Steve speaks to trainer Archie Alexander
Ballarat trainer Archie Alexander can look forward to the autumn with the spring carnival having franked the form around several of his leading contenders:
It was with just a tinge of disappointment that Archie Alexander watched Villermont (All Too Hard) storm to victory in last Saturday’s Sandown Guineas (Gr 2, 1600m).
After all, the Aaron Purcell trained three-year-old had finished two and three quarter lengths astern of Alexander’s filly Temple Of Bel (Bel Esprit) when fourth at his previous run at Caulfield in mid-October. The Sandown Guineas third Black Sail (Savabeel) was, incidentally, second in that same race.
That race may have been a seemingly modest 1600 metres Benchmark 70 for three-year-olds but it’s one from which a Victoria Derby (Gr 1, 2500m) and Melbourne Cup (Gr 1, 3200m) winner Efficient (Zabeel) previously emerged. Not to mention, more recently, the subsequent Group One winners He’s Our Rokkii (Roc Des Cambes) and the filly Fenway (High Chaparral).
“It was a touch disappointing we couldn’t press on with her (Temple Of Bel) this spring but she had a minor setback so we erred on the side of caution. If she were a four or five-year-old mare we’d have pushed on but as a lightly raced filly it was the right thing to give her a break.
“She’d only have had the one more run in any case, the Wakeful (Stakes). She’s in the paddock; she’ll come back in after Christmas and we’ll kick off in Melbourne with a view to getting her to the ATC Oaks or later to South Australia or Queensland if she’s not quite ready,” Alexander said.
Temple Of Bel has won the past two of her only four starts (at 1400 and 1600 metres) after finishing just two lengths behind the subsequent stakes winner Our Crown Mistress (Star Witness) when first up at 1200 metres.
“You could say she shouldn’t stay but I think she will and we’re definitely thinking Oaks with her,” he said.
Alexander was also conservative, this spring, in his management of his two feature races winners – Lord Fandango (Lord Of England) and Wheal Leisure (Artie Schiller) and hopes that will reap its reward even if the two may be destined to clash next time in. The Sydney Cup (Gr 1, 3200m) is the ultimate aim of each.
The two horses resumed in the same race at Bendigo in September and quinellaed it before Lord Fandango went on to win the Benalla Cup (2046m), the Herbert Power Stakes (Gr 2, 2400m) and run a herculean fourth in the Caulfield Cup (Gr 1, 2400m). Wheal Leisure won the $250,000 Inglis Cup (2000m) and was placed in the VRC Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Gr 3, 2600m).
The form around both was later confirmed via Boom Time (Flying Spur), Johannes Vermeer (Galileo) and Vengeur Masque (Monsun).
“We looked after him,” Alexander said of Lord Fandango. “The temptation was there to press on but we limited him to the four runs. I’m not comparing him to Winx in any way but we’ve all seen the rewards Chris Waller has gained from his management of the great mare, not pushing her too far.
“He can come back in next week and be ready for the early autumn. Ideally, he’d be third-up in the Australian Cup and then go on to The BMW and the Sydney Cup and, then, perhaps next spring we could be looking at the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups. That’s the plan but, of course, in this game it’s one day to the next,” Alexander said.
Wheal Leisure, all being well, is also bound for the Sydney Cup. “Remarkably, given we’re a relatively small stable, they will probably finish up racing against each other. She just wants further and therefore the obvious aim is the Sydney Cup. We stepped her to 2400 (metres) in the Geelong Cup and I felt she showed us she wanted further and likewise after the Queen Elizabeth at 2600 (metres),” he said.
The two established stayers and the one in waiting, Temple Of Bel, contributed to an excellent spring carnival for Alexander. “The stable’s runners have won about $950,000 since August which we think is pretty good for an operation of our size,” he said. Much of the income from same has been channeled into house and stable improvements.
Wheal Lesiure and Temple Of Bel are half–sisters out of the Encosta De Lago (Fairy King) mare Sadiya whose dam Lisa’s Game (Umatilla) beat all but Taufan’s Melody (Taufan) in the controversial and rough-house 1998 Caulfield Cup.
They were bred by Lisa and Gavin McMaster’s Briarwood Farm at Cora-Lynn in Victoria.
“Archie and (his wife) Annie are both hardworking and dedicated to the horses, the horses don’t want for anything. The extra one per cent effort that they go to makes all the difference, it’s the little things real horse people appreciate,” Lisa McMaster told TBV after Wheal Leisure’s Inglis Cup win.
Alexander, originally sponsored by Lloyd Williams and then by Terry Henderson and Simon O’Donnell via OTI Racing, now has permanent residency and sees himself as an Australian trainer. “I can’t see that I wouldn’t be staying here unless something really weird happens,” he said.
He’s made a great impact in just three years as a licensed trainer in Australia and enjoyed a momentous 12 months highlighted not only by his racetrack success but his marriage to accomplished horsewoman Annie who too, like Alexander, has of course emigrated from her England home.
Then Annie Bowles, her accomplishments include being Irish Ladies champion point to point jockey in 2013, and now – almost exclusively – she rides Lord Fandango and Wheal Leisure in their work amid taking on a multitude of other stable responsibilities including the office administration.
The Alexanders’ spring almost ended on another high note when, last Saturday, the Showcasing (Oasis Dream) filly So Far Sokool beat all but Yulong Xingsheng (I Am Invincible) in the Twilight Glow Stakes (Listed, 1400m).
The distinctively marked mare Spanner Head (Helmet) was one disappointment of the spring when she failed to build on her first up win at Flemington but Alexander believes firm ground was the problem.
“She started to feel her feet, especially after the Caulfield run (18 October) when she jarred up. She’ll have two months off and come back when the tracks are soft. She’s a good mare and hopefully can secure some black type when she returns and before retirement beckons,” Alexander said.
Further success also beckons for the stable with a now consistent 35-40 horses in work. “We’ve had good and bad runs but it’s starting to come together with some good stock and a good team of people. Greg Baker, a good trainer in his own right, has been with us for about 12 months and it’s been great to have someone with his experience on board,” Alexander said.
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