It's In The Blood

Widden’s second bite of the cherry pays dividends at the Gold Coast 

It’s not often in racing that people are allowed two bites of the cherry. So when Widden Stud had theirs two years ago, they weren’t going to miss out. 

The results of their determination were shown – in rather spectacular fashion – at this week’s Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale. 

In 2018, Widden were the under-bidders when the stakes-winning O’Reilly mare Bonny O’Reilly was sold for $825,000 at the Magic Millions National Broodmare Sale. A year later, after the mare’s new owner Damion Flower’s fall from grace on drugs smuggling charges, Widden had the chance to buy her again – now in foal to Snitzel. This time, they would not miss out, though it did cost them $1.2 million. 

In time, out came a magnificent brown colt, and on day one at the Gold Coast this week, he topped the charts when sold for $1.9 million – more than double the second-highest lot. 

He’s the first foal of Bonny O’Reilly, so there’s a not inconsiderable amount of risk in that outlay, by the Coolmore-Chris Waller stallion syndicate. Bonny O’Reilly had 16 starts for eight wins – six at metro level – claiming a dash of black type in winning in Listed class at Doomben. 

But there’s a lot of historical strength in the pedigree – laced with a rich Waikato Stud heritage of Centaine, Pins and O’Reilly – and some very recent excitement as well.

Only three generations back in the female line, you’ll find a coveted blue hen. Centaine mare Escada, who first raced as Centenaire in New Zealand, won four from 23 and was Group 3-placed for trainer Pat Hyland when second in Moonee Valley’s 1996 Tesio Stakes. Her deeds and legacy at stud have far outweighed her performances on the track. 

Her third named foal was sprinting star Glamour Puss (Tale Of The Cat), a multiple stakes-winning sprinter who raced in the Waikato Stud colours for Danny O’Brien. She took two Group 1s in 2005 in the Goodwood Handicap and Flemington’s Salinger Stakes. The following year she was second in the TJ Smith Stakes (relegating Snitzel to third), before bowing out with an assault on the Royal Ascot sprint double – running seventh in the King’s Stand behind Takeover Target, and 10th in what was then still known as the Golden Jubilee Stakes. 

Two foals later Escada went to Carnegie and did it again, producing the outstanding Vision And Power, Joe Pride’s gelding who took Sydney’s George Ryder-Doncaster Group 1 double in 2009, having run second in the Chipping Norton a month earlier. 

Back to her second foal, Escada had gone to O’Reilly, and produced the filly Rare Insight, a John Hawkes-trained winner of the Stan Fox Stakes in 2002. At stud, the excitement really started, with Rare Insight throwing the exceptional Steps In Time (Danehill Dancer), a multiple stakes winner, again for Joe Pride, including the Coolmore Classic at Rosehill in 2014. 

Carrying on the family line into the present day, Rare Insight’s unraced daughter Chanel’s Choice (Redoute’s Choice), is now the dam of Whimsical (Savabeel), who last month made it two wins from three starts in the Eulogy Stakes at Awapuni. 

After Vision And Power, Escada twice went back to O’Reilly and produced Escadaire, a sprinting gelding who was a dual stakes winner in Perth, and Oh So Glam, who has thrown the multiple stakes-placed gelding Torgersen, by Pins. 

And similarly, it was Escada’s mating with Pins that produced a mare at the crux of this story, Pretty. While managing only a Ballarat maiden win, for Danny O’Brien, at stud Pretty was tried along a trusted path in this family by going to O’Reilly for her second named foal – Bonny O’Reilly – whose first foal made headlines on Tuesday. 

Giving that colt’s pedigree a hefty recent update have been Bonny O’Reilly’s younger half-siblings, a pair of full sisters by Waikato’s Ocean Park – Pretty To Sea and Evie Girl. 

Pretty To Sea ran second in the Adrian Knox Stakes of 2018, before being exported to New Zealand where she won in Listed class a year later. Evie Girl won two of her six starts, at Moonee Valley and Mornington, this summer, before sadly dying from a suspected heart attack yesterday.

Widden’s owner Antony Thompson might not have planned Bonny O’Reilly’s mating with Snitzel, but he’s certainly a fan of it – in theory and in practice. 

“It looked a good nick and an ideal mating,” Thompson tells ANZ Bloodstock News. “O’Reilly mares work with most things, and they certainly seem to work with Snitzel.” 

Thompson cites two stars of last autumn from similar crosses – Group 2 winner Splintex (by Redoute’s Choice’s Snitzel out of O’Reilly’s Acquired) and Vinery Stud Stakes (Gr 1, 2000m) winner Shout The Bar (by Redoute’s Choice’s Not A Single Doubt out of O’Reilly’s Drinks All Round). 

The physicals also worked well with the day one sale-topper. 

“He wasn’t too big, which I think is good with a Snitzel,” Thompson says. “He’s got great quality, a really striking outlook, an incredible stride, and I guess it was the way he moved and handled himself that got everyone in. He looked like a lovely fast sprinter and he’s got a stunning big Waikato pedigree behind him. 

“Gary Chittick has really developed the family and Mark Chittick has taken that on. The success they had with Glamour Puss, right through Centaine-Pins-O’Reilly, it really says ‘Waikato Stud’ in this day and age. We were really thrilled to get into that family. Bonny O’Reilly is a really exciting mare to have at home in your paddock – a mare who could really develop into a blue hen for us.” 

Just two lots after Bonny O’Reilly’s colt, Widden celebrated another windfall, through one of the richest female families in the stud book, when their I Am Invincible-Bonaria filly went for the day’s second-top price of $975,000, to Busuttin Racing. 

The line barely needs an introduction, springing from the Last Tycoon mare Decidity, who produced a host of stars including Legally Bay (Snippets), dam of Merchant Navy, Jolie Bay, et al. There are more recent updates too, with Legally Bay’s half-sister Chatoyant throwing Godolphin two-year-old Paulele, who’s unbeaten from two starts, and Legally Bay’s daughter Bayrock throwing Hindaam, a Group 3 winner at Sandown in November. 

Legally Bay’s half-sister Bonaria (Redoute’s Choice) won Flemington’s Myer Classic (Gr 1, 1600m) in 2014, and two other stakes races to stamp herself as Decidity’s finest racetrack product. 

Bonaria’s first foal to race, however, hinted at no great things in her career at stud. The son of Sebring fetched Widden $700,000 when sold to Shadwell Stud at Sydney Easter 2018. 

Named Alkaamel, the gelding had three unplaced runs last year for the Hayes-Hayes-Dabernig stable before being sold on for $7,500, and was last seen running fifth in a Wyong maiden. 

Thompson was confident of a vastly better product by I Am Invincible, and Tuesday brought a good dose of proof. 

“Looking at her, she’s just a really stunning filly,” Thompson says. “She’s got an amazing depth of girth, a great presence, an enormous amount of power. She looks a fair bit like another I Am Invincible filly, Loving Gaby, as just that big, strong fast type of filly. 

“The Sebring gelding probably didn’t have the same oomph as this filly. But certainly, I Am Invincible is doing a great job with his fillies. 

“This filly is a daughter of a Group 1 winner who was by Redoute’s Choice, and to have a filly with the pedigree she’s got – there’s so much happening in that family – she’s not only an exciting racing prospect but has enormous residual value.”