All Star 'battlers' hopeful of making their mark

7 min read
Two of the popularly voted rank outsiders in Saturday's inaugural $5m All-Star Mile are ready to make an impression, according to their connections.

Their inclusion in the inaugural $5m All-Star Mile may have caused significant debate, but the connections of Foundry (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) and Urban Ruler (Street Boss {USA}) feel they can make an impression in the Flemington 1600m feature on Saturday.

Urban Ruler, now prepared by Melbourne Cup winning jockey Chris Munce, has not won a race since October 2017 and has only beaten one horse home in both of his runs this preparation. He is one of the rank outsiders for the race at $151.

The 5-year-old made his way into the All-Star Mile, which has a minimum $90,000 prizemoney for every runner, via a huge ownership base of 800 people, which saw him the second most popular horse with over 8000 votes.

Urban Ruler has a huge ownership group of 800 people

Shelley Hancox, who has been a trailblazer in syndication for 30 years under the Hancox Bloodstock banner, is unperturbed by the criticism of the inclusion of the 76 rater in the race.

"I don’t get annoyed, I think it’s quite amusing," she told RSN. "Every year, you have a Melbourne Cup and a Caulfield Cup that has a big tail on it. He fit the criteria that was advertised and that's what we did. We entered, voted on him, got him there and he's here in Melbourne now."

"Every year, you have a Melbourne Cup and a Caulfield Cup that has a big tail on it." - Syndicator Shelley Hancox

Hancox said Urban Ruler fit the fan engagement aspect of the race perfectly and would bring a significant amount of people to the races on Saturday.

"We're bringing 250 people to the races, how bad can that be?" she said.

"We'll have all those people at a function up in the stands on Saturday and together with the other syndicates, it will be a great day."

There were a myriad of different promotional campaigns used in order to garner votes for the All Star Mile. Balf's Choice (Written Tycoon) catapulted into leading vote getter in the final days off the back of a campaign through an Adelaide-based radio station, while Man Of His Word (Lope De Vega {Ire}) got himself into the race thanks largely to a burger giveaway.

Hancox's methodology was more traditional, but clearly effective.

"We didn’t run a campaign. Rod Peacock sent two emails around our database. We're a little disappointed that he didn’t end up being the top vote getter, actually," she said.

Looking for Ruler of old

As for Urban Ruler's current form, Hancox acknowledges he doesn’t look like a horse capable of winning a top level mile race, but if he can rediscover form of a couple of seasons back, where he was a winner over the Flemington 1400m, he can make an impression.

"We certainly hope he can improve. His two runs in Brisbane so far this time in have been very ordinary, however, he has had blinkers put back on for this Saturday's race. The horse looks perfect," she said.

"Some horses mentally decide to switch off, hopefully we can switch him back on." - Shelley Hancox

"Some horses mentally decide to switch off, hopefully we can switch him back on. Hopefully, the road trip and being back at his old bed might help."

Urban Ruler as a yearling

"I think he'll beat at least a couple of runners home."

Urban Ruler was a $50,000 purchase for Hancox Bloodstock at the 2015 Classic Sale from the Amarina Farm draft. His dam Minnastar (NZ) (Black Minnaloushe {USA}) is an unraced half-sister to two stakes-placed horses, including Dance On Wood (Woodman {USA}), the dam of South African Listed winner Dance To The Stars (Galileo {Ire}).

Urban Ruler's half brother Star Missile (Smart Missile) was a recent winner in the Hancox Bloodstock colours and is a possible campaigner for the 2020 edition of the race.

Foundry's return 500 days in the making

Foundry doesn't hail from such modest beginnings, being out of a G1 winning mare (Sharp Lisa {USA}) (Dixieland Band {USA}) and having spent his career until now in high-profile stables in Ireland and Australia.

Back in 2012, he was an impressive 5.5l winner on debut for Aidan O'Brien at Leopardstown and at his second start was beaten just over a length by Telescope (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) in the G2 Great Voltigeur S. at York.

He joined a band of Ballydoyle stayers headed to Lloyd Williams' Macedon Lodge in late 2013, winning on his Australian debut over the 1400m at Flemington in early 2014. He has only won one of his subsequent 14 starts, but that was in the G1 Metropolitan Hcp, while he hasn’t raced since November 2017.

Country trainer Terry Kelly, who has only had two winners since 2016, picked the 9-year-old up for just $8500 at an Inglis online sale last September, hoping to target him at 'a Warrnambool or Wagga Cup'.

Foundry

"We went down (to Macedon Lodge) the day before the auction closed. Out of the 28 horses that were there, this one was the best I could find," Kelly told RSN.

"Out of the 28 horses that were there, this one was the best I could find." - Trainer, Terry Kelly

"On the day, our vet Andrew Clough was there with his x-ray machine. I had a question mark over the nearside front joint and he x-rayed him and gave him the thumbs up. He said there's nothing we can't manage."

"The next day, the auction is on and about 5pm that afternoon, we were all jumping up and down doing high fives. You reckon we had won the race. I honestly believed that with the prices of the others that went through, we would have to pay $30,000-$40,000 for him and no-one else wanted him."

Understandably, having now secured a run in the race, and a guaranteed $90,000 in prizemoney, Kelly is a huge supporter of the All-Star Mile concept.

"It’s a very good concept. It gives us little blokes, us battlers, a chance to rub shoulders with the big boys and have a crack." - Terry Kelly

"It’s a very good concept. It gives us little blokes, us battlers, a chance to rub shoulders with the big boys and have a crack," he said.

Kelly said good connections through family and the thoroughbred industry were the driving force behind Foundry getting the necessary votes, in his case over 5500, to get into the race. He and his partner Ange Bridge drummed up support at polo, equestrian and rodeo events across Victoria's Western District.

"We’ve got a lot of friends all over Australia. We’ve raced all over the place," he said.

Ange Bridge and Terry Kelly with Foundry

Kelly's confidence

While many would dismiss the chances of a horse contesting a top-level 1600m race off what will be exactly a 500-day break, Kelly remains quietly confident.

"He's been working very well in blinkers, which he will wear on Saturday. He's just had his last big hit out this morning and we are pretty confident we are on the mark," he said.

"He's just had his last big hit out this morning and we are pretty confident we are on the mark." - Terry Kelly

"We've got to be realistic, these horses at the top, they are currently racing in Group 1 status, where our bloke is stepping out after resting up for two years, but he's an exceptional horse. I've never had a horse with so much stamina and so much courage."

Kelly expects Foundry, who will be ridden by John Allen, to settle in the first few and give the rest something to chase, having come up with barrier 17 for Saturday's race.

Draw opens up All Star

The draw for the race certainly saw the market open up further with leading chances Alizee (Sepoy) (12), Mystic Journey (Needs Further) (16), Amphitrite (Sebring) (14) and Grunt (NZ) (O'Reilly {NZ}) (15) all drawing wide.

Mystic Journey's trainer Adam Trinder wasn't too concerned with the outside barrier.

"She's won from inside draws, she's won from outside draws. I think with the dynamics of Flemington, we saw her so good there in the Australian Guineas, there is a lovely long run in," he said.

Hartnell (GB) (Authorized {Ire}) came up with barrier 2, while Happy Clapper (Teofilo {Ire}) drew barrier nine.

The four emergencies are Le Romain (Hard Spun {USA}), Trap For Fools (Poet's Voice {GB}), Hellova Street (Helike {USA}) and He Or She (Kendel Star).