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Johnny lives up to Perry's staying expectations

6 min read
As the field turned for home in Saturday's G1 Victoria Derby and Johnny Get Angry (NZ) (Tavistock {NZ}) loomed to tackle the leaders, there was no-one more confident than his breeder Greg Perry that the big gelding would outstay his rivals and complete a Flemington fairytale.

As Johnny Get Angry's rookie trainer Denis Pagan, the two-time AFL premiership winning coach who had only had his licence for six months, and young jockey Lachie King, the son of dual Victoria Derby winner Steven, fought back tears in the aftermath, Perry felt some vindication for the faith he had put in a family which he knew was born to stay.

Through Bradbury Park, Perry had sold the son of Tavistock (NZ) for NZ$50,000 at the 2019 New Zealand Bloodstock National Yearling Sale at Karaka, but still owning both the dam, Luminova (NZ) (Zabeel {NZ}) and her full sister Our Josephina (NZ), as well as Johnny Get Angry's half-sister, the prominent breeder was very much interested in what he could do on the track when he started his career earlier this year.

Johnny Get Angry as a yearling

"I remember him when he had his first start and he ran near last at Flemington, but he was trapped three wide through the race and I thought he showed something. When he came out and ran so well in the Gibson Carmichael, I thought 'he looks a Derby horse'," Perry told TDN AusNZ.

"It’s a wonderful story. Denis has done a wonderful thing with the horse. He gave it the perfect preparation, taking him through. He ran him at Moonee Valley on a heavy track and I thought I’d love to see what he can do on top of the ground. He's always come from behind in his runs."

"It’s a wonderful story. Denis has done a wonderful thing with the horse. He gave it the perfect preparation, taking him through." - Greg Perry

Knowing his pedigree as well as he does, Perry had full faith that the 2500 metres of Flemington would suit Johnny Get Angry down to the ground.

"He had the stoutest pedigree in the race. His fourth dam is a half-sister to Shirley Heights, who won an English Derby, so it just gets stronger and stronger," he said.

Perry first became involved with the family through his ownership of Johnny Get Angry's grandam, Pavlova (Singspiel {Ire}), who was a stakes winner over 2040 metres.

"Cliff Brown was one of the first guys I went into racing with. He trains in Singapore now. His family had a horse, Pavlova, and I ended up buying into her. It went from there, and she won a Listed race on protest and ran fourth in a Queensland Oaks. When we retired her, we decided to send her to Zabeel," Perry said.

"I ended up being the last man standing in the family as people sold out."

Her first foal was Luminova, who while she had plenty of staying prowess, didn’t quite have the temperament to fulfill her talent.

"Luminova began her career with Stephen Marsh in New Zealand and I ended up with 100 per cent of her and brought her to Peter Moody to train. She was a very headstrong filly but she could stay all day," Perry said.

Building the family

Luminova retired with four placings from her nine starts and Perry sent her to Smart Missile, with the result a colt to be named Invention, who secured $185,000 at the 2016 Magic Millions Yearling Sale.

"He was alright, but he had a few temperament issues. Steve Brem bought him for Denise Martin. He ran a couple of placings in Victoria," Perry said.

Invention as a yearling

Perry then retained a filly by Choisir, now a 5-year-old named If At First (NZ), who has only had a handful of starts in New Zealand and is now in Australia.

"She was foaled down in New Zealand and Pam Gerard trained her and I was at Matamata one day and she said this horse will just keep going, and going, and going," he said.

"She has some cartilage issues and I had them operated on and she is with Jamie Edwards now. He is taking her along and I'm hopeful she can add to the family lustre."

Luminova then foaled an a Makfi (GB) colt, who was purchased by Chinese interests out of the 2018 NZB Ready to Run Sale of 2YOs, before Perry decided to send the mare to Cambridge Stud's Tavistock.

Watch: Makfi (GB) x Luminova (NZ) breeze-up (rail)

"The match gives you 3 x 5 Sadler's Wells and 5 x 5 to Special. It was a nice mating and obviously matching Tavistock with Zabeel mares has been sensational as well," he said.

Johnny Get Angry is the fourth Group 1 winner and one of seven stakes winners by Tavistock out of a mare by Zabeel from 67 runners to the track.

"I'm based in Australia, so I only see these horses once or twice a year, but I saw him as a young horse and he was a nice, strong horse and I got the same impression again at the sales. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I suppose," Perry said.

"I saw him as a young horse and he was a nice strong horse and I got the same impression again at the sales." - Greg Perry

"I had a NZ$60,000 reserve on him and there were no buyers. He was always a big, strong horse but maybe not everyone's cup of tea. Luminova had not done anything in the breeding barn at that point.

"As a breeder, you have to sell. I selectively retain fillies to retain the family lines, but colts are always for sale, I just moved him on. Denis had one bid on him and got the jackpot."

Twenty-one months later, Perry was delighted to see the memorable scenes at Flemington on Saturday, safe in the knowledge that he still has a few of the family to breed with and sell.

"I’ve also got an Almanzor colt (out of Luminova) who is down to sell at Karaka and she lost a Reliable Man foal this year but has gone back to him again," he said.

"I've got Luminova's full sister Our Josephina, she turned out being a barrier rogue. She missed the start by 10l one day at Sale and won the race. She just kept coming as well. It’s such a stout pedigree."

Our Josephina has an El Roca yearling filly and is due to Rip Van Winkle (Ire) this spring.