Want to fix the drought in regional Australia? Schedule some of Sydney’s biggest races in the country.
Let me first say I’m no expert on horse breeding, but the death of the Champion Irish sire High Chaparral in late 2014 was a sad loss for those owners who may have been looking for some quality middle-distance and staying horses to compete at the highest level in Australasia.
Not since Sir Tristram, and his son Zabeel, have we seen a plethora of top-class stayers that he managed to produce from the year 2009 onwards. The likes of So you Think, Monaco Consul, Shoot Out and Descarado all managed to win Group 1 staying races at 2000m or more, with two of those gallopers more than competitive at the highest level at lesser distances.
Tavistock was a Dual Group 1 winning New Zealand galloper sired by the champion Irish horse Montjeu, renowned for his ability to produce stayers of the highest calibre in Europe. He won the Group 2 Blamey Stakes in Australia at a mile where he had to be called Lord Tavistock, due to the Tavistock name already being registered in this country. More of a sprinter miler type horse, he only had the one run beyond 1600m, which was a well-beaten eighth in the Kelt Capital Stakes over 2040m at Hastings.
But his best progeny so far have thrived at middle distances or further, especially so when the Zabeel influence has surfaced. Recent Rosehill Guineas and VRC Derby winner Tarzino is perhaps the best known to Australian racegoers, but Sunday’s Hong Kong Derby winner Werther has probably now earned himself a higher reputation. Both are out of Zabeel-sired mares and have taken Southern Hemipshere racing by storm.
The latter horse had already placed in two Derbies here and won the Group 2 Eagle Farm Stakes against the older horses last Winter in Brisbane (not an easy feat). He was quite unlucky not to win the Queensland Derby, and appears to have gone to another level in Hong Kong, under the guidance of the astute John Moore. He really does look a stayer of the very highest calibre after what transpired on Sunday with his fighting win over Victory Magic. Both horses went at relentless speed at the finish of that race and left the third horse Giovanni Caneletto languishing a little, three lengths back in third place.
Tarzino needs little introduction after his win on Saturday, his controversial second in the Australian Guineas recently, and his Derby win in the Spring of 2015. He has a stranglehold on ATC Derby betting, and looks almost certain to win that race in two weeks’ time.
One year older and not quite as well performed is the popular gelding Hasselhoof, another son of a Zabeel mare. He had won his first six starts in his homeland, one at Group 2 level over a mile, and one over a middle distance of 2100m, until he blotted his copybook a little with two defeats in Australia, neither of which was a disgrace by any means. He still has some maturing to do, and is quite likely to make his mark in Melbourne later this Spring.
Before these three really made their mark, the well performed Donna Logan trained now four year old Volkstok’n’ Barrell had made his presence felt in early 2015, with a runner up spot in the New Zealand Derby behind Mongolian Khan, a Rosehill Guineas win, and another placing behind his New Zealand Derby conqueror in the ATC Derby last Autumn.
He didn’t quite come up to expectations in the Melbourne Spring, but is back in form in New Zealand of late with two Group 1 wins, taking his career win tally to eight wins from eighteen starts. Maybe we haven’t seen the best of him yet, and he might be one of the main contenders for the Doncaster Mile and/or Queen Elizabeth Stakes in the coming weeks, let alone the Cox Plate in the Spring. He doesn’t have the Zabeel influence on his mothers side of his pedigree, which is possibly why we haven’t seen his absolute best at 2400m, but he is a quality animal that is likely to be very competitive in any race Donna Logan sets for him in Australia, between 1600m and 2000m.
Another interesting New Zealand three-year-old son of Tavistock is the recent New Zealand Derby runner Tavago. He ran surprisingly well in that race to be beaten less than two lengths back in sixth place, producing an eye-catching run from well back, in what was a largely leader-dominated race. He has won two and placed in two of his six starts to date.
His Grandmother is out of a Zabeel mare, so here again we can see his staying influence to the fore, and there seems little doubt Tavago can run out a strong 2400m and possibly further. I’m not completely sure he will make the ATC derby field or is actually attempting to do so, but he is in the market at a rather generous quote of $101, and could well fill a place in that race, if he can find his best form over here.
As was the case with the late great Zabeel, Tavistock stands at Cambridge Stud in New Zealand, and was acquired by the now legendary Sir Patrick Hogan. He sought out the horse in Australia and liked what he saw physically, and the fact he was a Montjeu stallion with a good turn of foot, that liked hard tracks.
In Thoroughbred News in early 2010 these were his words – “What we do better in New Zealand than Australia is breed the Classic Weight for Age and middle distance horse. This horse is exactly what everyone (in the breeding industry) is screaming out for”.
How prophetic that assumption has turned out to be since early 2015. To say that Tavistock is one sire we need to keep a close eye on may well be the understatement of this decade.