Raise a glass to a Champion

9 min read
John Berry celebrates the life of Champion racehorse and stallion, Redoute's Choice, who will be remembered as much for his character and class as the incredible legacy he has left behind.

During his very successful training career, Rick Hore-Lacy built up a reputation as ‘the stallion-maker’. Many of the good colts who passed through his hands at Epsom and then at Caulfield went on to enjoy excellent stud careers.

He must have thought that he’d reached the pinnacle in this respect when the 1990 G1 Golden Slipper S. winner Canny Lad (Bletchingly) became an extremely successful stallion at Woodlands. However, it turned out that Canny Lad was only the warm-up act: Redoute’s Choice (Danehill {USA}) came along nine years later and went on to prove himself one of the most special horses, both on the racecourse and at stud, of the modern era.

His death this week at Arrowfield at the age of 22 leaves a big hole in the bloodstock landscape.

A standout from the beginning

Redoute’s Choice was a stand-out from the outset. Put into training as a two-year-old in 1998 with Hore-Lacy by his Sri Lankan breeder Muzaffar Ali Yaseen, Redoute’s Choice was soon turning heads in the mornings at Caulfield. A magnificent ball of muscle, he worked as well as he looked.

Hore-Lacy eschewed the maiden-race option for his debut, putting him straight into an 1100m listed race at his home track. He won it and then tackled the G1 Blue Diamond S. second up, merely seven days later. He won that too, bettering the effort nine years previously of Canny Lad, who had only finished second in that race to Mahaasin (Biscay).

Redoute’s Choice’s connections were entitled to be full of hope when the colt was dispatched up to Sydney for the G1 Golden Slipper. Unfortunately he was not able to follow in Canny Lad’s footsteps, being sensationally scratched on the eve of the race, reportedly suffering from an elevated temperature resultant from ‘travel sickness’.

Watch: Redoute's Choice, a superstar racehorse and sire

Redoute’s Choice had been the even money favourite so Muzaffar Ali Yaseen was naturally disconsolate. However, his spirits were bucked up considerably when John Messara stepped in to seal a deal which would see the colt heading off to Arrowfield at the end of his racing days. Irrespective of whether or not it turned out that Redoute’s Choice’s best days were behind him (which was a possibility, as he really was very ill) his future was secure.

"Any worries that Redoute’s Choice had missed his opportunity for true stardom were erased the following season." - John Berry

Any worries that Redoute’s Choice had missed his opportunity for true stardom were erased the following season, which was lit up by a series of clashes between Redoute’s Choice and his old rival Testa Rossa (Perugino) who had chased him home in the Blue Diamond. They were both terrific colts, as tough and genuine as they were talented.

Danny Nikolic had ridden Redoute’s Choice in the Blue Diamond, but the colt tackled weight-for-age company on his first start at three, carrying only 50.5 kilos in the G1 Manikato S. over 1200m at Moonee Valley, so Jim Cassidy took the mount. He duly rode him to an impressive win and then retained the ride for Redoute’s Choice’s subsequent victories too.

A heated rivalry

Only fourth to Spargo (Rory’s Jester) in the G2 Ascot Vale S. down the straight at Flemington (with Testa Rossa second), Redoute’s Choice tackled his elders again in the G1 Vic Health Cup over 1400m at Caulfield. Testa Rossa was in the race too. The latter won, with Redoute’s Choice third of the 12 runners.

After that, all roads led to the G1 Caulfield Guineas for both colts. It was a vintage edition of the great race, packed with top-liners; but in the end it boiled down to a duel. Redoute’s Choice made the running in a field of 14, with Damien Oliver tracking him all the way on Testa Rossa. Redoute’s Choice lugged out on the final bend, leaving a gap for Testa Rossa to shoot through. With 200m to go Testa Rossa was nearly two lengths in front, but Redoute’s Choice knew to the inch where the Caulfield winning post stood. He rallied like a true champion to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat right on the line.

Watch: Redoute's Choice winning the 1999 G1 Caulfield Guineas

It had been an epic contest. To all intents and purposes it had been a two-horse race, but there were some top-class horses in behind including Commands (third), Pins (fifth), Sudurka (sixth) and Diatribe (eighth).

"It had been an epic contest. To all intents and purposes it had been a two-horse race." - John Berry

Redoute’s Choice contested four more Group 1 races, running very well every time, including winning the G1 C. F. Orr S. over 1400m at Caulfield second up in the autumn. Even his only unplaced run was a cracker: fifth of 11 behind Sunline (NZ) (Desert Sun {GB}) and Tie The Knot (Nassipour {USA}) in a star-studded G1 W. S. Cox Plate over 2040m at Moonee Valley.

It was clear that John Messara had pulled off another stroke of genius in securing him for Arrowfield, whither he headed (owned jointly by Muzaffer Ali Yaseen and the stud) in advance of the 2000 breeding season.

Starting his stud career

Messara, of course, had been biased in favour of Redoute’s Choice. Operating previously in partnership with Coolmore, he had been instrumental in bringing Danehill to Australia and thus changing the bloodstock world forever. Having started out at Arrowfield, Danehill ended up standing under the Coolmore banner.

John Messara (Image courtesy of Arrowfield Stud)

Messara, though, had an obvious ‘Plan B’: standing some of Danehill’s best sons. He already had the G1 Golden Slipper-winning Danehill horses Danzero and Flying Spur on the Arrowfield roster, and Redoute’s Choice was an obvious candidate to join them. Not only had he been a fabulous racehorse, but he was breath-takingly handsome too. And his pedigree was from the very top drawer. His dam Shantha’s Choice (Canny Lad) was a half-sister to the G1-winning two-year-olds Hurricane Sky and Umatilla, and his was one of the best stallions’ families in the world, descending from the legendary Best In Show (USA) (Traffic Judge {USA}).

"Not only had he been a fabulous racehorse, but he was breath-takingly handsome too." - John Berry

Danehill had made the perfect start to his stud career by siring the Golden Slipper winner in his first crop (and then siring the next two winners of the great race too). Redoute’s Choice couldn’t match that (as it was, his fellow Arrowfield inmate and paternal half-brother Danzero sired the winner in 2004, Dance Hero) but he did the next best thing: he sired the quinella the next year (with Stratum and Fashions Afield) and then came up with the winner (Miss Finland) again in 2006.

Even without the Slipper winner, though, his first crop was still an excellent one, containing the juvenile Group winner Tahnee Girl as well as Lotteria (a Group 1 winner as a spring three-year-old) and Al Maher (successful later in the 2004/’05 season in the G1 Australian Guineas).

Miss Finland winning the 2006 Golden Slipper

In addition to the Golden Slipper principals Stratum and Fashions Afield, Redoute’s Choice’s second crop also contained the winners of Australia’s other two headline juvenile races: Bradbury’s Luck took the Magic Millions Classic and Undoubtedly won the G1 Blue Diamond S. That crop also included the subsequent champion sire Snitzel as well as G1 Caulfield Guineas hero God’s Own.

Destined for greatness

It also gave a clue to the fact that, like his sire Danehill before him, Redoute’s Choice was destined to establish himself as an influence for class across the distance spectrum, rather than merely for speed: Duelled took the G2 Moonee Valley Vase over 2040m en route to second placing in the G1 VRC Derby over 2500m, beaten only a neck by Benicio (More Than Ready).

"Redoute’s Choice was destined to establish himself as an influence for class across the distance spectrum, rather than merely for speed." - John Berry

Miss Finland, star of Redoute’s Choice’s third crop, subsequently confirmed this impression, completing the remarkable double in 2006 of G1 Golden Slipper over 1200m and G1 VRC Oaks over 2500m, merely seven months apart and with an easy victory in the G1 Thousand Guineas in between.

An outstanding filly/racemare, she ended up with six Group 1 victories to her name before she headed off to join the Arrowfield broodmare band (in which she has produced the 2015 G1 Thousand Guineas heroine Stay With Me (Street Cry {Ire}). Her Golden Slipper victory had enabled her sire to land the Blue Diamond / Golden Slipper for a second year running, courtesy of Nadeem’s triumph in the Caulfield juvenile showpiece (in which Miss Finland finished second).

The progeny of Miss Finland are still highly sought after, pictured: her colt by Deep Impact

Redoute’s Choice continued in the same vein during the subsequent years, even while Australian breeding was becoming an ever more competitive game as international investment continued to increase. He remained hugely successful despite becoming in one sense his own worst enemy, simply because so many of his strongest competitors were his own sons, while so many of the country’s best broodmares were never likely to visit him as they are his daughters.

"He remained hugely successful despite becoming in one sense his own worst enemy, simply because so many of his strongest competitors were his own sons." - John Berry

Even so he has remained in the elite tier and will stay there posthumously for a few years yet. Champion sire in 2005/’06, 2009/’10 and 2013/’14, he is currently lying fourth (behind his son Snitzel) in this season’s General Sires’ Table. At the same time he holds a seemingly unassailable lead (over $2.5 million) in the broodmare sires’ premiership.

A terrific racehorse. An ultra-reliable sire of high-class juveniles; of Guineas, Derby and Oaks winners; of weight-for-age stars. Sire of 34 individual Group 1 winners of 55 Group 1 races. Redoute’s Choice has been both a statistician’s dream and a breeders’ best friend, whether the breeder was aiming at the sales-ring or the winner’s enclosure.

"Redoute’s Choice has been both a statistician’s dream and a breeders’ best friend." - John Berry

He won’t, though, be remembered only as an ultra-high achiever. He will be remembered as a truly gorgeous horse, not just by his friends at Arrowfield, but by anyone who ever saw him race; by anyone who ever visited Arrowfield and found themselves greeted by 680 kilos of muscle with pricked ears, a smiling face and a swaggering walk; by anyone whose eye has ever been caught by an imposing yearling or racehorse strolling by and has exclaimed, “That one must be a Redoute’s Choice!”