The smart money was on The Autumn Sun for Saturday’s Group Two The Daily Telegraph Stan Fox Stakes over 1500m at Rosehill Gardens, however, it appears that the David Payne trained, Tarka, didn’t get the memo.

In an absolute nail biter, Tarka prevailed by a whisker from the equally impressive, Dealmaker, while The Autumn Sun grabbed third.

It was only Tarka’s fifth outing, having won his previous two starts at Warwick Farm in July and August, but the Stan Fox was the biggest victory to date and takes his earnings to $159,750.

The nature of the Stan Fox win indicates Tarka will likely take a swing at the $2 million Group One AAMI Victoria Derby (2500m) at Flemington on 3 November, which was won by his stablemate, Ace High, in 2017.

Indeed, Tarka is poised to follow the same path as Ace High according to Payne: “he (Tarka) is only a little horse and keeps surprising me. He is from the same family as (Payne trained Group winner) Honorius so he’ll stay all day. He will head to the (Group Three) Gloaming in two weeks and then on to the (Group One) Spring Champion Stakes (over 2000m on 6 October). He just keeps on getting better.”

Probably the most amazing aspect of Tarka’s victory however is the mere fact that he was even there at Rosehill Gardens.

A sixth stakes winner for the Vinery-based stallion, All Too Hard, Tarka is out of the Galileo mare, Gayika who was bred and owned by Malaysian billionaire, philanthropist and thoroughbred enthusiast, Ananda Krishnan, owner of the famous Kia Ora Stud in the Hunter Valley.

It turns out that Gayika came very close to having a career as a polo pony and nearly missed her shot at the breeding shed after a rather inauspicious sojourn at the Lindsay Park Racing stables.

Leading bloodstock consultant, James Bester, takes up the tale: “Ananda Krishnan had asked me if there was a filly he could send to Brunei as a polo pony.

“I knew that Gayika was showing very little at Lindsay Park and, while it is a pretty good family and she is, after all, by Galileo, she was also small and really lacking in scope.

“So Gayika was sent to James Archibald at Scone.”

(An internationally renowned polo player and conditioner, Archibald is the father of another Australian polo player in Rob Archibald, who is married to popular media commentator, Francesca Cumani).

“Anyway, the flight to Brunei had been booked and Gayika was actually in quarantine when I got a line on a very good (Australian-bred) filly in South Africa called Igugu, Gayika’s full sister,” Bester recalls. “She had just won a big race over there and so I went back to Ananda Krishnan and suggested we might be jumping the gun and it could pay to keep a hold of Gayika.

“So, I organised a foal share to Fastnet Rock and the thing that will always stick in my mind is that Gayika arrived at Coolmore looking every inch the polo pony … no mane, docked tail. I can only imagine what the guys thought in the crush when they saw this mare about to be covered by their pride and joy!”

Shortly after however, Igugu would go on to win two Group Ones and be named the South African Horse of the Year for 2010/11 (recently emulated by another Australian-bred filly, Oh Susanna), while the half brother, Honorius was a Group winner and multiple Group One placed who now stands at Larneuk Stud in Victoria. Yet another half sister, the Fastnet Rock mare, Ngaga, was purchased by Bester for $250,000 on behalf of South African clients at the 2015 Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale and was a stakes winner last season.

Although Gayika’s first foal, First Commander only raced the once and her second foal had to be destroyed, the third – Strike Sika – was a multiple winner, while Tarka’s year older full brother, Overdose, is a winner in South Africa.

Payne also has a Deep Field 2YO from Gayika in training, but the mare was sold to Kingstar Farm for just $23,000 at this year’s Inglis Australian Broodmare Sale, mere weeks before Tarka’s first start.

Talk about a Millionaire’s Shot!

Copy: Aushorse, Image: Lisa Grimm