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Bons a reward for savvy King

5 min read

By Bren O'Brien

Ken King is confident his savvy broodmare purchase six years ago can parlay in a Group 2 win on Saturday at Caulfield when Bons Away looks to break a run of outs in the McCafe Caulfield Sprint.

King paid just $2000 for Villa Albani (Mossman) at the 2012 Inglis Great Southern Sale, with a view to supporting the stallion he raced and maintained a share in, Group 1 winner Bon Hoffa.

"There's a double cross to Belong To Me (USA) in the family. Bon Hoffa is by Belong to Me and she's got Belong To Me in her, so I thought I’ll have a punt and see if I can double up and make that work," King told TDN AusNZ.

"I made a point of getting some of my better clients in him early days. I told them, this is the one you want to be in." - Ken King on Bons Away

Belong To Me

Work it did as the resultant foal immediately made an impression and King set about getting many of the owners who had been involved with his Group 1 winning pair Bon Aurum (Bon Hoffa) and Set Square (Reset), on board with the colt, who would be called Bons Away.

"He came out a ripper foal. You can tell. We bred Bon Aurum as well and he came out a ripper foal as well. I made a point of getting some of my better clients in him early days. I told them, this is the one you want to be in," he said.

Some early setbacks meant Bons Away failed to make his racetrack debut until he was three, with those owners as well as King and trainer Ciaron Maher, needing to show considerable patience.

"He came out a ripper foal. You can tell." - Ken King

"He probably should have gone early, but he had a couple of throat issues and setbacks," King explained.

"He had a virus in his lungs which would come back when we put him under pressure in his preps. We finally got him off to Goulburn Valley (Equine Hospital) and they found some fluid on his lungs. We tidied that up, and he started to put a few races together."

Making up for lost time

He won five of his first nine starts culminating in a Listed success at Caulfield, where he powered over the top of subsequent Group 1 winner and Everest placegetter Brave Smash (Jpn) (Tosen Phantom {Jpn}).

"He probably caught Brave Smash on a day where he caught him on the weights pretty well. He was coming through a benchmark win, but he did beat the rest of them pretty well," King said.

Bons Away after winning the Testa Rossa S. at Caulfield

In doing so, he became the second stakes-winner for his sire, who currently stands at Bowness Stud near Young in NSW.

With expectations raised, interim trainer Aaron Purcell targeted a Group 1 first-up in the autumn, and the plan came within less than a length of coming off.

Bon Hoffa, standing at Bowness Stud

"He ran a ripping race in the Oakleigh Plate first-up, beaten 0.6l. The stable probably rued not giving him a run before that. He probably only had one or two good runs in him that time in," he said.

Having gone from a maiden to Listed level in eight months, Bons Away has now been winless since that Listed success over Brave Smash in the Testa Rossa S. last September.

He's had two runs this campaign, finishing fourth and third, and King feels that having not had a lot of luck, he should be ready to produce his best at his home track on Saturday.

Hard to plot a path

From there, King admits it will be hard to find a Group 1 race this spring where Bons Away will be suited and he probably won’t get back to the elite level until the autumn.

"I'm not convinced he's a weight-for-age Group 1 horse." - Ken King

"The problem with the sprint races is that they are all weight-for-age Group 1s. He doesn’t get in great at the weights compared to some of the good horses,": King said. "I'm not convinced he's a weight-for-age Group 1 horse."

"He's nominated or the Darley (VRC Classic), but that's probably a bit rich for him and he'd want to win his next couple to justify having a crack at that."

"We’ll probably have a modest target this spring. Get a win back on the board for him and set-up to have a crack at the Oakleigh Plate again next year."

The extended family

Having not been served the year she foaled Bons Away, Villa Albani has subsequently produced two full sisters. King said the 3-year-old, Street Icon, was progressing well under Maher and David Eustace and was not far away from making her debut.

"The stable have a good regard for her. She's won a couple of jumpouts at Caulfield, but she's just been a little bit immature, mentally and physically," he said.

"She came home and had a good 12-week break this time and went back a 40kg heavier horse. We'd be optimistic about her future this prep. If she lives up the stable view of her, she'll be up to city class."

The 2-year-old, called Bons Abroad, would be given more time.

"She's more like a Bon Hoffa. She's got a lot of leg under her. She's probably already bigger than Bons Away. She's going to take a bit more time. She's only had one prep at the stable and we probably won't see her at the races for another 12 months," he said.

Having produced a 'cracking' colt by Helmet earlier this spring. Villa Albani has just been served by Brazen Beau.