It's In The Blood

Stefi Magnetica

Mid Summer Music (Oamaru Force), the little mare that could, seems like she was put on this planet to just keep defying expectations and first impressions.

She was up against it from the off, with her dam Samsara Lady (Nassipour) dying as she foaled her, in 2005. The chestnut filly had to be hand-raised, her main companion not her mum but a lamb on Victoria’s Noor Elaine Farm, who bred her from her maiden-winning dam and their modestly performed sire Oamaru Force (Geiger Counter).

The filly then won few friends and influenced nobody. She played hard to like at the breakers, who recorded her defining traits as kicking and biting. And all this after her breeders didn’t want a filly anyway.

“Not a lot went according to plan,” says the now retired Mark Calwell, who bred her with Noor Elaine co-worker Darren Astbury and associate John Ivill. “We set out to breed a colt, hopefully to sell to Asia. We got a filly and the mum died having her.

“Then a few months later I saw her at John’s place. She wasn’t the most tractable filly, put it that way.”

The unwanted filly was later privately offloaded to a syndicate who sent her to an up-and-coming Melbourne trainer. Being Peter Moody, he kicked her off way out in the bush, at Warracknabeal. He didn’t think much of her either.

“Mid Summer Music was a mare I thought would do very little,” Moody wrote in his 2017 autobiography, A Long Way From Wyandra. “She was a slow developer and, when she won her debut at Warracknabeal as a four-year-old, I told her ten owners they’d had a big birthday. I even suggested that now she’d won a race, she should start breeding.”

It was just as well another female who, in contrast, drew great support from Moody back then and not too many others, hopped off and contradicted him. She’d won that maiden by 4.75 lengths, and Linda Meech insisted she might go places.

She did just that, winning eight of her next 13 starts, including two Group 3s at Caulfield, before a 0.3-length second in a Flemington Group 2 to a mare who won the Cox Plate (Gr 1, 2040m) three starts later, Pinker Pinker (Reset).

Mid Summer Music wouldn’t win for eight more starts, but when she did, it was special indeed. For her Queenslander trainer, she claimed that state’s premier race, the Stradbroke Handicap (Gr 1, 1400m) in 2012. It was a long way from Warracknabeal. And again she was widely dismissed, winning at $31.

Roll forward a few years, and Mid Summer Music went to stud – after adding one more win, in Listed class, among 11 for a career netting a back-then very handsome $1.4 million in prize-money.

She was still a fairly plain looking broodmare who would turn few heads, but last Saturday at Eagle Farm she turned a precious clock full circle, as she became a Group 1 producing broodmare – in the same race that crowned her career.

Stefi Magnetica (All Too Hard) showed all her mother’s fighting spirit by not just becoming the first three-year-old filly to win the Stradbroke since her mum was a weanling – La Montagna (Monashee Mountain) in 2006 – but by powering up the inside, locking horns with a battle-hardened, dual Group 1-winning six-year-old in Bella Nipotina (Pride Of Dubai), and defying her by 0.3 lengths.

There was a lot of generational flow at Eagle Farm, with Stefi Magnetica becoming her dam’s first top-tier winner, and her jockey Zac Lloyd claiming his first at that level, with his 15-time Group 1-winning father Jeff there to watch.

And it was due reward for Mid Summer Music, and the filly’s breeders Cressfield. As with her early years, she’s still no head-turner, but the mare with the sketchy beginnings is now a bona fide breeding star. The Bjorn Baker-trained Stefi Magnetica, the latest outstanding performer to bear the colours of the burgeoning Cunningham Thoroughbreds, has become her second stakes winner from five runners, all of whom have been winners.

Fourth foal Hellfest (Fastnet Rock) – the dam’s top seller after going from Cressfield to Godolphin for $600,000 at Magic Millions Gold Coast in 2020 – won three of her first four starts, capped by the stakes race named after another Moody mare, in name this time not nature, the Typhoon Tracy Stakes (Gr 3, 1200m). Hellfest was sent to the UK earlier this year and Darley reports she is in-foal to Frankel (Galileo).

Third foal Euphoric Summer (Not A Single Doubt) – a $260,000 Gold Coast buy for Phoenix Thoroughbreds – opened her career with a second in Caulfield’s Debutant Stakes (Listed, 1000m), then won Ballarat’s Magic Millions 2YO Clockwise Classic (1000m) before running third in Eagle Farm’s BJ McLachlan Stakes (Gr 3, 1200m).

Cressfield general manager Wayne Bedggood said he and farm principal Bruce Neill were determined to buy Mid Summer Music, securing her for $375,000 at the Inglis Broodmare and Weanling Sale of 2014, in-foal to All Too Hard (Casino Prince) with her first-born.

“The mission statement for the farm is that we want to be up in that top two-to-five per cent bracket in the sales ring,” Bedggood tells It’s In The Blood. “And mares that fit that criteria are generally Group-winning mares, or well-related, or both. So Mid Summer Music fitted that criteria.

“She’s a nice mare, but at the same time, she’s a fairly average, nondescript type of thing. You wouldn’t pick her out in a paddock, or say ‘Who’s that stunning looking animal?’ But she’s probably been one of our better producers now.

“And her offspring throw to her. She throws nice types, without them being outstanding types either. They’re correct, and they might mature a little later than some stock, but they all run, that’s for sure. They’ve got lots of intestinal fortitude, like their mum.”

That first mating with Vinery’s All Too Hard produced See It Thru, a $225,000 Gold Coast purchase for Dermot Farrington who won six races. While the gelding didn’t win in city class, Cressfield was sufficiently pleased to return Mid Summer Music to All Too Hard in 2019.

That yielded the filly who’s now Stefi Magnetica, and who became the fifth individual Group 1 winner for All Too Hard, and for Cressfield, in claiming the Stradbroke at the mum-like odds of $15. She also has a top-level second, beaten 0.2 lengths by Tropical Squall (Prized Icon) in Randwick’s Surround Stakes (Gr 1, 1400m) in March, and a Group 3 third, amidst three wins and six placings in 13 starts.

She’s also earned over $2.1 million in prize-money, and all after being sold at the Gold Coast for what now seems a bargain $140,000, to Cunningham Thoroughbreds, Clarke Bloodstock and Baker.

“We’re huge All Too Hard fans,” Bedggood says of the 14-year-old, who now has 25 stakes winners worldwide, including 18 from 625 runners and 428 winners in Australia. He sits ninth on the general sires’ table, equal with his personal best finish.

“When we sit down and plan matings, there’s a mix of things that go into it, like size, height and conformation. Mid Summer Music was intentionally mated to All Too Hard to get his size and strength.

“And it looks to have worked with Stefi Magnetica. It’s a tough thing for a three-year-old filly to win the Stradbroke.

“We never get too excited – we all know what’s around the corner the minute you get too cocky – but you’d think that if the wheels don’t fall off, this filly’s got a bright couple of years ahead of her. For a three-year-old filly to come up the inside like that was magnificent.”

In keeping with the modest backstory, there’s little to spark excitement in Stefi Magnetic’s female line before Mid Summer Music. You have to go back to fourth dam Black Satin (Linacre) to hit black type, with the mare winning the Irish 1,000 Guineas (Gr 1, 1m) and throwing a US Grade 1 winner in Czaravich (Nijinsky).

But the mating that produced Stefi Magnetica contains a few enticing pedigree twists.

You won’t find much written about All Too Hard over Oamaru Force, though the latter has followed his three stakes winners as sire with two from 20 runners as a broodmare sire. But it has brought two attractive duplications.

Stefi Magnetica has a 5f x 4m of the breed-shaping Mr. Prospector (Raise A Native), through the dam (Rolls) of her third sire Flying Spur (Danehill), and as Mid Summer Music’s third sire.

And she has a perhaps more influential 5f x 4f of the great Vain (Wilkes) – through All Too Hard’s third dam Song Of Norway, and through Oamaru Force’s dam, Life Force.

Those two are in fact the only duplications in Stefi Magnetic’s first six generations.

“We love a double-up of Mr. Prospector, though we’d probably prefer it happening on a dam line, as opposed to the stallions’ line, but we’ll take what we can get,” Bedggood said. “But double Vain – you can’t beat that. A bit of Aussie pedigree quality hanging in there, and through two daughters is good, since he was a very good broodmare sire.”

Moody once trained another mare with a dual-female double-up of Vain. Her name was Black Caviar (Bel Esprit), who aside from making something of a name for herself, was All Too Hard’s half-sister.

Something else hard to beat is odds of $15. Stefi Magnetica’s breeder winces a touch at the thought of her having been sold, but takes some consolation from the fact that at least for a while there last Saturday he was Wayne Betggood.

“Absolutely,” he declared about getting on. “Nice odds, too. The bookies were pretty kind to us.”

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