Matt Laurie and Paul Dugan's decision to take a punt on the progeny of first-season sire Toronado (Ire) has paid spectacular dividends, with the yearling they picked out for $145,000 at last year's Melbourne Premier Sale, Prince of Sussex, winning the inaugural $1m Ladbrokes Showdown at Caulfield.
Prince of Sussex had already shown his potential with his big win in the $250,000 VOBIS Gold Rush at Bendigo last month and he backed up that performance with another impressive win on Saturday.
Jockey Michael Dee was forced to weave between runners to get a run at the top of the straight, but once the run presented itself, Prince of Sussex surged past Hightail (Written Tycoon), who had swept to the front at the 300m mark after the early pacemakers weakened.
It looked a battle for about 50m, but Prince of Sussex quickly gained the ascendancy to win by 1.75l, with another 2.75l back to Mishe Mokwa (Moshe) in third.
Laurie has tasted Group 1 success before via Escado (Casino Prince) in the South Australian Derby, but this was even sweeter, given he had selected Prince of Sussex at the sales.
"This horse really stood out to me. To be honest, I thought he was a $200,000 horse. One of my main clients Paul Dugan told me he only had $80,000 to spend, as it turned out he had a bit more than that and we paid $145,000," he said.
"This horse really stood out to me." - Trainer Matt Laurie
"He was such an outstanding looking horse. It was a matter of taking a punt on a first-season sire in Toronado."
It’s a huge fillip for Swettenham Stud's Toronado, who leaps to sixth on the first-season sires table on prizemoney thanks to Prince of Sussex, one of his three first-crop winners who has now won $680,000 in his first three starts.
Laurie greeted the win with a sense of relief, with the expectation built among a large ownership group, including Prince of Sussex's breeder Chris Jackson, over recent months.
"I was asked early on after he trialled quite nicely and I flippantly said that the Showdown would be a nice race and we’ve had a bit of press ever since," he said.
"It has been a bit nerve-wracking for me. He's a very smart horse and people would have seen that he only worked fair on Tuesday, but he's a gameday horse and you always get the feeling that there is a lot left under the tank and that was outstanding today."
Laurie rode those nerves right through the race, as Dee searched for a run when the race was there to be won.
"It was as exciting a day as I have ever had on the racetrack." - Trainer Matt Laurie
"I thought we were in an awkward position and he had to come back to the inside. But he picked up that horse so easily. It was as exciting a day as I have ever had on the racetrack," he said.
Dee said he felt there was still considerable upside in Prince of Sussex going forward.
"He gave me a real nice feel at Bendigo and he's obviously improved again off that," he said.
"Matt Laurie has done a tremendous job with this horse keeping him up and going, and it’s a good bunch of owners, there's a lot of them there. I'm glad to have made their day."
Americain dreams for Tarwin
Melbourne Cup winning stallion Americain (USA) looks to have a banner horse capable of providing him with a stakes breakthrough after Tarwin's impressive victory in the $300,000 Spendthrift Australia VOBIS 3YO Sires at Caulfield.
Americain recently transferred from Swettenham Stud, where he has spent his first six seasons, to his owners Colleen and Kevin Bamford's Daisy Hill Stud in Doreen.
He has several stakes placegetters, including American In Paris in Thursday's Listed VRC St Leger, but is yet to have any of his progeny win a stakes race.
Tarwin looks to fit the bill, claiming his third win at his fourth start after again spotting his rivals a head start and charging home to win by 0.75l in the rich race run for VOBIS eligible horses.
He was bred by the Wooldridge family, who race him with Paul and Jenny O'Sullivan, whose farm is based on the Tarwin River in South Gippsland in Victoria, hence the name.
Trainer Mick Kent said a trip to Brisbane appealed for Tarwin, but he would be guided by the 3-year-old's long-term interests.
"He's a big, raw horse so we'll just take our time with him." - Mick Kent
"We'll consider Queensland or we might put him away for the spring. Potentially, it would be the Guineas or Rough Habit," he said.
"He's fairly sharp but he was born on Melbourne Cup Day by a Melbourne Cup winner. He's a fair way off that at the moment as he's a big, raw horse so we'll just take our time with him."
Robbie cashes in
Trainer Robbie Griffiths got a double bonus as the 3-year-old Magnus gelding he bred and part owns, Halvorsen, claimed the $150,000 Avenel Equine Hospital VOBIS Gold Dash.
Griffiths has been an enormous beneficiary of the VOBIS scheme over the years and cashed in when Halvorsen surged clear for an authoritative win in the 1100m race.
Griffiths also bred Halvorsen's dam Flourishing (Not A Single Doubt), and said it was one of his most satisfying successes.
He said he would consider backing Halvorsen up in the G2 TAB Euclase S. next Saturday and would possibly consider giving him a shot at the G1 The Goodwood on May 18.