Champion First-Season sire dies

Northern Meteor, who was today set to be officially crowned Australia’s Champion First-Season Sire, has died.

Widden Stud, where he stood, announced last night that he had died suddenly from a “swift and fatal attack of colic”.

“We are all still in a state of shock,” Widden’s Antony Thompson said in a statement on Widden’s website last night.

“Northern Meteor suffered a severe bout of colic requiring surgery 18 months ago, but has been in perfect health since then, so this has come completely out of left-field.

“It came on very quickly this time at about 9pm tonight and despite the very best of veterinary care, he died shortly after.”

Northern Meteor was bred by Goree Stud, who also raced the son of Encosta de Lago, winner of the Group 1 Coolmore Stud Stakes at Flemington in 2008. He also set track records at Randwick and Canterbury.

Northern Meteor retired to Widden in 2009 and his first crop of progeny have starred, 17 individual winners claiming 26 races and $1,842,650 in stakes.

“He was a strong and noble horse that made a lasting impression on all who knew him and to say we are shattered here would be an understatement,” Thompson said.

“It’s devastating for Mr Cojuangco, the team at Gooree and everyone at Widden.

“At a time when we expected to be sharing and celebrating his success and achievements as Champion First Season Sire with our many clients and friends, we are instead mourning his death and wondering what might have been.”

Waldpark progressing nicely

Waldpark, the import whose Spring Racing Carnival status was enhanced without even running over the weekend, will have a light preparation in the lead-up to the Sportingbet Cox Plate (2040m).

The German entire’s new trainer Anthony Freedman this morning revealed that he has not ruled out a second-up assault on Australasia’s weight-for-age championship with the 2011 German Derby winner.

Freedman said the $300,000 Group 2 Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes (1600m), at Moonee Valley on 14 September, was his preferred first-up option for the former Andreas Wohler-trained six-year-old but after that options remain open.

“He’ll trial in three weeks or so and then possibly run first-up in the Feehan (Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes),” he said.

“He may not have another run (before the Cox Plate). He might, but I’m not sure where because I don’t know the horse well enough yet.”

Freedman is no stranger to light Cox Plate preparations, having been assistant to his brother Lee when the Hall of Fame horseman got Mahogany within a neck of second-up success in the 1995 Cox Plate.

It took a champion three-year-old in Octagonal, with just 48.5kg, to defeat Mahogany, who carried 59kg.

Waldpark rose in Cox Plate estimations when Novellist strolled home by five lengths in last weekend’s Group 1 King George VI & Queen Elizabeth at Ascot.

At his most recent outing, at Baden Baden on 12 May, Waldpark was beaten a head by Novellist in a Group 2 race over 2200m.

The franking of form didn’t escape the attention of punters or bookmakers, with Waldpark into $18 with Sportingbet for the Cox Plate, or Freedman, who has been impressed with what he has seen from the son of Dubawi.

“If that horse (Novellist) is not the best in the world, he would be right up amongst them,” Freedman said. “It certainly gives this horse’s form a boost.

“He’s been with me about three weeks. He’s a nice, neat, compact horse, he came to me in very good condition and he’s settled in well.”

Story by Brad Bishop


Bashboy belies history

Superstar fencer Bashboy became the second jumper to set a metric weight-carrying record at Sportingbet Park (Sandown) for the month with victory in yesterday’s $250,000 Grand National Steeplechase.

The Ciaron Maher-trained nine-year-old carried the heaviest weight to victory in a Grand National Steeplechase since Pedro’s Pride lumped the equivalent of 75.3kg to victory in 1957 when he lumped 72.5kg to victory over Kirribilli Gold and Chaparro.

It came two weeks after Black And Bent carried 72kg to victory in the Grand National Hurdle and Steven Pateman, who rode both horses, can’t believe the run he’s had.

“He’s a superstar,” he said. “It’s a privilege to have been a part of him.

“You wouldn’t have known he had 72.5. He didn’t feel it at all. He was comfortable in victory again.”

Bashboy became the eighth horse to win the Grand National Steeplechase two years in a row, and ninth multiple winner, when he made it seven wins from as many starts over the fences.

Pateman settled him in second spot and poured the pressure on leader Riviera Star heading up the hill at the back of the course before riding to victory on the strength of his superior jumping ability.

Kirribilli Gold ($8) shaped as a threat nearing the last fence, but Bashboy, the $1.65 favourite, jumped it better and edged away over the final furlong to score a 3-3/4-length win over that Robert Smerdon-trained mare. Chaparro ($10) was a further length away in third spot.

It was Maher’s third consecutive win in the race, having also won with Man of Class in 2011, and he was thrilled to see the plan come to fruition.

“Obviously he was the best horse in the race and I trained him to peak today,” Maher said. “Obviously the expectation was pretty high and it’s just good to get the job done.

“It was probably the best he jumped today. He made a mistake in the Crisp, but out in front he can bowl along and dictate. You could see he dropped the head going past the winning post the first time and just really settled and was quite dominant.”

The result only strengthened the view that Bashboy would be the ideal horse to head to England and compete and Maher said he would discuss that with connections once he sees how the son of Perugino comes through the run.

“Today was the target race for him, so we’ll just see how he is,” he said. “Obviously he’s in great form, we’ll sit down with the connections and plan his next target.

“Steve and myself both said think he’s got the quality and maybe some of the credentials you need to race over there, so we’ll just wait and see.”

Story by Brad Bishop


German victory as Red misses

A childhood holiday blossomed into a grown man’s dream as German trainer Andreas Wohler scored a second consecutive success for his native land with Novellist landing the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth at Ascot.

Wohler spent his vacations as a boy attending the Group 1 mid-summer showpiece and returned some years later to follow Danedream’s 2012 victory and saddle Novellist to a thumping five-length triumph, which shaved over two seconds off the 2400 metre track record.

The Bremen-based trainer headed to Ascot with his four-year-old at the top of his game having recently landed the Group 1 Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, a strike which stretched his race record to seven wins from nine starts.

He had King George favourite Cirrus Des Aigles behind on that occasion and confirmed that form under Johnny Murtagh to leave three-year-old’s Trading Leather and Hillstar to fight out the minor honours.

Cirrus Des Aigles was reported to still be below peak fitness on his second outing of the campaign and finished fourth, one place ahead of Universal and two in front of Emirates Melbourne Cup stalwart Red Cadeaux.

Trainer Ed Dunlop will now ready the 2011 runner-up for anther journey down under but whether he contests the Cup or the Caulfield Cup has yet to be decided.

Dunlop said: “That was his final run in Europe and you’ll next see him in Australia. He will have a break now before heading out there but there has been no decision as to which race he runs in.”

Universal was another for whom connections had been pondering a Melbourne Cup tilt but that is now appearing unlikely with a trip the Far East favoured.

Bruce Raymond, racing manager to owner Abdulla Al Mansoori, said: “I think he is the right horse for the Melbourne Cup but it is a long way to travel and the Japan Cup is a more likely target.”

Winning trainer Wolher said: “To win like that is unbelievable but even more so to do it in a record time.

“I used to come toEnglandon holiday as a kid and we would come to the King George – now I am here as a trainer and to win is unbelievable.

“The hardest thing for Johnny was pulling the horse up after the race. We couldn’t have said beforehand that he would have won that easily.

“It’s a huge prize to win – it’s the first time the older horses take on the three-year-olds and we have beaten the best three-year-olds easily.

“I was quite confident because the horse was really well coming here and that gave me confidence to go for this race. At first they didn’t go too fast today and then the pace quickened and quickened but my horse still cruised. I started walking down the steps a furlong before the winning post.

“His main target now is the Arc and he will have one race beforehand. The Arc is the big aim so that would make an Australian trip unlikely.”

Jim Bolger was satisfied with the run of Irish Derby winner Trading Leather, commenting: “We probably could have done with a little more pace early on, but all in all we’re very happy.

“We’ll stick to the original plan and all being well – he’ll go to York for the Juddmonte International, then to Leopardstown for the Irish Champion Stakes and then back here for the Champion Stakes on QIPCO British Champions Day.”


Black Caviar to Exceed

The world’s most eligible race mare, Black Caviar, is set to be partnered this spring with Darley’s champion Australian stallion Exceed And Excel for her first foal following tonight’s official announcement by her connections.

With 25 wins, including an Australian record of 15 Group 1s and retiring to stud undefeated, Black Caviar’s future foals have big shoes to fill.

Connections of Black Caviar came to the decision after extensive consultation with the leading breeders in the country.

“It has been a very thorough, painstaking but enjoyable process. Like all decisions with Black Caviar, we are very honoured and extremely privileged to be the ones in this predicament,” part owner, Gary Wilkie said.

The owners said the decision came down to a number of key factors including Exceed And Excel being by champion sire Danehill and his already proven bloodline with the champion mare’s family: Group 2 winner, Wilander was sired by Exceed And Excel out of Black Caviar’s grand dam, Scandinavia.

Exceed And Excel’s latest crop of two-year-olds have once again proven he is a successful producer of outstanding young racehorses with Overreach storming home in the Golden Slipper (G1) and Guelph collecting two Group 1 wins with the Sires’ Produce and Champagne Stakes.

As a sire of no less than 13 Group 1 winners, including two Golden Slipper winners, More Than Ready was another serious contender. Other stallions on the short list for consideration were Not A Single Doubt, Fastnet Rock and Casino Prince, the stallion of Black Caviar’s little brother All Too Hard.

“There were a number of outstanding stallions that demanded our attention, and we are thrilled that Exceed And Excel will be Nelly’s first mating,” Wilkie said.

“All going well, we are looking forward to a fit and healthy foal in the spring of 2014,” he said.