Irish raider plunders Aust Group One race

The bold decision to come to the other side of the world with Gordon Lord Byron had plenty of Irish eyes smiling at Rosehill after the gelding beat a class field in the George Ryder Stakes.

His Group One win also cemented the efforts by NSW racing authorities to attract overseas visitors to Sydney for the autumn.

Trainer Tom Hogan is one who is happy to be here after plotting an international path for the six-year-old which will include one more race in Sydney.

Ridden midfield with supreme confidence by Craig Williams, Gordon Lord Byron ($19) made his move inside the final 100 metres to edge Speediness ($26) by a short neck.

Three-year-old El Roca ($7) held on for third another three-quarters of a length away after leading from the barriers while favourite Red Tracer ($3.70) was never a chance, finishing 10th of the 16 runners.

“We have had a lot of help here,” Hogan said.

“The facilities have been wonderful. The quarantine has been a bit long but once he came to Sydney he’s been great.

“It’s just fabulous. I said jokingly a couple of months ago my plan for him this year was to win a Group One in Australia, one in Asia, one in Europe and one in America.

“So we’ve got the first one.

“It will be big news back home in Ireland. We don’t like to really blow things up until they happen so now we can really celebrate.” Gordon Lord Byron will aim for a second Group One race in Sydney in two weeks but whether he steps up to 1600m in the Doncaster or goes back to 1200m in the TJ Smith is a decision still to be made.

“I’ll talk to Craig about whether we go up or go back,” Hogan said.

“We will see how he eats and make a decision next week.”

The gelding’s owner Morgan Cahalan left his small farm to come on the trip to Australia with a horse he tried twice to sell.

“I bought him for $2000 as a weanling,” Cahalan said.

“I tried to sell him as a yearling but couldn’t get a bid on him.

“Then I tried to put him in a breeze-up sale but no sales company would take him.

“This really is a dream come true. It’s quite unbelievable. He hasn’t had a run for four months since Hong Kong.

“I can’t say how wonderful this is.”

Victorian trainer Colin Scott was happy to come second after the disappointment of the performance of Speediness when seventh in the Canterbury Stakes.

Speediness appeared to choke down in that race and was fitted with a tongue tie.

“I’m rapt,” Scott said.

“Our goal was to come up for the Doncaster and we said if we could finish within two or three lengths at weight-for-age we would be happy.

“We drop four kilos going into the Doncaster. Four kilos is a neck.

“He’s beaten some very good horses. His last run was very disappointing and it’s good to see him back to his best.”

Story by Caryl Williamson


Criterion triumphs in G1 Rosehill Guineas

A ground-saving ride from Hugh Bowman has helped Criterion to a dominant win in the Group One Rosehill Guineas.

Runner-up in the Spring Champion Stakes and the Australian Guineas, Criterion wasn’t going to be denied a third time on Saturday, announcing himself as the new ATC Australian Derby favourite with his 3-1/2 length win on rain-affected ground.

“He’s just becoming mature now and (Bowman) rode him properly today,” Payne said.

“He’s a horse you can’t bustle. That’s why you use the top boys (riders), when you can get them.”

Bowman, who hadn’t ridden Criterion since last year’s Champagne Stakes, settled the colt back in the field as Cox Plate winner Shamus Award and New Zealand Derby winner Puccini set a speed they found impossible to sustain.

As the field fanned on the home turn, Bowman stayed closest to the inside and Criterion ($14) powered to the front and continued to race clear in a convincing Derby trial.

Thunder Fantasy ($12) led in the chasers with Queenslander Teronado ($8) another 1-1/2 lengths away third.

Criterion was fourth in the Victoria Derby and Payne is confident he can make amends in Sydney version.

“The Derby has always been his mission. That’s what we’ve aimed at,” he said.

Payne asked Bowman if he’d stick with Criterion in the Derby upon dismounting and was happy with the response.

“They will all be wanting to phone (for the Derby ride), but they won’t have to now,” Payne said.

After initially fearing Criterion wasn’t going to let down in the going, Bowman’s confidence soared as the colt towed him into the race at the right time.

“What I liked was when he got to the front and I asked him to go, he put them away,” Bowman said.

Randwick Guineas winner and equal favourite Dissident ($4.20) didn’t appreciate the rain-affected going and finished sixth, while Shamus Award raced too fiercely and beat one runner home.

Stewards questioned Shamus Award’s jockey Craig Williams and 12th-placed Puccini’s rider Michael Walker about their tactics.

Williams said Shamus Award raced too keenly while Walker said his saddle was shifting and had no choice but to go to the front.

Story by Matthew Toogood


Tiger Tees gives Pride another Group One

Joe Pride’s return to the Group One spotlight has continued with Tiger Tees giving the trainer his second big-race win in seven days.

Tiger Tees capitalised on a perfect run and favourable wet track conditions to take out Saturday’s Galaxy (1100m) at Rosehill by a long head in a race where Pride saddled up three runners but had his judgment tested.

Before the race, the trainer struggled to split his trio of Rain Affair, Tiger Tees and See The World but had a slight leaning to latter.

“I thought See The World had a great week, he looked super and I thought he might do it for me,” Pride said.

“But I had three great hopes and I’m just happy to take them to the races and give them their go.”

The win of the tough sprinter Tiger Tees ($13) came after stablemate Steps In Time’s victory in last Saturday’s Coolmore Classic (1500m), which had been Pride’s first Group One since the 2011 Doncaster with Sacred Choice.

While Pride was unsure which horse presented as his best Galaxy hope, jockey Nash Rawiller was convinced he was on the right horse after riding Tiger Tees in the Challenge Stakes.

“I got off him the other day and said he would win,” Rawiller said.

“It’s not often you’re right, but I just think everything fell into place for him today. It was awesome.”

Tiger Tees relishes wet ground and trailed the speed set by Kencella and Rain Affair, who missed the start before pressing forward into his usual role on the pace.

Rawiller went for home on Tiger Tees early in the straight and the gelding fought on bravely to hold out three-year-old filly Anatina ($15) with 1-1/4 lengths to another filly, Villa Verde ($6) third.

“He was drawn to get a good run and it panned out beautifully for him,” Pride said, adding Tiger Tees would press on to the TJ Smith Stakes.

Rain Affair finished 10th and Pride ruled out a TJ Smith start, while See The World was seventh.

Anthony Cummings said the outside barrier cost Villa Verde victory, with the filly finishing strongly from back in the field.

“If she draws a gate she wins. She didn’t, and she didn’t,” he said.

Story by Matthew Toogood


Sydney gets first raceday glimpse of Irish flyer

Irish sprinter Gordon Lord Byron makes his Australian racecourse debut this Saturday when he contests the $1 million Group One George Ryder Stakes to be run over 1500m at Rosehill Gardens.

The well-travelled six-year-old will then compete in the $3m The Star Doncaster Mile over 1600m or the $2.5m Darley TJ Smith Stakes over 1200m on Day One of The Championships on April 12.

It has been quite a journey for connections all of whom reside in County Tipperary in Ireland. Owner Morgan Cahalan explained how he and trainer Tom Hogan have been life-long friends.

“We knew each other as kids, we knew the same girls and we drank in the same pub … we didn’t marry the same woman,” Cahalan quipped.

Having acquired Gordon Lord Byron as a foal it has been a roller-coaster ride but connections never lost faith in the horse.

“I knew he was good. We had a few quid on him at 100/1 one day and he finished second. The weather turned bad and we kept asking him to win races in heavy ground til we went to the all weather track and there he really came good.

“I knew I had a Group horse on my hands, but we didn’t know he was a Group One until a little bit later.”

Gordon Lord Byron progressed rapidly since and has won two Group One races; the Prix de la Foret at Longchamp over 1500m and the Haydock Sprint Cup over 1200m.

He is no stranger to international travel having already ventured to both Dubai and Hong Kong and now he has gone that little bit further to Australia to go up against some of the best sprinters in the world who have gathered in Sydney to contest races in the BMW Sydney Carnival and The Championships.

Following his quarantine period at Newmarket where his trackwork was strong, Gordon Lord Byron travelled Down Under and will line up in the only global Group One race conducted over 1500m, the George Ryder Stakes at Rosehill Gardens.

“A lot depends on the pace of the races; if they’re run at a good fast pace on a level track he can win over six and seven furlongs,” Cahalan said.

“He was staying on at the end of the mile in Hong Kong after a bit of an interrupted passage. He’s a bit unique as he’s effective at a number of different distances.

“I’d never been to Dubai and I’d never been to Hong Kong until Gordon took me there and now he’s taking me to Australia. I’m looking forward to seeing him winning some prizemoney.”

Until now, for Morgan this trip to Sydney and The Championships is only something he could dream about: “It’s such a huge privilege to own one horse, I have to pinch myself sometimes just thinking about it.

“I‘ve never been anywhere before I got this horse, my passport, I could have cashed it in – I just didn’t travel, I didn’t have a reason to go.

“It’s huge for us to win anywhere but when you’re up at this level and to go to Australia, it is something special.”

Spirit Sneaks Home in Group One Thriller

Spirit of Boom sent his connections into raptures and assured himself a bright future at stud when he scored a thrilling win in Friday night’s Group One William Reid Stakes (1200m) at Flemington.

When the runners flashed past the post around half a length separated the first five runners and connections of both Spirit of Boom and Fontelina were unsure just who had won.

Around a minute later the photo was displayed on the big screen and it showed Spirit of Boom, on the outside, had won the race by the barest possible margin.

Winning rider Michael Rodd punched the air in celebration when he returned to scale and realised his mount had got the result.

No matter which way the result was going, the win at racing’s elite level was falling to a Gold Coast sales graduate of Australia’s leading Group One sales company Magic Millions.

Spirit of Boom, a member of the Tony Gollan stable, was purchased for $90,000 at the 2009 Magic Millions Gold Coast March Yearling Sale from the Eureka Thoroughbreds draft.

Fontelina on the other hand was purchased for $135,000 from the Washpool Lodge draft at the 2010 Gold Coast Horses in Training Sale.

After a pair of Group One runner-up placings to Lankan Rupee in the both the Oakleigh Plate and Newmarket Handicap, Spirit of Boom notched his first Group One success with a gallant win.

“It is really deserving that he won a Group One,” Gollan said. “I’m just so relieved.”

“He was always going to be a stallion and tonight seals the deal,” the proud trainer added.

So classy and consistent throughout his entire career, Spirit of Boom has earned his connections over $1.8 million.

He has earned himself a return to historic Queensland thoroughbred nursery Eureka Thoroughbreds to stand at stud where he is sure to prove popular with breeders.

Spirit of Boom showed ability right from the start – winning three times at two – including a five length debut win in the Magic Millions 2YO Prelude at the Gold Coast.

A great flagbearer for Magic Millions, Spirit of Boom also won the rich Magic Millions Cup in 2012 after winning the Goldmarket Handicap at the same track 12 days earlier.

The quality sprinter will get another chance to win at the elite level before ultimately heading to stud duties. He will contest the $2.5 million TJ Smith Stakes at Randwick.

Spirit of Boom is the second Group One winner for star Queensland sire Sequalo following on from million dollar mare Star Shiraz.

The sire of no fewer than 619 individual winners, Sequalo was a former star sprinter himself with 10 wins, including three at two and a feature Moonee Valley win in the Moir Stakes at Group Two level.

A half brother to his Group One winning stablemate Temple of Boom, Spirit of Boom is from former talented racemare Temple Spirit.

Temple Spirit, a daughter of Special Dane, won eight races during her career including three in Brisbane and earned black type with a third placing in the Golden Garter Handicap at Doomben.

She is a sister or half sister to even winners including Brisbane winner Raise a Shout and Hong Kong winner The King of Honour.