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Coolmore targeting their own race

6 min read
Sponsoring the Coolmore Stud S. has been a huge success for Coolmore, but winning it with Long Leaf (Fastnet Rock) would be even bigger.

It was 11 years ago that Coolmore took sponsorship of Victoria Derby Day's newest Group 1, the race previously known as the Ascot Vale S.

Twelve months earlier, the Ascot Vale S., traditionally held in early September had been swapped with the Danehill S. and been upgraded to Group 1 level, giving the Flemington carnival the 3-year-old feature sprinting race a changing industry demanded.

Since then, the significance of the Coolmore Stud S. has exploded as it has become one of the premier stallion-making races on the Australian racing calendar, a prestige which has flowed on to the sponsors.

But as James Bester, who manages Coolmore's racing interests in Australia, points out, the race had already been a stallion-maker before it rebranded in 2007.

"The fact that it is now one of the most significant stallion-making races in the country is an obvious bonus. It’s quite gratifying that a lot of that started with Coolmore stallion Encosta De Lago, who himself won the race under a different name (in 1996)," he told TDN AusNZ.

Encosta De Lago

"There is a quite a nice tradition of stallions going back to one of Coolmore's favourite sons in Encosta De Lago." - James Bester

Encosta De Lago has arguably had more impact on the race in its current guise than any other stallion, siring the 2008 winner Northern Meteor, who himself had the 2013 winner Zoustar, who now has three of his first crop in Saturday's edition of the race.

"There is a quite a nice tradition of stallions going back to one of Coolmore's favourite sons in Encosta De Lago," Bester said.

The Fastnet impact

The only stallion to have multiple winners in the race since its upgrade to a Group 1 has been another of the favourite sons of Coolmore, Fastnet Rock, who won the 1200m G3 3yo race on Derby Day, then known as the L'Oreal Paris Plate, in 2005.

Fastnet Rock

The filly Nechita won the 2012 edition of the Coolmore Stud S. while Merchant Navy was successful in last year's race. Interestingly both horses were subsequently bought by Coolmore.

" Obviously it’s a race of great significance for Coolmore." - James Bester

"Merchant Navy's win was wonderful last year and he then went and got the cherry on the top with an unbeaten campaign in Europe, including the Diamond Jubilee. Obviously it’s a race of great significance for Coolmore," Bester said.

On Saturday, Long Leaf represents both Fastnet Rock and Coolmore in the race, while the stallion also has a second runner in Thorondor.

Like his sire during his racing days, there has been some uncertainty about Long Leaf's best distance.

In 2005, Fastnet Rock won two Group races over shorter distances in Sydney before failing when stepping up to the 1600m of the Caulfield Guineas.

The decision to bring him back to the 1200m down the Flemington straight re-invigorated him as a specialist sprinter and he would go on to win two Group 1 sprints in the autumn and finished second in two others.

Following his sire's path

Long Leaf was headed down a Caulfield Guineas path after finishing third in a G3 Guineas Prelude, but the decision was made to head towards the Coolmore Stud S.

"The choice was either to go onto the Guineas or to freshen up and come back to the Coolmore," Bester said.

"For some time it had been niggling away at us that his pedigree indicated that sprinting would be his forte. He did have a tendency to run on in some of his races and we thought he might get a little further. We weren't certain at one stage exactly what his right distance might be, but he has really responded well to the freshen up and he is working particularly well."

"I think that the return to sprinting will suit him. He's a horse that has won his three races at 1000m and given that he is purely sprint bred, and even in his family, you have Ball of Muscle, who is by Dubawi (Ire), is really no more than a 1000m horse."

"He won't be sprinting on pace but if there is a fast pace and he's striking from somewhere midfield, I think he represents a very definite danger." - James Bester

As Bester alluded to, Long Leaf's racing style has made it hard to assess where his best distance lies. But he doesn’t subscribe to the fact that he needs to get too far back in his races, especially down the Flemington straight, where the horses tended to fan out.

"I'm not certain he has to be that get-back horse. In the Blue Diamond Preview, he won settling close to the front," he said.

"He won't be sprinting on pace but if there is a fast pace and he's striking from somewhere midfield, I think he represents a very definite danger."

"He trialled down the straight at Flemington and trialled with Written By and I thought he went just as well as the favourite. I think that he's quite good each way odds, but it would be hard to say one was confident he would win the race, but I think he's there to win the race."

The stallion-maker

The significance of a win for Long Leaf, and for Coolmore, is obvious. His dam Frustrating (Stravinsky {USA}) is out of Parfore (NZ) (Gold Brose), making her a half-sister to Group 1 winning sprint pair Terravista and Tiger Tees.

With the pedigree and physique Long Leaf possesses, he would be a very valuable stallion proposition with that Group 1 stamp next to his name.

"He's got a beautiful chiselled head, right through a magnificent physique to the way he moves. He is every inch a stallion prospect." - James Bester

"For a start, he's a gorgeous animal," Bester said of his stallion qualities.

Long Leaf with trainer, David Hayes

"He made $760,000 as a yearling and we felt at the time it might even be cheap for him. It turned out to be the case."

"He's got a beautiful chiselled head, right through a magnificent physique to the way he moves. He is every inch a stallion prospect."

"Fastnet Rock is a sire of sires and obviously he is from one of the best sprinting families in Australia, with Terravista and Tiger Tees and Ball of Muscle. If he could pull off a race like that, he would become a colt of great value," he said.