It's In The Blood

Lady Laguna

If it was good enough for I Am Invincible (Invincible Spirit), it should be good enough for one of his sons. 

That in part informed Spendthrift Farm’s thinking in retiring Overshare (I Am Invincible), who they’d owned from a yearling, to stud in 2018. 

So far the results have been encouraging. If you call 100 per cent encouraging. It’s better than Bradman’s average, although we should probably point out Overshare has had only one offspring to race. 

That, in all her glory, is Lady Laguna. Not only did the Annabel Neasham-trained filly become the first pre-Christmas two-year-old winner in the history of OTI Racing, she’s done it twice, by following a successful Eagle Farm debut with Saturday’s four-length romp over 1100 metres at Rosehill. Her $103,000 is now almost enough to ensure a Golden Slipper start, and she’s now among the top ten chances in the market. If she could win that, she’d emulate She Will Reign (Manhattan Rain), in that she cost only $20,000 when bought out of a Spendthrift paddock by Terry Henderson. 

While she’s broken new ground for Henderson’s OTI, there’s a lot of the reminiscent in Lady Laguna’s sireline, when you compare Overshare with his famous dad. 

I Am Invincible raced 13 times for five wins, including at Group 3 and Listed level, claiming $270,000 in prize-money.  

Overshare had 12 starts for three wins, including at Group 3 and Listed level, and won $252,000. 

Both went through the Team Hawkes stable – albeit for only two starts in I Am Invincible’s case, whereas Overshare was with them throughout after Spendthrift bought him as a $320,000 yearling at Inglis Easter, 2016. 

And both kicked off their stud careers with an $11,000 service fee. Overshare remains on that mark, having just stood his fourth season. I Am Invincible’s fee is, of course, a little more these days. Twenty times more, at $220,000, off a peak of $247,500 two years ago. 

Spendthrift could have prolonged Overshare’s track career in quest of a Group 1. But then again, I Am Invincible never won one, his sole attempt a second in Takeover Target’s 2009 Goodwood. In another father-son echo, Morphettville’s marquee event was also Overshare’s only Group 1 start, when 11th in Santa Ana Lane’s 2018 edition, his last start before retiring to Victoria’s Macedon Ranges. 

“We worked off the theory that I Am Invincible retired with a similar race record,” Spendthrift general manager Garry Cuddy tells It’s In The Blood. “He retired at $11,000 and stood at that for his first four years, and we’ve done exactly the same with Overshare. 

“With a bit of luck, I’d be happy to stand him for half as much as Vinny got to.” 

Cuddy says the similarities are also physical. 

“He’s big and strong, typical of I Am Invincible. He’s probably as close to his dad as I’ve seen,” he says. “He’s cool, calm and collected, and he’s got a fantastic attitude. He’s had it since the day he’s retired, and breeding mares hasn’t changed him.” 

Overshare might sit third on the first season sire table, but with just 12 named offspring perhaps a better guide to his early stud career has been his books of mares: from 80, to 150, 140 and 120-plus this term. 

“That was a pretty extraordinary first jump. You’d normally see a backing off in season two, so it was testament to the kinds of foals that were coming out,” Cuddy says. 

“Breeders have got behind him in the first four years. I guess they’re liking what they’re seeing in their paddocks, otherwise you wouldn’t breed to a horse you didn’t believe in, in those second, third and fourth years. So there’s something sitting out there that people like and now we’re lucky enough to see the start of that on the racetrack.” 

Cuddy also credits Spendthrift’s innovative breeding incentive schemes, devised by the operation’s US founder, the late B Wayne Hughes. 

Overshare stood under the Share the Upside programme in which breeders sending mares to first-season Spendthrift sires can pay a small premium for a lifetime breeding right to the stallion. Since season two he’s been a part of Breed Secure, in which the service fee is deducted once a breeder sells the resultant yearling. 

As for his exciting first runner, Lady Laguna’s existence was planned from the beginning. Spendthrift paid $230,000 for her dam, Catalina De Lago (Encosta De Lago), at the 2018 National Broodmare Sale. She’d won three from 24 in New Zealand, in restricted class only, but was also in foal to More Than Ready (Southern Halo). 

The foal has become an undersized and as-yet unraced filly, but things clicked with Catalina De Lago’s second mating, which yielded Lady Laguna. 

“We basically bought the mare for Overshare,” Cuddy says, highlighting a Fab Four which made it all so compelling: I Am Invincible, Redoute’s Choice (Overshare’s damsire); plus Encosta De Lago and Zabeel, the sire and damsire of Catalina De Lago. 

“That’s four pretty serious sirelines to have in your first three generations. We thought it’d be a pretty nice cross.” 

Still, Lady Laguna’s pedigree isn’t exactly a river of gold, but there are nuggets to be found. 

Catalina De Lago’s dam Katie O’Neill (Zabeel) threw Edward Manifold Stakes (Gr 2, 1600m) winner She Will Be Loved (Strategic), while another daughter, Red Queen (Redoute’s Choice), threw Luke’s Luck (Show A Heart), winner of Perth two-year-old highlights in the Karrakatta Plate (Gr 2, 1200m) and Sires’ Produce (Gr 3, 1400m). 

Cuddy says Spendthrift’s interest was also piqued by the fact Catalina De Lago’s granddam was Polly Soleil (Roi Soleil), the fourth dam of another of their racehorses-turned-sires, the Group 3 winner and Group 1-placed Swear (Redoute’s Choice).  

With the future Lady Laguna on the ground, Henderson paid a visit to Spendthrift, contemplating the half-dozen or so yearlings OTI buys per year. 

“We’d had a bit of luck with Spendthrift the previous year, with a filly by Swear we’d bought out of the paddock,” Henderson says. 

Well, it was a bit of bad luck at first. While maturing at Spendthrift post-sale, the filly collided with a post and ended up with, as descriptively as Henderson can manage, “a dent in her head”. 

Spendthrift offered an honourable retreat. OTI didn’t just stay strong, they embraced the new look. They gave the filly a name coincidentally also borne by what Henderson knows as a “lovely little seaside resort” near Geelong, from which you can watch the boats being tossed about on Port Phillip Bay. It’s called Indented Head. 

Trained by Phillip Stokes, Indented Head the filly has a country placing from two starts and it’s hoped she’ll go to Adelaide to pursue black type. Indented Head the village is staying put. 

The waters have been smoother with Lady Laguna. 

“Usually, we just see them walked up,” Henderson says. “But last year we were lucky to be out in the middle of a paddock, so they let them go and we saw them run freely. 

“You need to watch a horse and see how it moves. Then pedigree, then vet check.  

“If I like a horse, I’ll buy the horse. The pedigree wouldn’t sway me. All the pedigree does is help me decide a trainer. A precocious type might go to a trainer I think can get a two-year-old winner, whereas a stayer might go to a different trainer. 

“In any case, Lady Laguna was a good mover, so I bought her.” 

The filly also stuck in the back of Henderson’s mind for what was on the front of her face: two separate splashes of white, at top and bottom. 

“I vividly recalled her when I saw her a few months later because of the unusual markings,” says Henderson, also wholly satisfied with his choice of Neasham. 

“I’m very impressed with the younger trainers’ approach to bringing two-year-olds through, with shorter preparations and shorter spells, which seems more logical. 

“Historically in Australia you’d break a horse in, give it six weeks off, bring it in again for a while then give it another eight weeks off. But what we’re seeing with Annabel, Matt Cumani, Ciaron Maher … these horses come in for three weeks, out for three, then back in for three. The horse is not being over-taxed during the preparation, but is also not forgetting what it’s learnt.” 

Spendthrift will offer two Overshare colts at the Gold Coast in January and a third at Inglis Classic. 

Trevor Marshallsea is the best-selling author of books on Makybe Diva, Winx, and Peter Moody