A handful of powerful names come into the background of burgeoning Ciaron Maher and David Eustace-trained gelding St Lawrence (Redwood) – some famous and some infamous.
For starters, though you won’t find this in his pedigree, the rising five-year-old shares his name not just with one of the world’s mightiest rivers, but with another star of the Australian turf.
That St Lawrence, 138 years this one’s senior, won a major race at Randwick in 1885, in its 20th running and the first year it was changed back from nine furlongs to the distance that now fills its legendary title, the Doncaster Mile. Three years earlier, he’d won the second staging of another principal race, the VATC Debutant Stakes, which still bears that title.
Jumping two centuries and this St Lawrence – who made it two wins out of two starts this prep when odds-on at Caulfield last Saturday, and six out of seven all up – looks poised to honour the great name of a mare from earlier in this century.
Bred in New Zealand by Gerry Harvey, from the sixth crop of his Westbury Stud stallion Redwood – who’s leapt to a career-high fifth on the New Zealand general sires table this season thanks to triple Group 1 winner Sharp ’N’ Smart – St Lawrence is a grandson, and possibly the finest descendant, of the Gai Waterhouse-trained Lotteria (Redoute’s Choice).
Also bred by Harvey, who raced the mare in partnership with Melbourne businessman George Smorgon and Ki Tae Nam – owner of the South Korean lottery – Lotteria won Randwick’s Flight Stakes (Gr 1, 1600m) and Flemington’s Myer Classic (registered as Empire Rose Stakes) (Gr 1, 1600m), and another event that’s now a Group 1 but was only Group 2 back then, the Surround Stakes (Gr 1, 1600m).
Along with three other stakes wins she had three Group 1 placings, including a second when she threatened to pinch the unforgettable 2005 Cox Plate (Gr 1, 2040m) from under Makybe Diva’s (Desert King) guard.
At stud, Lotteria has had less success, with no city winners until her ninth foal Osaka (Makfi), and five of her 12 unraced. It hasn’t all been doom and gloom, however, with Lotteria’s 11th offspring another handy advertisement for putting this female line to Redwood (High Chaparral), in the John Sargent-trained Pink Ivory, a city winner and Group 3-placed.
Rising 22, Lotteria now has a weanling filly by So You Think (High Chaparral) and is in foal, one more time, to Dundeel (High Chaparral).
What seems apparent at least is that Lotteria’s first foal Bacio Del Vinto (Encosta De Lago), while not seeing a racetrack, has inherited and passed on her famous mum’s genes.
A mare built from that dynamic fusion of those famous rivals currently vying for another broodmare sires’ title – her own Encosta De Lago (Fairy King) and Lotteria’s dad Redoute’s Choice (Danehill) – Bacio Del Vinto (“The Kiss of the Conquered”) is the dam of St Lawrence, her seventh foal.
Her fifth is a black–type winner in Marroni (Makfi). Winner of the 2021 edition of the Manawatu Cup (Gr 3, 2250m) and stakes-placed twice in New Zealand and once at Randwick, the six-year-old Marroni has recently been brought across the Tasman to race out of Andrew Forsman’s Melbourne Stable, with an eye to the spring.
St Lawrence appears a surprisingly long-overdue success story of Redwood over Encosta De Lago. Redoute’s Choice, however, is one of Redwood’s better nicks, with three winners from just five runners. They include a stakes victor in Solidify, a two-year-old Team Rogerson stablemate of Sharp ’N’ Smart, and, like St Lawrence, is looking likely to become another.
With Redwood being by High Chaparral (Sadler’s Wells), and Bacio Del Vinto by Encosta De Lago, St Lawrence’s pedigree also possesses that potent mix – in the usefully recent third generation – of those two illustrious Northern Dancer (Nearctic) full brothers Sadler’s Wells (High Chaparral’s sire), and Fairy King (Encosta’s sire). For good measure, further back he has a gender-balanced 4m x 5f of the influential Mr Prospector (Raise A Native).
St Lawrence began his career with a 1400-metre success at Hastings, before crossing the Tasman, and his two wins this campaign have been over the same trip. But he’s been successful up to 1800 metres and has the bloodlines to suggest he can get 2000 metres and further.
Redwood’s most famous progeny, Sharp ’N’ Smart, has won the New Zealand Derby (Gr 1, 2400m) and was a half-length second in Flemington’s 2500-metre equivalent. But also, go back to St Lawrence’s fifth dam and you find an extremely strong staying influence in Bellota (Oakville).
One of the finest females to emerge from New Zealand in the 1970s, Bellota won five stakes races capped by the 1975 Avondale Gold Cup (Gr 2, 2400m). Like her great-granddaughter Lotteria, she was placed in a Cox Plate, when third to Battle Heights (Battle-Waggon). That came in a stellar spring of 1974, when she won the VATC Coongy Handicap (now Gr 3, 2000m) and was second in what are now two Group 1 miles – the Toorak Handicap (Gr 1, 1600m) – behind the great Leilani (Oncidium), and the George Adams/Cantala Stakes (Gr 1, 1600m).
At stud, Bellota was just as successful, particularly with stayers. Her third foal was 1983 AJC Oaks (Gr 1, 2400m) winner Starzaan (Zamazaan), before a sister in Gypsy Reward, a multiple Sydney city winner who was Listed placed over 2400 metres, and who’s St Lawrence’s fourth dam.
Gypsy Reward threw only three named foals, but the second was Rose Reward (Sir Tristram), a city-winner who was third in the 1993 Thousand Guineas (Gr 1, 1600m) at Caulfield. Rose Reward went to stud and threw Lotteria as her fifth foal, immediately before Rose Of Sharon (Encosta De Lago), a city-winner who was thrice stakes-placed, including a third in the Queensland Oaks (Gr 1, 2400m) of 2007.
Bellota’s seventh foal was Lord Mayor’s Cup (Listed, 2400m) winner Chiming Knight (Sir Tristram), while in the middle had come one of the best-known stayers in Australian racing circles – if not for the right reasons.
Rocket Racer (Balmerino) was a significant racehorse, for he summed up what the 1980s were all about – the pre-stock market crash clamour for glamour and fast money, often by questionable means. He was raced out of Perth by one of those “colourful racing identities” who was one of the most “colourful” of the lot, Laurie Connell.
Ironically the grandson of a long-serving Western Australian police commissioner, Connell was the poster boy for high-flying entrepreneurial businessmen from what was known in the ‘80s as the Wild West, and for good reason.
He grew rich from the controversial and collapse-bound Rothwells merchant bank, and spent a year in jail for paying jockey Danny Hobby to stay out of Australia after he’d given him $5,000 to jump off the favourite at the start of the 1983 Bunbury Cup (Listed, 2100m).
And Connell, who died bankrupt in 1996, was equally infamous for the 1987 Perth Cup (Gr 1, 3200m). His five-year-old gelding from the Buster O’Malley stable, Rocket Racer (Balmerino), who’d won the WATC Tattersall’s Cup (Listed, 2200m) the year before, was backed off the map before the Perth Cup, starting the 2-1 favourite.
This was also the time when the doping agent of choice was the super-powered etorphine, better known as “elephant juice”. It was so-named because it was used to tranquillise large circus animals. Small doses in horse could make them go extremely fast. Just a drop or two more could kill them.
“It ranges up to 10,000 times more powerful than morphine,” the New York Daily News quoted one expert as saying, after an early headline for the drug at the 1985 Breeders’ Cup. “If there is one drug that does not belong in the body of the thoroughbred it is etorphine. Even a slight overdose could kill a horse.”
A few weeks after this Perth Cup, another horse owned by Connell in another stable, Brash Son (Cindy’s Son), would test positive to the drug and be disqualified after finishing first in a Listed sprint, leading to a 20-year ban for his trainer, George Way.
If the Perth Cup betting trends around Rocket Racer whispered “elephant juice”, the race itself screamed it. Ridden by tough-as-teak Perth jockey Johnny Miller, Rocket Racer scorched around the two miles and won – by nine lengths, going away. So going away was he, even Miller couldn’t pull him up. The horse almost completed another lap of Ascot, and had to be quickly led away in high distress after the race.
It was reported Connell won a princely $500,000 on the punt that day, besides the race’s $210,000 first prize. Rocket Racer wasn’t swabbed – it was officially said he was too dehydrated. He raced once more three weeks later – the day of Brash Son’s positive swab – and came fourth in Listed class, and a few weeks after that he collapsed and died of mysterious causes.
It’s not one of the sunnier tales of the turf from the recent past. But poor Rocket Racer, the horse owned by a Wild West cowboy of the wrong sort, did at least show he naturally possessed some of the stamina that runs through the female line from the fiercely competitive Bellota.
Indications are strong we may get to see more of it from the highly promising St Lawrence.