Racing News

The Parnhams land their first Railway as Bustler dazzles in the Group 1

Brilliant day for Darling View Thoroughbreds with Playing God chalking up stakes double

By Lydia Symonds

Neville Parnham, his son Steven and his former stable star, Playing God (Blackfriars), celebrated a day at Ascot that will live long in the memory, as they teamed up to win the WA Guineas (Gr 2, 1600m) and Western Australia’s time-honoured contest, the Railway Stakes (Gr 1, 1600m). 

One of the most successful trainers in Western Australian history, Neville Parnham can lay claim to having landed most of the big races in the state at least once, but the historic Railway was one that had so far eluded the talented handler.

However, yesterday the trainer broke his hoodoo in the race when his son Steven steered Bustler (Playing God) to a thrilling victory in the Group 1. 

“It is a big win – this is a time-honoured race and we have had a few cracks and come up a little bit short,” said Neville after Bustler’s win. “The Railway Stakes has eluded me throughout my 40-year career, but it was one race that I just wanted to tick off, as I think it’s probably one of our most prestigious, if not the most prestigious race.”

The Parnhams had set the tone for the day in the race before, when Zipaway (Playing God) went one better than his now Group 1-winning stablemate did 12 month ago in the WA Guineas, a race, that unlike the Railway, has proved lucky for the Parnhams in the past. 

Yesterday’s victory was the trainer’s fifth and his previous winners include the now Darling View Thoroughbreds-based stallion Playing God, who prevailed under Steven to win the Group 2 in 2010. Yesterday’s win was Steven’s fourth victory in the WA Guineas

Bustler has always been highly thought of by connections, living up to his reputation when winning his only start at two. He then landed his first three appearances as a three-year-old, including the Fairetha Stakes (Listed, 1400m), before surrendering his unbeaten record when running into Simon Miller’s star filly Amelia’s Jewel (Siyouni) in the WA Guineas last year. 

After finishing fifth behind the daughter of Siyouni (Pivotal) again on his next start in the Northerly Stakes (Gr 1, 1800m), Bustler got his stakes career back on track a few starts later with a win at weight-for-age level in the Belmont Sprint (Gr 3, 1400m) in May – a victory that had Neville convinced the gelding would develop into a bona fide Group 1 horse.  

Bustler began this preparation with a seventh-placed finish in the Eurythmic Stakes (Gr 3, 1400m) on October 21, before running fifth in the Lee Steere Stakes (Gr 2, 1400m), shouldering 59 kilograms that day. 

Carrying 53 kilograms yesterday, Bustler jumped soundly from barrier two and was settled prominently by Steven. As the field turned the final time into the home straight, the rider got onto the back of Comfort Me (Playing God) and peeled off his back at the 300-metre mark to stake his claim.

When Steven went for his mount, he gave an almighty kick and took over at the 200-metre mark before continuing to race clear from the fast-finishing Alsephina (Star Turn), eventually beating her by a length. 

Dom To Shoot (Shooting To Win) flew down the outside, to finish another quarter of a length away in third. Last year’s winner, Trix Of The Trade (Trade Fair) finished another three-quarters of a length away in third. 

“This year, I thought I had the right horse,” said Neville. “I don’t give Steve riding instructions, I don’t give any of the boys instructions, they ride a bit better than what I used to. I was rapt when he jumped clean, there was a fair bit of speed coming across.

“The winning move was down the back, when he came up three-deep. The only time I got a little bit worried was when I saw [Willie Pike, rider of Alsephina] at about the 850 mark, trying to follow him.

“It was a great result and a big thank you to him and also to the team back home, they have done a fantastic job with these horses and I really appreciate the help.” 

Steven gave all credit to his father, who first took out his training licence in 1983 after a short career as a jockey.

“Sometimes you just ride on instinct and that’s what dad lets me do,” he said “In the run, I was pretty excited. When I gave this horse a squeeze he flew, and then I thought ‘hold on boy’.

“Dad is a master, I can’t have any more admiration for how he gets his horses ready.”

The trainer was unsure what Bustler’s next assignment would be, but added the Gold Rush (Gr 3, 1400m) back at Ascot on December 16 or the Northerly Stakes on December 9, would both come under consideration for the gelding. However, should Bustler head to the Northerly it would likely leave Steven with a tricky decision to make, with yesterday’s WA Guineas winner, Zipaway, likely to take the same route. 

“Where we go from here, I’m not sure – maybe the Gold Rush or maybe Northerly, it will be a big decision for Steven to make,” Neville continued. 

The trainer was quick to pay tribute to Bustler’s owner Santo Guagliardo, who races a number of horses with him and is a big supporter of the stable. 

“Santo has been a great supporter of the stable, each and every year since he has been associated with me, we’ve been able to come up with something that can gallop and this is the pinnacle of it, so he has been well-rewarded,” continued the trainer.  

Purchased by Guagliardo’s Ridgemont Holdings for $130,000 at the Magic Million Perth Yearling Sale from the Ruby Racing and Breeding draft in 2021, Bustler (4 g Playing God – Cosmah Domination by Oratorio) was initially bought by the operation for $32,500 from the Mungrup Stud Complete Dispersal Online Sale, which was conducted by the Queensland-based auction house the year before. 

The gelding is out of three-time winner Cosmah Domination (Oratorio), making him a half-brother to A Lot Of Good Men (A Lot).

Cosmah Domination’s filly by Maschino (Encosta De Lago) sold to Neville Parnham and Guagliardo for $235,000 at this year’s edition of the Magic Million Perth Yearling Sale. The mare produced a sister to Bustler last year and was covered by the Darling View Thoroughbreds stallion in September. 

With yesterday’s win in the Group 1, Bustler became the second Group 1 winner for the stallion, joining Northerly Stakes winner Kay Cee, who was also trained by Neville.  

Zipaway shows his class in WA Guineas
Not only did Neville Parnham enjoy success as a trainer yesterday, but Zipaway provided him with a win as a co-breeder and co-owner when the gelding produced a performance dripping with class to emulate his sire, Playing God, in winning the WA Guineas. 

Zipaway is out of Boutique (Discorsi), a $40,000 purchase for Neville at the 2013 edition of the Magic Millions Perth Yearling Sale, who would go on to win one race for the trainer. Meanwhile, his sire – Playing God – is a horse Neville also knows well, having trained him to win eight races, headed by two Northley Stakes (Gr 1, 1800m), then known as the Kingston Town Classic. 

Yesterday, the gelding handed the Boutique her first dose of black–type, when Steven Parnham timed the ride to perfection, eventually beating Bustler’s half-brother A Lot Of Good Men (A Lot) by a quarter of a length. Super Smink (Super One), who was sent off favourite, finished another head away in third. 

In the run up to the race, all talk had been about Super Smink and Keshi Boom (Spirit Of Boom), with the latter failing to make it to the start after being scratched yesterday morning, but Neville said he was confident the Zipaway would have the measure of that pair yesterday afternoon. 

“I was very confident he would win,” said Neville. “I think Super Smick is a very good horse and Keshi Boom is very good too, but I really thought he would beat them both.

“Behind the scenes he works like a really good horse and we have looked after him from his two-year-old days and that is why I purposely didn’t bring him back in the winter, because I just thought he was the perfect horse to aim at the Guineas and it has come off – which is great. 

“It was a great job from all the team back home, they have really lifted when the carnival has come along. All the horses are going super, so a big thank you to the team. I’m really proud of the horse.” 

Provided he comes out of the race in good form, Neville said Zipaway would likely press on to the Northerly Stakes on December 9. He  is confident the extended trip of 1800 metres would pose no issues for the gelding. 

“Providing he pulls up sound and happy, that seems the most logical path for him and he has never had a sore day in his life, so I can’t see why he wouldn’t pull up sound. He can race on pace and he has a turn of foot at the end of it, so I don’t think 1800 is a problem,” said the trainer. 

When asked about the similarities between Playing God and yesterday’s winner, he continued: “They are both very athletic horses. Obviously, this guys a gelding, so Playing God held a bit more condition. 

“I raced the mare [Boutique] as well and I bred this horse myself. The mare is half-sister to Quilista and Red Can Man, so she has a bit of sprinting blood in her, but she was by Discorsi and got over a bit of ground herself.”

Steve Parnham, who was winning the Ascot feature for a fourth time, said his confidence in the horse was bolstered on Tuesday when he produced a good piece of work ahead of the race and was predicting a big future for the gelding. 

“I had a lot of confidence in the horse, he went so good on Tuesday and he had come on, so I just had to put him where I had to be from that scenario and rated him,” the winning rider said. 

“I knew he would give me another kick and he travelled up brilliantly. He has always been looking for further and I think he is just learning how to race, every start he has just found more and more. There is a bit to like about him and I think he has a big future.”

Zipaway’s (3 g Playing God – Boutique by Discorsi) sister – Fashion Stakes (Playing God) – was bought by Michael Fagan for $200,000 at the Perth sale – and has won once for Neville Parnham. 

Boutique herself is a half-sister to Group 3 winner Red Can Man (Gingerbread Man) and Group 2 scorer Quilista (Scandal Keeper), who was bought by Bruce Perry Bloodstock for $1 million at the 2021 Magic Millions National Broodmare Sale. 

Fagan reinvested into the family once again earlier this year, buying Boutique’s filly by Playing God for $65,000 from the Magic Millions Perth Yearling Sale. Now named Mainshow, she is listed under the ownership of Fagan and the Parnhams. 

In 2022, Boutique produced a colt by Playing God. In a change of tack this year, the mare was covered by a different stallion, Playing God’s stablemate, Splintex (Snitzel). 

Playing God is standing at the Atwell’s Darling View Thoroughbreds for a fee of $33,000 (inc GST). 

Bustler and Zipaway made up two-thirds of a fine treble at Ascot for Neville Parnham, who also saddled Onemoretwomany (Tassort) to win her second race in as many starts.

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