by Bren O'Brien
As Balboa Rocks executed one of the great Australia Day upsets in the Listed Sunshine Coast Cup last Saturday, back at Wattle Brae Stud his sire Easy Rocking marked the national holiday like many of the rest of us, hanging out with a mate.
In the case of the veteran stallion, his mate happens to be one half of the Australian coat of arms, an emu called Cath, who has become his constant companion on Wattle Brae.
While the owners of Balboa Rocks, who became Easy Rocking's 11th stakes winner, and first in nearly three years, were celebrating the 100-1 outsider's success, back on the Darling Downs the stallion himself was content to share a meal with Cath to mark the occasion.
It’s a friendship which has intrigued Wattle Brae's Gary Turkington and his wife Phoebe.
"About a year or two ago, an emu arrived on the property and we don’t know where it came from, but it's befriended him. It came as a chick about a foot high, and now it’s about six foot and it lives in the stallion yard with him," Gary Turkington told TDN AusNZ.
"About a year or two ago, an emu arrived on the property and we don’t know where it came from, but it's befriended him." - Gary Turkington
"In his day yard, which is about two acres, at any time of the day, him and the emu are out in the yard grazing together. They’ve become good mates."
After a while, Gary and Phoebe decided the new resident needed a name, which then required a quick change.
"We called it Clive until it laid some eggs and then we changed it to Cath," he said.
"Not sure you can get much more Australian than that." - Gary Turkington
"When we go into the stable at night to feed him, the emu stands outside and comes in and eats with him when we leave."
The connection between the Australia Day success of Balboa Rocks, and the social habits of his sire was not lost on Turkington.
"Not sure you can get much more Australian than that," he said.
"It's just so unique and when you drive up to the stables, we’ve got about 300 yards of fence and you've got Easy Rocking and an emu standing next to each other."
Rocks o n target
Balboa Rocks' success highlights the quality of horses Easy Rocking has been able to produce in his 18 years at stud.
His best performed horses have been Cradle Me and Funtantes, who were both successful at Group 2 level.
"He's a good old stallion, he's got a few stakes winners now for a horse that only gets 30 or 40 mares a year," Turkington said of the 22 -year-old, who was a Group 1 winner back in 2000.
"He'd go alright if he had more bookings. He doesn’t have very many mares but he's very fertile. He's a very healthy stallion but he's getting a bit long in the tooth now of course."
Balboa Rocks is Easy Rocking's latest black-type winner, but is unlikely to be his last, with the 5-year-old's full-sister Pennino, the reigning QTIS Horse of the Year, twice placed in black-type races over the Brisbane summer carnival.
"A client of ours has had the mare for years and years and we raised Balboa Rocks up until he went off to the breaker. He's another horse that has come off our property that has won a stakes race, which is great," Turkington said.
"The filly is going well, and the dam, Alpha Girl (Clang), went back to Easy Rocking last year, so it seems to be working for them."
More winners for Mahisara
Easy Rocking is one of three stallions at Wattle Brae, with young stallion Mahisara also celebrating a good week with his progeny winning three races in five days.
One of his first crop, a 3-year-old filly called Miss Sara backed up her win at Doomben last Wednesday with a win at Beaudesert on Monday, while Lady Yendor was also a winner at Townsville last Saturday.
"He's sitting at about 16th in the second-season sires' list in Australia at the moment Mahisara which is a good result and they seem to be getting a bit of distance and going well as 3-year-olds," Turkington said.
Such successes are important to the morale of Wattle Brae, with Turkington admitting going is tough for the smaller Queensland studs.
He points to the significant reduction in Queensland stallions at stud, from 96 to 27 over the past decade, as an example of how hard it has become.
For Wattle Brae, which has reduced its staffing levels from a peak of nine to just two, it also has meant an exodus of not just equine but also human talent.
Still, business rolls on and Wattle Brae present nine yearlings at the Gold Coast March Yearling Sale, including seven by Mahisara. That includes Lot 242, a full brother to Miss Sara, who sold for $12,000 at the same sale back in 2017 and has already won nearly $200,000.