An Award to remember as Ascot presents first Easter draft

4 min read

By Bren O'Brien

Seven years ago this week, the colt which would shape the reputation of Bob Hannon and Ascot Park as breeders passed through the Inglis Easter Yearling Sale auction ring.

Shamus Award (Snitzel) sold for $230,000, the top price for a colt in Session 2 of the iconic sale, with Vinery doing the deal on Hannon and Ascot Park's behalf.

Shamus Award as a yearling

This week at the Riverside Complex, Ascot Park presents its first-ever Easter Sale draft, with four colts up for sale, including Shamus Award's three-quarter brother, Lot 293.

He is the latest member of the family which Hannon bought out to Australia from Ireland through bloodstock agent Kieran Moore in the late 1980s, via the mare From The Wood (Ire) (Tap On Wood {Ire}).

Hannon sent her to Luskin Star twice in her first three years and her third foal was a filly called Finito Fling, who Hannon raced in purple, pink and white colours with his good mate Max Lees.

As a broodmare, Finito Fling didn’t have a lot of luck, but her first filly was Sunset Express (Success Express {USA}), the dam of both Shamus Award and the Wandjina colt up for sale this week.

"I never dreamt of breeding a Cox Plate winner. In Sydney, the dream was to breed a Golden Slipper winner. That came out of nowhere. He was a marvellous horse and to win it as a maiden, that was a bit of a story on its own. Sensational for the breed and for the family which I've had for a long time," Hannon told TDN AusNZ.

"That mare, Kieran Moore bought the second dam out of Ireland for me, From The Wood, and that was the late 80s and I've kept the family going and we ended up with a Cox Plate winner. She's produced nearly all winners, Sunset Express."

Hannon's affinity for the all his horses is strong, but he has a particular affection for that family.

Lot 293 Wandjina x Sunset Express colt

As Hannon speaks with TDN AusNZ, the Wandjina colt pokes his nose through the gap in the gate in his stall.

"He's a lovely horse. Just a lovely natured horse. And he's been very well received by the buyers," he said.

"He's by Wandjina, who's not what you’d say is a slow starter, but no-one expected him to get early 2-year-olds. They are starting to come along. We've got a nice one at home, which we’ve kept. So that augurs well."

With that in mind, this colt, who is bigger than Shamus Award and is a chestnut as opposed to being a bay, would be more likely suited to the race both his sire and his three-quarter brother won in successive years in 2013 and 2014.

"He's a bit bigger and bulkier but he's a lovely walking horse and very well put together. Have a look at the hip on him. He's unbelievable," he said.

Bob Hannon and Sunset Express

A vintage crop

Faith in emerging stallions has served Ascot Park well this year. From the ten foals it produced in 2017, three have already won 2-year-old races, including Cosmic Force (Deep Field), who finished eighth as favourite in the G1 Golden Slipper S. having won the Group 3 Pago Pago S. by 7.3l the previous week.

Ascot Park-bred Vincere Volare (I Am Invincible), a winner of her first two starts in Brisbane, also contested the Slipper, having ran third in the G2 Reisling S. where another filly they bred, Belitsa (Rubick), ran sixth, having won on a Friday night at Canterbury in February.

"Deep Field got a little kick along with Cosmic Force, which is always good to see with a young stallion you support," Hannon said. "His dam Little Zeta (Commands) is in foal to him again."

Getting that mix of new and top-line stallions right is part of Hannon's formula for success at Ascot Park.

It was with that in mind that he selected the four he did for this year's Easter sale, with two by young stallions Wandjina and Vancouver and one each by top of the range pair I Am Invincible and Snitzel.

The Vancouver colt, Lot 425, is out of Elimbari (Fastnet Rock), makes him not only a half-brother to Vincere Volare, but a member of another of Hannon's favourite families.

Elimbari is a half-sister to Amelia's Dream (Redoute's Choice), the filly which Hannon remains convinced would have won the 2008 Golden Slipper has she not broken down after winning her first two starts by an aggregate of 16 lengths.

"I bred her with couple of mates and she was set to be a star," he said.

"It's a great industry, with a lot of highs and lows. More lows than highs, but that's the way it goes."