Australian team out to Smash up Dubai

7 min read
Australian Bloodstock has a global outlook when it comes to buying and racing horses and on Saturday celebrates a first runner on Dubai World Cup night.

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — There’s been plenty of talk about Japanese runners this week in Dubai, most of it focusing on the record-breaking Japan Cup winner Almond Eye (JPN) (Lord Kanaloa {JPN}). But one Japanese-bred horse who is now flying the flag for Australia will be notching a notable first for trainer Kris Lees and the successful Australian Bloodstock syndicate, which races Brave Smash (JPN) (Tosen Phantom {JPN}) in partnership with Aquis Farm and Glenlogan Park.

Jamie Lovett, who set up Australian Bloodstock with Luke Murrell 15 years ago, arrived in Dubai on Wednesday night with his wife Kelly and, despite the wet weather which has hit the emirate in recent days, is looking forward to a race day which he says has been “on his bucket list” for some time.

“It's very exciting to be here,” says Lovett from the Meydan hotel overlooking the turf straight down which he hopes Brave Smash, partnered by Hugh Bowman, will post another important international victory for the team.

Kris Lees, Jamie Lovett, Luke Murrell and the Brave Smash team at Meydan

“We've been very fortunate travelling our horses, with the likes of [Belmont Gold Cup winner] Red Cardinal (Ire) in New York, a fair few races in Europe and the Singapore Cup, but I’ve always said I don't want to come to one of these carnivals unless we have a horse good enough to take, so we've held back a few times, and I do really believe this is the right horse.”

"I do really believe this is the right horse.” - Jamie Lovett

He adds, “Because of where this sits on the calendar it's slightly difficult [for Australian runners] because Sydney has invested heavily in The Championships but for us, World Cup night was something we'd always wanted to be part of.”

Stallion quality

The fact that Aquis Farm has taken an interest in Brave Smash is an obvious sign that the 6-year-old is still entire. The stallion has oozed calm in recent mornings on his early stretches around Meydan. His trackwork partner Illustrious Lad (Aus) (I Am Invincible {Aus}) will become his rival on Saturday in the G1 Al Quoz Sprint and they will be joined by the Lloyd Kennewell-trained mare Viddora (Aus) (I Am Invincible {Aus}), who beat Brave Smash by just over a length in the G1 Moir S. last September.

The latter bounced back from that to take out the G1 Manikato S. back at Moonee Valley two starts later and Lovett believes his recent form, which sees him coming into the race off the back of a close third to Sunlight (Aus) (Zoustar {Aus}) in the G1 Newmarket H., puts Brave Smash right into contention.

He says, “He’s taken the travelling well and has certainly done a fair bit of travelling in the past. We purchased the horse from Japan and, being a stallion, it's always nice to see that they can cope with a change of environment and relax, and he appears to have done that.

“He ticks the boxes for a race like this." - Jamie Lovett

“He ticks the boxes for a race like this. If you're going to travel a horse you want to know that they are proven in the conditions, and he's proven up the straight at Flemington having been beaten twice in the Newmarket by narrow margins. That gives us a bit of confidence to bring a horse to a straight race – I think he's quite versatile but it's still nice to know that they can handle those conditions. This rain won't hurt him either as he's a horse that likes to get his toe in, so all things being equal I think he's in the race up to his ears.”

Dubai may not be the last start on Brave Smash’s international tour, as the team from Royal Ascot has already been in touch to attempt to lure him to the track which has been a happy hunting ground for Australian sprinters over the last two decades.

Connections not afraid to travel

“Aquis Farm are keen to travel the horse. He'll stand at stud at Aquis next season southern hemisphere time,” says Lovett. “He'd have to run well on Saturday night but we're quite open to the idea. For me, he's more of a seven-furlong horse, and I think the stiff six furlongs at Royal Ascot would be right up his street. His ratings would suggest that his recent Newmarket defeat was a career best, so that tells us he's going as good as ever, which he'd have to be to go there.”

“Aquis Farm are keen to travel the horse. He'll stand at stud at Aquis next season southern hemisphere time." - Jamie Lovett

The Australian Bloodstock partners have never been afraid of travelling, not least in the quest for horses to fulfil a long-held dream which was realised by the Andreas Wohler-trained Protectionist (Ger) on the first Tuesday of November 2014.

Brave Smash working at Meydan (Image credit: Dubai Racing Club and Mathea Kelley)

“In our early days, one of the first horses we bought out of Germany was Lucas Cranach (Ger),” says Lovett, who still has a number of horses in training in the country with Wohler. “We also had a bit of luck buying English horses from maidens, so for us it was a case of finding the right horses from abroad and bringing them here, and then it evolved with Japan. We got into some business with Katsumi Yoshida and that opened enough doors for us to buy Tosen Stardom (JPN) and then Brave Smash was the next one after that.”

"For us it was a case of finding the right horses from abroad and bringing them here, and then it evolved with Japan." - Jamie Lovett

He continues, “Everyone in Australia wants to win the Melbourne Cup and right now, with the European season about to get into full swing again, we're really active trying to buy horses for that race. We're in the very fortunate position that we have the backing of some loyal clients when we buy our ‘big-ticket items’, if you like. So if I go and buy a horse in England or Germany or France, we're lucky to have their backing.

"They are not syndicated horses as such, but when we go to the yearling sales – we bought 25 yearlings last season – we offer shares in those horses to the general public. Syndication is so popular in Australia and it drives our yearling market.”

Melbourne Cup association far from over

The team’s association with their Melbourne Cup hero is not over, despite the fact that Protectionist has returned to Germany, where his stallion career is overseen by Ronald Rauscher, who is also a key advisor to Australian Bloodstock when it comes to buying European horses.

“For us, Protectionist winning the Melbourne Cup will always be the pinnacle,” Lovett says. “In Australia, we grow up watching the race and our business really evolved 15 years ago for that reason, trying to source horses for the race. So to hit the target that day was very special. It's like winning a Grand Final, they can never take it away from us. No matter what happens now, the trophy is at home.”

Melbourne Cup winner, Protectionist

He adds, “Protectionist covered two good books and we're going over later this year to Baden-Baden to buy some of his yearlings. We still own the horse and we supported him heavily. Gestut Rottgen stands him for us and he means a lot to our guys, so for us to sell him wasn't really going to be an option. We've supported him, and Dr Christoph Berglar, who bred him, bought some lovely mares for him, so he's been given a chance even though the [mare] numbers in Germany are quite small. He hasn't had big books but he's got some quality.”

"He hasn't had big books but he's got some quality.” - Jamie Lovett

There could be no more fitting tribute to an operation with such a global outlook than to see Protectionist’s offspring challenging for some of Australia’s major races in the coming years – and perhaps even attempting to emulate their sire in the big one itself.