It's In The Blood

Bodyguard and Cerons

You take a little speed and add a bit more speed, lace the whole thing with pace and it’s no surprise you’ve got a horse who charges to a debut victory over 1000 metres up the Flemington straight.

As Everest week reminds us of that most sought keyword in this country’s racing, so Bodyguard (I Am Invincible) showed in winning Saturday’s Listed Maribyrnong Trial Stakes that there’s no speed like Australian speed.

One week after bloodstock baron James Harron’s milliondollar baby Espionage (Zoustar) took Randwick’s Breeders’ Plate, his $1.6 million colt Bodyguard – the most expensive buy for Harron’s colts syndicate of 2023 – charged to victory in Melbourne in still more impressive style.

The Team Snowden-trained colt hails from a pedigree sparkling with all the best facets of Australian breeding.

He’s by I Am Invincible, the dual champion stallion who can seemingly do no wrong, especially when it comes to sprinters. Yarraman’s dual champion sire may be by Irish stallion Invincible Spirit, but has an Australian speed merchant as his damsire in Canny Lad (Bletchingly), a horse so good and so precocious, it’s worth pausing to reflect on his quite ridiculous two-year-old season of 1989-90.

The Rick Hore-Lacy trained colt also won the Maribyrnong Trial Stakes on debut, setting a course record for the 900 metres as it was then, to start a sequence of four straight wins. He suffered his first blemish when second in the Blue Diamond Stakes, won by Mahaasin (Biscay), but recovered to win a Group 1 double with the VRC Sires’ Produce Stakes and the Golden Slipper. That gave him seven two-year-old starts for six stakes wins.

And the beauty of Bodyguard’s pedigree is he has Canny Lad on both sides in a 3f x 7f, 5f blend, his influence passing through three different daughters. Importantly, it comes direct through Bodyguard’s bottom line as the sire of his fourth dam, What Fun. That’s because while the colt is out of an unraced mare, his second dam was another Golden Slipper winner, Mossfun (Mossman).

Throw in that Bodyguard’s third dam, the unraced Eye For Fun, was by Oakleigh Plate-winning speedster (and four-time champion sire) Snitzel, and that Bodyguard’s dam Tumooh is by Oakleigh Plate-VRC Lightning Stakes winner (and dual champion sire and now outstanding broodmare sire) Fastnet Rock, and the pedigree qualifies as an old fashioned Australian no-brainer.

Little wonder he cost so much.

Harron looks well poised, as with Espionage, to have his judgement and daring justified.

“Obviously, the I Am Invincible factor was a big one,” Harron told It’s In The Blood. “He’s just doing a phenomenal job as a sire, and now we’ve seen Home Affairs come through as a sire son of his and get amazing support from the marketplace. So that was attractive from the point of view of colt buying.

“Fastnet Rock as a broodmare sire has been extremely successful, and a great influence both here and overseas.

“And to have a horse like Mossfun in the first two generations – you’ve got an absolute champion two-year-old. And then you see Canny Lad. You do like seeing those duplications of speed, and especially Australian speed. It’s always very attractive.

“When I buy, I’m really looking at them on type, and I like the pedigree and the type to match together, and make sense. I thought this colt really did that with his pedigree. There was size and there was strength but there was also maturity and precocity, so it matched up very well.”

Deeper in, Bodyguard also boasts lashings of the great Natalma, with nine appearances in the first nine generations, and a 4×4 duplication of Danzig, via his most influential sons Green Desert (I Am Invincible’s grandsire), and Danehill, father of Fastnet Rock.

Harron reports Bodyguard, and Espionage, are now spelling, with prize-money banked and an eye to the autumn. But for a while there on Saturday, the former’s Flemington success looked to be under threat by something else that was old-fashioned Australiana – the smokey from the sticks.

Brett Cavanough, a canny lad from the bush himself, who’s fond of training horses and backing them in equal measure, insisted there was nothing to see here when his $50,000 first-starter Cerons (Street Boss) bobbed up in the Maribyrnong Trial Stakes field, at odds of $201.

He told ANZ Bloodstock News the colt had trialled once, at Newcastle, for a 4.5 length second, which was OK. And since he was taking a couple of other horses to Melbourne – from his base at Scone, NSW – he might as well take Cerons for “a shot at the stumps”.

Up until the 250-metre mark, that shot looked like it might take middle peg. Cerons sped away and led – hinting he may have produced some finer work at home than in that one barrier trial – before the class of Bodyguard ultimately told.

But while Cerons was beaten by two lengths in second, it was a sterling performance, leaving many pricier two-year-olds in his wake.

Cerons was bred by property developer and hobby breeder Sean Duke, who has “a little farm” with no name outside Ballarat, where he has “ten or 12” broodmares. In 2019 he bought Cerons’ Exceed And Excel dam Sauternes – the winner of one from 13 – for $82,000, in foal to So You Think.

The tale proceeded largely as one of woe. The promising So You Think colt injured himself just as he was about to be named, and was euthanised. Next, Duke sent Sauternes’s Trapeze Artist yearling filly to New Zealand in mid-2021, fearing Covid would “close things down” in the Australian market. Instead, those factors improved, while at Karaka, he had to settle for $95,000 for his filly (who’s now set to start trialling).

Duke then sent Sauternes back to Street Boss, the Darley sire who’d provided her first cover in 2016, producing the filly Muscadelle. A $13,000 Scone sale yearling, Muscadelle had won a couple of barrier trials. And crossing with Exceed And Excel mares had brought Street Boss’s best cross, so things looked good.

Muscadelle has now won exactly one race, at Port Macquarie, from 25 starts. And Cerons didn’t start out any more impressively, fetching just $50,000 at Inglis Classic.

“I just really liked the mating, on nicks and on physicals,” Duke said. “But, I don’t know, at the sale this colt didn’t really stand out. But I think there were some people who could have a look and see what he might grow into, and I guess Brett Cavanough was one of them. I came out behind on the deal, but good luck to him.”

Cavanough recalls the colt being “a bit of a backward type”.

“He was leggy, but athletic, but probably didn’t prep up as good as they thought he was,” he said. “But he was by Street Boss, out of a winning mare, and there was enough on the page for me.”

Cerons’ second dam Chateau D’Yquem, was by Pins (Snippets), who also works well with Street Boss. And she was a half-sister to dual Group 1 winner and New Zealand Champion sprinter-miler Gee I Jane (Jahafil), and Miss Jessie Jay (Spectacularphantom). The latter was a triple-stakes winner and NZ’s broodmare of the year in 2010, thanks to Group 1-winning daughters Katie Lee (Pins) and Banchee (Oratorio).

Before Saturday, Cavanough said Cerons would likely head to the $500,000 Inglis Banner at Moonee Valley on Cox Plate Day.

Duke, meanwhile, has another favourite broodmare. In 2018, he paid $92,500 for Bana Wu (Shirocco), who was about to have her value boosted massively by the deeds of her multiple Group 1-winning daughter, Montefilia (Kermadec).

Now Duke will offer Montefilia’s sister at Easter, and is about to welcome another sibling. It’s likely he’ll receive far more for these two than he did for Cerons.

With Montefilia winning the Group 2 Hill Stakes at Rosehill last Saturday, Cerons nearly provided Duke with the perfect afternoon. He did at least give him cause to jump on the phone.

“I was going to give Sauternes the year off,” he said, “but after the race I was straight on the phone to talk about sending her to Street Boss again. Or maybe I’ll try Anamoe.”

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