It's In The Blood

Uncommon James

Every dog has its day, and every stallion will eventually get a good horse. Whether they’re kept around long enough to see it happen can be a different story.

Saturday at Sandown brought the completion of an exquisite Group 1 treble, spread over precisely 12 months, for stallions dispatched to far flung corners of the globe.

At the Blue Diamond meeting last year, Daumier won the feature, news which probably didn’t reach his dad Epaulette, who’d been sold off by Darley to a new home in Turkey, where he stands for the equivalent of $600.

Months later Australia’s richest race, The Everest, was won by Giga Kick, propelling his sire Scissor Kick to the top of the general sires’ table. It was quite the feat, given the former Arrowfield stallion was by then in Tunisia, serving mares mostly for eventing and sports.

And at this latest Blue Diamond meeting on Saturday, Uncommon James stormed to victory in the Oakleigh Plate to give his sire Cable Bay his first Group 1 winner. The breakthrough will have been cheered loudly at the Dr Kehar Singh Stud And Agriculture Farm, near the Pakistan border in the Punjab, India. That’s Cable Bay’s new home, after his four seasons at Victoria’s Woodside Park shuttling from Highclere Stud, England.

Any regrets from the trio’s former Australian studmasters are no doubt short-lived. Obviously, they can’t wait forever. In Cable Bay’s case, he’d stood in Australia from 2017 to 2020, from an initial $19,800 fee down to $9,900, having been brought to Woodside in hope of seeing some of the magic his sire Invincible Spirit had imparted to another son, I Am Invincible.

That, obviously, didn’t eventuate. Cable Bay covered 403 mares here for 246 live foals, and has so far had 37 winners from 80 starters, with just two stakes winners. One of them was Flying Missile, who won a Perth Listed. The other is Uncommon James, the outstanding homebred who won two Listed races, in his hometown Brisbane and in last August’s Regal Roller Stakes at Caulfield, before Saturday’s elite-level triumph.

Uncommon James’ victory was a first Group 1 for his breeder Caitlin Hoysted, her husband Matt and his co-trainer Steve O’Dea, for jockey Ben Thompson, and of course for Cable Bay.

The four-year-old is an oddly, even uncommonly, named runner. The main reason – we’ll reveal the other later – is that all the men in Caitlin’s family have the middle name of James, and their sons do too. And in a neat-sounding coincidence, that force of Australian breeding, Rick Jamieson, was behind the mating that produced him.

This heartwarming tale begins when Caitlin Hoysted ventured into breeding in her own right in 2017. He father Peter Lavin, a trainer and breeder who for more than 20 years had run Lavin Park Racing and Breeding at the Sunshine Coast with wife Toni, had bought a filly by Jet Spur (FLying Spur) from Queensland’s Glenlogan Park at the 2011 Magic Millions yearling sale, for $70,000.

Lavin was from New Zealand and, so, a rugby nut. Forming an allegiance to Brisbane club Brothers, he became friends with former Wallaby great John Eales, who took a share of this filly, named Pickabee. Caitlin was training then, and under her conditioning Pickabee scored decent success: four Brisbane city wins among five from 20 starts, plus a Listed placing.

Pickabee went into breeding and in 2016 produced a filly by Glenlogan sire Real Saga (Tale Of The Cat), called Pickababe, who Caitlin says was “quite feral”, and who was quickly retired to the naughty corner, unraced.

Trouble followed the next year, with a miss and a foal deceased. Greater misfortune struck the Lavin family, however, when Peter was diagnosed with advanced kidney and lung cancer. Doctors gave him six to 12 months.

Refusing to take that prognosis lying down, Lavin had a ready ally in forming an action plan. Eales had been rocked as a budding young player by the death of his older sister Carmel from cancer, aged just 18. Two decades later, his father Jack’s passing from skin cancer was a catalyst for Eales’ deeper involvement in the cancer research world, mostly as an ambassador for Melanoma Institute Australia. He recommended Lavin an oncologist, and his treatment began.

Caitlin stepped down from training to run other parts of the family business, including breeding. There were four mares at the boutique, 132-acre Lavin Park, and one was Pickabee. She had gone just down the road, to Glenlogan Park, for the mating that produced her first foal. This time, Caitlin would send her almost a thousand miles away, to Woodside Park stud in Victoria.

It was not only a trip of distance, but a leap of faith with a stallion untried and unknown. But reassuring her was the presence in the bigger picture of Jamieson.

The Gilgai Farm breeding maven, who’d produced Black Caviar (Bel Esprit) among many others, is admired as one of the country’s canniest breeders, a man with distinctive methodologies to spin thoroughbred gold. These had led him to become the driving force in bringing out Cable Bay.

He was just a stallion who’d won only a Group 2 and a Group 3 in England, but Jamieson saw something in his pedigree – the Melbourne Age reported it was mostly the second damsire, European Horse of the Year Dancing Brave – to convince him he’d work with several of his own mares.

And, it turned out, another was Pickabee.

“I was talking to Matt Tillett, who worked for Woodside Park,” Caitlin Hoysted tells It’s In The Blood. “He was telling me about this horse Rick Jamieson was bringing out, and this points system for how he [Jamieson] placed mares with stallions. I didn’t know Rick Jamieson, but I knew he had an amazing strikerate of breeding Group 1 winners.

“Then when Matt put Pickabee into this system, it came up as a great rating.”

So good, before Hoysted had made up her mind, Tillett called her back, it’s believed after another chat with Jamieson, asking if she’d consider selling Pickabee.

“I thought about it,” she says, “but then I thought, ‘If this guy [Jamieson] is wanting to buy her this badly, I should just keep her, and do it myself. He was by Invincible Spirit, and I Am Invincible was doing so well. And Pickabee was young, so I’d have more chances.

“So I took the punt, but I did get a lot of flack for it. People said I was wasting the mare by going to an unproven stallion. From that point on the foal was going to be my little project, and I was just hoping for an ‘I told you so’ moment.

“And from the day he was born, he was the most beautiful looking foal I’ve ever seen. I was attached to him from day one.”

You look at Uncommon James’ pedigree and it looks decidedly plain. The damsire is Jet Spur, not one of Flying Spur’s best, as the sire of eight stakes winners, highlighted by just one Group 3 success. Second dam Emmabee was a four-time winner in Townsville, who also threw Emmalene, Pickabee’s fullsister and one of Jet Spur’s seven Listed victors.

Emmabee was by a sire infrequently spotted here, Bubble Gum Fellow, a Japanese dual Group 1 winner who stood just two seasons at Chatswood Stud, Victoria. He was, at least, by Sunday Silence, sire of Deep Impact among others. But his dam, Bubble Company, was by Lyphard, one of just two repetitions in Uncommon James’ first five generations, who’s in Cable Bay’s fourth column as Dancing Brave’s dad.

Perhaps this pushed a Jamieson eyebrow upwards, perhaps not. He politely prefers not to discuss his thinkings with the media today. Danzig is the other repetition, at 4m x 5f, but Cable Bay is Danehill-free, also making him attractive to the Australian broodmare band.

In any case Hoysted, keeping the colt partly knowing a Cable Bay yearling wouldn’t likely sell well, would quickly have her vindication.

Bearing the navy butcher-stripe hoops of the Brothers club, Uncommon James debuted with a narrow Gold Coast second, before a sizzling five-race winning streak, culminating in the Listed Regal Roller. He resumed last month with a narrow second in the Group 2 Rubiton Stakes at Sandown, before Saturday’s stunning win gave him six wins from eight starts.

After the Regal Roller came a $2 million offer from Hong Kong.

“My dad has been doing this forever and has never had huge success. You get a good one and you sell it? What’s the point?” Hoysted says. “Would the money change my parents’ lives? Probably not.”

Although Cable Bay’s oldest Australians are still only four, it would appear Uncommon James may be the exception that proves a line can be ruled through the stallion as a siring force. So perhaps Cable Bay represents one of those infrequent but inevitable occasions when Jamieson’s predictions went unfulfilled.

But as Hoysted’s above comments suggest, her father’s initial doctors were also wrong. Peter Lavin was very much part of the celebrations on Saturday, the 70-year-old another Group 1 first-timer.

“About a month ago, his doctors said he has no more cancer,” Hoysted says. “So he got to see his Group 1 that he didn’t think he would.”

The gelding is called by his nickname of Cash at home, but as for his official title, Uncommon James, it’s also the slightly odd name of a jewellery retailer in the US, from which Hoysted had made the odd purchase.

“I let them know from day dot we had a horse with the same name, and since then they’ve been right into the story, and have been sending us little presents,” she says. “I wore a necklace they sent me to the races on Saturday, so it obviously helped!”

The jewellery company is not the only foreign entity to have been in touch. Congratulatory messages have also arrived from the understandably buoyed folk, now chuffed at the marketability of their new stallion, at a certain Dr Kehar Singh Stud And Agriculture Farm, Punjab, India.