Sign up to the TDN AusNZ daily edition

Receive the latest breeding and racing news, in-depth features, Op-Ed articles by leading industry figures, race results and more!

Star eyes Epsom after purple patch

7 min read
Star Thoroughbreds is hoping to end a tough week on a high note, with D'Argento (So You Think {NZ}) looking to recreate a memorable day ten years ago when the famous purple with white stars dominated the G1 Epsom Hcp.

This week, a man who has been crucial to Star Thoroughbreds' success, Steve Brem, passed away aged 69.

Brem has been Denise Martin's go-to man at the sales for many years and he was involved in the decision to select D'Argento at the 2016 Magic Millions.

His death is a sombre note on what has been a strong start to the spring for Martin and Star.

Star Thoroughbreds' purple and white silks have spent plenty of time in the winners' stall of late, highlighted by the success of Noire (Foxwedge) in the G2 Shannon S, Invincibella (I Am Invincible) in the G2 Sheraco S. and Fiesta (I Am Invincible) in the G2 Silver Shadow S.

The 'purple patch' could be set to elevate to Group 1 level on Saturday, and not only with D'Argento, but also with Fiesta, another selection of Brem's, stepping out in the G1 Flight S.

"The horses are producing what we have hoped they would on the track. Every owner aims to have their horse racing at the elite level, and the spring to date has been tremendous. We have a realistic expectation for further success in the coming weeks," Martin told TDN AusNZ this week.

"The horses are producing what we have hoped they would on the track." - Denise Martin

A decade later

Saturday marks the 10-year anniversary of one of Martin's best-ever days at the track, when her champion Theseo (Danewin) held off her other contender Bank Robber (Dash For Cash) in the famous Randwick mile race.

"Whilst I don’t have a second runner in the Star colours this year, it certainly would be a great thrill to win the Epsom a second time," she said.

Watch: Theseo and Bank Robber go 1-2 in the 2008 Epsom Handicap

D'Argento is already a special horse for Martin. Bought for $135,000 at the 2016 Magic Millions, he went on to win the G1 Rosehill Guineas earlier this year.

"He's a grand colt, he's performed at Group 1 level before. He's returned in tremendous order and I think he's an excellent chance on Saturday," she said.

"TJ Smith was a great mentor of mine and he said to me when I started my business, 'it's the horse that gives you the idea. Look at the athlete, and the pedigree page will tell you what you have to pay for it'." - Denise Martin

"He was a lovely athletic colt at Magic Millions. He was in Gerry Harvey's draft and I recall when I first saw him, I thought he had a great quality about him."

D'Argento was from the second crop of So You Think

D'Argento was from the second crop of So You Think, a stallion who Martin hadn't really contemplated buying the progeny of before seeing the grey yearling.

"The horse took my eye for a variety of reasons, mainly because he was a beautiful walker. He had a great attitude and he just looked a lovely quality individual," she said.

"TJ Smith was a great mentor of mine and he said to me when I started my business, 'it's the horse that gives you the idea. Look at the athlete, and the pedigree page will tell you what you have to pay for it'."

The patient approach

Martin paid tribute to the patience Chris Waller showed with D'Argento early in his career. He didn’t have a start until two weeks before turning three and didn’t return to the track as a 3-year-old until January this year.

"It would be marvellous to think he could win a Group 1 on Saturday or in the coming weeks, because obviously he has the capacity to be a stallion going forward." - Denise Martin

"I think it’s been everything, it's allowed the horse to mature," she said of Waller's approach.

"He's an imposing individual these days. He looks the part and he's racing accordingly. He's an impressive horse and we're hoping after Saturday, he can go to Victoria and continue to race at Stakes level.

"It would be marvellous to think he could win a Group 1 on Saturday or in the coming weeks, because obviously he has the capacity to be a stallion going forward."

Martin expects jockey James McDonald to settle in the first half of the field in the Epsom from the inside barrier.

"Provided he gets clear running, he’ll be storming home. Hopefully, the purple and white colours salute again," she said.

Filly a 'treasure'

Fiesta has already shown this campaign she is up to the best fillies, winning the first leg of the Darley Princess Series before finishing second in the subsequent two races.

"She's an absolute treasure for her owners and for the trainer, I am sure. She always gives her best. She's raced at Stakes level company throughout her career," Martin said.

She acknowledged it will be a challenge to turn the tables on star filly Miss Fabulass (Frankel {GB}), who beat her in the G1 Tea Rose S.

Fiesta, pictured here winning the G3 Widden Stakes

"Recognising that John Singleton's filly has special qualities as well. We think our filly will give a tremendous account of herself," she said.

Martin purchased Fiesta for $150,000 at the 2017 Inglis Classic Sale, a price she said she felt was a bargain.

"I just thought she was very well put together. She had a steely determination and when I first saw her walk, she had enough to suggest she was a forward-going filly," she said.

"She looked as though she might race early in her career. Obviously being by I am Invincible, I felt she would be very sought after. I was particularly surprised we were able to secure a filly of that quality for a relatively affordable price."

Fiesta was a $150,000 Inglis Classic purchase

Success sells the dream

Those involved with both Fiesta and D'Argento have had a fantastic journey already.

It’s successes like these which have maintained Martin's enthusiasm for a business she has been operating for over 25 years.

"People want success, that's one of the reasons they purchase a horse in the first place," she said.

"I always ask people when they are starting out, what is it they are seeking when they are going to buy a share in a horse?"

"Most of the time the answer is that they are looking for a good time, to go to the races, and have the opportunity to have your own horse."

"If they have a horse who can compete on a Saturday, they are elated. If they have a horse who can compete at Group level racing, that's a dream come true."

Star Thoroughbred owners celebrating a successful win

She recounted a story of one of the owners of one of Star Thoroughbreds most successful horses, Sebring.

"After Sebring won the Slipper and the Sires, the owner said to me what do we do for dessert?" she said.

"I said I'm not sure I can repeat this performance, but I'll certainly try my best."

"We are trying to find high quality horses who can compete in good quality races and if you happen to find a horse that can progress through to stakes level races, it’s extremely special."

Sebring, who is currently standing at Widden Stud is counted among Star Thoroughbreds most successful purchases