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Laurel Oak Newsletter







  Without doubt the racing highlight of the month was ANCIENT SONG’s first start for her new owners and Laurel Oak.

  She resumed at Moonee Valley at the first night meeting of the season on Friday, 26 September (which made it a time when I know many people would have missed her run), in what was a hot pre-Carnival sprint field. 

  Courtesy of a well-judged ride by Damien Oliver, who made beautiful use of the inside barrier draw once Ancient Song was only fairly away, she kept poking up along the fence to be in a challenging position on straightening.  At the 300m mark however it looked like The Little Tacker had her measure but once she balanced up in the straight, Ancient Song was too good, coming away for a narrow, but impressive, victory.

  Given that Damien reported that she didn’t get on the right leg until well into the home straight and the fact that she also had a good blow after the race, there was certainly plenty of scope for improvement in the mare.

  The fact that she is already a Group 2 winner, the overall plan is not to die wondering over the coming year as to what she may or may not be able to achieve.  Consequently we are aiming high with Ancient Song, and in her next two starts she is due to meet INTO THE NIGHT in the Group 2 Fuszion Stakes at Caulfield next Saturday, Caulfield Cup Day, followed by the Group 1 Salinger at Flemington on VRC Derby Day.

  Congratulations go to trainer Peter Moody as this is the second time that he has acquired a horse in which Laurel Oak has an involvement, and won first time out with her.  The previous one was BERLIN. 

  Having two runners in the spring feature races in the coming weeks will certainly add to the excitement and interest for our owners, and hopefully we can report a win or two in the next newsletter!


INTO THE NIGHT normally hogs the headlines in Grandstand View when he is racing, however not in this edition.  He resumed with high expectations in the Group 3 The Shorts last Monday, Metropolitan Day, at Randwick.  Alas, he struck the only heavy track in two days of racing and realistically was dead unlucky that his race was scheduled to be the last on the Monday.  Had The Shorts been any other race on the two-day programme it would have helped his cause a great deal, as Saturday’s racing was run on a good track, while Monday’s races were run on a slow track that gradually deteriorated throughout the day under steady rain.  Before the last race on Monday, the track was downgraded to heavy, which literally dampened our enthusiasm. 

  Into The Night eventually finished a creditable sixth, and jockey Damien Oliver reported afterwards that the horse felt great, and that he could feel the power but “the wheels were spinning”.  He slipped and slid around the heavy track and could never get the necessary grip to be able to stretch out.  Fortunately he came through the race well and he, too, will race in Melbourne next Saturday, in the Group 2 Fuszion Stakes, followed by the Salinger on VRC Derby Day.

  The Hong Kong International Sprint is still on the agenda for Into The Night, if he shapes up in the coming two races.  He is one of the official nominees from Australia, and has had his first inoculation.  The other nominations for the Sprint are Bomber Bill, Dantana, Empire, Fatoon, Mistegic (who is already out for the spring, though), Scaredee Cat, Star Of Florida, Super Elegant, Thorn Park and Yell.  As his next two races in Melbourne will be vital, we hope for fair tracks both in terms of bias and certainly not heavy tracks.

  With Into The Night gradually rising towards the cream of Australian sprinters, his cause has been helped by the list of retirements from last year’s better sprinters.  For interest, only because of the number of good sprinters that are no longer racing, consider this for a strong group:  Bel Esprit, Choisir, Planchet, Snowland, Rubitano, Falvelon, Belle De Jour and Innovation Girl.


In mid-September Into The Night was honoured by the Canberra Racing Club, winning the inaugural Canberra Racing Club Focus Award.

  The award, which does not necessarily have to be awarded every year, is given to the horse, person or entity that helps put the focus of racing on Canberra.  As Into The Night managed to do that so well in the past season, he won the inaugural award.  Given the sort of races that he is now obliged to run in this current season, we hope that he is a leading contender for the award again next year.

  Into The Night was also one of four nominees, along with Half Hennessy, Ain’t Seen Nothing, and Victory Vein, for the NSW Country-Trained Horse Award for 2002-2003.  On the criteria outlined for the award, it always looked like he would play second fiddle to Half Hennessy, and while no runner-up is announced for this award, Half Hennessy was the winner at a recent function held at Randwick. 


Only a few other runners, aside from the two sprint stars, since the last newsletter, and they were JINDELARA and WALLA WALLA.  Jindelara raced with no luck at Bendigo and she has now gone for a spell after a successful campaign that was only a couple of unlucky results away from being a very good campaign.  Not so much joy with Walla Walla, who doesn’t show a great passion for racing and he is likely to do his future racing in weaker areas in someone else’s colours.

  STRATEGIC PRINCE trialed very well recently and he is set to resume at the Moe Cup meeting next Thursday, 16 October.  The next fresh face on the racing scene is likely to be PERSICUM (Filante-Peach Tree Road 3yo gelding) who trialed nicely at Warwick Farm last Friday and is set to debut at a date still to be determined by trainer, Gary Portelli.

 One frustrating old favourite who ran well when resuming was CAPE CRUSADER, who always promised so much but generally failed to deliver.  He had his first-up run for new connections still under Keith Dryden’s training at the Canberra Cup meeting.  In a very “typical Cape” performance he was badly held up in the straight and stormed to the line to run third in what was an encouraging effort.  Hopefully those clever people who know how well he goes first-up were on him, as he paid over $7.00 for a place!


Rarely (if ever) has a horse had such an amazing affinity with an individual race as Umrum has with the Group 1 Toorak Handicap, run at Caulfield last Saturday. 

 Umrum has already been mentioned in Grandstand View in a past edition as being an owner’s dream, in that he won the first 2yo race of the season when he was a baby, and was still continuing racing successfully six seasons later as an 8yo, or make that seven seasons now, as 9yo Umrum contested the Toorak Handicap for the sixth consecutive season last Saturday.  He won the race in ’99 and 2000, and has since been placed twice, while on the fifth occasion he was a close-up and unlucky eighth.  Last season was one of his placings when he was promoted from third to second on a protest.  Third-up from a spell, he contested the Group 1 race once again last Saturday, and yet again finished in the placings, finishing third at 20/1.

Overall his record is now 77 starts for 14 wins and 20 placings, with Saturday’s prizemoney taking his earnings past $1.6 million.


Two of our mares had boosts to their pedigree pages recently.  SHEER BLISS’s half-sister, Snippets Crown, happens to be the dam of Group 1 Flight Stakes winner, Unearthly.  With Snippets Crown already a stakeswinner, this Group 1 success was a major boost to Sheer Bliss’s pedigree.  Within two days of that win came the good news that Sheer Bliss tested positive to her first scan following her cover by General Nediym.

General Nediym figures in the good news for another of our mares.  Recent purchase, SANDURGA, is a half-sister to the prolific winner and stakeswinner, Major Victory, before we bought her (for only $1,600!).  Less than a month after her purchase, her pedigree received a boost when last Saturday’s Brisbane 2yo winner, General Patton, saluted.  General Patton is by General Nediym and is a half-brother to both Sandurga and Major Victory. 


The big news in Sydney this month for fans of high-class racing is the announcement that the AJC Easter Carnival will be revamped from 2004.  Previously mooted to take place from 2005 onwards, some behind-the-scenes work has enabled the new carnival format to come into play next year.  Based on the mega-successful VRC format, the four days of the AJC Autumn Carnival racing will now be compressed into one week.

Easter Saturday will see the AJC Derby, the Galaxy and the AJC Sires Produce Stakes.  Easter Monday will be the new date for the Doncaster Handicap.  The Wednesday will see the AJC Australian Oaks return to its previous date, along with the All Aged Stakes.  The final day will now be the Saturday, and will have the Sydney Cup, the Queen Elizabeth Stakes and the Champagne Stakes. 

The revised format will make it much easier for racing fans to come to Sydney for the carnival, as they do with the Melbourne carnival.  Further the AJC is forming strategic alliances with the major football codes, including the NRL, AFL and Super 12 Rugby, to promote Sydney as a centre of sporting excellence over the weekend. 

The STC is now having a think about the impact this will have on their carnival, as the timing of many of their races is designed to be ideal lead-ins to AJC carnival races.  It is likely that Golden Slipper Day will now develop into a Super Saturday with up to five Group 1 races.  There is a possibility that the George Ryder Stakes and perhaps even the Coolmore Classic will be added to the previous Group 1 races on Slipper Day, being of course the Golden Slipper, the BMW and the Arrowfield Stud Stakes.

A compressed AJC carnival is also likely to help the Adelaide and Brisbane carnivals, as there is less likelihood of overlap.

The only problem I see will be for us industry workers who will also have the Easter Yearling Sales to contend with.  As the mind and body could not cope with the intensity of a yearling sale added to the social intensity of Melbourne Cup week, it will be interesting to see how we handle next Easter.


1 October saw the introduction of handicapping of horses in Victoria and NSW based on ratings.  The new handicapping system will see horses receive a numeric rating directly following each racecourse performance.  This will allow owners and trainers to be aware of their horses’ weight prior to nominating.  This rating-based handicapping system will be introduced for Classes 1-4 from 1 October, and then from 1 December for the balance of restricted races.  From February next year open class and 2yo races will also be added to the same system.

I will reserve judgement as to how the new system will work, because the current system gives the handicapper some licence to adjust relative weights up or down, depending on which horses nominate for a particular race.  Not every race for a particular class is of similar quality, however my current understanding of the new rating system is that no allowance for that is taken into consideration.

My worst fear of the system is that it may encourage trainers to give horses a run, as the English system does, where they have two or three runs to establish their handicap in the system, and that becomes their base handicap from which they then move up or down.  Historically English trainers give their handicap-type horses warm-up runs so they start off on a low handicap, giving them a greater opportunity to win more races.

T ime will tell if this innovation will be a good one.


It was interesting to read the post-race comments after Casual Pass won the Group 2 Bill Stutt Stakes (a race which has proven to be a pretty strong form race, given that runner-up Special Harmony has since won at Flemington and third placegetter Face Value went on to run second in the Group 1 Caulfield Guineas).  Casual Pass was a horse bred and raced by David Moodie.  The story went on to say that David Moodie has had phenomenal success backing his judgement with mares that he clearly feels are better than the commercial market appreciates.  Raami’s Magic, the dam of Casual Pass, won the Tasmanian St Leger and was the first stakeswinner in the family for four generations. 

David Moodie’s approach highlights the conundrum that we occasionally face, where a mare that we have some belief in has not had a lot of luck in the breeding shed (for example, Raami’s Magic only produced two foals in five years at stud).  Paying commercial agistment rates, those mares invariably cannot produce foals that will yield a profit as a yearling, so we are often faced with the decision as to whether we cull the mares, in terms of keeping the cash flow of our breeder clients going, or do we hang in there for another year or more in the pursuit of that good racehorse.  Always a tough one.  Broodmares in the Laurel Oak camp at the moment that currently fit into that “do we or don’t we” category are ESSENTIALITY, JEBEL and RIBHINN.  These are all mares that have brilliant pedigrees but so far their offspring haven’t had a lot of luck in terms of getting to the races and succeeding, however we still believe that when luck goes their way, these mares will be capable of producing a very good horse.


The story in the last edition of Grandstand View about the cleverly-named Bosnich prompted a contribution from one of our readers, suggesting that Colston was a particularly well-named gelding.  For those of you familiar with the recently-deceased MP, Mal Colston, who got into trouble over travel expenses, this particular Colston, the racehorse, is by Moose On The Loose out of a mare called Sky Frolic.


Once the Caulfield Guineas weekend has been and gone then the highlight weekends on the Australian racing calendar are upon us.  Next weekend’s Caulfield Cup is followed a week later by the Cox Plate, and then only another week until the Melbourne Cup Carnival.  You know it is close when the Cox Plate tourists are talking in terms of going “next week”.

A fter some sensational Cox Plates in recent years, this year’s edition does not seem to have the same intensity of excitement, mainly because Lonhro looks almost certain to win, going on his recent form.  The lack of quality weight-for-age opponents for him means that he is already odds-on favourite over a week before the race.  Stranger things have happened of course but as the Cox Plate is designed to be won by the best horse in the country, it would seem unfair at this stage if Lonhro were not this year’s winner.

In terms of excitement, though, maybe we have been a little spoilt, as it is hard to continually repeat such epic confrontations as Sunline and Northerly, because it is so rare that you get two such great champions racing against each other at the peak of their form at the same time.


In recent weeks I have heard Richard Freedman repeat on a couple of occasions that he does not believe Pentastic will be a successful Melbourne Cup contender, because it is not his first attempt at the race.

Pentastic has been in such great form recently that logic suggests that he will be a genuine Melbourne Cup chance, so I have always been slightly dismissive of Richard Freedman’s comments.

However on reflection, I did a stocktake of the last ten Cup winners, back to Vintage Crop in 1993, and realised that, certainly in that time-frame, Richard Freedman’s comments are absolutely spot-on.  Every winner of the Melbourne Cup won at their first go at the race.  Several of them returned, and Doriemus went within a nostril of blowing Richard’s theory out of the water when he ran second to Might And Power.  Vintage Crop came back for another placing in two subsequent attempts, and as recently as last year the veteran Mr Prudent ran second in what was definitely not his first attempt.  However in terms of winners, each of the winners in the past ten years won at their first attempt at the big race.

Richard’s implication is that it is a very demanding campaign that horses cannot repeat and invariably horses are in their best form and best weighted at their first go at the race.

Of course, just about every traditional Melbourne Cup theory has been blown out of the water with at least one exception in recent years so maybe this is the year that that particular theory misses out. 

There will be a pre-Melbourne Cup edition of Grandstand View in about two weeks’ time, with the latest Cup news 


Speaking of the Melbourne Cup, its influence as an international race has been going on for some time.  In 1897 Mark Twain (American novelist and humorist, and author of Huckleberry Finn) wrote in “More Tramps Abroad” that the Melbourne Cup is Australia’s national day.

He wrote that it is the world’s only horse race for which a holiday is proclaimed by an act of parliament.  He further wrote that the inherent uncertainties of Australia’s premier racing event, being a handicap, shows that it is essentially a gambling event (as opposed to a race designed to find the very best horse) as well as a magnificent spectacle.

The Encyclopaedia Britannica considers it the greatest all-age handicap in the world.  Mark Twain further wrote that “Cup Day is supreme – it has no rival”.  A century later he would find no need to alter that opinion.  Roll on Cup Week!




Promoting the Ownership of Thoroughbreds and the Enjoyment of Racing

PO Box 6162 Parramatta Business Centre  NSW  2150

Tel (02) 9683 6999, Fax (02) 9683 6986, Mobile 0418 962 858

e-mail:  lauroak@bigpond.net.au

Visit our website at:  www.laureloak.com.au

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