Making the case
Although ambitious, the plan for Ladies Man (Zed) – convincing winner of the Livamol Classic (Gr 1, 2040m) at Hastings on Saturday – to head to the Melbourne Cup (Gr 1, 3200m), has plenty of merit.
The bookmakers might not agree but the six-year-old’s path has been plotted expertly by Allan Sharrock, a master at pulling off ambitious plans.
Let’s go back to 2018. Sharrock set Kawi (Savabeel), a noted 1400-1600 metre performer, and a Group 1 winner over 2000 metres, for the Telegraph Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m) which is usually run at a hectic pace on an almost straight Trentham runway, setting up sub 1:08 times. The speed is on from the jump and doesn’t let up.
Sharrock was not phased. Kawi, then a seven-year-old, had won over 1600 metres in the Captain Cook Stakes (Gr 1, 1600m) at the same venue six weeks prior. Sharrock freshened him, gave him trial and applied blinkers to keep the old boy focused.
“I think he can (win) because the Telegraph races more like a 1400-metre race,” said the trainer. Ultimately, he did not win but it was a magnificent training effort. Kawi, whose super finishing sprint for second was the feature of the race, sat equal last at the top of the straight. He weaved between runners before finding a clear lane then charged hard after the leader and was in front two strides past the post.
He ran his last 600 metres in 32.33 seconds and was just a short neck from the winner, Enzo’s Lad (Testa Rossa), who not only enjoyed a much more economical run during the race but was also in receipt of 3.5 kilograms as Kawi lumped 59 kilograms.
Sharrock knows how to set his runners for the chocolates and with Ladies Man had the Livamol in his sights for some time. The gelding might have more to deliver. Maybe a bouquet?
In Saturday’s feature, he settled just back of midfield with a circuit to run but lost a little ground down the back straight and past the 1200 metres. Ryan Eliot pushed him forward from the 800-metre mark to share fifth (three deep) from the 600, but was five deep (fourth) at the top of the straight. He kept gaining to share the lead at the 200 metres, took over at the 100 and had too big a break to hold off a fast late challenge.
The 3200 metres of the Melbourne Cup (Gr 1) will not be an issue. In two attempts at the distance Ladies Man can boast a third in last season’s Auckland Cup (Gr 2, 3200m) to Platinum Invador (Redwood) who, coincidentally, flashed home for second in the Livamol. Two starts prior to that, on a Heavy 10 Trentham track he was fourth in the Wellington Cup (Gr 3, 3200m).
For a six-year-old, he has not been over-raced. Saturday’s success was his seventh in just 22 starts which also includes ten placings. Post-race, Sharrock commented that the gelding was only now fully maturing. “He’s grown into a man, and he’ll probably be better again next year.”
“I guess we’ve got to go [to the Melbourne Cup] now,” said Sharrock. “He’ll probably have just the one more run before the Cup.” That may be the Lexus Archer Stakes (Gr 3, 2500m) set for Derby Day, Saturday November 5, although the Ladies Man camp have some ducks to align this week before finalising plans.
Prior to Saturday his previous best winning performance was the Trentham Stakes (Gr 3, 2100m) back in January of this year. Having worked his way through the grades, Sharrock has set him for six black-type races resulting in two wins, a second, two thirds and a fourth. We might all pay attention.
What about the theory?
On the theoretical side, Ladies Man has more than his form as a basis for believing in his Melbourne Cup chances.
First is his sire Zed (Zabeel) who already has a Melbourne Cup winner to his credit. Verry Elleegant (Zed) bolted away with the 2021 running, the win of the year by any New Zealand-bred runner in 2021-22.
The Zed propensity for siring stayers does not end with Verry Elleegant. His Waisake (also trained by Sharrock) won a Wellington Cup, Jimmy Mac a New Zealand Cup (Gr 3, 3200m) and Jacksstar took out Trentham’s Chalmers Handicap (3200m). Jacksstar also recorded a second in the Wellington Cup and a third in the Auckland Cup, while Tigertiger ran second in the Adelaide Cup (Gr 2, 3200m).
Zed is getting on and without ideal opportunities has sired 17 stakes winners. Grangewilliam Stud in Waitotara, where Ladies Man was bred and sold, also reared Verry Elleegant. Doreimus (Norman Pentaquod) is another Melbourne Cup winner (1995) reared on the farm. Nearby, Waverley was similarly responsible for 1983 Melbourne Cup hero Kiwi (Blarney Kiss).
Still not convinced? Ladies Man’s half-sister is Ladies First (Dylan Thomas), winner of the 2018 Auckland Cup, one of her nine wins which also included two Listed wins. Ladies Man’s trainer? Yes, that man Allan Sharrock.
Kiwi Chronicles caught up with Grangewilliam Stud’s Mark Corcoran who explained: “Allan really is a master and knows how to set his horses for the big races. Ladies Man was a fantastic foal and turned into a very nice yearling. My only disappointment was that he didn’t make Book 1. On type he deserved to be. When Allan saw him at our parade, he was keen.”
“We have Ladies Man’s half-sister, Ladies First, who was also trained by Allan. She is here at the farm and her 2022 foal, a filly, is therefore a three-quarter to Ladies Man,” Corcoran added.
Apart from producing two half-million–dollar earners, dam, Just Polite (Dehere) was more than capable on the track herself, scoring eight times including at Group 3 level in Sydney and also running third in the Hill Stakes (Gr 2, 1900m).
Until Ladies Man and Ladies First, Just Polite is the best performed from this line in the southern hemisphere since her dam, Polly’s Pocket (Pirate’s Bounty), was exported from USA to Australia in 1998.
Just Polite’s half-sister, Savsbelle (Savabeel) managed a third in the VRC Oaks (Gr 1, 2500m) as a maiden and remained a maiden. Another half-sister is Spiriting (Montjeu), who is the dam of Bendigo Cup (Gr 3, 2400m) winner and Adelaide Cup second, Top Of The Range (Savabeel).
Both sides of Ladies Man’s pedigree suggest a staying bent and against the northern hemisphere Melbourne Cup favourites Vauban (Galiway), Gold Trip (Outstrip) and Soulcombe (Frankel), is at tasty odds, currently in the 50 to 1 range, having shortened from 80 to 1 since Saturday.
Another Kiwi-bred with high Australian goals is Raf Attack (Satono Aladdin) who lasted just long enough to land the Gloaming Stakes (Gr 3, 1800m) at Randwick.
Typical of the Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott stable, he bowled along comfortably in the lead past the 1000 metres and onto the straight, but was challenged upon straightening. He fought off that challenge inside the 300, put a length on them near the 100 metres, then held on from a fast–finishing Tom Kitten (Harry Angel).
The Gloaming Stakes was the colt’s fifth start. He broke his maiden at Randwick’s Kensington track on August 2nd and was immediately tried in Group class to run sixth in the Ming Dynasty Quality (Gr 3, 1400m), then three weeks later finished a fair fourth in the Dulcify Stakes (Listed, 1600m). Clearly, he is rated highly by the stable and is slated to next show up in the Spring Champion Stakes (Gr 1, 2000m) and will, no doubt, use the same tactics.
Raf Attack represents the second crop of Rich Hill Stud’s Satono Aladdin (Deep Impact) and is helping secure a solid career for the stallion, whose first crop includes dual Oaks winner Pennyweka and whose second crop includes the exciting threesome of Tokyo Tycoon, Lupo Solitario and Lantern Way.
Between Japan and New Zealand he has sired 106 winners from 209 runners (50%). Due to the global pandemic, he did not shuttle to New Zealand in 2020 so there are no 2021 foals but next January, his 2022 southern hemisphere crop are certain to be in great demand.
When a yearling colt attracts the attention of Chris Rutten it is a good bet that he is well above average. That seems to be the case with Raf Attack, who was purchased in conjunction with his trainers for $150,000 at the delayed March 2022 NZB Karaka Yearling Sale.
He is the third foal yet sole winner from his dam, the unplaced Commands (Danehill) mare Sima whose half-brothers, Solemn (Bernadini) and Brave Mead (Brave Smash) won at Listed level in Melbourne.
His grandam, Mead (Galileo), won in Sydney and is a half-sister to Australasian Oaks (Gr 1, 2000m) winner, La Volta (Laranto). Mighty Boss (Not A Single Doubt), the 2017 Caulfield Guineas (Gr 1, 1600m) victor, is from La Volta’s daughter Bullion Mansion (Encosta De Lago). Group 2–winning brothers Catch A Fire (Sebring) and Seaburge (Sebring) are from La Volta’s daughter Polska (Encosta De Lago).
Dam, Sima, arrived in New Zealand in 2018, but her family is all-Australian although a distant relative, Fine Decision (Averof), a half-sister to Raf Attack’s third dam, Vegahoney (Todvega), is the dam of Captain Cook Stakes (Gr 1, 1600m) winner Rodin (Masterpiece).
Our Alley Cat (Atlante) did run a smart time, 1:21.95 for the Spring Sprint (Gr 3, 1400m) but in this case, she was about due. The now seven-year-old has knocked at the door at least five times and has run into some tough opponents in her time.
Things finally went her way on Saturday as she was first away, co-led at the 1200-metre mark then eased to third at the 1000 metres. At the 600 she improved and only had the pacemaker to catch starting the run home. Levelling up at the 250 metres, she took over soon after and ran to the line for a comfortable win, her career seventh but most importantly her maiden stakes success.
In addition to her seven wins Our Alley Cat can claim five first rate Group placings including second to Imperatriz (I Am Invincible) in the Westbury Classic (Gr 2, 1400m) and second to Levante (Proisir) in the same race a year prior. She was also third in the 2023 version of the New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (Gr 1, 1600m), behind Belclare (Per Incanto) and Skew Wiff (Savabeel).
Investing in this family has required a good deal of patience if seeking black-type. Her dam, Cat Woman (Scaredee Cat) won five and was stakes placed but to find the next stakes winner means going all the way back to 1974 and Arama (Oncidium), winner of the John F Feehan Stakes (Gr 2, 1600m).
Beyond that you need to go even further back to Arama’s half-sister Kettle (Sabaean), Our Alley Cat’s fifth dam, who scored two Listed races in Adelaide during the mid 1960s.
The family screams Te Parae who stood Kettle’s sire Sabaean (Blue Peter) and Arama’s sire Oncidium (Alcide). Our Alley Cat’s fourth dam, Dossinia, also by Oncidium, is a three-quarter sister to Arama. She won twice at Flemington.
This is the “Fireside” family, Bruce Lowe number 27, that gave us the 1948 Auckland Cup winner, Frances (Bulandshar).