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Stakes wins and spring rain keep Listons smiling

7 min read
A run of good results on the track are helping the Liston family of Three Bridges Thoroughbreds ride the ups and downs of life and the thoroughbred game through the early part of spring.

Destined for a date with I Am Invincible this spring only a few months back, Haut Brion Her (Zoustar), who the Listons bred and part own, produced a brilliant first-up win in the G2 Sheraco S. at Rosehill on Saturday, leaving the family to celebrate among themselves in the spring rain at their Victorian property.

"We had a Group 2 winner and an inch of rain, it was a pretty good day," Toby Liston told TDN AusNZ.

"We had tea with the whole family and had fish and chips and it was a great night. You have to enjoy that because there are days when it’s midnight and it's raining, and you are delivering a foal, and you think there must be an easier way and then good things happen and it makes it all worthwhile."

It was a good day for Toby Liston and his family on Saturday after Haut Brion Her's Group 2 win

Haut Brion Her was the second stakes winner bred on the Eddington-based property in as many weeks, after Night Raid (Vancouver), announced herself as one of the more exciting 3-year-old fillies prospects for the spring with her win in the Listed Atlantic Jewel S. at Moonee Valley last week.

Those successes have provided a timely boost for the Listons, who have endured another health scare in the past few weeks.

"Last year Mum (Pauline) got ran over by a horse and Haut Brion Her won the Group 2, and that gave us a big boost. The last couple of weeks, Dad (Peter) has had his cancer return and has had to have surgery. He's going good and is healthy, but the family need a bit of a pick-up, and Haut Brion Her was there again," Toby said.

"The family need a bit of a pick-up, and Haut Brion Her was there again." - Toby Liston

Bred by Three Bridges, Haut Brion Her was set to be sold as a yearling through the Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale when the Listons struck a deal to sell a majority share to co-breeder and client Gary Johnson.

"Pauline had said at two days old, she was a special horse. We told our owner that she was something special and he purchased the majority share in her," Toby said. "They bought most of us out when she was ready to go to market."

Haut Brion Her winning the G2 Sheraco S.

It proved a savvy move on behalf of Johnson, with Haut Brion Her winning four of her first five starts for trainer Chris Waller. Last October, she won the G2 Blazer S. leading all the way, becoming the third black-type winner from her dam One In A Million (Redoute's Choice), the other two being Karacatis (Hussonet {USA}) and Shamillion (Shamardal {USA}).

Blowing the budget

The purchase of One In A Million, then in foal to Zoustar with Haut Brion Her, from the 2015 Inglis Australian Broodmare And Weanling Sale, caused a bit of tension between Toby and his father Peter, at the time, but it is a moment, given Haut Brion Her's success, that Toby can laugh about now.

"The day we bought her dam, Paul Willetts, our agent, and I were sitting on the opposite side of the auditorium to Dad. Our budget was $120,000 and we went to $170,000 for her, so $50,000 over. Dad refused to talk to me in the taxi on the way to the airport, and then on the plane on the way back. He gave me the silent treatment for two days," he said.

"Our budget was $120,000 and we went to $170,000 for her, so $50,000 over. Dad refused to talk to me in the taxi on the way to the airport, and then on the plane on the way back." - Toby Liston

Unfortunately, Haut Brion Her was the only foal One In A Million delivered at Three Bridges before her death early in 2019. The now 5-year-old was destined for her own broodmare career this spring, having suffered a suspensory injury last spring, but after a chat with the ownership group, they had a change of heart.

Peter Liston wasn't too happy about the purchase price of Haut Brion Her's dam at the 2015 Inglis Broodmare Sale

"The vets told us that we needed 18 months off and a lot of rehab to get her right. We stuck her out in the paddock for a while and as I was driving out the road one day I thought, you are a long time retired," Liston said.

"She was in danger of getting too heavy before covering and was booked to I Am Invincible for this year and I thought why not give her a go. At the very worst, she’ll be fit for the stud season.

"We sent her to Lee Everson, who has a great reputation for rehabbing horses. He's changed her around and got her sound and she had two preparations there and has come back this time to Chris and she has matured again."

The return

Haut Brion Her returned from an 11-month layoff at Rosehill on Saturday against some top-quality and in-form mares and saw them all off to make it a second Group 2 win.

"She is a freak of a horse to look at," Liston said. "I was a bit nervous yesterday because I thought she should have done that and that's how good we think she is.

"Thankfully, that's how good Waller and James McDonald think she is. You kind of expect that from her now, which is why you get so nervous.

"Hopefully, she pulls up sound after every run. It’s run by run really. As long as she pulls up sound, she can keep on going. There might be a day when she can't do that and she will be happily retired here.

"There are far more kicks in the guts than there are highs. Success like that proves that you know what you are doing and your systems are working." - Toby Liston

"It was such a good pick-up for us as a family and it also goes to show you that it’s a long relentless game this one. There are far more kicks in the guts than there are highs. Success like that proves that you know what you are doing and your systems are working," he said.

Night Raid emerges

Further proof of that is Night Raid's emergence as a filly of considerable promise. Sold by Three Bridges for $160,000 at the 2019 Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale to Sheamus Mills and Mick Price, she has won two of her three starts, including her win in the Atlantic Jewel which saw her installed as equal favourite for next month's G1 Thousand Guineas.

"I can't believe that she is doing what she is doing already. She's a big, rangy filly and I think the mile will be perfect for her," Liston said. "She shows good speed over 1100 metres and 1200 metres but she's only going to get better over further if she can settle. She's got a great turn of foot."

Her dam Raid (NZ) (Pins) was purchased for $380,000 by Willetts on behalf of a Three Bridges-led syndicate in 2016 and has proven a difficult mare to mate successfully.

Night Raid winning the Atlantic Jewel S. (aqua silks)

"Her mother is frustrating. We have not been able to get a foal out of her since Night Raid, that's three years empty. She's been covered by Impending, we just hope she can keep this one," Liston said.

"We’ve been riding her and getting her fit. She's been sent to Angus McKinnon, who is arguably one of the best vets going around.

"It’s pretty important now. We've wasted three years. We want that filly to retain out of her. She's had three stakes horses now and the other one in Perth, Platinum Bullet, might be a fourth."

Last week, another Three Bridges-raised horse, Felicia (Unencumbered), was stakes-placed in the Listed Chandler Macleod, adding further to the run of good results.

"It’s so important you wake up with a smile on your face when those things happen. We only raise 40 horses a year and this year we have had two Group 2 winners, plus Raid as a stakes winner and Felica stakes-placed," Liston said.