By Bren O'Brien
Three days after Sunlight captured Zoustar's first-ever Group 1 success as a stallion, her full-sister Sisstar makes her debut in the G3 Bumble S. at Flemington and there is more than a slight sense of déjà vu.
Thirteen months ago, Sunlight also made her debut down the famous Flemington straight with a third place in the Listed Maribyrnong Trial. Since then she has won eight of her subsequent 11 starts, including a Magic Millions 2YO Classic and now a G1 Coolmore Stud S.
Sisstar was purchased by many of the same group of women who are involved with Sunlight, including Katie Thompson, wife of Widden Stud proprietor Antony Thompson.
Widden bred both fillies and are in a good position to draw comparisons between them. Marketing and Stallions Nomination Manager Ryan McEvoy said Sisstar, who was sold for twice the price of her sister ($660,000), is probably not quite as forward as Sunlight at the same stage, but she looks to have her quality and class.
"She was a filly that had quite a profile at the sales in January given Sunlight was the favourite for the 2-year-old Classic. Tony (McEvoy - trainer) has been positive about her from the moment he had her," McEvoy told TDN AusNZ.
"We had a little bit of a setback with her just after her first preparation. She knocked a fence and took a bit of skin off and we had to back off her a little. It probably held her back from being seen at the first two-year-old trials like her sister was."
Willingness to work
As she has approached her debut, it has become clear that one of the traits Sisstar and Sunlight do share is a willingness to work hard.
"The stable just gradually increased the workload and like Sunlight, she has been able to cope with it. Every time he's asked her to do a bit more, she's really responded," McEvoy said.
"Quite incredibly, the more work you apply to them, the more they thrive. Sunlight was a phenomenal result on Saturday and she was coming off that run at Moonee Valley which while it wasn't a tough run for her, she had to back up. The stable identified in Sunlight really early on that she was a filly that responded well off a quick back up."
"It is a family that really thrives on that workload and pressure and this one seems no different." - Ryan McEvoy
The one quality that has summarised Sunlight's career to date has been her toughness and it is something that McEvoy feels could also become a trademark for her sister.
"It is a family that really thrives on that workload and pressure and this one seems no different. Physically, she's marginally not quite at the level Sunlight was, quite yet, but in six months' time, she will be very similar to her sister," he said.
No pressure on Sisstar
While there is a degree of public expectation of such a well-related filly, McEvoy said there is no pressure on Sisstar to elevate to Sunlight's level.
"She's arguably already worth more than what they paid for her as a yearling, given what Sunlight has been able to achieve. It’s essentially a free kick for the ownership group, the majority of which race Sunlight," he said.
"To achieve a little bit of black type would be wonderful, and that's all she needs to do."
The little brother
The dam Solar Charged (Charge Forward) foaled a full brother a couple of weeks ago at Widden, and McEvoy said all is progressing well with the colt.
"He's a beauty. I said to the team on Saturday, maybe he could be the next stallion to follow the line," he said.
"He's bred in partnership with a really good friends of ours, the Fletcher family who have Telemon Stud in Queensland, and of course Qatar Bloodstock who are major partners with us in Zoustar. We couldn’t be more pleased with the colt. He is everything you would hope for."
Saturday's events certainly increased the potential value of the colt significantly, with his sister now a Group 1 winner and his sire getting a Group 1 trifecta in one of the biggest 3-year-old races of the year.
But none of that will change the way Widden approach the management of their new arrival.
"He's a beauty. I said to the team on Saturday, maybe he could be the next stallion to follow the line." - Ryan McEvoy, Widden
"There won’t be any cotton-wooling him. Every horse goes through the system at Widden, and he'll be like all the others," he said.
"At the appropriate time, we’ll have to determine a sale for him if that's the intention and we’ll go from there. If anything he might have a bit more leg under him than the two fillies did at the same stage."
Reflecting on a Group 1 sweep
In the aftermath of Sunlight leading home another two of Zoustar's first crop, Zousain and Lean Mean Machine, in the Coolmore Stud S., Thompson described it as one of the greatest achievements for Widden.
Two days' later, the sense of accomplishment for everybody involved has not changed.
"It was a really freakish effort for him to win the race the way he did five years ago and then for his first crop to get the trifecta in the race." - Ryan McEvoy
"Reflecting on it yesterday, what a phenomenal achievement it is for a stallion like him. It was a really freakish effort for him to win the race the way he did five years ago and then for his first crop to get the trifecta in the race, it’s a bit surreal," McEvoy said.
"He's going to be a phenomenal stallion. Not only was he the champion first season sire, he gets 2-year-olds and clearly like the sireline, (Northern Meteor/Encosta De Lago), they improve at three."
"I know how high a opinion Chris Waller & James McDonald have of the runner up Zousain who has come off a couple of setbacks this spring so we believe his Group One win is not far away. He will ultimately make a beautiful addition to Widden roster next season as the best son of the hottest sire. "