It's In The Blood


He once was a colt whose roguish ways meant he could never be the favoured sibling.

But since the call was made to help him do justice to his newly illustrious family by relieving him of a pair of assets, everyone’s just wild about “Harry”.

He’s Fireburn’s (Rebel Dane) little half-brother, his real name is Kintyre (Hallowed Crown), and at Rosehill on Saturday he beat a classy field of three-year-olds to hint he could be going places, possibly following his famous big sister, and Gary Portelli-trained stablemate, into stakes-winning grade.

If he does – and he’ll likely have at least three chances this campaign culminating in the Spring Champion Stakes (Gr 1, 2000m) – it would provide a major boost for his sire Hallowed Crown (Street Sense).

It would also continue the remarkable breeding story of his dam Mull Over, a daughter of burgeoning broodmare sire So You Think (High Chaparral), bought for just $22,000 by Louis Mihalyka and his Laurel Oak Bloodstock operation in 2018, and who last year showed fighting qualities of her own through two near fatal brushes with colic.

Kintyre’s a well-bred galloper, with an intricately-planned pedigree. It’s highlighted by a dual-female duplication of Danehill (Danzig) at 3 x 4, and a gender-balanced doubling of the influential French mare Lady Giselle (Nureyev) at 4f x 4m, through Hallowed Crown’s second dam and Mull Over’s famed damsire Zabeel (Sir Tristram).

But at the time of conception, the pedigree looked a lot plainer than it does now.

“We had no thoughts of selling him as a yearling,” Mihalyka tells It’s In The Blood, “because at that point Fireburn hadn’t been invented yet.”

At that stage of yearling selections, in late 2021, Hallowed Crown was in his second spring at his second home. And Mull Over was an eight-year-old mare who won once at Newcastle and had a filly on the ground only by Rebel Dane (California Dane), a sire so unfashionable he wasn’t taken by a stud until he was eight, and who’d covered all of 14 mares the season before at $5,000 a pop.

“We didn’t think there’d be much hope of a Hallowed Crown out of Mull Over making a major commercial sale at the time, so we had to keep the colt,” Mihalyka says.

Depending on your side of the fence, fortunes can swing with delicious or agonising timing.

Hallowed Crown had been moved on from Darley to Twin Hills Stud the year before, a couple of weeks before Godolphin’s Colette won him his first black type in the Adrian Knox Stakes (Gr 3, 2000m), then next start adding the Australian Oaks (Gr 1, 2400m) as the first of her two Group 1s. Colette is set to drop her royally-bred first foal, by the way, having gone to England and back to be covered by the great Darley sire, Dubawi (Dubai Millennium).

Fireburn, a fairly plain-looking thing who was slow off the mark, wouldn’t have her first two (very ordinary) barrier trials until that November, in 2021. She finally debuted that December with a fourth of six – but then she exploded.

She scored two Sydney city wins, was briefly put away, then re-emerged to take the Sweet Embrace Stakes (Gr 2, 1200m), the Golden Slipper (Gr 1, 1200m) and ATC Sires’ Produce Stakes (Gr 1, 1400m), before coming within a long neck of the two-year-old Triple Crown in She’s Extreme’s (Extreme Choice) Champagne Stakes (Gr 1, 1600m).

Kintyre would have reaped a handsome return had he been entered for the Inglis Easter Yearling sale the week after big sister’s Sires Produce. As it was, he was left in the hands of Laurel Oak, including several of the owners of Fireburn (and Rebel Dane), who’d bred him, along with a new addition to his connections in the form of Kerrie Tibbey of the Hunter Valley’s Goodwood Farm.

Promising trackwork spurred hopes for some familial echoes when Kintyre took his first paces in the spring of 2022, but the picture emerged differently.

He made it into the first official juvenile trials of the season at Randwick in September, but blew the start hopelessly before making ground for a distant third. He lacked early speed again when running another third in his second trial.

He still debuted in the Kirkham Plate (1000m) – on Spring Champion Stakes day – and struggled into ninth. Portelli still tried him in the $1 million Golden Gift (1100m) second-up, yet he managed only tenth.

He was sent for a spell with the hope he might mature a bit, and grow out of the main trait that was holding him back.

“He was mad as a cut snake,” Mihalyka says. “He’d shown talent from the time he started working, and we had high hopes, but he was one of those classic worst-case colt scenarios you could imagine.

“At his first trial he was squealing and carrying on and missed the start by panels. He turned in good late sectionals to show there was someone home, but then those two spring starts were really bad.

“The owners had a vote on gelding him and it was a split decision, so we persevered for one more campaign.”

Portelli reflects that unlike his impeccably behaved, if trackwork-shy, sister, Kintyre was one of his more challenging runners.

“He just had his head elsewhere, especially if there were fillies around,” Portelli says. “Even just leading him onto the track was a two-man job.”

Kintyre’s autumn campaign at least had a bright spot – a 1300-metre maiden win at Newcastle – but after a poor fifth in the Fernhill Stakes (Listed, 1600m), and a seventh of ten in the Champagne Stakes, it was time for the ultimate gear change.

“He was a bit better behaved, but it was clear he’d have no commercial value as a stallion,” Mihalyka says. “The only way he could make up the time on those more advanced two-year-olds was by gelding him.”

There was another call made amongst the same connections seven years earlier which went the other way. Rebel Dane’s owners, who again include his breeder Laurel Oak, now have Portelli to thank for that.

“People say trainers always geld horses, but when Rebel Dane was about six and no-one wanted to buy him as a stallion, I asked Gary if we should geld him, to give him some longevity in racing, because he was starting to get a bit quirky as a stallion,” Mihalyka says. “And Gary said, ‘No, I think he’s so comfortable in his skin and with being himself; that gelding him might be the ruination of him’.”

Rebel Dane would go on to win his second Group 1 – the Manikato Stakes (1200m) – at seven, before going to stud in Victoria. He produced Fireburn and Group 3winner Subterranean from very limited opportunities, siring 102 live foals across five seasons when his service fee averaged $8,560. After Fireburn’s success, however, his transfer to Widden Stud in the Hunter Valley last spring brought him 111 mares at $27,500.

The jury is also in over the opposite decision on Kintyre. He resumed with a second at Newcastle before Saturday’s powerful long-neck victory in the Inglis Pink Bonus Handicap (1300m). He’s now a $26 shot for the Spring Champion Stakes (Gr 1, 2000m), where he may try to emulate last winter’s Group 2 success over the same trip for Fireburn, who evidenced Mull Over’s staying blood with her fourth in the ATC Oaks.

“He’s still got the odd quirk, but he’s a lot more professional now and easier to handle,” says Mihalyka of Kintyre, whose creation came about, ironically, when Rebel Dane’s own owners were among those who didn’t support him.

“Even though Mull Over was bought especially to go to Rebel Dane, after his second season at stud we found we were all accumulating quite a number of Rebel Danes. So, we didn’t send Mull Over to him in his third year, and none of his other owners sent their mares to him either. That was a bit unfortunate, because that season Rebel Dane ended up with only seven live foals.”

Hallowed Crown had only had his first season of runners, with 13 of them yielding four winners, but the mating made sense, especially at $11,000.

“Because Mull Over wasn’t considered commercial then, we wanted to do a mating we thought was a bit clever, like Fireburn’s,” Mihalyka says. “With Hallowed Crown, there’d be the in-breeding to Danehill, and to his tail female line through Lady Giselle.”

First imported from France to New Zealand, in 1986 Lady Giselle threw Australian Guineas (Gr 1, 1600m) winner and subsequent super sire Zabeel, before crossing the Tasman to throw Baryshnikov (Kenmare), who’s matching Australian Guineas triumph helped win her the Australian broodmare of the year title in 1995.

Thanks to Lady Giselle being by Nureyev (Northern Dancer), Kintyre also boasts a 6m x 6f, 6m triplication of that stallion’s influential dam, Special (Forli). Echoing the pedigree of Fireburn, there’s also lashings of the great Natalma (Native Dancer). She’s there 10 times, as she is with Fireburn, who also has a double Danehill that’s not of the less-fancied dual male variety, being gender-balanced.

Mull Over brings a quality female line, which helped convince Mihalyka to buy her after word injuries had compromised her talents, restricting her to 11 starts. Her dam, Zahani (Zabeel), had only five starts but threw a dual Listed winner in Galizani (Galileo). And Zahani’s dam Danarani (Danehill) won the Flight Stakes (Gr 1, 1600m) in 1994 plus two other stakes races.

Danarani’s granddam – Kintyre’s fifth – was American mare Shake A Leg (Raise A Native), dam of stallion Danzatore (Northern Dancer), a triple stakes winner in Ireland who sired three Group 1 winners amid 27 stakes-winners, in New Zealand and later the US.

Kintyre seems well poised to add more black type to his strong family, which would also extend the lengthy tale of success for the combination of Portelli and Mihalyka, who began his breeding journey by buying Rebel Dane’s third dam Georgian Gold (Blue And Gold) at Dubbo for $5,000.

Laurel Oak’s founder is as much a fan of wordplay as of pedigrees, seen not only in naming Mull Over’s first son Kintyre, but also hatching his nickname – Harold – in church of all places.

“I was in church last Easter and my mind drifted off to this website I’d seen with things people misheard in church,” Mihalyka says. “And there was a boy who thought God’s name was Harold – from the Lord’s Prayer: ‘Harold be thy name’. I thought – Kintyre, Hallowed Crown, and from then on myself and his other owners have all called him Harold.”

His behaviour seemingly corrected, Kintyre’s meeting with the surgeon might have been a divine intervention.

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