The good fortune and good people behind Le Romain

6 min read
Breeder and owner Tony Carusi attributes much of the success of his champion Le Romain to good luck and good friends.

Tony Carusi has praised the value of good people and good fortune as he prepares to watch his pride and joy Le Romain (Hard Spun {USA}) resume in the G2 Expressway S. at Rosehill on Saturday.

Tony and his brother Mark bred and race the tough and consistent 6-year-old, a triple Group 1 winner who has given them their biggest thrills in over 20 years of racing horses.

"It’s a dream isn’t it. You set out to hopefully breed a horse like that and when it happens, you can’t believe it. His longevity is unbelievable. He keeps going around," Carusi told TDN AusNZ.

"It’s a dream isn’t it. You set out to hopefully breed a horse like that and when it happens, you can’t believe it." - Tony Carusi

A winner of nearly $4m in prizemoney, Le Romain has been one of the most consistent thoroughbreds in Australia over the past three years, complementing his wins in the 2016 Randwick Guineas, 2016 Cantala S. and 2017 Canterbury S. with seven placings at Group 1 level.

Le Romain

"A big part of successful horses is staying sound. Things can turn pretty quick," Carusi said. "We’ve had plenty of bad luck before, where you have a horse with ability and you might be lucky to get two starts out of them."

"He's had his setbacks too. He got sick one time and he had colic and we nearly lost him, but apart from that we’ve been lucky."

The other factor in the success has been the influence of trainer Kris Lees, who the Carusis trust with everything to do with Le Romain's career.

"With Kris on the racing side, we don’t get too involved. We let Kris do his job, that's what he's there for," he said.

"You've got a trainer there to do the job, that's what he is there for. You can’t tell a bloke like that how to do his job."

The Lees connection

The Carusis' connection with the Lees family stretches back over 20 years when Mark first raced horses with Kris' late father Max.

"From around 2000 onward, we got more involved and had a horse here or there and about ten years ago, we got involved in the breeding side of it. We really liked that," Tony said.

Kris Lees

Looking to build their own broodmare band, they sought out someone who could provide the same trusted service as the Lees did with the racing stock. They got that with Laurie McCarthy at Greta West Stud.

"Laurie has been unreal. We don’t have to worry about anything, everything is taken care of. He's professional, they are just good people," he said.

"On the farm with Laurie, we just leave it to him. Whatever needs to be done, he just does it. We trust we have the right people around to guide us."

Trust builds a breeding pathway

That trust has allowed the brothers to create a pathway from breeding barn to racetrack.

"We are really passionate about it, we’ve built up to seven or eight mares," he said.

"We are really passionate about it, we’ve built up to seven or eight mares," - Tony Carusi

"For us we aren’t gifted with money and if you wanted to go buy a horse at the sale which is well-bred, you are paying big money. So to come through this way with other partners, you can limit the cost a bit. If you can breed a nice horse, it makes it more affordable."

The Le Romain story started out ten years ago at the Sydney Spring Thoroughbred Sale with the $18,000 purchase of his dam, a Strategic mare called Mignard.

"At that stage we only had two mares and there was an incentive on buying the third mare and that was the reason why we bought her," Tony said.

"We effectively got to pay nothing for a $15,000 service fee. It made sense for us to buy another mare and that was through Darley."

"We looked at what Darley was selling and she was one of the three or four we looked at. We like the old Woodlands mares."

Mignard, a winner of one of her 11 starts for Darley, is out of stakes-placed Mielleuse (Night Shift {USA}), a half -sister to Pursuits and a three-quarter sister to Hosiery, the dam of G1 Caulfield Guineas winner Long John.

"I'm not going to say we are geniuses. We are not, we do it simply," Carusi said. "If you've got a good mare and you send it to a good stallion, you've got as much chance as anybody else."

Backing the shuttle stallions

The stallion in the case of Le Romain was Hard Spun, a Group 1 winner over 7 furlongs in the USA who the Carusis felt was under appreciated in the Australian market.

"You have to be a bit open when you breed, we like to get horses who can train on," he said.

"A lot of horses that come to Australia from Europe or America are underestimated. People tend to ignore them, but of you look at their records, they are really good horses."

"I don’t understand why the Aussie breeders don’t go to them more. Don’t people want good horses?"

"You see some of these stallions who are $25,000 compared to the big boys who are $150,000 and we are talking about class animals who are three or four-time Group 1 winners."

Hard Spun

The family continues

Mignard's first two foals never made it to the track, but at her second visit to Hard Spun, then standing at Darley, she produced Le Romain.

Since then she has produced a Domesday filly, Isabeau, who only had one start due to throat issues and is now in foal to Territories, a now 3-year-old filly by Kuroshio called Mikuro and an unraced 2-year-old Kuroshio colt called Mpabbe.

There is also a yearling filly by Exosphere and a weanling filly by Frosted (USA).

Carusi would be happy for them to show half the ability and toughness of their older brother, who is targeting more Group 1s and more big money this time in. His campaign is aimed at the G1 Futurity S. at Caulfield and then the inaugural $5m All-Star Mile at Flemington.

His participation in the All-Star Mile will likely depend on one of the four wildcards into the race considering he is currently 23rd in the public vote, with just the top ten guaranteed a start.

Carusi admits he is slightly miffed that his champ, one of Australia's most consistent milers over the past two years, might miss out based on the fact that other lower-rated horses have bigger ownership groups and have launched concerted campaigns to get into the $5m race.

"Maybe they should have put a benchmark to stop that from happening. Some of these horses at the top of the voting, they can’t win a race like that," he said. "You want the best horses in it."