Innisfree reaping rewards

5 min read
A focus on just eight mares and some faith in Chatswood Stud's Reward For Effort is yielding success for Innisfree Thoroughbreds.

Innisfree Thoroughbreds' Andy O'Shea is hopeful the good run his 'small but efficient' selection of home-bred racehorses has been on can continue when promising 2-year-old Oh So Rewarding (Reward For Effort) makes his debut in the Listed Thoroughbred Club Merson Cooper S. at Sandown on Saturday.

O'Shea and his wife Carol have enjoyed considerable success with breeding their mares to Chatswood Stud's Reward For Effort, producing the Listed winner Blondie, the seven-time winner Petite's Reward and Rewarding Laughter, who has had recent back-to-back successes in Adelaide.

And Oh So Rewarding, a third generation Innisfree product, is giving the O'Sheas and trainer Brendan McCarthy every feeling that he can capture some valuable stakes-success for his family.

"He's home bred and I bought Petite Filou (Snippets) many years ago, bred Petite Briefs (Brief Truce {USA}) out of her, and also Oh So Petite (Dash For Cash) and he's the first foal out of Oh So Petite and he goes nicely," O'Shea said.

"He's got plenty of speed and his work has been nice." - Andy O'Shea

"He is not going to be a very big horse, but he's the first foal and he's a nice horse."

Brendan McCarthy and Andy O'Shea

"He's got plenty of speed and his work has been nice. The barrier (12 of 13) is a bit of a problem, but what do you do? We’re hoping (he wins) and he improves the family if he can get a bit of black type," he said.

Racetrack success is nothing new for the O'Sheas. The very first horse they owned a share in, Hula Warrior (Hula Chief {NZ}) was a three-time stakes-winner in the early 1990s. They then bought Group 1 winning sprinter Keltrice (Kenmare {Fr}) as a yearling, which set the Innisfree on its way as a breeding operation.

Quality over quantity

These days, the Pakenham South-based farm is a lot quieter as Andy and Carol focus on quality over quantity.

"It’s all about good mares as far as I'm concerned." - Andy O'Shea

"I've got eight mares and I've got a good nucleus these days. I used to have a lot more. I used to have 40 mares and I lost the plot a bit but I've just kept the nucleus of some good ones and gone up-market a bit with my breeding. It’s paying dividends, now we are having a good time," he said.

Reward For Effort

Included in that different approach has been the faith O'Shea has put in Reward For Effort, who he always felt was a good match for his mares.

"He was a lovely big horse and he was very well-bred. But it’s all about good mares as far as I'm concerned. The sire just tops the mare off a bit. I think he's a lovely stretchy horse and he puts a bit of quality in them and it’s so far so good," he said.

Leading from the front

What he has been able to produce is horses with plenty of speed. Only around six horses currently race in the white and green Innisfree colours, but they are almost always at the front of the field.

A prime example is Petite's Reward, who is out of half-sister to Oh So Rewarding's dam. The noted front-runner is looking for her fifth Moonee Valley win on Friday night in a 1000m race.

Petite's Reward wining at Moonee Valley in February

And it is her younger 2-year-old full-brother, Lucifer's Reward, who has been a constant measuring stick for Oh So Rewarding as they have been built up for their respective racetrack careers.

"I have the full brother to Petite's Reward and as a 2-year-old, he's a different type. He's a longer type, going to be a different horse and we grew them together and the other bloke has gone out with shins, but this guy (Oh So Rewarding) hasn’t done anything wrong. He's all professional and he's been here before, which is really nice," O'Shea said.

Saturday's field looks a typical tough early-season 2-year-old race, with Oh So Rewarding one of only three home-breds in the 13-horse field.

From that barrier, in-form jockey Jason Maskiell will have his work cut out, but O'Shea believes that Oh So Rewarding is versatile enough to sit deep and still travel.

"It's not easy from out there, but it’s only one bend at Sandown as we know." - Andy O'Shea

"It's not easy from out there, but it’s only one bend at Sandown as we know. So he might be able to get a bit of nice cover," he said.

"He's a speed horse. He might be going forward, that's his go and try and get a bit of a sit off them after going forward."

Blondie back on track

Meanwhile. O'Shea confirmed Blondie, also a debut 2-year-old winner and the flagbearer for Innisfree over the past 18 months, is nearing a racetrack return after running third in a Cranbourne trial on Monday.

"Blondie pulled up a little ordinary after her last start (in July) and we've been chasing what was wrong," he said.

Blondie winning the Ladbrokes Crockett Stakes at Moonee Valley

"She was a bit of an unknown quantity. She was a bit shuffley there for a while and we thought 'what is going on?', We’ve chased things down rabbit holes and we haven’t found anything, and so we threw her in the deep end on Monday to see what happened and she went fine," he said.

"She pulled up well. If we can get her back, we will be very happy campers."