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OCTOBER 2001 EDITION
- A Monthly Newsletter
- For the Members of the Laurel Oak Club
Editor: Louis Mihalyka
Grand Times Await
The coming weeks are without doubt the most exciting time of year on the racing calendar.
Starting with last weekend’s Caulfield Guineas, the next four weeks are absolute heaven for racing fans, with the Caulfield Cup, the Cox Plate and Melbourne Cup Carnival coming up in consecutive weeks. Add to that some very strong midweek programmes that include the country cups, Thousand Guineas and the Moonee Valley pre-Cox Plate night meeting, and barely a day will go past in the coming weeks where there is not something interesting or exciting taking place for racing fans.
At Laurel Oak we are just as excited because we have had an extremely enjoyable month with some fantastic results, and the team that is evolving and looks likely to race in the coming weeks appears arguably the strongest ever in Laurel Oak’s history.
Grand Juror- Grand Times
GRAND JUROR has been a joy for her owners in the past few weeks, even though she hasn’t won. After last month’s Grandstand View, the plan was to run her on 22 September at Warwick Farm in the Listed Reginald Allen Quality. A late change in plans saw her run in the Listed Dulcify Quality Handicap against the males over 1600m on that day. After sitting third to the corner, she took the lead soon after straightening and pinched a break that fleetingly looked like it might carry her to victory.
However, Golden Fawn stormed down the outside to impressively grab victory and relegate Grand Juror to second placing. This result however earned her black type, which is important to her future value as a broodmare. The defeat was hardly “disappointing” because of the manner in which she handled the quantum leap in grade in which she was competing.
The irony of Golden Fawn’s win was that Golden Fawn was a Brain-recommended mating and was bred by good friend and client, Stuart Ramsey, together with whom we raced, and still own, Berlin. Consequently there was much congratulating and back-slapping in the mounting yard and if we had to be beaten by someone, we were happy it was Golden Fawn.
Grand Juror had done a fantastic job to this point, having now had five starts and having won a race and been stakesplaced, all in her first racing preparation! Consequently a pattern in post-race planning started to emerge. She had done enough to make it likely we would spell her, but we should see how she pulls up. She pulled up magnificently and therefore we decided that we would take on the challenge of the Group One Flight Stakes, the most prestigious race in Sydney for 3yo fillies in the first half of the season.
Fortunately we drew well against the crème de la crème of Sydney’s 3yo filly crop, but we always knew the likes of Ha Ha and Hosannah were going to be hard to beat. That is the way it panned out, with Ha Ha leading throughout to win the race from Moonflute and Hosannah. However we were absolutely thrilled when Grand Juror ran a valiant race to hang on for fourth spot in a manner showing that she was almost up to the absolute best in Sydney.
The immediate post-race discussion repeated itself with the likelihood that Grand Juror would go for a spell, “but we will see how she pulls up”. Once again she pulled up magnificently and was the first horse to eat up that night, so trainer Gary Portelli felt that it was sensible to press on with her.
“Pressing on” means “going to Melbourne” and while we decided to dodge what will be an ultra-strong Group One Thousand Guineas next Wednesday at Caulfield, the plan is now that Grand Juror will run in a fillies handicap on Caulfield Cup Day, a Listed race for fillies on Cox Plate Day, and, providing she comes through those two all right, then a Listed race at Flemington on Melbourne Cup Day, followed by a Listed race at Sandown on Sandown Cup Day.
The whole plan is subject to Grand Juror pulling up well after each run, and the thought of having a runner during the Melbourne Spring Carnival is exciting in itself. Personally it makes up for the disappointment of losing Berlin for the Melbourne spring, because Berlin this season looked like she would be our Carnival runner.
However with Grand Juror, the programme mapped out has a little bit of added pleasure to it. You may notice that those races mean that she will run on Caulfield Cup Day, Cox Plate Day, Melbourne Cup Day and Sandown Cup Day!!
If you think that her owners and Laurel Oak are looking forward to it, then you can bet we are! Grand Juror has worked well since the Flight Stakes and she will head to Melbourne this week in preparation for Saturday’s race.
Into The Night Debuts
When Keith Dryden gave INTO THE NIGHT his first serious work, Keith was impressed. Consequently we felt that we may have had a Black Opal Prelude horse one year ago for the start of the 2yo racing season. However the horse wasn’t quite ready to go racing yet. He was given a good break and brought back to be aimed at the Black Opal Stakes in March. However when we got close to racing, Keith pulled the pin because the horse was feeling the preparation and it was considered that he wasn’t quite mature enough to go the races yet.
Another break, and suddenly it is a year since Keith first formed a positive opinion about Into The Night. The long wait for his debut finished on Canberra Cup Day, when he took his place in a large maiden field. Despite being the only first starter in the race, his reputation preceded him and he started favourite.
After beginning fairly, he was shuffled back through the field and mid-race, jockey Shane Pawsey on the horse was in more trouble than Speed Gordon’s unlucky brother.
Things still looked dodgy once the horses straightened as Into The Night was still caught up midfield in a lot of traffic. Eventually Shane Pawsey managed to extricate him into open spaces and in about four strides he quickened very impressively to put paid to the opposition and come away to win by three lengths eased down. The manner in which he won made him a “horse to follow” in virtually every media outlet covering the meeting.
Into The Night comes to Sydney for his next start on a date yet to be decided. The earliest possibility is the night meeting at Canterbury on 25 October.
Footnote: Driving to and from Canberra, the tune of the Zorro TV series from the 60s kept running through my head, with the opening line of the song possibly being, “Into the night, when the full moon is bright, rides a man named Zorro”. I found no joy at Canberra races in establishing whether they were in fact the correct words, however I have subsequently found a higher authority, i.e. someone older than I am, who had a TV in the 60s, who confirmed that it is in fact “Out of the night, when the full moon is bright … “ etc.
3YOS Looking Good
It takes a long time in racing to prove a theory or an idea right or wrong. Two to three years ago we started to make observations about pedigree patterns in broodmares, and also certain other aspects of the criteria we used in selecting our horses. Always analysing, looking to refine, and very definitely looking to improve the horses we race, we changed a number of things in that selection process. Unfortunately to prove whether we are right or wrong, we have to wait around two to three years.
The first wave of horses from that selection process are now 3yos, and while we have ten 3yos in total, only three have raced to-date. Initially only one had raced as a 2yo; the others, while given all sorts of encouragement from our trainers, needed time, so time they got.
The first of the horses to race was OUR GIRL DAWN, who was a city winner at her second start; the second to race has been Grand Juror who won at her third race start and whose deeds are documented above; while the third is Into The Night. That means that each of the horses to race is now a winner within their first three starts, and we hope that that pattern can be maintained.
At least the signs in that regard are encouraging! In Melbourne BUSTER BLUES, JINDELARA, PATTIE ROYALE and RHIANNON’S SPIRIT have all trialed in a manner to suggest that they will be winning races, but each has needed time. In Sydney CAPE CRUSADER also trialed last preparation in a manner that was encouraging for the future, but he, too, needed time. Now he is close to debuting, having won a barrier trial at Rosehill during the week.
Further QUICKSAND had also trialed in an encouraging manner last preparation but she, too, needed time. Now she is also close to debuting and she, too, trialed very encouragingly last Friday. She will need one more trial before she goes racing, but I will be surprised if she can’t win a race sooner than later. The tenth 3yo has not done as much as the others, and he is the unnamed ALSHINFARAH/EXCLUSIVE DUCHESS gelding but the one preparation he had last spring was also encouraging and he, too, is now back in work in a preparation that we hope will see him reach the races.
From our point of view, we are very happy because it appears that the selection process adopted two years ago is working because, based on trainer feedback, we are very genuine prospects of having ten winners from ten horses!! There is not a horse amongst them where the trainer rang up after the first gallop or trial with those dreaded words, saying, “I think we’ve got a problem here”.
Black Anthem Joins the Fun
Adding to the enjoyment of the past month was BLACK ANTHEM’s maiden win at Newcastle last Saturday. Another horse always touted as talented by trainer Kerry Jordan, but needing more time than the average, Black Anthem had had one racing preparation last summer. The one time we felt he was a chance, he disappointed and was clearly not yet mature enough to compete.
So it was another spell for him, and he returned to racing as a lightly-raced 4yo. This time around, though, he has shown that the time has been of benefit, and he has been competitive at each start. After a first-up run (covered in last month’s Grandstand View), when he led to the shadows of the post only to be relegated to second spot, he met a strong maiden field at Kembla on 25 September.
After leading again, he was caught early in the straight by the very impressive Octagonal 3yo, Sir Henry. While the winner raced away, Black Anthem was caught right on the line for second spot by subsequent winner, Rangehill. So we went to Newcastle last Saturday with high hopes of running well again in what was a further step up to a more suitable 1600m distance, even though it was a Class One race. After sitting second to the corner, Black Anthem got to the lead and then from the 250m mark looked like being run down by several horses, however they couldn’t pass him and he managed to hold his advantage all the way to the line for an exciting win.
This horse is bred very much on staying lines, and further increases in distance will be likely for him in his coming races.
The Cox Plate
Annually, the best race on the Australian calendar in terms of quality is the WS Cox Plate at Moonee Valley. And consequently the best Cox Plates rate as some of the greatest races run in Australian turf history.
For example, in the past 22 years, here is a sample of the magic we have witnessed.
In 1979 the mighty Dulcify demolished a hot field by seven lengths, just ten days before his tragic death in the Melbourne Cup.
The following three years saw Kingston Town become the first horse to win three consecutive Cox Plates and establish himself as one of Australia’s greatest-ever racehorses. The hat-trick was dramatically completed in 1982 with Bill Collins’ famous faux pas, with around 500m to go, saying “Kingston Town can’t win”.
1986 saw Bonecrusher and Our Waverley Star “race into equine mortality” in one of the greatest races in Australian history.
The following years saw Rubiton, Our Poetic Prince, Almaarad, Better Loosen Up and Surfer’s Paradise, being great horses winning great contests.
1992 saw another epic win. Super Impose capped off a mighty career in his swansong when he beat one of the best Cox Plate fields ever assembled. Then 1995 saw emerging 3yo champion Octagonal beat the great Mahogany, while in 1996 Saintly won the slug-fest, where four great horses, in Saintly, Filante, All Our Mob, and Juggler, all out on their feet after an incredibly fast-run race, hit the line together.
In 1998 Might And Power put the icing on his great career, while 1999 saw the first of Sunline’s two wins.
While last year’s event was a little flatter than most, when Sunline met a back-marker-orientated field on a very leader-biased track, and had it all her own way, it at least set up the opportunity for her to emulate Kingston Town’s record and win three in a row this year.
And what a Cox Plate it looks like being!
With Northerly emerging as a genuine challenger to the great mare, and now Lonhro, after his sensational Caulfield Guineas win, looking to emulate his great father, Octagonal, by winning as a 3yo, throw in Universal Prince, Shogun Lodge, Viscount and the imports, Silvano and Caitano, and this Cox Plate is shaping up to be another great chapter in the history of this great race.
Less than two weeks to go, and I can’t wait!
Speaking of Octagonal; isn’t he establishing himself as a sire sensation, now that his progeny have turned three!
Octagonal had an encouraging start to his career, producing Lonhro and Hosannah as stakeswinning 2yos from his first crop. Their earnings were sufficient to put him in second spot behind Strategic in the First-Season Sires Premiership, however in the cold light of day, there were still elements of doubt about Octagonal, because he did have twenty runners for only three winners. In other words, aside from Lonhro and Hosannah, he had only one other winner from eighteen starters over a ten-month period. However the moment his offspring turned three, it was as if a magic wand was waved. From 24 runners in the first two months of the season (up to 8 October) he has had nine winners that have won fourteen races from 48 runs, i.e. more than a quarter of his starters have won. Add to that twelve placegetters means that 75% of his runners to-date have finished in the first three. To last weekend, he was seventh in the overall Sires Premiership, with effectively only one crop racing (in other words his first crop have just turned three). This compares with the other top stallions around him, who have got many crops racing, and therefore many more runners. Those figures are all before Lonhro’s Caulfield Guineas win, the prizemoney from which is likely to elevate Octagonal into second place in the overall Sires Premiership, behind Danehill!!
This is a phenomenal performance by this young stallion, and suddenly his service fee, which was raised from $30,000 to $50,000 this year (raising more than just a few eyebrows), looks well and truly justified and also looks more likely to go up than come down in the future.
While we do not have any mares going to Octagonal this year, we are delighted to have a very impressive Octagonal 2yo out of VENTURED to look forward to, and it is suddenly a real tragedy that Ventured absorbed her subsequent Octagonal foal that would have been born in 2000.
2KY recently had an ongoing racing quiz called Racing Hotshots that saw head-to-head competition with people being eliminated on a round-by-round basis to an eventual Final situation. Regular Laurel Oak owner over the years, Michael Riley, was the tournament winner. It was some pretty tough competition and we happened to hear the semi-final round on the radio.
For your interest, here are the questions, with the answers to be supplied on the Extra News insert page with this Grandstand View. This is purely to give yourself the opportunity to test yourself against the champion, and one of the semi-finalists.
Michael’s five questions in the semi-final were:
1. Who won the 1994 Cox Plate? 2. In what year did Hayai win the Caulfield Cup? 3. Who defeated Aquidity and Castletown to win the Sydney Cup? 4. Who won the 1985 Melbourne Cup? 5. Who came second?
The other contestant’s questions were: 1. Who won the 1989 Cox Plate? 2. In what year did Silver Bounty win the Caulfield Cup? 3. Who defeated Chaleyer and Palace Revolt to win the Sydney Cup? 4. Who won the 1988 Melbourne Cup? 5. Who came second?
Impressively both contestants got all five answers right, so the tie-breaker question was: What barrier did Brew have in last year’s Melbourne Cup? The answer was 23 and Michael won the tie-breaker by being closest.
Fred Hoystead Award
Racing Victoria has an award called the Fred Hoysted Award for the best training performance for the season. The award was made at a gala ceremony after all the monthly nominees for the award were considered.
For the 2000/2001 training season, Robert Smerdon was a multiple nominee for the brilliant first-up win of his stayer, Streak, in the TEAC Stakes over 1400m at Flemington in September. He also was nominated for winning the Hamilton Cup with his restricted class former Sydney galloper, Samosiera, in April. He was given a third nomination for taking the same horse through his classes to win the Warrnambool Cup in May. The ultimate winner of the award for the season was Mike Moroney for preparing Brew to win the Fosters Melbourne Cup and for preparing Second Coming, the third placegetter in the race.
Tony Noonan is already a nominee for this season for having prepared Piavonic to win the Group One Manikato Stakes.
The award is a great initiative, recognising trainers’ achievements, and is based on outstanding training performances achieved on Victorian racetracks (city and country) and an outstanding performance may relate to one individual feat, or achievements involving multiple horses in any month.
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