A Ruby in the Jewel ahead of Magic Millions

8 min read
Trainer Bjorn Baker and Attunga Stud’s Brian Nutt have a long history of putting good fillies and mares to the market, and they’ll be hoping for similar success at the upcoming Magic Millions National Sale. They have both She’s Ideel (Dundeel {NZ}) and Exotic Ruby (Snitzel) to sell, the latter heading to the G3 Dark Jewel Classic first.

Cover image courtesy of Ashlea Brennan

Much of the Hunter Valley will descend on Scone this weekend, with the district’s annual two-day carnival kicking off on Friday. On Saturday, the G3 Dark Jewel Classic, a 1400-metre event for fillies and mares, will take place as a card highlight, the 23rd edition of the race.

In the last handful of years, the Dark Jewel Classic has been won by Con Te Partiro (USA) (Scat Daddy {USA}) and the G1 Coolmore Classic winner Daysee Doom (Domesday). Siren’s Fury (Myboycharlie {Ire}) won it too on her way to a G3 Star Kingdom H. the following year.

The Dark Jewel is one of those races that has improved out of sight in its modern history, and its proximity to the Magic Millions National Sale could be part of that.

Gallery: Some of the past Dark Jewel Classic winners, images courtesy of Sportpix

At this stage, three of the field this year are possibly destined to sell on the Gold Coast at the end of this month, and they’re the prolific race mares Exotic Ruby, Wandabaa (Wandjina) and Amica (Rubick).

If history is anything to go by, the 6-year-old Exotic Ruby has a good chance to win the Dark Jewel this weekend. Like Irithea, the Snitzel winner of this race two years ago, she is a last-start winner of the G3 Hawkesbury Crown.

Baker’s man

Exotic Ruby won the Hawkesbury Crown in late April. It was an interesting day for her trainer Bjorn Baker, who claimed the race on the day his legendary father, Murray Baker, hung up his straps.

Ridden by Rachel King, Exotic Ruby was tenacious that afternoon, carving through a bunched finish in Heavy going to win her race by just 0.35l. She defeated both Pippali (Ilovethiscity) and Faschanel (NZ) (I Am Invincible), both of whom will be out for revenge on Saturday.

Baker has had Exotic Ruby for the last two years.

He picked her up for $105,000, in partnership with Clarke Bloodstock, at the 2020 Inglis Sydney Broodmare Sale, right in the middle of the first wave of COVID. At that point, she was trained by Anthony Cummings with just four starts behind her.

Now, Exotic Ruby has five wins to her name, and her last-start Group 3 has put a valuable tick next to her name for her imminent sale.

“She’ll always have that Group 3 win, irrespective of how she goes on Saturday,” said Brian Nutt, who will consign Exotic Ruby to his Attunga Stud draft at the Magic Millions National Broodmare Sale this month. “I saw her in Sydney last week, but she won’t come here to Attunga until next week, after she runs in the Dark Jewel Classic.”

“She’ll (Exotic Ruby) always have that Group 3 win, irrespective of how she goes on Saturday.” - Brian Nutt

Nutt has had a long association with selling race fillies for Bjorn Baker, which is how he has ended up with Exotic Ruby.

“Bjorn and I have had quite a lot of success selling race fillies and mares that he has trained,” Nutt said.

“Over the past years, we’ve sold horses like Missybeel, Imposing Lass and Bonny O’Reilly. We’ve sold some really good fillies and Group-winning mares, so a mare like Exotic Ruby ends up with me because of Bjorn’s initiation to send them my way, and the association I’ve had with him over a long period of time.”

Brian and Anna Nutt

Exotic Ruby is a catchy addition to the 10-horse Attunga Stud draft this month, one which also includes the star of Nutt’s show, the Group 3-winning, dual Group 1-placed mare She’s Ideel.

Exotic Ruby is a daughter of Oriental Ruby, a Street Cry (Ire) mare that was twice Group-placed, and this is the family of the G1 Queensland Oaks winner Mon Mekki (Mukddaam {USA}), as well as the very sharp stakes winner Le Lude (Lope De Vega {Ire}).

“Exotic Ruby is a great addition to our draft,” Nutt said. “She was actually entered into the supplementary edition of this catalogue prior to winning the Hawkesbury Crown, so to win a Group 3 race leading into a sale is a major bonus for her owners, and for our draft.”

“She (Exotic Ruby) was actually entered into the supplementary edition of this catalogue prior to winning the Hawkesbury Crown, so to win a Group 3 race leading into a sale is a major bonus for her owners, and for our draft.” - Brian Nutt

Nutt said he wasn’t nervous about the outcome for Exotic Ruby in the Dark Jewel on Saturday.

“She’ll always be a Group 3 winner,” he said. “Hopefully she can run inside the top four, which is only going to help her sell at the Sale. She has drawn widely on Saturday, but Scone is such a fair track that horses can win from anywhere, and with any luck she’ll run right up to her Hawkesbury form.”

The Jewel and the Crown

Exotic Ruby will have jockey Rachel King on Saturday. The pair has drawn barrier 16, which isn’t ideal but equally isn’t a disaster on a track like Scone.

The mare sits around $16 in the order of betting, behind the more fancied Le Gai Soleil (NZ) (Tavistock {NZ}) and Never Talk (No Nay Never {USA}).

“The draw is a little bit tricky for us,” admitted Bjorn Baker, speaking to TDN AusNZ. “We’ll just have to see how it plays out on Saturday. The Dark Jewel isn’t until late in the afternoon, so it will be an interesting prospect with nearly two days of racing behind it by then.”

“The draw is a little bit tricky for us... The Dark Jewel isn’t until late in the afternoon, so it will be an interesting prospect with nearly two days of racing behind it (the track) by then.” - Bjorn Baker

Baker said Rachel King was very keen to stay with Exotic Ruby after the Hawkesbury victory.

“Rachel was really keen to stick with her, and the mare gets into the Dark Jewel pretty well on the weights too,” the trainer said. “She’s probably better-treated at the weights than she was at Hawkesbury actually, so it’s funny how it works out.”

Exotic Ruby | Image courtesy of Ashlea Brennan

Baker has a good association with the Dark Jewel Classic. In 2020, he trained Irithea to victory off the back of her win in the G3 Hawkesbury Crown too.

“We’re trying to mimic that mare in more ways than one,” Baker said. “Irithea was a tough mare too, and Exotic Ruby is a bit the same.”

Ideel package

Baker is the managing owner of Exotic Ruby, and it was his call to sell her at Magic Millions this month. He said it was a catch 22, the possibility of bursting a winning bubble ahead of a major sale.

“When we bought this mare two years ago, the thinking was that she was really well-bred,” Baker said. “We’ve had a lot of luck with Snitzel mares in the past, including Lubiton and Irithea, who are a couple that come to mind that won Group races.

Bjorn Baker

“The feeling was that she had a bit of upside on the track, and possibly was up to winning a midweek race, even a Saturday race. If everything worked out and she improved in time, I thought she’d be more than capable of winning a Group race.”

The Group victory has come for Exotic Ruby, so for Baker, that box is ticked. He said the mare has been a great money-spinner off her $105,000 purchase price.

“There comes a time when you know you’re going to have to move them on,” the trainer said. “For us, that time was before she won the Hawkesbury Crown, when we put her into the Magic Millions catalogue.”

“There comes a time when you know you’re going to have to move them on. For us, that time was before she (Exotic Ruby) won the Hawkesbury Crown, when we put her into the Magic Millions catalogue.” - Bjorn Baker

Anything that comes along now is a bonus for Exotic Ruby, according to Baker.

He isn’t nervous about her losing the Dark Jewel on Saturday because, as Nutt said, she already has that black type to her name, and it’s not going anywhere. On the Gold Coast, it will be there in black and white.

“One of the reasons for her to go to the Dark Jewel is that she can back up her Hawkesbury win and prove it wasn’t a fluke,” Bjorn said. “What we’re seeing at home, and what the data is showing us, is that she’s going like a Group 1 assured.”

After Saturday, Exotic Ruby will head straight to Attunga Stud to ready for the National Sale. She is one of a pair of Baker’s horses in the draft, the other being Lot 519, She’s Ideel.

She’s Ideel won the G3 Kingston Town Plate at Randwick in the spring and, as recently as February, she was second to Verry Elleegant (NZ) (Zed {NZ}) in the G1 Chipping Norton S. She hasn’t raced for Baker since being sixth in the G2 Chairman’s Quality in the autumn.

She's Ideel | Image courtesy of Ashlea Brennan

“I’ve had a lot of success selling with Brian over the years,” the trainer said. “I think last year we had Let It Pour and Missybeel. Prior to them, when I first started, we had Twilight Royale make $580,000, and Bonny O’Reilly made $825,000. There was Imposing Lass too. She made about $600,000, I think.”

As such, Exotic Ruby is looking great value for Baker.

“Jim Clarke did a good job of finding her for us,” Baker said. “Jim knows how much I like the Snitzel mares, and I’ve had a lot of luck with this one.”

Dark Jewel Classic
Bjorn Baker
Brian Nutt
Attunga Stud
Exotic Ruby
She's Ideel