Eminent equestrian relishing return to thoroughbred code

7 min read
Challenges have forever been part and parcel of dual-Olympic gold medal winner Sir Mark Todd’s sporting life and with remarkable regularity he has successfully surmounted them in the international equestrian arena.

The iconic New Zealand horseman’s CV is a long and highly decorated one and outside of his supreme eventing accomplishments, Sir Mark Todd also found time to make his mark at the highest level in the thoroughbred code.

From Sir Mark’s then Cambridge base at Rivermonte Farm, he trained a small string and won the 2003 G1 New Zealand Oaks with Bramble Rose (NZ) (Shinko King {Ire}), who also finished runner-up in the G1 Arrowfield Stud S. and third in the G1 Australian Oaks.

Sir Mark Todd

Willy Smith (NZ) (Volksraad {GB}) was to follow and he claimed the 2007 G1 Wellington Cup and ran second in the G1 Zabeel Classic.

Sir Mark held a training licence for eight seasons and prepared 57 winners before retirement, temporary as it now happens, before focusing his efforts once again on the equestrian pursuits from his current base in England at Badgerstown in Wiltshire.

Golden days

Sir Mark’s Group 1 winning achievements in the thoroughbred code aside, his longevity at the top end of the equestrian world is remarkable.

When he won his fifth Olympic medal in 2012, he equalled the Olympic record for the longest gap between first and last medals - 28 years.

Sir Mark won individual gold medals at Los Angeles and Seoul with his famous horse Charisma, the Burghley Horse Trials five times and the Badminton Horse Trials on four occasions. He will be in action in May at Badminton in Gloucester, England, aiming to claim another victory and beat his own 2011 record as the event's oldest winner.

Sir Mark Todd and his famous eventing horse Charisma

He was New Zealand’s Sportsman of the Year in 1988, inducted the same year into the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame and as a member of New Zealand’s Eventing team he also won gold medals at the World Championships in 1990 and 1998. He was voted rider of the 20th century by the International Federation for Equestrian Sports.

Knighted in 2013, Sir Mark may not be finished yet either as the 63-year-old is still considering competing at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. He helped New Zealand qualify an eventing team when seventh at the FEI World Equestrian Championships last September.

"I do have that other side of my life at the moment. How long I keep going at that I don't know," he said.

Sir Mark Todd & Charisma

Change of tack

Eventing has been his main focus for the last decade. That is until New Zealand Bloodstock principal Sir Peter Vela, who has had eventing horses with Todd, approached him to take charge of his beautifully-related European Group winner Eminent (GB) (Frankel {GB}).

“Sir Peter and (bloodstock agent) Hubie de Burgh bought Martyn Meade out of the horse with the plan for him to go to New Zealand to stud,” Sir Mark said.

“They sent him to me to play around with him for a bit before he got on the plane. Then they decided to have one last go and try and win a Group 1 in Australia on the way home.

Eminent arrived in Australia at the start of March

“For various reasons the flights didn’t work out and he was going to go over to an Australian trainer. Then they suggested to me that I trained the horse and bring him over.

“I’m always up for a challenge and he’s just a lovely horse. He did a bit of dressage, hacking out around the hills and jumping before he got on the plane.

“I’m always up for a challenge and he’s just a lovely horse.” – Sir Mark Todd.

“We’ve progressed from there and he’s travelled well and has come through everything really well.”

Eminent will make his Australian debut in the G1 Ranvet S. at Rosehill on Saturday and, all going well, progress on to the G1 Queen Elizabeth S. at Randwick.

The 5-year-old made his last race day appearance for Meade in August, 2018, when fifth in the G3 Glorious S. at Goodwood.

“I don’t really know the horse that well and I’ve never had him at the races,” Sir Mark said.

“Obviously, his form as a 3-year-old was very, very good before it tailed off last year.”

“Obviously, his form as a 3-year-old was very, very good before it tailed off last year.” – Sir Mark Todd.

In his Classic year, Eminent won the G3 Prix Guillame D’Ornano and the G3 Craven S.

In his Classic year, Eminent won the G3 Prix Guillame D’Ornano and the G3 Craven S. and was third in the Irish Champion S. and fourth in the G1 English Derby. He was unplaced in four runs in his following season.

“All I can say is the horse is fit, relaxed, happy and healthy,” Sir Mark said. “In an ideal world it would have been nice to have had a run under our belt before we took on a Group 1, but it didn’t pan out like that.

“Also, in England there were a few difficult challenges with firstly the snow and Lambourn closed down and then the equine flu.

“Before he came to me he hadn’t worked with another horse for four or five weeks and then he was in quarantine in England and Australia.”

“In England there were a few difficult challenges with firstly the snow and Lambourn closed down and then the equine flu.” – Sir Mark Todd.

Those difficulties aside, Sir Mark is more than happy with Eminent’s condition and his progress since arriving in Sydney.

“He had a good gallop on Wednesday morning and James McDonald rode him and he went very nicely,” he said. “James was happy with him. There are still a lot of questions to be answered, but we remain very happy with the horse.

Eminent will make his Australian debut this Saturday

“The plan has been made a bit as we go along. He’ll definitely run in the Ranvet and provided he runs well we will crack on to the Queen Elizabeth.”

McDonald has been booked for the ride in the Ranvet and Sir Mark said he would relish the opportunity to be part of the Queen Elizabeth S., the goal for Winx (Street Cry {Ire}).

“Winx is not just an Australian icon, she’s worldwide. It would be an amazing occasion to be a part of.”

“Winx is not just an Australian icon, she’s worldwide. It would be an amazing occasion to be a part of.” – Sir Mark Todd.

The Eminent venture has also allowed Todd to renew a successful association with former New Zealand jockey Bruce Herd, who partnered Bramble Rose four times for a win and two Group 2 placings.

“Bruce was meant to have ridden her in the Oaks, but he injured himself a couple of races before,” he said.

“Sir Peter organised Bruce to come to England and he was with the horse in quarantine and then came on down here. Obviously, he’s a very good rider and he’s been a great help.”

The intention is to subsequently retire Eminent to stud in New Zealand, the location yet to be determined, and he will have widespread appeal as a son of the unbeaten superstar Frankel.

Pedigree notes

A 150,000 guineas purchase at the Tatts October Yearling Sale, Eminent is out of You’ll Be Mine (USA) (Kingmambo {USA}), a winner who also placed in the G1 Ascot Fillies’ Mile.

The dam is a daughter of the three-time Group 1 winner Quarter Moon (Ire) (Sadler’s Wells {USA}), who is a half-sister to the G1 Pretty Polly S. winner Diamondsandrubies (Ire) (Fastnet Rock) and a sister to G1 Irish 1000 Guineas winner Yesterday (Ire) (Sadler's Wells).