Our Famous Eve revives memories
TIME stood still for Philip Brown at Tauranga last Saturday when Our Famous Eve won the $85,000 Windsor Park Stud Japan Trophy.
As the Glenn Old-trained race mare crossed the finish line locked in battle with another from Matamata, Viadana, her ownerbreeder’s mind flashed back to 1974, when Our Famous Eve’s granddam Battle Eve won the same race. Incredibly, that win had taken place on the exact same day – March 23 – 39 years earlier.
Back then Philip, who races Our Famous Eve with his wife Catherine and a group of Australian friends, was in his 20s working on the family farm, Ancroft Stud, where the champion stallion Battle-Waggon held court.
Battle Eve, who was raced by Philip’s parents Bill and Evelyn, won no less than 25 races in a career spanning 87 starts from two to seven years, most times ridden by that irrepressible jockey, Grenville Hughes.
A perusal of Battle Eve’s career – when she was initially trained by Jack McGreal and then by Clarrie Robinson after the former moved to Australia – underlines the quality of horseflesh that raced in that era. Balmerino, Grey Way, Tudor Light, Kiwi Can, Uncle Remus, Black Rod, Blue Blood, March Legend, La Mer, Good Lord, Melody Belle, Count Kereru, Hi-Bing, Oopik, Pheroz Jewel, Curly Wave, Silver Lad . . . Battle Eve raced against them all, during an outstanding career that also had 20 second placings to go with her 25 wins.
On her retirement, Battle Eve defied the mantra that says top race mares don’t make good broodmares. All seven of her progeny to race were winners, headed by King Delamere, her colt by former combatant Balmerino whose 10 wins included the Memsie, Feehan and Liston Stakes in Melbourne. He also finished third in the Cox Plate and fourth in the Caulfield Cup.
Expoeve, the last foal produced by Battle Eve when she was aged 23, won just a single race – by coincidence at Tauranga – but has subsequently added to the family honour roll as the dam of Our Famous Eve and of Irish Crusader, with six wins and several major placings in Australia.
‘‘One like Battle Eve is a hard act to follow and she will always have a special place in our memories,’’ said Philip as he reflected on the mare’s achievements following Saturday’s big win.
‘‘At home this morning I had a look at the trophy the mare won way back then and wondered how good it would be to do it again.
‘‘I can tell you it feels great! Battle Eve was one out of the box and it means so much for this mare to now come out and put her name on this race.’’
Evelyn Brown, the lady whose name is lent to various members of the Brown racing team, is in her 90s and not up to attending race meetings these days, but understandably shared in her son and daughter-in-law’s enjoyment of Saturday’s big win when they visited her the following day with the cup.
Philip gives much of the credit for Our Famous Eve’s return to form to the mare’s trainer Glenn Old, who he describes as ‘‘Matamata’s best kept secret’’.
Glenn cut his teeth in racing with his father, former successful trainer Kevin Old, and gained further valuable experience working as an assistant trainer for several years in Macau.
Since returning home he has had steady but unspectacular success with his small racing team, and Saturday’s win at Group Two level was his most important to date.
‘‘Going down to the track of a morning and seeing Glenn going about his job, I liked his attitude,’’ Philip said.
‘‘I had some young horses that needed prep work before sending them across to Aussie and he was happy to take them on.
‘‘Our Famous Eve was one of them. She wasn’t easy either – a real tart in fact – but through perseverance, Glenn got her over the line.’’
The daughter of Waikato Stud stallion Fast ’N’ Famous was held back from Australia until the end of her three-year-old season, when from a handful of starts she had finished second in the Group 2 Royal Stakes and fifth in the Group 1 Darci Brahma International Stakes.
Hopes of transferring that form to Australia foundered when she failed to adapt to the more intense environment and she returned to Glenn’s care several months ago.
Her upset win on Saturday at the expense of the Lance Nobletrained Viadana made it clear she was back to her best. Now she is likely to get her chance to do something her grandmother was unable to do – win Te Aroha’s flagship New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes.
Battle Eve had to settle for second placing on no less than three occasions.
Don’t forget to set your alarm for 5am on Sunday to be in time to see Gary Hennessy’s Ocean Park pitted against some of the best from the northern hemisphere in the US$5 million Dubai Duty Free at 5.40am on TAB Trackside Channel 35.
Memories: Flashback for Philip Brown as he and his wife Catherine savour Our Famous Eve’s big win at Tauranga on Saturday.