Chicago Bull’s (Exceed and Excel) debut in Thursday’s G3 Maribyrnong Plate at Flemington, represents a brave new era for brothers Peter and Manny Gelagotis as they target the 2-year-old riches for the first time in many years.

Off the back of the successes such as those Levendi (Pierro) in the G1 Australian Derby and Malaguerra (Magnus) in the G1 Darley Classic, the one-time family stable from Moe in country Victoria have launched into the big-time.

Having set-up stables at Caulfield earlier this year to complement their operations at Coronet Bay and their home base of Moe, the Gelagotis brothers have also re-shaped their approach to selecting yearlings, utilising one of Australia’s most respected agents, James Bester.

Manny (left) and Peter (right) Gelagotis

With Bester working closely with Manny Gelagotis, they changed their focus significantly at the major sales yearling sales spending over $1.7m on six yearlings across the Inglis Premier Sale, Inglis Easter Sale and the Karaka Yearling Sale.

Their average spend was $292,000, over $100,000 more than the previous year as they sought out horses they could get to the track earlier than before.

Top of the list was the Exceed and Excel colt out of Dream Play (USA) (Hennessy {USA}), a half-brother to G2 VRC Sires Produce S. winner Zululand (Fastnet Rock), to be named Chicago Bull.

Chicago Bull as a yearling

“James Bester and myself worked closely to select yearlings. We have a set strategy for all yearling sales where we shortlist a heap of horses as a recommendation from James and I go and see all the horses and target them,” Manny Gelagotis said.

“He actually passed in at the Easter Sale for $395,000, of which I was the underbidder. The deal was done and the syndicate was put together with great support from James Bester.”

The eventual price for Chicago Bull was $400,000 with a syndicate that involved Aquis Farm, the colt’s breeders Kia Ora Stud as well as the Hilldene Farm affiliated SYDX and a few of Gelagotis’ regular clients.

“He was broken in by Aquis. He’s obviously a precociously bred horse. We targeted a 2-year-old running of horse and we identified him, and he was our clear pick,” he said.

James Bester has been an integral part of the new era for brothers Manny and Peter

“We are happy with the horse, he’s done a good job. He has shown us ability. His trials have been good. He seems to have a real intelligent mind, very mature and forward thinking.”

A focus on 2YOs

A look back through the records show that Peter Gelagotis has only had five 2-year-old runners in the past four and half seasons, with Levendi the only 2YO winner stable in that time.

Manny says that the move to Melbourne, and the success the team has enjoyed, prompted a significant rethink.

Levendi winning the G1 AJC Derby

“Since moving to Melbourne, we have diversified a bit more and targeted that type of horse and he’s our first one,” he said.

“We’ve had a lot of success over the past five or ten years and it’s been long-term sustained success, not just a good horse or two. We’ve had a big five or six years and the business has grown and confidence has grown with the satellite stable in Melbourne.”

“We’ve now got the armoury to have those stayers and group horses and the two-year-olds and juveniles. These sort of horses, it’s nice to be able to train for these clients who have substantial interests all over the world.”

The involvement of the likes Aquis and Hilldene in Chicago Bull is another marked shift for a stable that has raced the majority of their good horses with a few key stable clients over the years

Peter and Manny Gelagotis

Market bullish on colt’s debut

While it is new ground for the Gelagotis brothers, there has certainly been no lack of enthusiasm for Chicago Bull, who has been heavily backed since markets opened for the feature 2-year-old race of the Melbourne Cup carnival.

“He’s a very straight forward colt. He’s got a very good attitude. His behaviour is beyond his years and he’s got a very big pedigree. Everything is in the right place, you’ll see a very impressive horse in the mounting yard and we’ll see that if he’s ready,” Gelagotis said.

“We feel that he is, and we hope he’s done enough, but healthy respect for the competition and we’re ready to go to the races and take the cotton wool off.”

Gelagotis is hoping that hype can parlay into success in the big 2-year-old races in the autumn, such as the Blue Diamond S. and the Golden Slipper S. something the team has never sought out before.

“He shows us that he’s in that league. He’s showing us that he’s worthy of consideration. Now it’s time for him to prove himself,” he said. “He is showing the right ability to be ready to show himself up in those races.”

Copy: Bren O’Brien, Thoroughbred Daily News Aus NZ