Their path hasn’t exactly been uncomplicated, but there’s little doubt now Phoenix Thoroughbreds has bred a potential star to hang their hats on, after Tiz Invincible (I Am Invincible) made it two stakes wins on the bounce at Randwick on Saturday.
The Ciaron Maher and David Eustace trained filly showed potential in a pair of outings as a two-year-old – an unlucky fourth in Canberra’s Black Opal Stakes (Gr 3, 1200m) last March and a heavy track second in Randwick’s Percy Sykes Stakes (Gr 2, 1200m) last April. She’s lived up to that so far at three with two fighting victories, in Rosehill’s The Rosebud (Listed, 1100m) and last weekend’s Furious Stakes (Gr 2, 1200m) – and with much promise of training on, like most of her sire’s stock, for more and greater success.
She’s regally-bred, being the second foal of British-bred mare Amuletum (New Approach). She won only one of seven, but two months after bearing Tiz Invincible for Phoenix, Amuletum’s half-brother made his racetrack debut, going by the name of Anamoe (Street Boss).
That was in the spring of 2020. But, while life was soon going well for Anamoe, for Phoenix it was starting to go awry.
Founded in 2017, the Dubai-based operation made a splash by buying some 150 racehorses and broodmares in Australia, Europe and the US in little more than a year. They hit a major high with the 2020 Golden Slipper Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m) success of Farnan (Not A Single Doubt), who they bred and retained a share in.
But later that year, Phoenix was banned from racing in France and Britain after widely publicised allegations in a US court concerning money laundering around a cryptocurrency scam – allegations denied by the group’s founder Amer Abdulaziz Salman.
This was followed, in early 2021, by Racing NSW and Racing Victoria freezing Phoenix’s racetrack winnings while legal cases involving the company were ongoing.
That response, however, didn’t stop Phoenix breeding, and for that, connections of Tiz Invincible may be eternally grateful.
Her dam Amuletum was bred in Britain, by Darley, but came from an Australian Group 1-winning dam in Anamato (Redoute’s Choice), who took the SAJC Australasian Oaks (Gr 1, 2000m) in 2007 among four group wins.
Darley would mate Anamato to Street Boss (Street Cry) in Australia in 2017 to produce that empire’s finest Australian performer in Anamoe. But she’d been around, with two forays to the US before landing in Britain in 2010.
Her third foal there, Anamba (Shamardal) became a Listed winner, and her fourth was Amuletum. Acquired by Phoenix, Aluletum was covered by Kingman (Invincible Spirit) and sent to Australia, where in 2019 she bore Royal Mule, a now four-year-old mare who’s had two barrier trials for the Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott stable.
While still carrying Royal Mule, Amuletum was offered at the Magic Millions National Broodmare Sale but was passed in. Consigned by Segenhoe Stud, she was instead sent to I Am Invincible (Invincible Spirit) that spring, and the result was Tiz Invincible – the current flagbearer for Phoenix’s breeding operations in this country, which involves around 40 broodmares, according to their Australian manager David Lucas.
These include dual Group 1-winning sprinter Loving Gaby (I Am Invincible), who Phoenix bought for $500,000 at Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale in 2018, and whose filly from the first crop of Yulong Stud’s young stallion Pierata (Pierro) fell to the mare’s former trainer Maher and Kevin Kelly for $800,000 at the Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale this year.
Phoenix also owns quarter shares in Pierata and Aquis stallion Invader (Snitzel) but sold out of Farnan “soon after he finished racing” to stand at Kia Ora Stud, Lucas said.
The group also races around ten horses, Lucas said, including Royal Mule, Venelope (Kingman), who’s won one of five for Maher-Eustace, and four-year-old mare in Secaution (Sebring), who’s won three of eight for Annabel Neasham.
However, any monies the group’s runners earn in Victoria, at the least, is still being held over, pending the resolution of those US matters. Asked by this column if the prize-money freeze remained active, Racing Victoria yesterday confirmed in an email that “the restrictions that were placed on Phoenix Thoroughbreds by stewards have not changed”. Racing NSW had not responded to this column’s similar enquiry about runners in that state by last night. The same inquiry put to Dubai-based Abdulaziz, via Lucas, received a response of “no comment”.
As for the breeding, while Phoenix retained all three of those fillies – Royal Mule, Venelope and Secaution – they opted to send the yearling Tiz Invincible to Inglis Australian Easter Yearling last year.
By that time, Anamoe had won seven of his first 15 starts – including top-flight victories in the ATC Sires’ Produce Stakes (Gr 1, 1400m) as well as the Caulfield Guineas (Gr 1, 1600m) and Rosehill Guineas (Gr 1, 2000m) – so hopes were high when his close relative by the great I Am Invincible entered the ring.
But with a reserve of around $550,000 – and expectations she might fetch twice as much – she was, in fact, passed in.
“There have been two big surprises in my sales history, and she was one of them,” says Segenhoe Stud’s Peter O’Brien. “I thought she’d fetch seven figures. I put up about 50 per cent of what I thought she was going to make as the reserve, and she was passed in.”
A few minutes later, however, she was sold for that $550,000 figure to a couple of buyers who had rushed out the back to find O’Brien. First to arrive was bloodstock agent Justin Bahen, representing major owner Eric Lucas – the formerly Japan-based Australian businessman involved in the breeding and racing of Japanese star Panthalassa (Lord Kanaloa), winner of this year’s Saudi Cup (Gr 1, 1800m).
Just behind Bahen was Maher, who – O’Brien’s notes show – was a huge fan of the filly both at the farm and the sale. The pair opted to team up, while Louis Le Metayer’s Astute Bloodstock joined in a couple of hours later.
“I was very surprised when she was passed in. I thought, ‘Something’s not right here’,” Bahen told It’s In The Blood.
O’Brien wonders if the filly’s substantial size put buyers off. Bahen suspects a female family imbued with stamina might have been more the cause.
“I suppose some buyers were a bit gun shy with the dam being by a Derby winner in New Approach, and the second dam being an Oaks winner. They might have thought the family was a little bit dour,” Bahen said.
“But to me, she was out of a half to Anamoe, and I’ve found fillies out of staying mares by I Am Invincible tend to be very good. Let’s face it, he’s pretty good across anything – wherever he goes and whatever he serves.
“I just found her a lovely specimen. Strong and athletic, perhaps a bit heavier-set than others, around the shoulder and hindquarter, but she was very well–balanced and a free-flowing mover.
“I was very interested in her. She took my eye straight away. And they’re extremely hard to secure, the valuable I Am Invincibles. They’re all well sought after, especially those with a family like hers.
“You’ve got to do your work at the yearling sales. You get beaten on most horses like her, but every now and then one falls into the your price range. That’s the beauty of sales, too; everyone’s got different tastes.”
What most catches the eye in Tiz Invincible’s pedigree is she’s inbred at 3×5 to the influential Australian sire Canny Lad (Bletchingly), through two daughters. Canny Lady is the damsire of I Am Invincible, being the sire of his dam Cannarelle, while he is also the sire of Shantha’s Choice, the dam of Anamato’s sire Redoute’s Choice.
She also has Danzig (Northern Dancer) twice, as her fourth sire and as the grandsire of Redoute’s Choice, and deeper duplications of two influential mares in Lalun (Djeddah), at 7×7 via sons Never Bend and Bold Reason, and Relance (Relic) at 7×6 via two more different sons in Reliance and Match.
“In speaking to Phoenix,” O’Brien said, “they had the mare [Amuletum] who was a very strong robust mare with a huge hip. So we wanted to put like-with-like physically.
“We like to in-breed to superior females if we can, but that not being the case we wanted her to go to as good a stallion as possible. We were looking for outcross stallions, and I Am Invincible ticked every box.
“From the day she was born she was a queen. I know that word gets thrown around a lot, but she really has been, all through her life. Which again made it surprising when she didn’t sell for all that much.”
O’Brien can smile about it now, as with the other of his two major nasty sale surprises: Zarastro, also by I Am Invincible, who he “thought would make $2 million” but made $1.05 million.
And whatever other fates befall Phoenix, it looks like they’ve bred a very smart filly, and have prospects of more to come.
“We’re looking to build on our broodmares,” David Lucas told It’s In The Blood. “We’ve got another two mares that’ll come out from Europe, and hopefully in the future we can get a few nice race fillies over the from the US as well to breed with.”
In the more immediate future, Amuletum has what O’Brien calls “a great looking colt” who’s a brother to Tiz Invincible. There’s little doubt this one will be able to fetch Phoenix a price far more in line with expectations than what is starting to look very much the bargain basement figure paid for his big sister.