Curse of the Oaks strikes again as Mosheen retired

Alfred Chan Columnist

By Alfred Chan, Alfred Chan is a Roar Expert

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    Deemed the most testing distance for a three-year-old, winning the Crown Oaks over 2500m has consistently led to the premature retirement of promising stayers and no winner of the Oaks still races.

    After fracturing a leg in the Tristarc Stakes, 2011 winner of the Crown Oaks, Mosheen, has been retired to stud and she will travel to Japan to be served by Deep Impact.

    With three year olds ineligible for the Melbourne Cup, the 2500m Oaks is the longest distance race for three year olds. The past five fillies to win the race have eventually retired prematurely, due to injury or inability to recapture their three year old form.

    The 2010 winner, Brazilian Pulse, returned as a four year old when she trailed the field all the way in the Cockram, Let’s Elope and Underwood Stakes before being retired.

    The 2009 winner, Faint Perfume, returned as a four year old and immensely struggled when she ran sixth in the Turnbull, 17th in the Caulfield Cup, ninth in the Mackinnon and 13th in the Orr Stakes before being retired.

    The 2008 winner, Arapaho Miss, had nine starts after returning as a four year old but amassed just $17,250 in prize money from those nine starts, which made up a meagre 2.43 percent of her career prize money.

    2007 winner, Samantha Miss, looked the best of the lot after she ran third in the Cox Plate before winning the Oaks. She had one more run after her Oaks in the Light Fingers Stakes, where she tore a tendon and was immediately retired.

    Australian racing for three year olds is unique, because there are not the same developmental races as Europe. With the Group oneVRC Derby and Group one Crown Oaks as the ultimate staying test for colts and fillies, the lack of lead up races to those Group ones leave them unprepared to recover from such a testing race at that time in their career.

    Two year olds in Australia will never run beyond 1600m and if they do, they only will once. Because the Oaks are in the spring, the general lead up races are the Thousand Guineas over 1600m into the Wakeful Stakes over 2000m before the Oaks over 2500m.

    Stayers generally develop slower than sprinters, so stayers often do not reach their full staying capabilities until they turn five.

    The steep increase in distance from 1600m to 2500m with a 2000m race in between asks for too much from young fillies that run out the Oaks well but have their growth stalled when they recover from such a testing run. History suggests they are more injury prone than their peers.

    It’s no surprise that the three most recently successful staying mares, Lights of Heaven, Pinker Pinker and More Joyous, all bypassed the Oaks path.

    Champion staying mare Makybe Diva never raced against her fellow three year olds due to being foaled in the Northern Hemisphere, but her late racing debut suggests she never would have. She had just one start as a three year old.

    Following Mosheen’s opportunistic win in the Oaks, where boom filly Atlantic Jewel opted not to run, Mosheen became a four time Group one winner when she won the Australian Guineas (1600m), Randwick Guineas (1600m) and Storm Queen Stakes (2000m) in the autumn of her 3yo campaign.

    Returning as a four year old, she was never able to recapture her dominant form, where she finished 13th, fifth, first and sixth in her four starts before retiring.

    The temptation to win a Group one race will always seduce connections but winning the Crown Oaks has frequently gone on to prove a curse rather than a successful racing career.

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    The Crowd Says (9)

    • October 24th 2012 @ 6:55am
      nan said | October 24th 2012 @ 6:55am | ! Report

      3yo are eligible to run in the cup- the derby winner gets an automatic start if they want it.

      • Columnist

        October 24th 2012 @ 7:51am
        Justin Cinque said | October 24th 2012 @ 7:51am | ! Report

        That’s true nan. They are exempt from the ballot if nominated for the cup. The late entry clause, that allowed derby winners to enter the melb cup on derby evening from 1989, was removed in 2007.

    • Columnist

      October 24th 2012 @ 8:04am
      Justin Cinque said | October 24th 2012 @ 8:04am | ! Report

      Alfred the record of horses that have won the vrc derbies and oaks are quite poor lately. I don’t think the distance had much to do with mosheen’s injury but so many don’t go on. The reason most times is that these horses are competing against their age group, at the start of their 3yo campaign, generally at a distance Australian horses aren’t being bred to run.

      Most years the oaks and derbies aren’t strong form references for the reasons i just mentioned. But there are exceptions – mohogany, octagonal, efficient, whobegotyou, tuesday joy and mosheen progressed from flemington 3yo classics in the last 20 years to have great racing careers.

      There is a lot of history in the vrc derby and oaks and in my opinion they would return to being great form references as soon as australian breeders looked to produce progressive stayers, in the same way they aim to produce progressive sprinters presently.

      • Columnist

        October 24th 2012 @ 11:20am
        Alfred Chan said | October 24th 2012 @ 11:20am | ! Report

        The Derby has had a bit more success in uncovering superstars than the Oaks and that’s because the boys are trained and raced tougher than the girls. When you look at the fields of both the Oaks and Derby retrospectively, the Derby is much stronger because the girls just dont look like stayers at that age and are more often than not, pushed into running it because there are no shorter alternatives.

    • October 24th 2012 @ 10:54am
      CE said | October 24th 2012 @ 10:54am | ! Report

      Oaks winners do seem to have a tough time of it after their 3YO year. The best that I can remember is Grand Archway – who won the VRC Oaks in 1998 and the AJC Oaks in 1999, as well as the Wakeful, the CF Orr and the Australia Stakes (and had placings in the Australian Derby, the SA Oaks and the SAJC Oaks). But all of these were in her 3YO year. She never seemed to capture that form again. And with Sunline competing for the limelight, she has faded in many memories.

      • Columnist

        October 24th 2012 @ 11:36am
        Alfred Chan said | October 24th 2012 @ 11:36am | ! Report

        It happens year after year. Some owners opt not to even race their horses as 3yo’s and when they debut as 4yo’s they’ve had much more time to develop and grow into their bodies. Others will race their 3yo’s very lightly. Down the long stretch, it often proves successful from a career longevity point of view.

    • Columnist

      October 24th 2012 @ 1:14pm
      Justin Cinque said | October 24th 2012 @ 1:14pm | ! Report

      That softly softly approach does work. I’d certainly encourage it in horses i own. But skipping the derby or oaks doesn’t always work. Four or five years ago, hanks won the vase so impressively but peter moody didn’t back him up in the derby because he thought it wasn’t the best thing for the horse looking long term. Hanks went for a spell and never found that 3yo spring form again. Sometimes striking when the iron is hot works. And derbies and oaks are rich races that don’t always live up to the prize.

      • Columnist

        October 24th 2012 @ 1:24pm
        Alfred Chan said | October 24th 2012 @ 1:24pm | ! Report

        Agree with you there Justin. When I eventually own a horse, I will be very cautionary but in the end it would probably come down to the breeding. Even then, there ain’t too sire that produce young stayers. It’d probably depend how desperate for money I am too. Gonna be interesting to see how Manawanui returns. Blitzed the Vase but was never the same either.

      • October 27th 2012 @ 4:31pm
        Shaun said | October 27th 2012 @ 4:31pm | ! Report

        Both of you have good points; I’ve seen both extremes. I’ve owned exactly two racehorses in my life. The first one won on debut in the provincials and the trainer told me he thought she could go to Saturday metro, so we did. Unfortunately she fractured a leg, ran dead last and never returned to the track. The second one we were much more cautious to the point of ridiculousness, starting him off in the country. He won four pretty decent races there, then we spelled him and planned on sending him to town next campaign, but he didn’t come on and we had to retire him too. So it’s best to find an even balance, but overall I think I’d prefer the softly-softly method.
        Then again, I’ve never had the chance to win a Group One before, so maybe the excitement clouds over some owners’ common sense.

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