We were told
There’s a clip of Mark Shean calling Pierro’s 2012 Golden Slipper win – “Gai told us months ago” – that is etched into my memory and anyone else who has been watching racing TV and stallion ads.
Saturday’s Coolmore Stud Stakes gave me cause to remember that call because Scott Darby also told us that Ozzmosis (Zoustar) was a serious colt before he’d even barrier trialled.
It may have taken longer for the syndicator’s prediction to come to fruition – a Slipper campaign was ruled out to due an untimely injury – but at Flemington on Saturday the big, bold call did come true.
In previewing last year’s official two-year-old barrier trials in Sydney, Darby told this publication of Ozzmosis: “He’s from a real two-year-old family. He’s an athletic type, not your obvious hulking, muscly, early two-year-old type but he has impressed from the breakers right through.
“He could be pretty special, and obviously you don’t want to put too many raps on him, but he’s certainly the clear pick from what we’ve seen so far. We’re hoping he’ll trial really, really well and we’re expecting that.
“He’s done everything right by his times on the track, what he did in his jump-out, by the feel he gives, he could be one out of the box.”
Ozzmosis did win that barrier trial for Bjorn Baker but it did take him until May to have his first start, a winning one at Gosford, and his progression since has been rapid.
Courtesy of Saturday, he’s worth many millions and will take up residence at Newgate in the future.
Group 1 Bloodstock’s Mathew Becker, a co-owner in Coolmore Stud Stakes runner-up I Am Unstoppable (I Am Invincible), is confident that the Lloyd Kennewell and Lucy Yeomans-trained colt will get his chance at the highest level.
“We were so happy with the way he performed on Saturday. It was just frustrating that we weren’t able to get the win, but he never let us down,” Becker told us.
“It only confirmed to us what we always thought about him, that he’s a top-class colt of Group 1 standard and he showed that. He is just dying to get into a fast-run race where all the runs this time in have unfortunately been [slowly] run.
“We thought we might have got a quicker-run Coolmore, but the early sectionals weren’t that fast and they ripped home again and we were stuck in traffic trying to get off the heels of a couple of tiring horses while Ozzmosis was off and gone.”
A colt by the champion sire in I Am Invincible out of Gimcrack Stakes (Listed, 1000m) winner Satin Slipper (Pierro), I Am Unstoppable’s pedigree suggests that he should have made high six figures, but his x-rays meant he was sold for a relative pittance of $60,000.
“He’s just such a big hulking colt and Lloyd’s gone very steady with him, allowing him to grow into and develop into that frame,” he said.
“He’s done that now, he is a real bull of a colt and you’ll see a really good colt in the autumn I think and even next year as a four-year-old.”
The Black Caviar Lightning Stakes (Gr 1, 1000m) and Newmarket Handicap (Gr 1, 1200m), both at Flemington, are likely to be I Am Unstoppable’s next starts.
“In our discussions pre-race, if we were able to win a Coolmore we’d bring him back for the autumn and try and win a Lightning and a Newmarket, so we’ll try him against older horses up the straight,” Becker said.
“He goes well up the straight and he’s got that class and after Saturday I don’t think there’s any reason to change that.”
Derby Day at Flemington is traditionally the biggest betting day of the year. Of course, Tuesday’s Melbourne Cup attracts the most wagering turnover on a single race, but the opening day of Flemington’s four-day carnival has always had the eyes and wallets – and now phones – of the punters.
But by and large bookies are doing it tougher than they have in the past – outside the big names of Sportsbet, the TAB and Ladbrokes – as the smaller entities are encountering increased costs and gambling taxes, all at a time when the betting dollar is shrinking compared to the heady heights during Covid.
Interest rates also went up on Tuesday, putting more pressure on the discretionary spend of mortgage holders.
There are more than 100 online bookies in Australia, the majority using the same two or three backend providers, having taken advantage of the opportunity during the Covid-inspired boom to embrace the internet and a captive audience of punters.
For the majority, they are small businesses taking on the international giants with almost unlimited marketing budgets.
It’s not dissimilar to a hands-on trainer going out on his own trying to directly compete against trainers such as Chris Waller, Ciaron Maher and David Eustace, Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott and Godolphin.
But in the case of Thunderbet, a new online entrant with its heritage in on-course bookmaking, the first three days of the Flemington spring carnival have been a rollercoaster.
“I’ve always been on course, so I didn’t really know what to expect for Cup week, but we held a fair bit of money on the Melbourne Cup. We held good money on Derby day and, although Oaks day was a much lighter holder, it’s a lot better than being on course,” Thunderbet bookie John Patton said.
“We do form and we actually stayed under the odds for the winner of the Melbourne Cup, so we enjoy doing form, but as we are only a relatively new operator with a smaller client base, we can regularly have lopsided books, which is part of the game.”
There is no doubt, however, that corporates from big to small are being squeezed by increasing costs of running their businesses and returns to punters in terms of reduced odds – or value for money – is occurring.
Then, of course, there’s always the punters’ complaints of being able to “get on”.
Patton said: “We give a fair bet and we are as competitive as we can be with our prices and inline with the bigger corporates, but there is no doubting that the taxes imposed on bookies makes it hard to bet low percentages with racing and sporting levies and point of consumption taxes.”
What will Champions Day bring for bookies like Thunderbet and, more importantly, the punters?