Favourite breaks down
RACING can be a cruel game, just ask Matamata trainer John Sargent. A year to the day after an injury forced his classy staying mare Passchendaele out of the $1 million Stella Artois Auckland Cup, an almost exactly identical scenario has arisen again.
Last year, as pre-post favourite for the big staying race, Passchendaele had to be withdrawn due to a hairline fracture suffered to a hind cannon-bone in her final Monday morning gallop.
Twelve months later and once again the punters’ favourite on the TAB fixedodds market, Passchendaele got through her final gallop on the Matamata course proper to the satisfaction of her trainer and her work rider, stable foreman Hayden Allen. Shortly afterwards, however, their hopes of a second chance at the country’s richest staying race were dashed when Passchendaele showed signs of lameness on a foreleg by the time she had returned to her stable.
A subsequent veterinary examination confirmed the worst fears, that she had suffered a serious injury to a fetlock and there would no possible way of her making the line-up for the country’s richest staying race, which is scheduled for this afternoon.
‘‘I can’t believe it,’’ her understandably dejected trainer said. ‘‘Everything had been falling into place, her lead-up racing told us she was back to her best and now this.
‘‘I feel so sorry for everyone, her owners, the veterinary staff who had done such a wonderful job with her original injury and of course my own staff and our jockey Mark du Plessis. There’s nothing you can do apart from just cop it and console ourselves with the thought that at least she can be a brood mare.’’
Passchendaele won the Waikato Times Gold Cup in her first open company start in late 2009, her fifth win from a career that was to encompass just 14 starts. In fact she never failed to earn a stakes, with her worst performance one fifth placing in her remaining nine raceday appearances.
At her most recent start the lightlyframed mare had replicated last year’s lead-up form by finishing third in the Darci Brahma International Stakes at Te Rapa on February 12. A further twist is that Passchendaele’s dam Classic Babe, the winner of six of her 24 starts, had also broken down just days before the 2002 Auckland Cup.
There had originally been no guarantee that Passchendaele would make it back to racing from her first breakdown and it was only expert veterinary attention that enabled what was at the time a full recovery. Another outcome of that nature is highly unlikely, leaving her connections to wonder what might have been.
‘‘That’s the thing, now we’ll never know how good she was,’’ said John. ‘‘I know in my mind that she was right up there with the best stayers I’ve trained, a natural. It’s just such a bloody shame that she never got the chance to prove it.’’
The Sargent stable originally had two leading prospects for this year’s Auckland Cup but the decision was made last week to switch last start Darci Brahma International Stakes winner Red Ruler to the New Zealand Stakes on this Saturday’s final day programme at Ellerslie.
Additional hopes for another Group One win rest with last start Matamata winner Savabill and recent stable recruit, the former Victorian galloper Chateauneuf Dupape, who will go headto-head in the Diamond Stakes. This is the same race that another Sargenttrained two-year-old, Banchee, won last year.
That filly, who was scratched from last Saturday’s New Zealand Derby when unwelcome rain turned the Ellerslie track to heavy, now has an alternative mission on the horizon. That is the A$600,000 Coolmore Classic, for fillies and mares over 1500 metres at Rosehill on Saturday week, March 19. She may be joined in Sydney by Amaryllis, another member of Peter and Philip Vela’s extensive racing team who won the Gr 3 Darley Plate at Ellerslie last Saturday.
Amaryllis is one of the team prepared at Karapiro by first season trainers Steven Ramsay and Julia Ritchie and will be their first offshore runner if plans come off to start her in the Gr 3 Birthday Card Stakes at Rosehill a week after the Coolmore Classic.
That beauty is in the eye of the beholder has never rung more true for Hong Kong racehorse owner Simon Kwok.
The head of Asia’s giant Sa Sa cosmetic company includes the word beauty in all horses that he and his wife Eleanor race in Hong Kong. The star of their team right now is former Matamata galloper Beauty Flash, who completed a hat-trick of Sha Tin Group One wins when he won the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup on Sunday.
Beauty Flash began his career with local trainer Lance Noble, who sent him to Hong Kong after winning a qualifying race at Te Rapa in early 2009. The $65,000 Karaka yearling proved well up to Hong Kong company and was one of the favourites going into the Hong Kong Derby last March.
Lance and his wife Leigh were treated to a Hong Kong holiday to see their prote´ ge´ run in the biggest race on the domestic Hong Kong calendar and while an ultimate result wasn’t achieved, it was still a very worthwhile experience catching up with various Hong Kong clients.
The Noble stable has no shortage of horses with the Beauty prefix, with its current tally comprising Beauty Leap, Beauty Sparkle, Beauty Supremo, Beauty Humour, Beauty Harmony, Beauty Solution, Beauty Perception, Beauty Look and Beauty Show.
‘‘We work through Clarence Tung, who manages all the Beauty horses at this end,’’ said Lance. ‘‘Like other New Zealand trainers we do the early work for various Hong Kong investors and all up they provide about 30 per cent of our business. It’s great to see a horse like Beauty Flash go up to Hong Kong and make his mark. It’s what we all hope to do, that we’ve done the job and that they go on and prove themselves.’’
Beauty Flash (chestnut, centre) completes a feature race hat-trick in the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Cup in Hong Kong on Sunday.