Steve Moran

International Racing On Cards For Two Other Prominent Australian Horses

The dual Group One winner Palentino (Teofilo), somewhat forgotten following his Epsom Handicap (Gr 1, 1600m) failure and Rebel Dane (California Dane), the deserved winner of last Friday night’s Manikato Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m) are the horses in question. Rebel Dane’s name will be among the list of entries, likely to be released today, for December’s Hong Kong International Races.

Laurel Oak Bloodstock’s Rebel Dane had struck out in 17 Group One attempts since his win in the 2013 Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes (Gr 1, 1400m) but those ‘misses’ included brave runs in the three previous editions of the Manikato, beaten an average margin of one and a quarter lengths at the cost of an additional $1,600,000 million in prize money (on top of the handy $2,400,000 he’s now accumulated).

But the breakthrough win, as well as potentially enhancing his stallion value and at-stud desirability, precipitated overtures from Hong Kong as Laurel Oak’s Louis Mihalyka explained: “Mark Player (Hong Kong’s international scout) was on the phone at 7.50 on Sunday morning suggesting we should consider the Hong Kong Sprint in December and that is an option.

“He explained that the horse would have to be vaccinated that day and we got that done in the next 40 minutes. If the Hong Kong race was four weeks away, not six, then it would be more likely but we’ll look at it as we’ve already ruled out the Darley Classic or the Winterbottom in Perth. We’ll leave it to Gary (Portelli) to work out the logistics of going to Hong Kong and returning for the T J (Smith) which is his main aim,” Mihalyka said.

It’s something which just might tempt the Warwick Farm trainer who campaigned Gold Trail (Hussonet) in New Zealand, Singapore and England in 2010. If not now, then perhaps next year with Hong Kong’s Chairman’s Sprint Prize (Gr 1, 1200m) on 1 May suitably following the T J Smith Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m) on 1 April.

“That could be more likely as it wouldn’t jeopardise running in Sydney in the autumn,” Mihalyka said.

Palentino might well be bound for Europe next year should he win or, at least, run very well in Saturday’s Cantala Stakes (Gr 1, 1600m) at Flemington according to co-owner and Ballarat Turf Club chief executive Lachlan McKenzie.

“Sun Bloodstock has bought 50 per cent of the horse and being by Teofilo, they’ve indicated they’d be keen to take him to Royal Ascot or another target in Europe if he runs we’ll on Saturday.

“Assuming that he does run well, after the Epsom failure, then he would have an autumn campaign either here or overseas and there’s certainly some chance he could go to Europe. Sun (Bloodstock) have been very accommodating in terms of racing the horse on and I think Europe would be realistic on the basis of his Australian Guineas and Maybe Diva Stakes form but obviously not on his Epsom run,” McKenzie said.

Palentino, of course, failed to beat a runner home in the Epsom at his first interstate foray but returns to the course and distance venue of his two Group One wins on Saturday.

“The horse is physically fine and the Sydney run was just too bad to be true. You’d be more concerned if he’d had every chance and run a battling third or fourth. His heart rate was a low 85 immediately after the race, about where it would be after a track gallop, not a race. Maybe it was the travel or running right-handed or the blinkers,” McKenzie said.

As to travel for Winx (Street Cry) it seemingly remains some distant possibility. It would be nice to see her ‘do a Sunline and head to Hong Kong’ as Melbourne race-caller Greg Miles said on RSN radio and trainer Chris Waller has not entirely dismissed the idea despite the stable press release stating that she’d now go to the paddock.

“Travel is certainly not ruled out,” Waller said, “I explained, on the weekend, how hard it is to go overseas with a horse and how good our racing is here but it’s not ruled out with her. If she is rated the number one horse in the world then you would like to think that it would be a bit like the world of boxing and the challengers would come to you,” Waller said.

The Australian Turf Club will certainly be on that case. The Sydney club will be better placed to speculate on possible visitors at the end of the year, post the Japan Cup and Hong Kong Internationals, but you can rest assured they’ll be working hard to attract overseas competition for next year’s The Championships on the first two Saturdays in April. They may well be horses from Europe, our region or those sold or about to be sold to Australian interests.

It will be a task to lure runners from Europe as the Racing Post’s Mark Scully wrote after the Cox Plate: “It is hard to imagine there is a long queue of owners and trainers waiting to bring their horses from Europe to have a shot at Winx but that is exactly what the Australian Turf Club (ATC) is hoping to encourage in the next few months.”

That appeared under this headline: Anyone fancy coming to get whacked by Winx?

In the ATC’s favour, perhaps, is the greater preparedness to travel among trainers and that their early April dates means that it would be possible for a European star to campaign in Australia and return for the bulk of the major races, for all comers, at home which are largely from August onwards.

Few of us, I suspect, these days are not fans of international competition in any arena. But in the world of horse racing, given the fragility of the animal, we have to accept that the best matches are not always going to eventuate.

And in order to compare the world’s best horses, it’s not as critical that they meet as it once may have been given that there are valid form-line links now among the world’s best and Australia’s mighty mare – to wit, Vadamos (Monsun) having beaten Zarak (Dubawi) who’d been twice a competitive runner-up behind Europe’s best turf performer Almanzor (Wootton Bassett).

I’d have them on a par – Winx and Vadamos – and it will be fascinating to see how the world’s race club handicappers assess the two when the next IFHA rankings are released on 10 November.

The internationalisation of racing now also extends to the media and with the aforementioned Racing Post scribe in Melbourne, the mare has had neutral acclaim with Scully writing: “The pursuit of perfection is what everybody is in this game for and what Winx did the other day is about as close to that as you are ever likely to see.”

The Lee Freedman trained Exospheric (Beat Hollow), incidentally, maybe among the entries for Hong Kong in December along with several from the Chris Waller stable including Vanbrugh (Encosta De Lago), Spiritjim (Galileo), Preferment (Zabeel) and Who Shot Thebarman (Yamanin Vital); not to mention several of the Europeans currently campaigning in Melbourne.

Rebel Dane
Rebel Dane’s Manikato Stakes win was ‘the pinnacle’ for Laurel Oak Bloodstock, which is in it’s 30th year, according to principal Louis Mihalyka.

“We started without first horse in January 1986 and had our first winner in June 1987 which was Georgian Gold (Blue And Gold) who is the great grandmother of Rebel Dane so there’s a great history with this horse.

“And yes I have to say that Friday was our best day. It was a career best performance from Rebel Dane given the quality of the opposition, the fast overall time and it was his biggest prize money cheque. With him winning, given the love we have for this horse, it was great and then to have a double on the night was just the icing on the cake,” he said.

Laurel Oak’s second winner was Sir Bacchus (Sebring), trained by Chris Waller, who won the final race on the card, immediately after the Manikato Stakes. “I was riding one, leading one (drink) in the winner’s room after the Manikato….so I think I might have been in trouble had we had a treble,” Mihalyka said.

Miihalyka candidly concedes that Rebel Dane’s racing career may have already come to an end had any significant stud offers been received. “To be honest, his racetrack earning potential has always been greater than offers we’ve had for him to go to stud.

“You’d hope that he’d be worth something more after the Manikato (Stakes) win but we’re realists. Whatever happens, he’ll get his chance one way or another.

“He is a very good horse. His asset has always been his devastating dash. He can really sprint for 150 to 200 metres before he flattens out. He’ll still be going at a good pace but that real burst of speed comes to an end and that’s left him a bit vulnerable in some good races, especially when he’s conceded them a start.

“It was a long time, before Friday night, that he’d been that close to the speed to be in such a good threatening position and we saw what he could do,” he said.

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