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Extreme send-off for Rushton Park

Johnsons and Watkins-bred colt sells for $360,000 at Magic Millions Adelaide Yearling Sale

Rushton Park’s David and Kayley Johnson headed off for their industry sabbatical in the best way possible by selling their Extreme Choice (Not A Single Doubt) colt for $360,000 at Magic Millions Adelaide Yearling Sale on Tuesday.

The Johnsons, who bred the colt with their close friend, Willaroon’s Sally Watkins, sold their Victorian farm at Tatura late last year with the Adelaide sale the last time the husband-and-wife were at the helm of Rushton Park.

The prized colt by Newgate Farm’s elite stallion – whose price was only bettered by a $400,000 daughter of I Am Invincible (Invincible Spirit) sold on Monday – was bought by Laurel Oak Bloodstock’s Louis Mihalyka who ensured his first trip to the South Australian sale in years was worth it.

Lindsay Park’s Ben, JD and Will Hayes will train the October 27-born colt who is by the same sire as Golden Slipper (Gr 1, 1200m) winner Stay Inside, Group 1 winners Espiona and She’s Extreme  

Bred on a foal share basis, the son of Extreme Choice is the second foal out of six-time winner Tiara Star (Congrats), a $35,000 purchase by Rushton Park from the 2018 Magic Millions National Racehorse Sale. She subsequently won four races in Adelaide with trainer Will Clarken.

“To get a good young mare away to a stallion like that is just gold as far as mares go. We had to be patient, I think the mare got bumped twice, but then we got lucky with one cover and she got in foal,” David Johnson told ANZ Bloodstock News.

“We could have gone to any sale in the country, but he wasn’t ready for the Gold Coast … and we could have gone to Easter as well, but this is our last sale and I thought he’d be an absolute standout. 

“I actually thought for the three of us, it’d be nice to go out with a bang, so we brought him over here.” 

Trainers Tony and Calvin McEvoy, who also underbid a $300,000 Rushton Park-consigned Justify (Scat Daddy) colt on Monday, again came off second best during the anticipated bidding duel for Tuesday’s session topper. 

“I haven’t been to Adelaide for some years. I went through the catalogue this year and there were a couple of horses that I fancied, and they were all on Tuesday, so I flew in last night and I’m flying home this afternoon with the main one we wanted,” buyer Mihalyka said.

“I thought we were going to get him for a little bit less, so I’m a bit annoyed with Tony, and he did offer to train him for us, but we’d agreed with the Hayeses that we wouldn’t bid against them because they also liked the colt.”

The Laurel Oak principal added: “I think [Extreme Choice has] got the highest strike-rate for Group winners amongst the younger stallions, so it is very hard to buy one by him and I guess if you’re going to do it, maybe Adelaide’s the place to do it.

“I suppose if he was going to cost $310,000 or $360,000, it wouldn’t be a huge difference if that was the one we wanted and the one we came here for.” 

I actually thought for the three of us, it’d be nice to go out with a bang, so we brought him over here

- David Johnson

Tiara Star’s two-year-old filly, who is in training with Grahame Begg, was retained to race by the Johnsons and Watkins. Tiara Star is in foal to Newgate Farm’s In The Congo (Snitzel).

The Johnsons placed Rushton Park on the market last year and now that they are about to hand over their farm, they don’t harbour any regrets.

“It is very exciting in that we’re just going to get a break, which we haven’t had,” David Johnson said. 

“It is a mixed feeling because this is what we know and we have worked very hard but we’re pretty comfortable with our decision.”

Bennett Justifies $250,000 investment

The Australian Guineas (Gr 1, 1600m)-winning team of trainer Ciaron Maher and syndicator Bennett Racing joined forces late in the sale to buy a colt by Justify (Scat Daddy) for $250,000, the session’s second highest-priced yearling.

Consigned and bred by Bowness Stud, the colt is the fourth foal out of Full of Beans (Smart Missile), a winning half-sister to the former Maher-trained Group 1 winner Kenedna (Not A Single Doubt) and the late Group 2-winning stallion Spill The Beans (Snitzel), and she will join Bennett Racing’s Southport Tycoon (Written Tycoon) at Maher’s dual-state stable.

The Doncaster Mile (Gr 1, 1600m) bound three-year-old colt won the Australian Guineas earlier this month.

“He is a pretty raw colt, very athletic, he’s going to take a little bit of time, but we loved him. He’s got all the attributes, he’s got the shape and he’s obviously a 2nd of October foal, so he’s a couple of months behind a few of them, but he’s got everything,” Nathan Bennett said.

He is a pretty raw colt, very athletic, he’s going to take a little bit of time, but we loved him

- Nathan Bennett

“He moves well, he’s got a great attitude, we were watching him in the ring and he’s a beautiful colt with the right cross for Justify out of a mare with Fastnet Rock [blood] going through there.”

Justify’s valuable son Storm Boy, who is out of a mare by Smart Missile’s sire Fastnet Rock (Danehill), drew barrier two for Saturday’s Golden Slipper, ensuring he maintains his firm hold on favouritism for the $5 million race.

Bennett confirmed he remained in negotiations with numerous stud farms about selling stallion prospect Southport Tycoon, who will barrier trial in Sydney on Tuesday.

He said: “There has been a lot of interest, but we haven’t struck any deals as yet.”

Stokes’ still focused on Cosmic Force 

Trainer Phillip Stokes was one of the first to embrace the progeny of young stallion Cosmic Force (Deep Field), a position that has so far been vindicated by the deeds of his exciting juvenile colt Stay Focused, and on Tuesday he added a filly by the same sire for $190,000.

Not only does Stokes train Geelong Diamond (1100m) winner and Blue Diamond Prelude (Gr 3, 1100m)-placed Stay Focused, who was last seen running fifth in the Blue Diamond (Gr 1, 1200m), he also trained the Cosmic Force filly’s dam Why Be Discreet (Medaglia d’Oro) who has already produced the talented Peter and Paul Snowden-trained three-year-old The King (Russian Revolution).

Catalogued as Lot 290, the filly was bred by China Horse Club and sold through its The Chase draft.

“We’ve got a big opinion of the Cosmic Forces. We have tried to buy a couple throughout the year on the back of Stay Focused, he’s very progressive, and this filly has a similar sort of profile to him,” said Stokes’ son Tommy who combined with agent Rick Connolly to buy the filly.

“We trained mum, she had a lot of ability that was unseen and she obviously doing a good job at stud at the moment with three to race for three winners.

“There were plenty of good judges on her but we didn’t want to leave without her, she was the filly we wanted.”

Tommy Stokes reported on Tuesday that nothing was set in stone for the immediate future of the Bennett Racing-owned Stay Focused, who missed a run in the VRC Sires’ Produce Stakes (Gr 2, 1400m).

“The rest of his prep is a bit up in the air. We obviously scratched him from his last race when he was favourite. That was a hard decision to make but he wasn’t quite ready,” Stokes said.

“He just had a little bit of a setback, a bit of a virus at that stage. We’re glad we scratched him. 

“There’s options in Adelaide or Sydney for him and we’re still weighing that up at the moment.”

Hedge makes most of Adelaide

Agent Suman Hedge was the most active buyer at the Morphettville sale, combining with various clients in 20 yearlings including a $170,000 Xtravagant (Pentire) colt heading to leading Western Australian trainers Grant and Alana Williams.

A quarter of Hedge’s Adelaide haul was for the Williamses with the Newhaven Park-consigned Xtravagant first foal out of the stakes-performed juvenile winner Written With Ease (Written Tycoon).

The agent’s list of potential horses suited for the Group 1-winning trainers was also cross-referenced against the notes of Michael Grant, a former trainer and breeder who is heavily involved in the training duo’s Karnup-based stable.

We are trying to get a few more precocious horses in the stable, so they can show what they can do with those styles of horses

- Suman Hedge

Hedge described the colt, who is by the same sire as 2022 Inglis Millennium (RL, 1100m) winner Xtravagant Star, as a “really attractive, fluent-moving colt from a fast family”. 

He may also be capable of getting to the track at two, just as his dam did. 

“The stable’s had that reputation of being patient, but it’s a little bit unfair on them because when they were training for Bob [Peters], which meant they had that inclination to be patient as they had a lot of those types of horses in the stable,” said Hedge. 

“We are trying to get a few more precocious horses in the stable, so they can show what they can do with those styles of horses.

“I’m sure it’s just more about being given the opportunity [to do so].”

Hedge also combined with businessman Rob Chapman, Trilogy Racing, Hong Kong’s Lok Lor and trainers Will Clarken and Travis Doudle on horses costing from as little as $12,000 up to $110,000.

“I think it’s been a good sale, you just have to adjust to the type of horse and the type of market [that Adelaide is],” he said.

“We think about trade horses as well and we were able to find a lot of horses in the market [for that purpose], so I am really happy with it, which is evident by the number of horses that we bought.”

The aggregate of almost $15.5 million was down nine per cent year-on-year, a decline which was forecast pre-sale, while the average was up marginally to $50,260.

“At the end of the day, if we got within ten per cent of last year’s result, we would have been delighted. Heavy scratchings have impacted on the gross, no doubt, but the clearance rate getting up over 78 per cent and climbing as we speak, that’s got to be satisfactory in this market,” Magic Millions’ South Australia bloodstock consultant Adrian Hancock told ANZ Bloodstock News.

“There’s no denying that the bottom end of the market is virtually non-existent. The market just doesn’t support it and, even in the middle market, you have to have a horse by the right stallion at the time and go through all the x-ray and scoping tests to be in demand.

“To get all through all that and finish up with a gross of $15, a $40,000 median and over a $50,000 average, you’ve got to be pleased.”

Hancock also made special mention of the contribution made to the compilation of the Adelaide catalogue and the organisation of the sale by Magic Millions’ Ben Culham who continues to recover from a serious accident on the Gold Coast in late January.

“I’ve had great support from Ben, who couldn’t be at the sale this year unfortunately, he put a lot of work into this sale,” Hancock said.

“The whole Magic Millions team is a pleasure to work with, they really help us along. They love Adelaide and support the sale.

“The interstate vendors who came here and supplement our catalogue have told me already that they’ll be back next year bigger and better. 

“The locals we’ll work with them and we’ll keep supporting them as best we can to make the catalogue a popular target for buyers to attend.”

Sale statistics
Sold306 (79%)339 (82%)
Aggregate$15,379,500 (-9%)$16,814,000
Average$50,260 (+1%)$49,599
Top Lot$400,000$230,000

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