Spring racing at its best
A spectacular runaway Caulfield Cup (Gr 1, 2400m) and a heart-stopping Everest (1200m), captured the racing headlines this past Saturday.
In the case of the Caulfield Cup, seeing is believing. Yet, even seeing how Incentivise (Shamus Award) sat wide from the outside barrier (18) around a tricky Caulfield track, went even wider rounding into the straight before bolting clear once heads were turned for home, was still unbelievable.
Racking up nine consecutive wins, including three successive Group 1s, this son of Shamus Award (Snitzel) seems to have no limits. Certainly, he was full of running at the end of the 2400 metres. The Melbourne Cup (Gr 1, 3200m) on November 2? Why not ten in a row?
By contrast, The Everest saw Nature Strip (Nicconi) seemingly in control at the 200 metres then suddenly, in the final strides he was all out to hold out a fast-finishing Masked Crusader (Toronado) by a long head.
It was third time lucky for Nature Strip who, two years ago, led the field to the 100 metres before fading slightly to fourth. Last year he trailed Eduardo (Host) to the 200 metres, led briefly before being swamped to finish seventh.
His Randwick 1200–metre form includes two Group 1 TJ Smiths but as James McDonald said of the straight run: “You have no idea. It felt like a minute.”
Neither Incentivise nor Nature Strip were foaled here but the former’s five-eighths brother, Ardrossan (Redoute’s Choice), is in the middle of his third stud season at Waikato Stud. His first crop will be offered this coming January.
Meanwhile, here in New Zealand, a comparatively tame Livamol Classic (Gr 1, 2040m), the third leg of the Hastings Triple Crown, went the way of tough mare Savy Yong Blonk (Savabeel), getting up in the last strides for a valuable victory.
The six-year-old, who has an upcoming date with Waikato Stud sire Super Seth (Duneel), already had a pair of Group 3s to her name having taken out the City of Auckland Cup (2400m) at Ellerslie on New Year’s Day plus the Manawatu Breeders’ Stakes (2000m) at Awapuni in April.
Once covered, the mare will continue her race career, with connections hoping to add to her already attractive record.
She becomes the 24th individual Group 1 winner for her sire Savabeel (Zabeel) and it is appropriate that she should visit the stud that is responsible for the first three generations of her immediate family.
Sir Tristram magic
Savy Yong Blonk’s family history in New Zealand is due to Celebrity II (Meadow Court), a filly imported as a two-year-old by John Higgs of Cottonwoods Stud in Cambridge.
Higgs imported the filly in 1969 and although unplaced in four starts as a juvenile, she was a half-sister to the Ireland’s Champion Two-Year-Old filly Kathy Too (Beau Sabreur). Her dam, Celestial Gold (Golden Cloud), was a sister or half-sister to four stakes winners, three achieving stakes success at Churchill Downs, Hollywood Park and Hialeah in the USA.
Her sire Meadow Court (Court Harwell) was very well performed on the racetrack earning the title of Ireland’s Champion Three-Year-Old due to his 1965 Irish Derby (Gr 1, 1m 4f) victory. Unluckily born the same year as the freakish Sea-Bird (Dan Cupid), he had to settle for second in that year’s Epsom Derby (Gr 1, 1m 4f) but the day prior to his Irish Derby he took on a new part-owner, American crooner Bing Crosby.
Higgs, in partnership with Patrick (now Sir Patrick) Hogan, wasted little time in getting Celebrity II in foal. Her first mate was Persian Garden II (Alcide) who was in his fourth season as resident sire at the Hogans’ Fencourt Stud in Cambridge.
Dual Derby winner Classic Mission, bred by Higgs from Persian Garden II’s second crop, would not complete his Victoria-AJC Derby (Gr 1, 12f) double until the spring of 1971.
As a broodmare she was given every opportunity and the following year visited Battle-Waggon (Never Say Die) to produce Celerity Girl, the fourth dam of ill-fated Rock On Wood (Redwood), winner of last year’s Captain Cook Stakes (Gr 1, 1600m).
Two visits to Hermes (Aureole) then Adios II (Silly Season), Final Orders (Final Court) and Heir Presumptive (Tambourine) took place but until her last foal, Celebrity II had produced just one winner.
Her final mating, with Sir Tristram (Sir Ivor), produced the fine race filly Star Of The Knight who enjoyed great success at Brisbane’s Eagle Farm where at two she won the Queensland Sires’ Produce Stakes (Gr 2, 1400m) and at three the Queensland Guineas (Gr 3, 1600m). Celebrity’s honour was saved.
Savy Yong Blonk joins four previous Group 1 winners descending from Star Of The Knight, namely dual Group 1 sprinter Sacred Star (Flying Spur), Spring Champion Stakes (Gr 1, 2000m) winner and Windsor Park Stud resident Vanbrugh (Encosta de Lago) plus the brother and sister act Diademe and Embellish (Savabeel).
If it works, add more
Although from different branches of the same line, it is noteworthy that three of the five are by Savabeel. Also significant is that within those three, Sir Tristram again enters the fray via Zabeel, thus presenting a double up of Cambridge Stud’s outstanding and enduring sire influence.
Three daughters of Star Of The Knight, all by Waikato Stud’s Centaine (Century), have seen the family expand to include a further 17 stakes winners. Her stakes–winning daughter Starcent is, including herself, responsible for seven, whereas sisters Night Star (Centaine) and Professionelle each have five stakes–winning descendants.
A story begun by Sir Tristram then added to by Centaine, Pins (Snippets), O’Reilly (Last Tycoon) and Savabeel, is proving to be a very powerful combination.
Garry Chittick took over Star Of The Knight’s stud career from the Hogan-Higgs partnership in 1988 and the three Centaine mares he bred are the driving force that is keeping the family so prominent.
Cambridge Stud’s Embellish, whose first crop of yearlings will be available in January, is bred on virtually identical lines to Savy Yong Blonk.
His grandam and her third dam are the sisters Night Star and Starcent. His dam is by O’Reilly, while her grandam, Classic-placed Ambitious, is by O’Reilly’s sire Last Tycoon (Try My Best).
Ambitious‘ half-sister Make A Wish (Pins) is the dam of Group 3 winner Another Dollar (Ocean Park) as well as I Wish I Win (Savabeel), second in last season’s Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes (Gr 1, 1400m) and a strong third in Saturday’s Barneswood Farm Stakes (Gr 3, 1400m) at Ashburton.
Ampin (Pins), dam of Savy Yong Block, never raced yet has produced two Group winners, the second being her 2016 foal and Caulfield Autumn Classic (Gr 2, 1800m) winner Adelaide Ace, also by Savabeel. Ampin ranks as a half-sister to Strike The Stars, yet another Savabeel and winner of the Gloaming Stakes (Gr 3, 1800m).
Starting with Centaine then adding Pins, O’Reilly and Savabeel, it would appear that any combination of those sires is enormously successful. The Star Of The Knight connection as a base merely makes the chances of success even greater.
The class of Red Badge Sprint (Gr 3, 1400m) winner Two Illicit (Jimmy Choux) was evident on Saturday when she moved out of traffic from the 300 metres, found clear running and then joined in half way down the straight.
In a few bounds from the 150 metres she outclassed her opponents, and showed the sort of form that two seasons ago saw her among the top three-year-olds of her crop.
The Red Badge was her fourth stakes win and sixth career win in just 14 starts. At three, she scored a Listed race at Ellerslie in the spring. Returning to Ellerslie in January she bagged the Royal Stakes (Gr 2, 2000m) and followed that up next start when taking on and beating the boys in the Waikato Guineas (Gr 2, 2000m) at Te Rapa.
Three weeks later she finished a solid and clear second in the New Zealand Derby (Gr 1, 2400m) before being put aside.
Last season at four she won first-up at Ellerslie then headed to Hastings where she ran fourth in the Windsor Park Plate (Gr 1, 1600m) before finishing fifth in last year’s Livamol Classic.
Rested until last autumn, she was a fresh–up third before a Queensland campaign that resulted in two unplaced efforts, where the mare was below her best and found the tracks too firm.
Part-owner and breeder, Brent Taylor of Trelawney Stud, explains: “The transition from three-year-old filly to four-year-old mare can often be a difficult one. A good example is Jennifer Eccles who was top class at three but found the next season a challenge. Our own Loire found the transition a challenge also. Two Illicit had some issues too but with those behind her we can only hope that she continues and proves her three-year-old form.
“An old adage is that class is permanent and form is temporary and we know she has class,” said Taylor.
Co-trainer Robert Wellwood also commented: “If we can keep her right, she is a very talented horse who showed us that as a three-year-old. It’s just good to see her back in the right order and winning nicely. She has just had a few niggles but hopefully we have ironed those out now and we can keep her in this order as we will win some nice races with her.”
Two Illicit’s New Zealand story starts with the imported (to Australia) Twin Town, a daughter of Halling (Diesis) and half-sister to Newmarket’s Joel Stakes (Gr 3, 1m) winner Confront (Nayef).
Twin Town’s race career of four wins included one in Adelaide while her dam, Contiguous (Danzig), never raced. However, the latter was certainly well-related being a three-quarter or half-sister to no less than eight stakes winners. One of those is Epsom Oaks (Gr 1, 1m 4f) winner Reams Of Verse (Nureyev), the grandam of New Zealand-based sire Zacinto (Dansili).
Her first foal, Two Illicit’s dam Gemini (Tale Of The Cat), was purchased for the significant sum of $210,000 by Trelawney Stud from Cambridge Stud’s draft of the 2011 Karaka Premier Yearling Sale.
Trelawney’s Brent Taylor said: “Gemini was a nice type and by a sire I have a lot of time for, in Tale Of The Cat. She showed some ability. We sold a nice Ocean Park filly out of her then bred Two Illicit. Being by Jimmy Choux she would not have been popular commercially so we decided to keep her to race as she was the best style of foal that Gemini had produced thus far.”
Ups and downs
The ups and downs of breeding definitely apply to Gemini. Her racing career resulted in several placed efforts before she retired to stud in 2013. Trelawney bred three fillies, the third being Two Illicit, which the stud retained. The stud then sold the mare in 2017 for $10,000 in foal to Showcasing (Oasis Dream).
Taylor added: “Sometimes, tough decisions must be made and Gemini wasn’t cutting it so we had to move on. That’s business. Keeping Two Illicit though, was because we race horses so we gave her a chance. Gemini’s half-brother has since added to the family and we have a future broodmare.”
Later that year, Gemini’s half-brother, Easy Eddie (Super Easy) broke his maiden. In March of 2019 he captured the Maurice McCarten Stakes (Gr 3, 1100m) and earned more than $600,000 in prize-money from eight wins and a further 12 places in 34 starts. In the October Two Illicit also got her race career off to a great start by winning at her second start at Ellerslie.
So, in a little over two years after Gemini’s sale the family’s fortunes really turned around. Twin Town is still breeding and last year produced a colt to Turn Me Loose (Iffraaj). Sadly, Gemini’s fate was not so positive. She died in 2019 after producing five successive foals.
The high hopes relating to Gemini’s purchase, followed by the decision to sell, is reflective of the realities of breeding. Without a doubt, Trelawney’s decision to retain Two Illicit is one that they will savour. She is a talented mare and will be part of Trelawney’s history for years to come.
Taylor summed up: “She likes Ellerslie so a race like the Zabeel Classic is one we might shoot for. She is not nominated for Riccarton so we’ll keep her in the north. We also might look at the Captain Cook at Trentham in December.”
The local scene
There You Go (Niagara) made a big impression when taking out Saturday’s Barneswood Farm Stakes (Gr 3, 1400m) at Ashburton by leading from the 1000 metres. The way she dispatched her challengers indicates there was something in reserve and that the extra 200 metres of next month’s New Zealand One Thousand Guineas (Gr 1, 1600m) should be well within her scope.
Listed placed in the Auckland Futurity Stakes (1400m) at Ellerslie last May on debut, the filly was put aside until September before finishing fourth in the O’Leary’s Fillies Stakes (Listed, 1200m) at Wanganui.
Two weeks ago at Riccarton she cleared out by more than five lengths to break her maiden and found the step up in class to Saturday’s Group 3 not too much of a problem.
She is now favourite for next month’s Guineas and judging from the ease of this most recent win, she will be a force.
Her sire, Niagara (Encosta De Lago), stands alongside Darci Brahma (Danehill) and US Navy Flag (War Front) at The Oaks Stud in Cambridge and she is his third stakes winner.
The second winner from her Sydney-winning dam, Not A Dancer (Not A Single Doubt), There You Go’s New Zealand family began in the 1980s when her fourth dam, Elegant Style (Sir Ivor) was imported by Blandford Lodge, Matamata. She had a filly foal at foot by Green Dancer (Nijinsky).
Elegant Style would later produce Cuddle Stakes (Gr 3, 1600m) winner Elegance (Sky Chase) and her foal at foot, named Dance Style, the unraced third dam of There You Go, would produce the Listed two-year-old Adelaide stakes winner Hollywood Fred (Sanction).