It's In The Blood


A low-priced mare put to a cheap, untried foreign stallion to yield an inexpensive yearling, has not only led to a Group 2 winner and a broodmare buying coup for Newhaven Park but also brought some pedigree intricacy to warm the breeding purist’s heart.

Mariamia (Toronado) was purchased by Newhaven when moved on as a seasoned five-year-old in last year’s Inglis Digital March Sale. She’d been bought as a yearling for just $18,000 at Melbourne Premier in 2018, after her unplaced dam Quinta Lago (Encosta de Lago) had been offloaded in a Swettenham Stud draft two years earlier, for just $15,000.

Newhaven’s substantial outlay – $335,000 – could be said to be in keeping with some prices of the time, coming a month after those dizzying figures at the Magic Millions yearling sale, amid price tags reflecting racing and breeding’s Covid boom.

Mariamia’s only black type had come two runs previously – when third in Caulfield’s Bellmaine Stakes (Gr 3, 1200m), just a neck behind the outstanding Probabeel (Savabeel). The placing came at the end of her first 28 starts with Pakenham trainer Shane Stockdale, which yielded four wins, three in city class.

Newhaven’s John Kelly, and his brother and pedigrees’ chinwag partner Charles, had reckoned Toronado (Teofilo) mares would be a good match for their sire Xtravagant (Pentire).

Switching her to astute Warwick Farm trainer Joe Pride, they went seeking that crucial stake win before the start of last year’s breeding season. But after winning a Rosehill benchmark 78 in her second start for Pride, she recorded two successive frustrating fourths in an Eagle Farm Group 2 and a Randwick Listed, before a third in another Caulfield Group 3, the Bletchingly Stakes (Gr 3, 1200m) on 2021-22’s penultimate Saturday.

After opting to push on rather than retire her as a dual stakes-placed mare, the team behind Mariamia has been rewarded in spades.

Similar to his work in taking another ex-Victorian in Eduardo (Host) and turning him into a superstar, Pride appears to now be working with a different mare.

After having the spring off – after a delayed decision about her future – Mariamia returned to action in December for what was hoped would be her confirming preparation for the breeding world. She won two barrier trials at her new home track, then ground doggedly to the line to win an 1100m BM88 at Rosehill first up, before at last become a stakes-winner at start No.35. And it was no minor affair, with the six-year-old winning the Expressway Stakes (Gr 2, 1200m), relegating Godolphin’s next budding star, Caulfield Guineas winner Golden Mile (Astern), to second in the process.

“We’re ecstatic,” John Kelly told It’s In The Blood. “You need a bit of good luck when you buy these types of mares for decent money. It wasn’t our intention to put her back in, but Joe was insistent. We’re glad he was.”

All Swettenham’s Adam Sangster was endeavouring to do, when he put Quinta Lago to Toronado in 2016, was to send as many mares as he could to his dual English Group 1-winning miler, then standing his first season on shuttle from France, for just $11,000.

Many laurels have come for the son of High Chaparral since. He now stands for $88,000, exclusively in Australia, since that’s where the vast majority of his success has come. That includes a rise to a career-high 11th on the general sires’ list last year, partly helped by his two southern hemisphere Group 1 winners Masked Crusader and Shelby Sixtysix.

What’s also transpired is the cross that’s produced Mariamia has emerged as Toronado’s best. Encosta De Lago (Fairy King) mares have brought the 12-year-old seven winners from nine runners, at 77.7 per cent, with Mariamia now the pick of them. It’s no coincidence Encosta De Lago is close to High Chaparral’s (Sadler’s Wells) best nick, running at a similar 76.9 per cent, behind only Danehill (Danzig) at 79.3 per cent.

“I was giving the stallion as much support as I could in his first three years. I would’ve put about 50 mares to him in that that time,” Sangster said.

“He’s such a great physical. He just produces a really goodlooking sales horse. They’re very appealing, they’re peas in a pod, and he stamps them, which is of course a great sign of a sire passing on his genetics. He’s certainly upgrading the broodmares he’s served, and he does it over both genders. His stakes-winning fillies are around the same as his stakes-winning colts (13 to 17 worldwide)”.

Still, Sangster was up against it when the yearling Mariamia walked into the Melbourne Premier ring. Quinta Lago’s only earlier named foal Equilago – a filly by the poorly performed stallion Equiano (Acclamation) – was offloaded for just $1,000 at the same sale two years earlier. Plus, 2018 was a flat Premier sale, with its average down 3.3 per cent on the previous year. And Mariamia couldn’t even make it into Book 1, wandering in on the last day as Lot 579, knocked down to owner Gasper Stellato for just less than half Book 2’s average of $38,000.

“She was OK as a yearling,” Sangster says. “She had presence, walked well, but Toronado was new, the Equiano half hadn’t done well, and the market just wasn’t strong.”

Thirty-five starts and $573,000 later – 32 times her purchase price – Mariamia stands as a stunning advertisement for her sire and Melbourne Premier, and with potential autumn riches awaiting, should prove a future sales boon for Newhaven and Xtravagant.

“The really pleasing thing is she’s out of Toronado’s first crop, and is now a six-year-old,” Sangster says. “So, it’s great to see his stock have longevity.”

There’s not an enormous amount of black type in Mariamia’s family. However, second dam Flying Spice (Flying Spur) holds one achievement also suggesting longevity. She had no fewer than 13 named foals – quite stunning since the studbook shows less than 60 per cent of foals reach the naming stage. Her other feature is that one of her daughters – Livia (Galileo) – is a Group 1-producing dam, of 2019 Victoria Derby winner Warning (Declaration Of War).

But putting Quinta Lago with Toronado produced more than mere euphony: There’s some intricate duplications of highly successful mares as well.

What stands out most in Mariamia’s pedigree is the 4Sx4D doubling of Fairy Bridge (Bold Reason) through her two superstar full brothers by Northern Dancer, Sadler’s Wells (High Chaparral’s sire) and Fairy King (Encosta De Lago’s). It’s a highly successful cross – backed up in the High Chaparral-Encosta de Lago stats – which has also produced Masked Crusader (whose second damsire is Encosta).

Toronado has also sired stakes-winners bearing the cross of Sadler’s Wells and Fairy King’s three-quarter brother Nureyev (Northern Dancer x Special), including Still A Star, Affair To Remember, and Senor Toba, one of Toronado’s many successful Hong Kong exports.

Futhermore, Quinta Lago is inbred to another blue hen in Rolls (Mr Prospector), gender-balanced at 3Sx3D as the dam of Encosta De Lago’s mum Shoal Creek (Fairy King), and of Quinta Lago’s damsire, Flying Spur.

“So that gave Quinta Lago some very good genetic ammunition,” says bloodlines maven Jane Henning of Pedigree Dynamics. “Sex-balanced inbreeding is a very desirable pattern for speed enhancement.

“Overall, Mariamia’s pedigree is a great example of the reinforcement of prepotent females.”

For more layering of quality, Mr Prospector (Raise A Native) appears a third time in Mariamia – through his son Gone West in Toronado’s female side. Then more reinforcement comes into the mare’s female side via Prince True, her third damsire. Mr Prospector and Prince True (Majestic Light), who share a sire and third sire respectively in Raise A Native, both hail from the powerful Frizette (Hamburg) family.

In future dreamings, putting Mariamia to Xtravagant would effect a triplication of Fairy Bridge’s famed dam Special, who’s in Xtravagant’s female side via Nureyev, and a gender-balanced doubling of Hardiemma (Hardicanute), who’s the third dam of Xtravagant’s sire Pentire, and in High Chaparral’s female half via her most famous son, 1978 English and Irish derbies winner Shirley Heights (Mill Reef).

“We just think it’s a very good mating to Xtravagant. She’s got the right blood for him,” Kelly said of Mariamia, who’s already given Newhaven more than they’d hoped for.

“She was definitely going to stud at the end of last season, but Joe Pride was very keen to put her back into work. He said, ‘If you take her home and look after her and bring her back, I’m sure we’ll win a nice race with her’.

“Still, she was boxed and rugged and getting ready to be covered, but on September 1 we brought her out, took her rug off, and she just looked terrific.”

Newhaven has enjoyed success with Pride before, including 2008 Adrian Knox Stakes (Gr 3, 2000m) winner Raise (Arena) and Miss Marielle (Encosta De Lago), a quadruple stakes-winner from the same era. In her limited time left on the racetrack, Mariamia might yet top them all.