Kiwi Chronicles

Jack a product of Muollo’s Explosive ‘factory’ 

You just knew it would happen. That’s because, sadly, it happens quite often.

A young stallion dies prematurely then soon after, one of his progeny wins big.

The New Zealand industry has lost a number of emerging stallions over the past few years, the sire of last Saturday’s Australian Derby (Gr 1, 2400m) winner, Explosive Jack (Jakkalberry), among them. Nature can be cruel sometimes. 

Dual Doncaster Handicap (Gr 1, 1600m) winner Sacred Falls (O’Reilly), had to be euthanized in December of 2019 after suffering liver disease. He only went to stud in 2015 and has just four crops to represent him.

Yet already he has produced the likes of his son, NZ Two Thousand Guineas (Gr 1, 1600m) winner Aegon, as well as his daughter, Icebath, who almost collected Saturday’s Doncaster Handicap, losing narrowly after looking the winner a stride from home. Her younger brother, Courier Wonder, a winner at Sha Tin on Sunday, is a star in the making in Hong Kong, according to his jockey Joao Moreira. The three-year-old is unbeaten in three starts and has broken 1:09 in each of his three 1200-metre races.

Early 2017, Haunui Farm lost Australian Guineas (Gr 1, 1600m) winner Ferlax (Pentire) before he even had a yearling to the sales. He covered just three books before sustaining a paddock accident. His first crop gave us joint New Zealand Bloodstock Filly of the Year Imelda Mary, winner of two of the race series, the Royal Stakes (Gr 2, 2000m) and the Sir Tristram Fillies Classic (Gr 2, 1600m).

Possibly the most high profile instance is the case of Dubai Millennium (Seeking The Gold) who, after a superb race career, died halfway through his first season at stud. That first crop of just 25 foals included the fabulous Dubawi, who took all before him on the track and is now one the most sought-after sires in the world.

And now Jakkalberry (Storming Home), who died after just four seasons, joins that unfortunate list, with his Explosive Jack scoring in the Australian Derby on Saturday, heading a New Zealand-bred trifecta with Young Werther (Tavistock) a short-head away in second and Lion’s Roar (Contributer) another head back in third.

Jakkalberry was the true definition of an international racehorse. He raced in seven different countries and performed admirably wherever he went, claiming a Group 1 victory in Italy, a Group 2 in the United Arab Emirates and a St Leger in Chicago, Illinois. In 29 starts from three to eight years he won 12 times, but his slashing third in the 2012 Melbourne Cup (Gr 1, 3200m) is the performance most Australians and New Zealanders will remember.

Explosive Jack represents his fourth and final crop and was purchased out of the 2019 Karaka Yearling Sale, Book 1. A November foal, he was bought by Peter Moody for $100,000.

The colt took his record to four wins and two placings in seven starts and possesses exactly the sort of form to take to a Caulfield Cup (Gr 1, 2400m). His strength suggests that 3200 metres is also well within his scope. If the Sydney Cup (Gr 1, 3200m) was delayed a week, the late, great Tommy Smith would probably line him up and give it a good shake.

His success is very much one that has the watermarks of Luigi Muollo’s Novara Park, who stood Jakkalberry at the conclusion of his globe-trotting career, and bred Explosive Jack, with the Derby winner’s granddam, Explosive (Exploding Prospect), serving as the foundation mare for Muollo, after her purchase for just $16,000 at the 2000 Karaka Yearling Sale by John Wheeler.

Kiwi Chronicles caught up with Muollo, who reflected on the rich source of winners the family has become.

“This whole Explosive family started when John Wheeler bought Explosive for me at Karaka and I raced her and then became my original foundation mare,” he said.

“She had more talent than her record suggests. One of her best performances was fifth in the New Zealand One Thousand Guineas.”

Explosive won three races, including at Hastings, and ran third in the same race that her daughter, Extra Explosive, won, the Castletown Stakes (Listed, 1200m).

She produced nine named foals, the best of which was stakes winner Extra Explosive (Ekraar), the dam of Explosive Jack, while the stakes-placed Explosive Dancer (San Luis) produced 2018 New Zealand Derby (Gr 1, 2400m) victor Vin De Dance (Roc de Cambes).

Explosive Jack is the second winner from his dam, her first is the Champion Griffin in Hong Kong, Pick Number One (Darci Brahma), while Jakkalberry has previously, and successfully, combined with another half-sister, Explosive Girl (San Luis), to produce Explosive Jack’s three-quarter-blood sister, Jakkalbomb, twice stakes placed including second in the Desert Gold Stakes (Gr 2, 1600m).

“It has become a bit of a factory but I have ten mares from this family now. Four weeks ago I bought Explosive Jack’s three-quarter-blood sister Jakkalbomb,” Muollo continued.

“Five of Explosive’s daughters have produced Group performers, including now two Derby winners. It’s really exciting knowing what’s coming through in the next couple of years. Since starting Novara I have worked at improving the quality of our broodmares.

“The family can produce winners over a range of distances, they’re not only stayers. Explosive Jack’s half-brother, Pick Number One, won five, all at 1200 metres in Hong Kong. 

“Explosively, a Sweynesse out of Ultra Explosive, pressed the top sprinter Need I Say More to a neck in the Almanzor Trophy at Ellerslie on Karaka Million night.

“It’s hard to tell how good he (Explosively) will be. I just sold him to Hong Kong as the money was too good to pass up.”

Extra Explosive’s sixth foal, a stunning colt by Time Test (Dubawi), was purchased for $65,000 at this year’s Karaka Book 1 Sale by trainer Johnno Benner. Her seventh foal is a filly by Novara Park’s newest stallion, Staphanos (Deep Impact), representing that stallion’s first crop.

“I keep the fillies and try to retain a racing share in some of the colts. I kept a share in (New Zealand Derby winner) Vin De Dance and have kept an interest in Explosive Jack’s half-brother by Time Test (Dubawi). 

“I thought he’d make much more at Karaka, but over the weekend I have had four calls from Australia asking if he is available,” said Muollo.

Like the majority of New Zealand breds, Explosive Jack was given plenty of time. It was November of his three-year-old season before he stepped out onto the racecourse. 

At Swan Hill over 1600 metres on debut he finished strongly for the win, ran fifth over 2100 metres the next month, then, in mid January, was tried successfully over 2400 metres at Kembla Grange. That performance was the green light to tackle the Tasmanian Derby (Listed, 2200m) for another easy win in early February.

Like his sire, Explosive Jack is simply one tough customer and embodies a comment made by leading trainer Mick Price when he visited Karaka a couple of years ago, saying: “When we come to New Zealand we know what we are buying. You just have to wait.”

Explosive Jack’s granddam, Explosive, is a sister to prolific winner The Red Express, who saluted the judge 18 times, five of them in stakes races including the Challenge Stakes (Gr 3, 1600m) at Riccarton.

His Great granddam, Tina’s Spirit (Beau Ghost), was bred in Australia but raced in New Zealand, winning twice. She ranks as a half-sister to the good sprinter Marquee Star (Kaoru Star) who took out the Shorts Handicap (Listed, 1100m) at Randwick, two further Listed races and 15 races in total.

Explosive Jack’s fifth dam is Miss Goldilocks (Landau), a Listed stakes producer, while his sixth dam is Smokey Jane (Smokey Eyes), winner of the Toorak Handicap (Gr 1, 1600m), herself the dam of three stakes winners.

The other Group 1 winner from this family is Canonise (Don’t Say Halo), winner of the 1991 Blue Diamond Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m), and a grandson of Miss Goldilocks.

From Riccarton to Randwick

Formerly trained at Riccarton, where she won twice in five outings, including the Canterbury Belle Stakes (Listed, 1200m) last October, Matchmaker (Makfi) made a successful jump to Randwick Group 3 level when hanging tough in the PJ Bell Stakes (1200m) on Saturday.

Now with Chris Waller, following a sale of a 50 per cent interest, the Makfi (Dubawi) filly showed great heart when pressured hard over the last 100 metres, her third success at start eight, but probably not her last.

Waller was impressed with the filly’s rise in class. “She’s from the South Island in New Zealand, she did a good job over there winning her first start and running in some nice races, picking up some black type,” he said.

“To come to the big stage here at Royal Randwick and to win on Doncaster day, it’s pretty special. The confidence she’ll take out of it is good and naturally you’d expect her to get out over a little bit further as well. So I think she’ll be a nice four-year-old.”

Her sire Makfi, the Two Thousand Guineas (Gr, 1, 1m) Champion three-year-old, who shuttled to Westbury Stud before his purchase for Japan, has an excellent record as the sire of quality fillies, including back-to-back New Zealand Fillies of the Year, Bonneval and Sofia Rosa.

Makfi’s son, Poule d’Essai des Poulains (Gr 1, 1600m) winner Make Believe, has made a super start to his stud career siring Mishriff, winner of the 2020 Prix du Jockey Club (Gr 1, 2100m), the Sheema Classic (Gr 1, 2410m) as well as the $20 million Saudi Cup (2000m) from his first crop.

Matchmaker’s dam, Love Somebody, is a Fastnet Rock (Danehill) daughter of the smart two-year-old stakes winner Dynamic Love (Brave Warrior), whose four wins as a juvenile (seven career wins) included the Sweet Embrace Stakes (Gr 2, 1200m) and at three, the Stan Fox Stakes (Gr 2, 1400m).

The dam of three winners from three to race, Love Somebody produced a colt by Zacinto (Dansili) in 2018, in 2019 a three-quarter brother to Matchmaker by Saville Row (Makfi) and in 2020 a colt by Inglewood Stud’s new boy War Decree (War Front). She was again covered by War Decree last spring.

Local Scene

A slippery Te Aroha track on Saturday, causing the abandonment of the last five races, meant that the New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (Gr 1, 1600m) has been rescheduled and will instead be held at Te Rapa on Saturday. 

The race was keenly anticipated, especially the clash between Avantage (Fastnet Rock) and Levante (Proisir). Happily, for racegoers and the breeding industry, the race will go ahead and should be a first-class contest.

Therefore, on Saturday, all eyes were turned towards Riccarton where two Listed 1600-metre races were held. One was a cake-walk while the other was a thriller, with little separating the first three home.

The performance by Atishu (Savabeel) in the NZB Airfreight Stakes (Listed, 1600m) was outstanding. She never settled at all during the first 1000 metres and tossed her head around several times while giving the leaders quite a start. 

When she was allowed to get into her stride upon straightening, she reeled in the leaders in a few bounds then powered clear to win easily by seven lengths. 

Her acceleration was electric and connections are now contemplating a Brisbane campaign versus a spell. 

“I had her ready to go for the Warstep in a fortnight,” said trainer Stephen Marsh, “but the way she has won today, we might have to have a look at Brisbane for the Oaks (Gr 1, 2200m) there instead. It’s something that I will need to speak with her owners about, but when she is absolutely flying, you’d be mad not to have a crack.”

In that form, her third successive win, why not? From a twice-winning sister to Australian Oaks (Gr 1, 2400m) winner and triple Group 1 champion Daffodil (No Excuse Needed), Atishu has real talent and yet still has a lot to learn. Watch this space.

The Great Easter Cup (Listed, 1600m) was a complete contrast to the fillies’ race and could have gone any one of three different ways, but a clever, ground-saving ride by Wiremu Pinn was the difference, resulting in a gritty win by Whale Song (Ocean Park).

“He’s been knocking on the door all season and we thought he had a nice race in him,” said co-trainer Matthew Pitman.

Whale Song is one of three winners from three to race from his unraced dam Nadel Dame (Pins), a half-sister to the 2005 Singapore Horse of the Year, Currency (Spinning World) who won ten times there including four stakes races.

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