The magic of the cup
There’s something special about the Melbourne Cup (Gr 1, 3200m). Despite the naysayers, from within the industry and the vocal minority outside it, the cup retains much of its mystique. Sure, it might not be like it was in the so-called good old days – and the relevance to the Australian breeding industry is minimal – but it is, by a margin, the single biggest gateway into racing for the casual fan.
I can’t put my finger on exactly why, but I thoroughly enjoyed Tuesday’s racing at Flemington and the cup itself was captivating. Gold Trip (Outstrip) had run in the major lead-ups – the Caulfield Cup (Gr 1, 2400m) and Cox Plate (Gr 1, 2040m) – while the favourite Deauville Legend (Sea The Stars) was a lightly raced international.
The post-race emotion shown by Gold Trip’s trainers Ciaron Maher and David Eustace and the large Australian Bloodstock ownership group also told the story of the cup and its meaning to so many people.
It might not be Australia’s best race in terms of equine talent, but it is the country’s most important and that isn’t going to change any time soon. Long live the cup and I can’t wait for Champions Day at Headquarters to round out the Flemington carnival.
The long-time champion New Zealand sire Savabeel (Zabeel) was to the fore again at the weekend as the sire of I Wish I Win, who was victorious in the $10 million Golden Eagle (1500m) in Sydney, but even more important for the country’s breeding industry was Almanzor’s (Wootton Bassett) Victoria Derby (Gr 1, 2500m) winner Manzoice.
There were big expectations placed on the Cambridge Stud shuttler from the get-go with buyers craving his first-crop yearlings, of which the Chris Waller-trained Manzoice is one, and Karaka Million (RL, 1600m) winner Dynastic is a chance of providing the stallion with a second Group 1 winner in as many weeks in tomorrow’s New Zealand 2,000 Guineas (Gr 1, 1600m) at Riccarton.
Cambridge Stud chief executive Henry Plumptre described Manzoice’s victory as a “dream result”.
“It is one that you hope for, but it doesn’t happen very often – a Group 1 in your first crop,” Plumptre said.
“We have had half a dozen nice colts [by Almanzor] including Dynastic in New Zealand and Manzoice in Australia, and a couple of others like King’s Crossing and Virtuous Circle.
“It is very important for the stallion and vindicates sending mares to him like Probabeel and Amarelinha. We have that nice mare, Excelida, that ran third in the Empire Rose on the weekend. She will come back next year and go to Almanzor.”
It’s been a good season for Swettenham Stud stallions. Toronado’s (Teofilo) rise continues: Highland Reel (Galileo) had his first stakes winner with first–crop three-year-old High Approach at Flemington on Tuesday and Rubick (Encosta De Lago), who joined the Victorian farm’s roster last year, has enjoyed a resurgence.
Adam Sangster is delighted with where things are at for Swettenham, but he laments breeders’ decision to desert one-season shuttler Sioux Nation (Scat Daddy), a Coolmore-owned stallion, who was on his roster in 2019 at a fee of $17,600.
“It is one of my gripes in the industry. Breeders, and I don’t mind you saying this, Sioux Nation this year in Europe is the most popular stallion of 2022. He covered 250 mares,” Sangster told us.
“Our breeders down here, when Coolmore allowed me to have their best sprinting stallion in 2019 because we’d done a job with Highland Reel, on the morning of my stallion parade, we had 90 mares booked into him. A week after the stallion parade we only had 60 mares booked into him and we only ended up with 54 mares, because the industry said he wouldn’t suit Australia.
“The so-called good judges said he wouldn’t work down here. Although in that year, he’d served 213 mares in Ireland, so 213 Irishmen couldn’t have been wrong and they’ve proved they weren’t wrong.
“The annoying thing is, we’ve lost that bloodline. He might not work in Australia, Sioux Nation, but the fact is Coolmore, who were very good, wouldn’t bring the horse back because we didn’t get the support from breeders that we expected.”
Victorian breeze-up exponent Tal Nolen sold a Sioux Nation colt, one of only 39 born in 2020 in Australia, for $250,000 at the Magic Millions 2YOs In Training Sale on the Gold Coast last month.
More satisfying for Sangster, who had homebred Queen Air (Toronado) finish third in the VRC Oaks (Gr 1, 2500m) yesterday, was the emergence of Highland Reel’s three-year-olds in recent weeks.
“Archie Alexander [High Approach’s trainer] has always said this horse had a lot of potential and Archie is a great conditioning trainer and he toughed it out [in the Listed TAB Trophy],” Sangster said.
“It really does look like once these horses excel once they get over a mile, and the trainers have had the patience to look after them, so he’s got every chance, that stallion.”
As for Rubick, the sire of Golden Rose (Gr 1, 1400m) winner Jacquinot, Sangster said: “We went blue in the face trying to get mares to Rubick, telling people the numbers were coming through, and whatever he covered last year  you can put a one in front of that number this year.
“It’s a fantastic industry we’re involved in and there’s no better judge than the winning post.”
As reported earlier in the edition, agent Sheamus Mills and his clients Heath Newton and Anthony Roberts had a day to remember at Flemington yesterday with two winners.
Ottawa Stakes (Gr 3, 1000m) winner Charm Stone (I Am Invincible), in particular, is part of the group’s long-term investment in quality fillies who can go on to form part of a high-end commercial broodmare band, but not for another season or two yet.
The trio recently retired Thousand Guineas (Gr 1, 1600m) winner Odeum (Written Tycoon) and New Zealand Group 1 winner Bonham (Per Incanto), a $1.6 million purchase at the 2021 Magic Millions National Broodmare Sale, to stud – and Mills reported yesterday that both mares were confirmed in foal to champion stallion I Am Invincible (Invincible Spirit).
One mare who they are persisting with is Queen Of The Green (Written Tycoon), a daughter of Karuta Queen (Not A Single Doubt) who cost $1.5 million at the 2020 Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale. The now four-year-old mare, who is in training with Mick Price and Mick Kent Jnr, won her first start in a Geelong maiden in mid-September, before again heading to the paddock after a below–par performance in a Benchmark 70 race at Sale a month ago.
“We’re going to persist with her. She obviously has a set of front feet on her that are going to take a fair bit of management as far as shoeing and training and so on. It’s not something that we can fix. She has black–type ability. Whether we’re going to get black type with her, I’m not sure, but we’ll do everything we can,” Mills said.
“We’ve retired Odeum and we’ve retired Bonham this year, so we thought with Queen Of The Green it feels like unfinished business. I think we’ve got a better handle on what we need to do with her and how to give her the best chance.
“She won’t be winning a Kyneton Benchmark 64. If she’s there and standing up to racing, we’re going to have to hope they don’t get a full field in a stakes race somewhere (that we can run her in).”