“Gunga” Dinn hangs up his saddle
Former top Victorian jockey Craig “Gunga” Dinn has officially hung up the saddle. An institution at Flemington for four decades, Dinn has been riding trackwork for Godolphin’s Carbine Lodge for the past five years but he called time on his career last Saturday.
Dinn, 58, pulled up stumps after galloping Legio Ten (Exosphere), a three-year-old Godolphin gelding who has won his past two starts, at Headquarters seven days ago.
The three-time Group 1-winning jockey – he won the 1992 South Australian Oaks (2400m) on Ramyah (Raami) and the VRC Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m) twice, on Simbolico (Lord Seymour) in 1986 and Rechabite (Noalcoholic) in 1989, when it was a Group 1 race – was apprenticed to Tommy Hughes Snr after moving from the Gold Coast to Melbourne as a 16-year-old.
“I doubt there has been anyone who has been around that track more than Craig. Given that, the amazing thing is, in 40 years of riding work at Flemington, he never broke a bone in his time in the saddle,” said Dinn’s close friend Mark Dodemaide who was on hand at Flemington last Saturday for the occasion.
“He had his fair share of race falls but always bounced and didn’t suffer any breaks.”
As an apprentice, Dinn finished second twice on the Victorian jockeys’ premiership to close friend Darren Gauci.
Dodemaide added: “The alarm will not go off at 3.30am anymore, but Craig will not be lost to the racing industry, being smart enough to give himself another skill in making horse rugs and racing gear at Sophie Clark Saddlery.”
John Didham, the former jockey who was dubbed the King Of Macau, was also at Flemington on Saturday to help toast the riding career of Gunga Dinn.
The regular New Zealand barrier trial sessions attract more interest and attention than many of the country’s race meetings, such is the demand for promising young horses from buyers in Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore.
Colts and geldings were the bread and butter for the Kiwis, whose viability largely depends on the export markets, where asking prices for a promising trialler can be anywhere from $200,000 to $500,000-plus.
Fillies, too, have become a valuable commodity, particularly for the Australian buyers who know they are not up against the agents acting for Hong Kong-based owners.
It was a market dynamic Baystone Farm’s Dean Harvey chose to try and exploit when he sent a client’s filly by Written Tycoon to be prepped up by Tony Pike at Cambridge Stud,
Certainlycan, who was a $250,000 Magic Millions weanling, won three trials in New Zealand before being switched to the Brisbane stable of Tony Gollan.
She ran third in last Saturday’s Bill Carter Stakes (Listed, 1200m) at Doomben and was sold for $350,000 to Raheen Stud on Tuesday.
“At the time, there were a lot of fillies being sold out of trials and races over there, so we thought it was a good opportunity to do that, so that’s why she went there,” Harvey said of Certainlycan’s New Zealand stint.
“The timing of the sales and the race that was on for the fillies, we thought it was a good opportunity to put her in there.
“There was a little bit of interest beforehand [for a private deal], but nothing solid, so that was another reason we sold her over here (at the Gold Coast).”
Juddmonte’s Frankel has provided breeders bold enough to purchase mares in the US and Europe and get them in foal to southern hemisphere time with a big return on investment.
At this week’s mares’ sale on the Gold Coast, eight mares in foal to Frankel averaged $815,625 while 12 months earlier ten were sold at an average of $880,000. Colts by the sire sold for $925,000 and $725,000 at last week’s weanling sale.
In 2021, Cornerstone Stud’s Sam Pritchard-Gordon hatched the plan to breed mares to Frankel and bring them to the rich soils of the Barossa Valley to foal down.
A colt out of Upside (Muhaarar) by Frankel topped the National Weanling Sale last week, with Yulong outlasting underbidder Henry Field of Newgate Farm.
Pritchard-Gordon saw the result – the biggest in Cornerstone Stud’s history – as the market’s recognition of the South Australian farm’s capability to raise quality horses.
“We are very, very proud of the country that we raised that horse on. It’s seen 100 years of raising top-quality horses,” Pritchard-Gordon said.
“We’ve got probably the smallest broodmare population of any state, and just to think that we continually compete in the top races [proves the quality of the country].
“With our change of direction, moving away from stallions and focusing on top-end broodmares, it’s going to hopefully endorse our future vision as a business.”
Yulong’s $10 million mare Alcohol Free (No Nay Never), slated as an Everest horse when Zhang Yuesheng made a splash at the 2022 Tattersalls December Mares Sale is back in work.
The four-time Group 1 winner, who took out the July Cup (Gr 1, 6f) at Newmarket and ran third to superstar Baaeed in the Sussex Stakes (Gr 1, 1m) at her final European start last July, raced just once in the Australian autumn under the care of Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott, finishing unplaced in the Queen Of The Turf Stakes (Gr 1, 1600m).
Zhang owns a slot in the $15 million The Everest but Sam Fairgray suggested yesterday that a Cox Plate was more likely than Sydney’s signature race for the five-year-old mare.
“She had a nice little spell and she’s started to do a bit of light work with the pre-trainer. We will see how she comes up before determining what direction to go with her,” Yulong’s chief operating officer said.
“We’ve got The Everest slot there, but Gai’s thinking she might need a mile and even possibly a Cox Plate.”
Toby Liston credited Paul Willetts with helping turn the fortunes of his family’s Three Bridges Thoroughbreds around when they linked with the Kiwi agent a few years ago.
On Wednesday Liston celebrated his biggest sale success, selling Zenaida, the dam of Sunshine In Paris, to Yulong for $1.4 million. Willetts had purchased Zenaida for $240,000 two years ago.
“We were good at raising horses, but we just weren’t good at selecting the horses, we identified that years ago, and now Paul’s a great friend,” Liston said.
“We don’t have a lot of money, so we have to be sharp and smart with what we buy – he’ll be happy with me saying that,” Liston said.
“He gets a thrill out of buying a cheap horse that is successful.”
We asked Willetts last week about what he looks for in a weanling. Sometimes it can’t easily be explained. Some people can see things about horses that most others can’t.
“You see a horse and you say, ‘it’s got that X-factor’ but it is very hard to describe what that X-factor is,” Willetts told us.
“It’s the athleticism and the attitude and all those sorts of things that you like to see when they are yearlings and hopefully then the horse will keep progressing and growing the way you want it to.
“Once you are a good walker, you’re always a good walker and once you’re a bad walker, I don’t think you can actually improve them to become a good walker. It is that athleticism they have.
“It’s like young kids. Some kids are athletic looking and become good sportspeople and some just aren’t.”