Australian Guineas maintains Zabeel tradition

7 min read
TDN AusNZ looks at the impact Zabeel's (NZ) 1990 G1 Australian Guineas victory had on the stallion-making credentials of the Flemington 3-year-old feature.

Both the Group 1 Australian Guineas and its most famous winner Zabeel were born in 1986 and have been inextricably linked since the day 29 years ago the New Zealand-bred and Australian raced 3-year-old collected what was to be the lone Group 1 success of his career.

There is a considerable debate to be had over whether the 1990 Guineas made Zabeel's future as a stallion, or whether the subsequent deeds of the stallion made the future of the race.

No doubt both benefitted greatly from that day in February 1990 when Michael Clarke bought the Lindsay Park colt by Sir Tristram (Ire) with a well-timed run to score a comfortable win over Ark Regal (Star Way {GB}).

Twelve months later, after a promising career was ended with a jarred leg, Sir Patrick Hogan, who was standing his sire Sir Tristram and was looking for an heir to the Cambridge Stud star, made an offer which would change the course of Australasian breeding for the next 20 years.

Zabeel

The rest is history as Zabeel would go on to become one of the most influential Australasian-bred stallions ever, siring a remarkable 166 stakes-winners.

Every one of those successes helped cement the Australian Guineas as one of the premier stallion-making races in Australia, a reputation, which despite the increased focus on speed, persists to this day.

Leigh Jordon, the VRC's Executive General Manager - Racing, told TDN AusNZ, the vision for the race at its inception was driven by long-term committeeman Doug Reid.

"Doug owned St Johns Lane Stud and saw the opportunity for this race from a breeding perspective." - Leigh Jordon, VRC's Executive General Manager - Racing

"I know then Doug Reid had an idea to make it over a mile, looking to make it a stallion-making race. Doug owned St Johns Lane Stud and saw the opportunity for this race from a breeding perspective," Jordon said.

Leigh Jordon

The very first winner of the race, True Version (Bletchingly) went on to a stud career, while the second edition, and the first at Group 1 level, was taken out by another influential son of Sir Tristram, Military Plume (NZ), who would go on to sire 26 stakes-winners, including the G1 VRC Oaks winner Northwood Plume.

1988 winner Flotilla (Dalmacia {NZ}) was a grandson of Sir Tristram and would also enjoy some success at stud, as would 1989 winner King's High (Full On Aces), but it was Zabeel who really set the ball rolling.

"Zabeel, you only have to look at his record." - Leigh Jordon

"Zabeel, you only have to look at his record," Jordon said. "Zabeel winning it early doors and a horse like Flying Spur winning it in 1996, really set the race up from that perspective."

Flying Spur (Danehill {USA]) and Miss Finland (Redoute's Choice) remain the only horses to win the Golden Slipper and Australian Guineas in successive years and Flying Spur used those wins to launch a brilliant stud career at Arrowfield which saw him sire 99 stakes winners.

Flying Spur also went onto a successful career at stud after winning the Australian Guineas

Switch to 2000m

The stallion-making credentials of the Guineas could have been impacted when it switched to a 2000m event in 1998 as part of the Australian Triple Crown, but even during those three years, it produced a future star stallion in Pins (Snippets), who has been a dominant sire in New Zealand and with 80 stakes winners to his name to date.

In the years after the switch back to 1600m in 2001, the victories of Zabeel's unbeaten son Reset, who has produced 33 stakes winners, and Al Maher (Danehill {USA}), the sire of 34 stakes winners, maintained the race's reputation.

The biggest threat to that reputation came via a peculiar run of results which coincided with a number of significant programming changes elsewhere.

A run of seven years without a colt winning the race between 2006 and 2012 robbed the Guineas of some of its lustre from a breeding perspective and that occurred alongside with the emergence of the G1 Coolmore Stud S. and then the G1 Golden Rose S. in Sydney as stallion-making rivals.

Another significant challenge came from across the border when the 1600m G1 Randwick Guineas was established in early March in 2006 from the previously run 1900m G1 Canterbury Guineas.

Recent winners revive status

Five years ago, there were legitimate qualms over the credentials of the race from a breeding perspective, but with Ferlax (NZ) (Pentire {GB}), Shamus Award (Snitzel), Wandjina (Snitzel) and Palentino (Teofilo {Ire}) earning their spots at stud, its status is re-invigorated.

Shamus Award

Ferlax's ill-fated stud career at Haunui Farm may have been cut short, but Shamus Award (Widden) and Wandjina (Newgate) have been well supported at commercial Hunter Valley farms, as has Sun Stud's Palentino, whose first foals only hit the ground last spring.

"It's a real pinnacle race and it's really been a boon for the breeding industry." - Leigh Jordon

"It’s probably one of the top 3-year-old races in the country. I know the Coolmore on Derby Day has played a fairly significant part over the later years, being flagged as a stallion-making race, but I feel the Australian Guineas is still up there," Jordon said.

"It's a real pinnacle race and it's really been a boon for the breeding industry."

Watch: Wandjina winning the Australian Guineas

A tale of two Guineas

The other Melbourne race with impeccable stallion-making credentials is of course the Group 1 Caulfield Guineas.

While one would assume there would be significant cross over, given the races are just five months apart, there has been only one horse complete the Guineas double; Mahogany (Last Tycoon {Ire}) in 1994.

Remarkably only seven of the 24 Caulfield Guineas winners since have even contested the Australian Guineas, with only two of those able to run a place.

Jordon said the seasonal break between the two races makes a significant difference in the type of horses who generally win them.

Mahogany was the last horse to complete the Caulfield and Australian Guineas double

"With the Caulfield Guineas, they have just turned three and this race enables them to be more mature," he said.

"It obviously gives a different result than the Caulfield Guineas, with a strong, more mature horse winning." - Leigh Jordon

"That's one of the reasons why it has worked as stallion-maker, because by March, they are three and a half, they are fairly mature. It obviously gives a different result than the Caulfield Guineas, with a strong, more mature horse winning."

Jordon said that while the programming of the Randwick Guineas, which has occasionally even been run on the same day, has not been ideal, he doesn't believe that it detracts from the Flemington race.

"It’s at that time when there are a lot of 3-year-olds around, many of them looking for the longer races in Sydney and having the two races so close together hasn't made an impact," he said.

Future remains bright

Nominations for this year's race closed last week with 125 entries in total, including the current star in G1 Caulfield Guineas winner The Autumn Sun (Redoute's Choice), who Jordon admits is unlikely to contest.

He feels the depth remains and that the future for the Australian Guineas is as bright as ever.

"I think it’s got a big future. It’s currently a $1m race and the Club is looking at prizemoney and where we should invest, and it’s possibly a race we could invest and elevate in the future," he said.

"It’s one of our premier races and we want to make sure we cement it and progress it more."