Hunter Valley stud to unleash pair of seven-figure juveniles as the scramble for final spots in breed-shaping race begins
Kia Ora Stud may already be blessed as part of the ownership in the soaring, unbeaten Golden Slipper Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m) favourite Learning To Fly (Justify), but in the last-gasp jostling for a coveted spot in next Saturday’s $5 million juvenile showpiece, the Hunter Valley stud could multiply their interest to three, with a duo of regally bred colts set for their debut runs this weekend.
Saturday’s running of the Pago Pago Stakes (Gr 3, 1200m) and Magic Night Stakes (Gr 3, 1200m) at Randwick, followed by the back-door option via the Black Opal Stakes (Gr 3, 1200m) at Canberra the following day, represent the last chance for aspiring two-year-olds to stake a claim on Australia’s most influential race.
Racing in the two-tone blue Kia Ora silks will be the Ciaron Maher and David Eustace-trained Idhana (I Am Invincible), a $1.5 million colt who is out of popular dual Group 3 winner Egyptian Symbol (Stratum), while Kia Ora also shares in the ownership of Limburg (Justify), who sports the same Coolmore colours as the $4 Golden Slipper market leader Learning To Fly.
Also a first-crop juvenile by Justify (Scat Daddy), the colt is a half-brother to dual Group 1 winner Loving Gaby (I Am Invincible). Both horses hold entries for each of the Pago Pago Stakes and Black Opal Stakes the next day.
“It’s early days for them both and they’ll be first-up in a pretty tough race, whichever way they go,” said Shane Wright, Kia Ora’s bloodstock manager. “But both are really nice horses who we think will have bright futures.”
A son of champion sire I Am Invincible (Invincible Spirit), Idhana is the first foal out of Egyptian Symbol, herself a daughter of Stratum (Redoute’s Choice), who was the last colt to complete the Pago Pago-Golden Slipper double in 2005.
The Ananda Krishnan-owned Kia Ora, Tony Fung’s TFI and Maher went to the lofty sum for the colt when he was presented within the Cressfield draft at last year’s Inglis Easter sale.
“Idhana is an absolutely beautiful sort of horse and since coming in he’s done everything right,” Wright said. “He’s working really well at home. It’ll be a big test for him but we’ll just see how he goes.”
Victory for Limburg, meanwhile, would offer his US Triple Crown-winning sire Justify (Scat Daddy) a dream start with his first southern hemisphere-bred crop, affording the high-profile Coolmore stallion a second runner in the Golden Slipper, alongside unbeaten Inglis Millennium (RL, 1100m) and Reisling Stakes (Gr 2, 1100m) winner Learning To Fly.
Trained by Team Hawkes, the Kia Ora-sold $1 million colt is a son of Maastricht (Mastercraftsman) who, aside from the Manikato Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m) and William Reid Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m) winner Loving Gaby, is also the dam of the promising filly Greece (I Am Invincible).
“We certainly hope Limburg can follow Learning To Fly. He’s a big, strong colt. An expensive yearling as well, but it’s a family we know very well having bred Loving Gaby,” Wright said.
“He was a standout at the sales. He moves lightly on his feet but he’s big and solid. He’s handled everything very well and he’s matured well.
“Loving Gaby was a brilliant two-year-old and you’d think, looking at this colt, that he would take a little bit longer, but he’s really come to hand and his trials have been good, so it’s definitely worth a throw at the stumps.
“It’s about putting it together on the race track now and, like Idhana, it’s a big ask first up.”
Kia Ora is set to offer a sister to Loving Gaby as part of a ten-strong draft at next month’s Inglis Easter sale and, despite Limburg already possessing enviable black type throughout his pedigree, Wright would not begrudge a further update to his filly’s page.
“The mare, Maastricht, she just seems to be able to throw runners,” Wright said. “There’s Limburg, Greece coming through as well. And this filly is a really nice daughter of I Am Invincible.
“She’s a beautiful filly and the pedigree’s pretty strong, but we’ll always take an update leading into a sale.”
Acceptances received yesterday numbered 16 fillies for the Magic Night, while 14 of their male counterparts have held their ground for the Pago Pago Stakes, with both races carrying a ballot-exemption for the Slipper seven days later. Canberra’s blue riband $200,000 Black Opal does not carry exemption status, but has drawn 31 nominations, 18 of which have also declared for Saturday’s two-year-old feature races in Sydney. Acceptances for the Capital Territory contest will close today.
Wright said no decision had yet been made on the direction either Idhana, who has drawn barrier six, or Limburg, handed gate 13 on Saturday, would travel, and said the focus was on the colts producing good first-up runs, rather than being lured by the temptation of the lucrative Golden Slipper a week later.
With Godolphin’s Skyline Stakes (Gr 3, 1200m) winner Corniche (Fastnet Rock) revealed yesterday to be not taking his ballot-free place in the 16-runner Slipper field due to injury, the threshold for entry heading into the weekend lies at the $136,300 earned by Breeders’ Plate (Gr 3, 1000m) winner Empire Of Japan (Snitzel), who sits 19th on the order of entry.
Wright reported Learning To Fly to be thriving ahead of her Slipper showdown.
“She’s been incredible. She’s gone three unbeaten and has been a dream filly,” he said. “She’s doing everything right, has a great attitude and a great constitution, so she’s already exceeded expectations.
“To be going into Saturday with one of the top candidates to take home the Slipper is very exciting for us and the racing partnership.”
Kia Ora did not have to wait for the riches of an autumn carnival Saturday at Randwick to taste juvenile success this week, as the stud celebrated a remarkable victory for Soldier Of Rome (Snitzel) at Kensington yesterday.
Mustered to lead from the gates, the Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott-trained colt’s challenge appeared to have faded with 200 metres run, as he was headed by both Capital Heart (Capitalist) and Storm The Ramparts (Headwater), before he showed fight to retake the lead and score by three-quarters of a length.
“He was down and out there at the furlong, but a bit similar to what he did in the trial, once he got a bit of competition around him he really was in for the fight,” said winning rider Tim Clark.
“He is nowhere near a 1000-metre horse, but class got him through today.
“I think he’s going to be a really serious colt when he gets over 1400 metres and even up to a mile.”
Despite holding an entry, Soldier Of Rome will not be in contention for the Golden Slipper, but Wright suggested a race such as the ATC Sires’ Produce Stakes (Gr 1, 1400m) at Randwick on April 1 could be on the radar of the $850,000 colt, who Kia Ora co-own with Sir Owen Glenn’s Go Bloodstock.
“It was a huge win and I was super impressed by him,” said Wright. “He’s a colt we really liked at Easter last year as well, where we were underbidder on him. We went to Sir Owen and his representative Steven O’Connor and asked if they would have a share for us and, luckily enough, they did.
“For a two-year-old, first-up, to be headed like he was today and to fight back showed a great competitiveness to get the job done. He’s a well bred colt and we’re very optimistic with him going forward.
“He has an entry for the Sires’ and we’ll see how he comes through today and leave that to Gai and Adrian and their team to work it out.”
Purchased from the Corumbene Stud draft, Soldier Of Rome is the sixth foal out of Light Fingers Stakes (Gr 2, 1200m) winner Bennetta (General Nediym), whose yearling filly by The Autumn Sun (Redoute’s Choice) will be offered as Lot 44 at the Inglis Easter sale.
Waterhouse and Bott, who already have the Go Bloodstock-owned Canonbury Stakes (Gr 3, 1100m) winner Red Resistance (Russian Revolution) and Gimcrack Stakes (Gr 3, 1000m) scorer Platinum Jubilee (Zoustar) safely inside the Slipper field, will be out to enhance their challenge further this weekend.
The training duo will have the hopes of two of Australia’s biggest colts syndicates riding on their two-year-old runners, with the James Harron-owned last-start maiden winner Introducing (Trapeze Artist), who has drawn barrier two in the Pago Pago Stakes, and Bases Loaded (Deep Field), who runs for the Newgate-China Horse Club syndicate and has been dealt barrier five, both set to make a last ditch bid. Both colts have nominations for Sunday’s Black Opal Stakes.
“Bases Loaded ran an excellent third here in the Skyline Stakes and looks to have improved nicely off that,” Bott said.
“Introducing, he was an impressive midweek winner and he’s ready to take that next step into a grade like this. You could see him potentially there [in the Pago Pago] or in the Black Opal.”
The training duo also have Tu Qui Santuzza, a daughter of Waterhouse’s 2012 Slipper winner Pierro (Lonhro), set to line up at Rosehill or Canberra in the silks of Francis Cook’s Mystery Downs.
She led throughout to score on debut at Canterbury on February 24.
“Tu Qui Santuzza has improved out of [her debut] nicely and deserves her chance at stakes company,” Bott said.
Final acceptances and the barrier draw for the Golden Slipper will be made on Tuesday.