hectares at Eddington, on the Maryborough Road, while their weanlings and yearlings are raised on a three-hectare farmlet in the centre of Bendigo. They have eight broodmares, and six yearlings by Elvstroem, Testa Rossa, Choisir, Not A Single Doubt and Reset.

THE TRAINER Robbie Griffiths, Cranbourne. Robbie Griffiths was a more than handy jockey who rode 208 winners before increasing weight forced him to retire. His most important winners were the 1988 Group 3 Tasmanian Oaks (2200m) on Sound Gold (trained by Lee Freedman) and the 1990 Listed Diamond Jubilee Stakes (1600m) at Moonee Valley on Marathon Star. Griffiths comes from a renowned racing family. His father John, who also holds a trainers’ licence, is a respected horse breaker, and his brother Rod was an outstanding Group 1-winning jockey before weight also got the better of him Robbie Griffiths retired from riding in 1990. He immediately started learning his training trade as foreman for his close friend Tony Vasil. He took out his own licence in 1991, and his first winner was Star View at Geelong on Boxing Day. His biggest thrill as a trainer was winning the 2003 Group 2 Saab Quality (2500m) with Big Pat at Flemington on Derby Day. At the 2007 William Inglis Melbourne Premier Yearling Sale, Griffiths purchased five yearlings at an aggregate $350,000 (average $70,000). His top priced purchase was the $150,000 he spent on Lot 266, a bay filly by Flying Spur from Synopsis (by Star Way). One of those five yearlings was a good walking, brown colt by Beckett from Centrullah, for which he paid $60,000. THE THOROUGHBRED 29


BLOODLINES

End of the line Irish-bred stallion Better Boy unexpectedly gave rise to an impressive list of Australian-born descendants including Rubiton, Century and Fields Of Omagh. However, as ANDREW GARVEY writes, few opportunities remain for his champion bloodline to continue

30 THE THOROUGHBRED

W

hen a modestly performed racehorse by the name of Better Boy (pictured below) arrived from England in 1954, no one would have imagined the influence he would have on the Australian thoroughbred industry. Let alone Dave Whiteside, who imported him to stand at his Range View Stud at Carrum Downs. Better Boy’s descendants, although dwindling in numbers, can still hold their own on the racecourse, with the great gelding Fields Of Omagh, one of his great grandsons, winning his second Tattersall’s Cox Plate last year. However, following the death of Fields Of Omagh’s sire Rubiton in 2005 and another Better Boy grandson, Centaine in 2004, the illustrious blooodline appears to be nearing its end. Rubiton’s son, Adam, in Victoria and Centaine’s best son, the veteran Kinjite in Queensland, are the last of the bloodline of any note still standing at stud. Both struggle to attract commercial mares. Even the most successful

sires fi nd it difficult to create a dynasty and, while Danehill seems to be well on his way to creating one, it will be interesting to see how far his line progresses in 20 years. English import Star Kingdom’s sire sons and grandsons were taking all before them in the 1970s and ’80s. It would have been difficult to predict that, in the 2006-07 season, only one of his direct male descendants, Canny Lad, would be in the top 20 of the general sires’ list. Canny Lad launched his stud career on the back of a Golden Slipper. Better Boy had a less salubrious racing career, with victories in lesser-grade races such as the Hotham Handicap, along with the Seymour and Woodend Cups – not the type of races that breeders would look for in a budding champion sire. Therefore, it was no surprise that Better Boy struggled for mares in his early years, both in terms of quality and quantity, and produced just 10 live foals from his fi rst year at stud. William Inglis and Son bloodstock consultant Ian Baird remembers booking non-stud book mares into him at a fee of 125 guineas.

TENDER MOMENT: Centaine and co-owner Mark Chittick at Waikato Stud, New Zealand. The great stallion died in 2004. PHOTO COURTESY OF WAIKATO STUD


PHOTO COURTESY OF MVRC

BLOODLINES

OUT OF THE RACE: Fields Of Omagh (on the outside) is one of the many champion Better Boy descendants who had to be gelded before their true ability was known.

was able ‘toCentury win the general sires’ title with only two crops of racing age.

32 THE THOROUGHBRED

“He was an enigma,” says Baird. “He never got the best mares but was a rare horse, like Encosta De Lago, who could upgrade his mares.” From that small first crop, two metropolitan winners emerged and so began the Better Boy success story which included 33 stakes winners over distances from 1000 metres through to 3200 metres – the first was Craftsman in the 1963 Victoria Derby, the last Better Beyond in the 1979 Newmarket Handicap. Despite the limited numbers of mares in his early seasons, Better Boy was to be the champion Australian stallion on four occasions. Of his 398 progeny to race, 307 were winners giving him an amazing winners-torunners percentage of 77. He also topped the general sires’ list on four occasions and was a multiple

winner of the broodmares title. He had a number of successful sons from his early crops who retired to stud, including Craftsman and Pterylaw. But like their father in his early years, they didn’t receive great support. This was largely due to the perception at the time that imported sires were superior to the colonial stallions. Eleven of Better Boy’s sons produced stakes-winners but only one, Century, was able to produce a son who could commercially continue the line. Retired to stand at David and Lillian Leighton’s Mornmoot Stud at Whittlesea, just north of Melbourne, Century should have commanded large books given his outstanding race record. However, the Leighton’s weren’t exactly rushed with bookings and his first two seasons at stud produced a total of 54 named

foals Century’s first crop showed some potential in their initial year on the racetrack, but no one could have predicted what would happen the following season. His daughter Century Miss won the 1979 Golden Slipper Stakes and in the following weeks Valley Of Georgia and Double Century took out the AJC Oaks and Sydney Cup respectively. With several quality runners among the supporting cast including Stage Hit and Consenting, Century was able to win the general sires’ title with only two crops of racing age. For the next 15 years, Century was the backbone of the Victorian breeding industry but, despite being a consistent source of high quality runners, was unable to replicate the success of 1978-79. Fifteen of his sons went on to sire stakes-winners


PHOTO COURTESY OF RVL

including Double Century, who sired the outstanding galloper Stylish Century. However, it was Rubiton, Horse of the Year, 1987-88, and Centaine who were the standard bearers for Century’s branch of the Better Boy line. Centaine was secured for stud duties by astute New Zealand stud master Gary Chittick and was an immediate success, taking out a general sires’ title. He has sired 58 stakes-winners. Rubiton retired to stud in NSW and had a good degree of success in his time with winners such as Monopolize. However, it was not until his relocation to Blue Gum Farm at Euroa in 1995, that he really bloomed. Rubiton has sired 33 stakeswinners. Unfortunately, apart from Adam, his top class sons have all been gelded – like

Century and Better Boy, Rubiton and Centaine’s lineage has suffered from the fact that most of their stock take time to mature and therefore are gelded before their ability is known. So unless Adam happens to fi nd his right ‘Eve’ and can produce a son to continue the line, hopes for the continuation of Better Boy’s sire line rest with Rubiton’s fi nal three crops. The Rubiton line is still capable of siring a smart type as shown by the recent form of Lucky Secret in recent months – unfortunately, like most of his predecessors, Lucky Secret is a gelding. Meanwhile, Martin O’Connor, Fields Of Omagh’s breeder, is hopeful that he can continue the sire line with an un-raced threeyear-old brother of the dual Cox Plate winner named Beatus, which means ‘God’s chosen one’ in Polish.

O’Connor is “hoping like mad” Beatus will have the ability to match his looks and pedigree and carry on the Century line. While this may seem an unlikely scenario, so to has the whole Better Boy story.

LIMITED LINEAGE: The magnificent Rubiton sired 33 stakes winners, however most of his top-class sons were gelded. TOP SIRE: (below) Century, whose bloodline continued strongly through Rubiton and Centaine

THE THOROUGHBRED 33


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TASMANIAN RACING CLUB TATTERSALLS PARK, HOBART Date Sun 27 January 2008

Sat 9 February 2008

Mon 11 February 2008

Prize Money $50,000 $70,000 $60,000 $35,000 $200,000 $80,000 $30,000 $400,000 $80,000 $70,000

Race Moorilla Stakes Wrest Point Hobart Guineas Motors SAAB Elwick 2yo Stakes Ingham Jockey Club Cup Cadbury Tasmanian Derby Swettenham Stud Bow Mistress Stakes Thetote.com Carbine Club 3yo AAMI Hobart Cup Wrest Point Strutt Stakes Tattersall’s Thomas Lyons Stakes

Conditions (Listed) WFA 1200m (Listed) Set SW 3yo 1600m (Listed) Set Wgt 2yo 1100m Handicap 2100m (Group 3) Set Wgt 3yo 2200m (Listed) WFA Fillies & Mares 1200m Handicap 1100m (Group 3) Handicap 2200m (Listed) Set Wgt 3yo Fillies 2100m (Listed) WFA 1400m

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For further information regarding the above feature races, please contact the Tasmanian Turf Club on 03 6326 1070


NEW BLOOD

Faith in the new

breed Two studs are standing exciting new sires in an effort to bolster the Victorian breeding industry. BY STEPHEN HOWELL. PHOTOGRAPHS BY BRUNO CANNATELLI.

E

ach year the Caulfield Guineas is considered the race that makes sires – a winning performance over the Caulfield “mile” provides a big bullish push to a colt’s testosteronefuelled future. With push coming to shove, two Victorian studs have positioned themselves to ride the success of two recent Guineas winner, God’s Own in 2005 and Econsul in 2004, who serve in a business that is every bit as risky as a career on the racetrack.

The second season work of God’s Own at Eliza Park, at the foot of Mt Macedon, and the initial season of Econsul at Woodside Park, Tylden, is being done as the local industry reinvents as more than a poor relation of the Hunter Valley, the epi-centre of Australian breeding that usually parades Redoute’s Choice, Encosta De Lago and other supersires,

both shuttlers and stayputs. God’s Own and Econsul are just two of the stallions standing in Victoria (see panel) still a year or two away from seeing their first crop of yearlings in the sale ring. However, both hold plenty of promise for their owners, and the connections of mares with breeding barn appointments

GOD’S OWN Eliza Park, which owns twothirds of God’s Own with partner Yallambee Stud,

FUTURE SECURED: God’s Own earns himself a post-race life at stud by winning the 2005 Caulfield Guineas.

THE THOROUGHBRED 35


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NEW BLOOD

JOB DONE: Econsul relaxes after his 2004 Caulfield Guineas win.

is welcoming his first foals this spring, after 140 matings last year and 150 scheduled this season, at an advertised $33,000 a serve – up with Elvstroem at Blue Gum as the dearest in Victoria. According to stud spokesman Shane McGrath, God’s Own is well priced, both for his good looks and his performances in the Guineas and in the Lightning Stakes, over 1000 metres, at Flemington the following autumn. The Guineas was one of the great wins of recent times. The then three-year-old picked himself up after two heart-stopping, and almost race-stopping, pieces of interference, to haul in the very smart Paratroopers who, seemingly, had flown. Jockey Glen Boss, the Group 1 champion of Season 2005-06, said of the win: “You’ll just watch and

watch the replay and you’ll still shake your head after you watch it 50 times and think, ‘How’d this horse win’?” Boss’ retelling of the outcome soon extended the ante from 50 “replays” to 500 – plenty of hyperbole there, but among it all was the realisation that the Guineas’ $600,000 first prize was small change compared to what the win did for the colt’s stud career. The extra tick needed came in the Lightning, in God’s Own’s first outing of his Autumn campaign. As McGrath recalls: “It took Takeover Target to beat him into second place and he beat Snitzel, Stratum and Undoubtedly, and they’ve all gone to stud. “Yallambee and ourselves identified the horse as a perfect fit, a magnificent individual, a speed son of Danehill’s heir apparent (Redoute’s Choice), and

his dam (Angel In Disguise) is a three-quarter sister to Saintly (Melbourne Cup, Cox Plate and Orr Stakes winner).” In took very little armtwisting for the studs to do an early deal with trainer Bart Cummings, and the ownership of Dato Tan Chin Nam and other partners. While pocket talks in these circumstances, Cummings described God’s Own as the most impressive stallion prospect he had been associated with in his career. McGrath says the participating studs acted quickly to put God’s Own to work – because there was too much risk in letting a colt run after he had already got his stallion appeal. With 60 fully sold shares, God’s Own was valued $12 million on purchase. The racing owners’ equity entitles them to 25 services a season and McGrath says Eliza Park and Yallambee each send about 20 mares, while Iskander Racing, which was involved in the sale, and individual breeders also support the stallion. God’s Own’s original book had a welter of impressive broodmares: the Group 1 winners Euphoria, Aperto and Lycra; the dams of Group 1 winners Magnus, Testafi able, Patezza and Jymcarew; the dam of new sire Danerich; and a sister to Gai Waterhouse’s Group 1 winner and international traveller Bentley Biscuit. McGrath said this season’s mares were of a similar standard.

sire, ‘theEconsul’s booming New Zealand stallion Pins, has a fee of $50,000 with a full book this season

ECONSUL Econsul, standing at $11,000 with Woodside Park prepared to “do deals”, has a smaller and less valuable debut book to God’s Own. Nevertheless, Woodside’s David White described the response to the son of Pins as “excellent”. “We’ve probably sold 12 to 14 outside noms,” says White. “We’re sending 23 and Lindsay Park several. “There are no Group 1 winners among the mares, but there are few by Danehill, Rory’s Jester and Last Tycoon.” Speaking before Equine Influenza (EI) threatened the breeding season. White says Woodside Park has committed about 28 mares to Coolmore and Darley studs, where they were served by the likes of Encosta De Lago, Fastnet Rock and Exceed And Excel. However, the following mares have been earmarked for Econsul: Eve Ho, by Bianconi, and a halfsister to Group 1 winner Adam Royal Fling, a half-sister to King Ivor, the Sandown Guineas winner Replicate, the dam of good sprinter Abdullah Marauding mares Achieving, and Coffee Delight, the daughter of

group 1 winner Burletta Catbird mare Darbannar from

the Leica family Famous Jewel, a half-sister to Group 1 winner Vegas. “I’d like to see 100 by Christmas, but if we get to 80 or 90 we’ll be happy, we’re cruising along nicely,” says White. Econsul’s sire, the booming New Zealand stallion Pins has a fee of $50,000 with a full book this season. Trainer Graeme Rogerson picked up Econsul for $60,000 as a yearling and syndicated him to a group that included the late Bruce Reid and another big owner, Max Whitby. They enjoyed the Guineas success, with Econsul a 40 to 1 roughie when ridden by Chris Munce. The win, at the expense of the David Hayes-trained Gilded Time colt Barely A Moment, now at stud in South Australia, prompted THE THOROUGHBRED 37


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NEW BLOOD

MAKING THEIR WAY VICTORIA’S FIRST SEASON STALLIONS ARTIE SCHILLER $22,000 Bay (2001) by ElPrado from Hidden Light Independent Thoroughbreds, Nagambie

CHURCHILL DOWNS $13,200 Bay (2003) by Danehill from Silken Whisper Blue Gum Farm, Euroa

DANERICH $7,700 Bay (2002) by Danehill from Millrich Rangal Park Stud, Euroa

ECONSUL $11,000 Brown (2001) by Pins from Gypsy Soul Woodside Park Stud, Tylden

ENEMY OF AVERAGE $6,000 Chestnut (2003) by Fusaichi Pegasus from Patrona. Eldon Park Stud, Tyabb

GONSKI $7,700 Bay (2002) by Danehill from Abonnement Darley, Seymour

GREY SWALLOW $16,500 Grey (2004) by Daylami from Style of Life Woodside Park Stud, Tylden

MAN OF ILLUSION $4,400 Bay (2001) by Encosta De Lago from Raunchy Ruler. Greta West Stud, Greta West

PENDRAGON $11,000 Bay (2002) by Elnadim from Alacrity Hollylodge Thoroughbreds, Avenel

WITHERWINGS $4,400 Bay (2003) by Flying Spur from Stella Cadente. Ribblesdale Stud, Leopold

WRITTEN TYCOON $8250 TALL, DARK AND HANDSOME: Econsul at Randwick in 2004.

Rogerson to classify himself as a seller of dreams. Hayes’ Lindsay Park and some of his major clients bought out the Econsul dream, but it ended as a racing nightmare when the horse did not win another race and had to be retired. “He had a serious sesamoid injury to the near fore and had to be locked up in a cast for a considerable period,” says White. Woodside Park is the breeding arm of Wadham Park, the brainchild of mega-millionaire Peter Rowsthorn and his trainer/chief executive Dale Sutton. Sutton had bought Ireland’s international winner Grey Swallow to race before standing him at stud – he was severely injured in the Cox Plate last year, his only Australian start, and was expected to join Econsul, the less-heralded foundation stallion, next year, perhaps after standing a season in the northern hemisphere. However, the EI outbreak has led to Grey Swallow being rushed into service at Woodside Park this season.

White described Econsul’s fee as being good value for the first son of Pins to go to stud and with a Stakes win as a 2YO and a Group 1 win at three. He disappeared off the radar because of his injury, but White says an appearance at the stallion parade at Oaklands during the August sales would help breeders remember Econsul, who is out of the Centaine mare Gypsy Soul and is free of Northern Dancer blood. “Lindsay Park has kept shares with some clients,” says White. “Ninety per cent belongs to us ... we paid just under a million (dollars). We’ll sell all the yearlings, colts and fillies. We’re not a Woodlands, but we will buy back in.” White concedes that, with his prices kept down because of injuries, sticking with Econsul is a gamble. But, EI aside, it seems a gamble worth taking. As more quality stallions stand in Victoria, more local mares will stay in the state and, more New South

Chestnut (2002) by Iglesia from Party Miss Eliza Park, Kerrie

Wales mares will head south as breeders big and small take on the huge challenge from their dominant northern neighbours. Richard Andrews, manager of owners and breeders with Racing Victoria Limited and chief executive of Thoroughbred Breeders Victoria, said the reversal of the migration trend was an indication that better quality stallions were getting a go. “Eliza Park is probably one of the greatest things to happen to Victorian breeding in the past 10 years,” says Andrews. “Lee Fleming (the principal) continues to commit and the growth within that company is enormous.” Last season Dash For Cash (Swettenham Stud) and Bel Esprit (Eliza Park) were among the top10 stallions with their first crop of racing two-year-olds crop racing. “Their winners to runners ratio was as good as more expensive Hunter Valley sires,” Andrews says, reiterating the new state catch phrase “Victoria for value”.

SECOND SEASON STALLIONS AL SAMER $11,000 Bay (2002) by Redoute’s Choice by My Lady’s Key. Emirates Park, Diggers Rest

CONSOLIDATOR (UNAVAILABLE) Chestnut (2002) by Storm Cat from Good Example. Darley, Seymour

DEADLY STORM $5,500 Bay/Brown (2002) by Storm Cat from Brushing Gloom. Brackley Park, Avenel

GOD’S OWN $33,000 Bay (2002) by Redoute’s Choice from Angel in Disguise. Eliza Park, Kerrie

KEEP THE FAITH $8,800 Brown (2000) by Sunday Silence from Duelling Girl. Swettenham Stud, Nagambie

MARMOTTAN $5,500 Brown (2001) by Redoute’s Choice from Abilene. Walnaring Stud, Wallan East

RAKTI $19,250 Bay (1999) by Polish Precedent from Ragera Chatswood Stud, Seymour

SEUL AMOUR $5,500 Bay (2000) by Zabeel from Grand Archway Eldon Park Stud, Tyabb

STANFORD $2,750 Bay (1999) by Danehill from Rossignol Parwanvale, Bacchus Marsh

TSIGANE $5,500 Bay (1999) by Anabaa from Trevillari Larneuk Stud, Euroa Sources: Stallions 2007 & studbook.org.au

THE THOROUGHBRED 39


THE COX PLATE

Plate Bloomer Founded as an afterthought, the W.S. Cox Plate has become one of the world’s premier weight-for-age races. BY RHETT KIRKWOOD.

THE RUN HOME: Craig Williams drives Fields Of Omagh (second from left) ahead of the field to win the 2006 Tattersall’s Cox Plate in record time. PHOTOS THIS STORY COURTESY OF MVRC

40 THE THOROUGHBRED


N

ow billed as the Weightfor-age Championship of Australasia, the Tattersall’s W. S. Cox Plate lived in the shadow of the Moonee Valley Cup for more than three decades after its introduction in 1922. It not only played second fiddle in prizemoney and status to the Cup, its announcement was merely an afterthought by then club chairman Mr Alister Clark. Chairman Clark waxed lyrically at the 1921 Annual General Meeting about a “fi rstclass polo facility” being built at the racetrack and then added: “I did desire to touch upon one thing that slipped my memory. We have been hoping to get a weight-for-age race at Moonee Valley. “I think there is no doubt that in our next Cup program we will be

able to have a good weight-for-age race. The distance has yet to be decided, but the stake will be £1000. “I think you will all be glad to hear that.” Named in honour of Moonee Valley Racing Club founder William Samuel Cox, the race was run for the first time over 9½ furlongs (1900 metres) on Saturday, October 28, the following year, with its stake being £500 less than that of the Moonee Valley Cup. Attracting a field of 14, it was won by 1921 Caulfield Cup winner Violoncello, establishing from the outset that it was to be a race for classy performers. Conducted on what was billed for years as Moonee Valley Cup day, the Cox Plate nevertheless attracted a top field of 11 the following year, sufficient for The Herald to report: “With such a wealth of talent engaged, the

The reputation of the race was enhanced in the following years with victors including champions Manfred, Heroic, Amounis, Nightmarch and Phar Lap ...

W. S. Cox Plate, run at weight-forage, almost eclipses the Moonee Valley Cup in importance.” Among the runners that year were 1922 Caulfield Cup winner Whittier, Moonee Valley Cup winner Purser, top New Zealand stayer Rapine, smart fi lly Frances Tressady and the West Australian Easingwold, who made amends for his second the previous year. Whittier beat Purser to second and, like Easingwold, would make amends a year later. The reputation of the race was enhanced in the following years with victors including champions Manfred, Heroic, Amounis, Nightmarch and Phar Lap, but it was to still take another 20 years before the Cox Plate was officially given top-billing over the Cup. An example of how the MVRC rated the two races is evident by its pruning of prizemoney for races


THE COX PLATE

COX PLATE FACTS & FIGURES MOST WINS Kingston Town, 3: 1981, 1982 & 1983.

LEADING JOCKEY Darby Munro, 5 wins: 1933 (Rogilla) 1937 (Young Idea) 1939 (Mosaic) 1941 (Beau Vite) and 1952 (Hydrogen)

LEADING CURRENT JOCKEYS Greg Childs, 2 wins: 1999 & 2000 (Sunline) Damien Oliver, 2 wins: 1997 (Dane Ripper) 2001 (Northerly)

LEADING TRAINER Tommy Smith, 7 wins: 1957 (Redcraze) 1960 (Tulloch) 1972 (Gunsynd) 1981, 1982 & 1983 (Kingston Town) 1984 (Red Anchor)

LEADING CURRENT TRAINER Bart Cummings, 3 wins: 1973 (Taj Rossi) 1996 (Saintly) 1997 (Dane Ripper)

OLDEST WINNER Fields of Omagh, 9YO, 2006 (he also won as a 6YO in 2003)

FASTEST TIME 2:01:50: Better Loosen Up, 1990 (57kg, fast track)

WIDEST WINNING MARGIN 7 lengths: Dulcify (1979) Sunline (2000)

HIGHEST WINNING-BARRIER Barrier 7 (9 wins, last win 2005) Statistics taken from Racing in Australia: Guide to Season 2007-2008, edited by Danny Power. GSP Books.

during the Great Depression. The Moonee Valley Cup was cut by £500 in 1930, but was back to a record £3000 in the Club’s 50th anniversary year of 1934. The Cox Plate stake, which was trimmed from £1000 to £650 in 1931, was not restored to the £1000 level for another 11 years! While the prizemoney was inferior, such was not the case when it came to the class of the race. The Cox Plate continued to be won by some of Australia’s all-time great horses, such as dual winner Chatham (whose career victories included two Doncasters and an Epsom); the outstanding Ajax (unplaced only once in 46 starts, of which he won 36) and dual winners Beau Vite (1940 & 1941), Tranquil Star (1942 & 1944) and the outstanding mare Flight who took the race in 1945 and 1946. A record crowd of 46,000 attended Moonee Valley Cup day in 1947 and saw Don Pedro take that race, worth a record £5000, while Chanak gave trainer Jack Holt his sixth Cox Plate, which carried only £1500 in prizemoney. Despite the fact that turf stars such as Delta, Hydrogen and Rising Fast continued the excellent rollcall of Cox Plate winners – and lesser lights like Hoyle, King Amana and Hellion won the Moonee Valley Cup – it was not until 1953 that the Cox Plate received some proper recognition with regards to status and stake. That year, prizemoney for the race was doubled to £4000, making it the richest weight-forage race in Australia – and on par with the Moonee Valley Cup stake, which had been pruned by £1000 to fi nd some of the extra cash required for the Plate prize. Chairman Sir Samuel Burston said the roll of Cox Plate winners was “a list that no other race in Australia can excel” and the new prize level was “fitting to the class of horses competing”. Three years later, the Cox Plate prize was lifted to £5000 plus a £250 trophy – making it worth more than the Moonee Valley Cup (by £1000) for the

TALL IN THE SADDLE: Glen Boss’ triumphant 2005 Cox Plate finish on Makybe Diva.

first time. It was the start of a plan announced by the club to make the race worth £10,000, which was achieved in 1964. The superior class of winners continued, including Nolholme in 1959, Tulloch (1960), Tobin Bronze (1966 & 1967) and crowd favorite Gunsynd in 1972. It was Gunsynd’s year that dynamic Club Secretary, Ian McEwen, considered a turning point in the way the race should be promoted. The first step was to increase prizemoney by $30,000 to $75,000, to “keep the Cox Plate in its rightful place as the most important weightfor-age race in Australia”. By 1975 it was worth $125,000 – richer than the Caulfield Cup – with only the Melbourne and Sydney Cups and the Golden Slipper worth more. By 1982 the race was worth $275,000 – only $25,000 less than the Melbourne Cup. The great champions kept winning the great race – Surround, Family of Man, Dulcify, triple champion Kingston Town and Strawberry Road. It was now clearly Cox Plate Day! Worth $500,000 when Rising Prince won in 1985; a further $250,000 when NZ slugger Bonecrusher won the “Race of the Century” the following year; the Cox Plate stake hit $1 million when Rubiton scored three years later. Soon reaching $1.5 million, and with superstars such as Octagonal, Saintly and Might And Power being added to its honour-roll, the Cox Plate

received another accolade in 1999 when it became the Southern Hemisphere “leg” in the Emirates World Series Racing Championship. Worth $2 million when super mare Sunline won for the second time in 2000, it was a $3 million race when Northerly made it two wins on end in 2002. Fields of Omagh became a dual winner in 2003 and 2006 and, in between, the champion mare Makybe Diva won the race in 2005 en route to her record-breaking third Melbourne Cup success. Fittingly, she became the last of the four greatest horses of the last century to grace the Australian turf – the others being Phar Lap, Tulloch and Kingston Town – to win Australasia’s premier weightfor-age race on what is now properly known as Tattersall’s W. S. Cox Plate Day. – The 2007 Tattersall’s W.S. Cox Plate will be run at Moonee Valley on October 27, with total purse of $3.05 million, with $1.8 million (plus trophies) to the winner.

TOP SIX LEADING STAKES RACES IN AUSTRALIA Melbourne Cup, $5.1 million Golden Slipper, $3.5 million W.S. Cox Plate, $3.05 million Caulfield Cup, $2.5 million The BMW, $2.25 million Doncaster Hcp, $2.25 million Total race prizes, including trophies


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FAITH IN THE FUTURE: Adam Sangster holds Unbridled Secret fl anked by her attractive newly born colt, the fi rst of Swettenham Stud’s offspring by resident sire Keep The Faith.


ADAM SANGSTER

My faith in Victoria Adam Sangster has chosen the state’s north-east as the place to continue his family’s remarkable breeding dynasty. WORDS BY ADRIAN DUNN. PHOTOGRAPHS BY BRUNO CANNATELLI.

H

arrow, one of the pre-eminent schools in England and, for that matter, the world, lists an alumni that features seven former British Prime Ministers, most notably Sir Winston Churchill, the fi rst Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and the eclectic Lord Byron, among a host of luminaries. It is a school situated in a borough of London that literally drips tradition – from its Latin recitals to its students’ boater hats and its passion for cricket. Another tradition was forged 30 years ago near the cricket oval when Adam Sangster, another Harrow alumni, listened to a radio broadcast of the Epsom Derby. The Derby was always a mustlisten race, even for a pre-teen Sangster, but this Derby was elevated to new heights – it featured The Minstrel, owned by his father, Robert. “I was just about to go out to bat this day when Peter Stanley and his brother, who is now Lord Derby, came to me and said ‘we’ve found a radio, The Derby is on soon’,” recalls Sangster.

“I remember being bowled out straightaway, running back and the horses were just being put into the gates. Lester Piggott was on The Minstrel – the colt won by a short head. “It was a great, great feeling. I was standing there with a friend whose ancestors had created The Derby, and Dad had just won The Derby!

It’s all a magic carpet ride that literally hasn’t stopped for Sangster, who has the same zest for life as his father ...

“From then on Dad picked off the major races around the world. He put a lot of entertainment into it and he also made a lot of people a lot of money.” The Sangster’s Swettenham Stud has racked up 167 Group 1 winners in 22 countries – it has an honour roll that reads like an equine who’s who. The Ministrel, Alleged, Sadler’s Wells, Storm Bird, Detroit,

Special, Marauding, King’s High, Isca, Blackfriars and, of course, Belldale Ball, (the fi rst import in the modern era to win a Melbourne Cup) make up just a small portion of the galaxy of stars to carry the Sangster (Swettenham Stud) green, blue and white silks. Beldale Ball’s Cup trophy now sits in the home of Sangster’s ex-stepmother Susan Renouf and while most of the other memorabilia resides with older brothers Guy and Ben, Adam Sangster has a Golden Slipper, Sydney Cup and Newmarket trophies proudly on display. It’s all a magic carpet ride that literally hasn’t stopped for Sangster, who has the same zest for life as his father, who initially amassed a fortune after founding the British soccer pools. He shares another of his father’s traits in being only too willing to give someone a chance. Sangster has a vault of marvellous memories of his late father. Clearly, father and son were close. “He was very humble, honest and just a wonderful father,” he says. Memories as a teenager of visiting Ballydoyle and Barry Hills’ stables are permanently THE THOROUGHBRED 45


ADAM SANGSTER

locked away, but Adam Sangster’s first hands-on thoroughbred experience was in New Zealand working for Sir Patrick Hogan at Cambridge Stud. It was when Sir Tristram was at his prime. Robert Sangster had secured the breeding right and had many of his mares on the property. One of the duties was foal watch, a task Sangster performed with Russell Warwick, now the studmaster at Westbury Stud, Karaka. One night he helped foal Kaapstad, which he leased, and half an hour later Marauding, who won the 1987 Golden Slipper for his father. “It was quite a night,” he remembers. In 1985, on the day Rory’s Jester won the Golden Slipper, Sangster had his first formal introduction to champion trainer Colin Hayes (who would later establish Collingrove Stud in partnership with Robert). The patriach of Lindsay Park would leave an indelible mark on the young Sangster. He is reminded, as he walks the boundary line of his Nagambie property around dawn, correcting fence posts and overseeing everything in general, of a quote spun many a time by the late, great trainer. “As Colin Hayes always said, there is no better fertiliser than the owner’s feet and he’s right,” says Sangster, who shares Hayes’ love of getting his hands dirty. By fluke he met David Hayes (Colin’s son) on the ski slopes of Aspen and, after a lengthy get-to-know-you drink, the pair remained firm friends. It was while in partnership with the Hayes family, through Collingrove, that Sangster was initially lured to Victoria, by the Super VOBIS (Victorian Owners and Breeders Incentive Scheme), which helped bring to Victoria Rory’s Jester, whose signature stock as a sire was precocious two-year-olds. “That was the main reason,” says Sangster. “And the crux for staying was continuing the breeding trend of the Sangster family, which is 46 THE THOROUGHBRED

SWETTENHAM STUD STALLIONS COMMENTS BY ADAM SANGSTER

BIANCONI $9,900 Bay/Brown (1995) by Danzig from Fall Aspen Arguably he has the best pedigree of any horse in the world. He has a serious number of progeny that will come through in the next three to four years.

COURT OF JEWELS $5,500

ON TRACK: Adam Sangster and David Hayes flank jockey Dwayne Dunn after winning the 2005 Sandown Guineas, won by Cayambe. Dunn is wearing the Sangster family’s familiar green, blue and white silks.

only going to get stronger.” The partnership at Collingrove ended in 2005 when Sangster decided to buy out Hayes – read nothing sinister into the sale. As Sangster notes: “David and I now have different agendas, he wants to concentrate on racing, I want to concentrate on breeding.” After six years working as a global banker in London and Hong Kong, Sangster decided to make Australia his home in 1991. While his love affair with Australia is decades old, Victoria was a given to carry on the Swettenham tradition. This was confirmed earlier this year when Collingrove was renamed Swettenham Stud. “It’s a show of strength of what I feel in Victoria,” he says. “I feel particularly confident in the Victorian racing industry’s future.” Sangster, who now calls the 365-hectare property neighbouring the Mitchelton winery and the Goulburn River home, admits to being “bullish” about his new home state. “It is a great place to breed horses and north-east Victoria is a magnificent stronghold.

“The climate is perfect, the aspects, the market garden land, the proximity to Melbourne, the access to the Hume highway is simple, we have a great transport system to Sydney and we have three kilometres of river frontage on the Goulburn River ... we are pretty blessed.” With the area fast becoming a renowned thorougbred breeding centre, Sangster says that “northeast thoroughbreds” is a brand he fully endorses, noting that within 30 kilometres of Swettenham there are 15 stud farms, including Darley, Independent Stallions, Limerick Lane and Gilgai Farm. He believes that time, and marketing the state’s north-east as thoroughbred country, will see the region likened to the Hunter Valley. “We want to create this place as a hub of breeding excellence nationally,” he says. On a personal note, Sangster views the launch of Victoria’s Sweetenham Stud as the ideal venue to continue the traditions that grew from the cricket fields of Harrow – and to honour the legend of his famous father.

Bay (1997) by Danehill from Nine Carat We stood him because we knew what an outstanding racehorse he was. His potential was never realised. He’s a three-quarter brother to Danewin and Commands so he must be worth a chance. He has some beautiful stock on the ground.

DASH FOR CASH $14,850 Grey (1998) by Secret Savings from Gulistan Dash For Cash has just become Victoria’s 2YO Sire of the Year. All the trainers like his stock and I think his 3YOs will be something else. I think he can go a long way.

HOLD THAT TIGER $13,200 Chestnut (2000) by Storm Cat from Beware Of The Cat The Storm Cat line seems to be working well down here. He is a beautifully confirmed and balanced horse. He is very strong behind and one of the best-looking sons of Storm Cat. We await with anticipation his 2YOs.

KEEP THE FAITH $8,800 Brown (2000) by Sunday Silence from Duelling Girl We hope this horse will be the Holy Grail in what people are looking for with Danzig line mares. He is the fastest son of Sunday Silence. He broke the North American record for 1200 metres. He’s very aristocratic-looking and he has the pedigree. We have tremendous faith in this horse. Prices are service fee, including GST.


‘Sangster believes

that time, and marketing the state’s north-east as thoroughbred country, will see the region likened to the Hunter Valley.’

THE GOOD LIFE: A Swettenham Stud staff member takes Keep The Faith for a stroll within the property’s 365hectare grounds.


‘Racing in Australia is singularly the most important book on racing I’ve seen in my lifetime.’ BRUCE McAVANEY

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visit gspbooks.com.au LEADERS IN SPORTS PUBLISHING


‘If they’re happy and having a nice time, well that’s basically why you go to the races.’

Jenny Hoo

The

fashion stakes DAVID BONNICI speaks to four Melbourne fashion industry figures who explain what

racing means to their business, while providing a few race-day style tips. PHOTOGRAPHS BY SEAN GARNSWORTHY

‘As long as it’s

tasteful … you needn’t stick to traditional or basic colours.’

Joe Saba

‘If you want to be a milliner racing is where you make your money.’

Kim Fletcher

THE THOROUGHBRED 49


SETTING THE SCENE

Kim Fletcher MILLINER

W

hile many fashion industry types fall into racing because of the increasing demand for trackside fi nery, milliner Kim Fletcher found fashion through racing. Renowned for her hats from Doomben to Dubai, Fletcher started hat making as a hobby, while on maternity leave from her job as a paymaster. “I always went to the races with my husband, who was a mad punter, and saw an advertisement in the paper for a millinery course that was one night a week for six months,” says Fletcher. “I thought that would be a bit of fun, thinking the worst that could happen was that I’d end up with a hat to wear to the spring carnival.” Now one of the best known of a growing number of Melbourne milliners, Fletcher says she’d probably still be processing pay slips if it wasn’t for the racing industry. “The only reason milliners exist is racing in this country, because we don’t really have a culture of wearing hats,” she says. “If you want to be a milliner racing is where you make your money.” Enter Equine Flu (EI), which Fletcher naturally greeted with trepidation only to fi nd her hats continued to fly off the stands despite fears that Melbourne’s Spring Racing Carnival wouldn’t go ahead. “Isn’t it amazing, I thought it (business) would have suffered,” she says. “But we’ve actually sold more hats then we ever have before for this period of time. It’s one of those things that reinforces the fact that the Melbourne Cup carnival is an event and, the theory is, no matter what happens 50 THE THOROUGHBRED

GLAD HATTER: Kim Fletcher says business is up this year despite the Equine Influenza scare.

there will be something on. “One lady at a breakfast I did at the Langham Hotel for fashion week said ‘Look they can run camels down the straight or something, it won’t matter, we’ll still go’.” Fletcher admits the idea of 100,000 people flocking to Flemington without a race being run sounds ridiculous, but reckons it isn’t out of the question. “If you go down there now, they’re building the marquees and stuff,” she says. “So you’d reckon if they’ve got the infrastructure already there and everything’s ready to go that they’d run the carnival.” “Also, what a lot of people forget is there’s a lot of things that are off course, like charity luncheons …

they’ll still go ahead regardless of whether there are races, and the ladies get dressed up for those.” Also easing Fletcher’s concerns is the fact that, while Christmas trading comes a few months early for her industry, there are still plenty of other opportunities throughout the year to sell her wares, with almost every racing club in Australia hosting at least one event for the locals to show up in their fi nest. Her business is further boosted by her growing international reputation that each year leads her to Dubai, where her hats are in demand on the wholesale market. When it comes to advice on choosing a race-day hat or fascinator, Fletcher admits that

‘The only reason

milliners exist is racing in this country, because we don’t really have a culture of wearing hats.’

some women “choose to be a little too extravagant”, but says even the most bizarre designs will look good if they suit the person underneath. “It’s got to suit your face shape and your build,” she stresses. “Your build is really important. A lot of girls think a big hat’s glamorous but, unless you’ve got the height to go with the bigrimmed hat, you shouldn’t really be wearing one because you end up looking like a hat with legs that’s proportionately all wrong. “You should also look at the features of your face. If you have a longer nose, you should have a hat that comes forward. It’s just little tricks and things to make sure that you accentuate the positives and try and hide any negatives you may have.” As for this year’s trends, Fletcher says while hat shapes are based on the wearer, the colours are dictated by the latest fashions. “We don’t actually make fashion, we follow the clothing trends so the colours are determined by what colour is in for that season. I’ve seen a lot of cobalt blue and a lot of yellow.”


Joe and Marita Saba STYLE AMBASSADORS

T

he term ‘fashion icon’ is thrown about freely these days, though Joe Saba is one of the few Australians who deserve the tag. From opening a humble clothing store in Melbourne’s Flinders Lane, Saba created a national fashion empire known for its classic sense of style. After a health scare in 2002, Saba sold his fashion design, manufacturing and retail business (which still bears his name) to spend more time with his wife Marita and their twin boys. A year later the couple (Marita has a background in fashion, marketing and event management) launched a new wholesale women’s fashion label called 9, which they operate from their Melbourne home with no intention to expand. This year, the Melbourne Racing Club appointed the Sabas its ‘Classic Style Ambassadors’ for the Caulfield carnival, a role they keenly accepted. Ironically, one of the first spring racing decrees by “the man responsible for teaching us how to wear black” is colourful outfits for all, even men. “It’s certainly an era of being a bit freer about colours,” Joe says. “But as long as it’s tasteful … you needn’t stick to traditional or basic colours, but you can certainly do with some colour.” The Sabas insist their role is about promoting style, rather than dictating it. “It’s best not to get bogged down by too many rules,” says Marita. “There’s far more scope for people to dress to suit themselves and suit their personal style – it’s far easier. Gone are the days

FASHION GURUS: Joe and Marita Saba say racegoers should express themselves with colour.

when women would dress up in a tailored, structured outfit with matching bag, matching hat, matching shoes, hosiery and a matching umbrella. “Just make sure that the overall look is polished and sophisticated. I think that the overall look should be quite smart.” By smart she means dressing up for the occasion and not looking ready for a night on the town.

“Women can dress up, but if the neckline is a little bit too low or the skirt is a little bit too short, sometimes it translates more into party wear or PM wear. The races are a little bit more elegant.” “And some men go to extremes,” adds Joe. “Even though it’s a bit of fun to see, I don’t think it’s really representative of what horse racing is all about.”

‘Sometimes the most subtle outfit on a guy can look the best.’

Joe says the approach to fashion has gone full circle since he entered the industry in the 1960s. He says racing has had a huge impact, particularly on men, who no longer feel awkward about expressing themselves through their clothes. “Men are really taking pride in themselves now and it’s really a bit of a return to where I first started in menswear, to really good dressing – good suits, shirts, ties, cufflinks – to get away from the casual feel in what they do at other times of the year.” What advice do they offer men wanting to make an impact trackside? “Sometimes the most subtle outfit on a guy can look the best if it’s worn nicely,” says Marita. “If the guy is well groomed and his clothes put together well, he’s the guy who will stand out.” T H E T H O R O U G H B R E D 51


SETTING THE SCENE

Jenny Hoo DESIGNER

J

enny Hoo’s fashion label became synonymous with racing in 2000, when, with the help of stunning model Rosanna Feraci, her garments scooped the fashions in the fields double at Caulfield and Flemington, and then wowed judges at the Dubai World Cup the following March. As Hoo testifies, winning those types of competitions provides an invaluable boost to a designer’s business and profile, which is why the trackside catwalks are full of models parading the wares of established and emerging designers. So where does this leave the girl without a modelling or fashion background who wants to enter, but can’t imagine competing against a professional model? “The concept has changed,” says the Melbourne-based designer. “They have two separate events now – one for professional models and designers dressing them, and one for regular people who buy clothes and want to enter without thinking they’re going to be outdone by gorgeous catwalk models, which would be pretty intimidating.” Hoo says many women, whether they’re entering competitions or simply enjoying a day at the races, make the mistake of dressing like they would for a night out and not for a full day exposed to the elements. “It’s very unusual to have an outfit that will do that,” she concedes. “So consider if you have to wear a coat or jacket and not just have a backless dress that’s your only option, whether its 12 degrees or 35 degrees. “Also 52 THE THOROUGHBRED

WINNING FORM: Fashions in the Field champion designer Jenny Hoo says women should avoid dressing for a “night out” at the races.

remember to wear a pair of shoes that will go the whole day.” Hoo, who has judged several racing fashion competitions, says the suitability of the outfit to the conditions is a major consideration for the judges. “That’s why it’s always good to have the alternate, beautiful trench coat that goes on top of the outfit,” she says. “But if it’s a hot day you don’t really need it. You’ve got to look like you’re wearing it for the day you’re actually going out in.”

Of course form is every bit as important as function, so what looks should we expect this spring? Hoo agrees with Joe Saba that this season is all about colour. “We’ve gone for quite a lot of colour and we’ve gone for ensembles and dresses,” says Hoo. “We’ve got blues and greens and oranges and yellows as well – the colours are beautiful for the races. “We’ve also got a lot of natural colours and white. We’re hoping that after last summer it’s going

‘Apart from the fact that you go out there dressed, you also go out there to look at everybody else dressed.’

to be quite warm and hopefully there won’t be too much fake tan sprayed on. Of course, for most women, there’s no better opportunity to size up what others are wearing than at the races, where compliments and criticism flow as fast as the champagne. “Apart from the fact that you go out there dressed, you also go out there to look at everybody else dressed,” Hoo admits. “You think ‘how on earth did they get that together because it’s so horrible’, or otherwise you think ‘isn’t she beautiful’. “I go to most meetings and you’re always looking at all the young girls (with a critical eye), but if they’re happy and having a nice time, well that’s basically why you go to the races, to enjoy yourself. “Remember, it’s only clothing so you can’t be too serious.”


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THE HANDICAPPER

THE MEASURE OF A MAN STEPHEN HOWELL meets Racing Victoria’s chief

handicapper, Greg Carpenter, and discovers the job is more about process than opinion.

54 THE THOROUGHBRED

a ‘lotThere’s of pressure releasing your first set of weights when Makybe Diva is aspiring to win her third Melbourne Cup

Malaysia as well as his home state, is now well used to pressure. He is always in the news when cup weights are announced and when owners and trainers have beefs, but he is well prepared for any criticism, and confident in every handicapping decision made by his department – Carpenter and his colleagues, pore over statistics seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, before making their assessments. “The workload is significant and constant and it is not possible for one handicapper to do all races, even all metropolitan races,” says Carpenter, who shares handicapping duties with senior handicappers Neil Jennings and Alan Painter, handicapper David Hegan and executive assistant Rebecca Schlosmacher.

WEIGHT IS OVER: Racing Victoria’s chief handicapper Greg Carpenter, at the announcement of 2007 Spring Carnival cup weights in September.

Carpenter weights openclass races beyond 1400 metres, including the big cups, and the two-year-olds; Jennings does open sprint races up to 1400 metres; Painter weighs the jumpers and the three-year-old stayers; and Hagen the three-yearold sprinters. Non-metropolitan races are divvied up and treated the same way. “You’ve got to handicap a bush cup race with the same seriousness and diligence as you would the Melbourne Cup,” says Carpenter. “We do approximately 74,000 ratings (with) more than 47,000 individual runners nominated for 578 meetings and about 4500 races during the season.” These include non-TAB and picnic meetings run in Victoria and, since March 2007, all races in Tasmania. So, is the handicapper always right? Again, a measured response: “I don’t think so. Everyone who pays up for a

horse has the right to ask the question, and I encourage it. I think part of my role is to provide as much information and explanation to owners and trainers that I can, so they are able to maximise the financial and emotional dividend of owning a racehorse. “The handicapper is only one piece of the puzzle. At the time we release weights we don’t know the barriers, we don’t know which jockeys are riding, we don’t know what the weather or track conditions are going to be, and we don’t have the intimate knowledge of a horse and its training and how well it is going that a trainer and owner do.” Carpenter described handicapping as an imprecise science and says it is his job, in a maiden or a Melbourne Cup, to look for competitive fi nishes, not winners. You don’t get much more measured than that.

PHOTO COURTESY OF RVL

I

t takes as long to come up with the right description for Greg Carpenter as it does for the two-year-olds he allots weights to, to scamper up Flemington’s main straight: Racing Victoria’s chief handicapper is nothing if not ‘measured’. My tattered Oxford dictionary describes measured as ‘carefully weighed’, which sums up the 45-year-old’s approach to his conversation and work, which includes handicapping the Melbourne Cup. The race that stops the nation is the plum job for Australasian handicappers – Carpenter is only the ninth person to allot the weights for the iconic race since it was first run in 1861 – and he couldn’t say no when, in 2005, he was given the chance to replace Jim Bowler after 25 years in the chair. “You probably get the opportunity only once in a lifetime,” says Carpenter, who began the job in a blaze of publicity, having to handicap the great mare Makybe Diva for her third Melbourne Cup, which she won with 58 kilograms on her back. “There’s a lot of pressure releasing your first set of weights when Makybe Diva is aspiring to win her third Melbourne Cup. You walk straight into the situation where there is a lot of expectation and anticipation.” Carpenter, a former footballer from Western Australia who has handicapped in Singapore and


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The Thoroughbred Magazine - Spring 2007  

The Thoroughbred Magazine

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