Celebrating the Cox Plate quinella

Castelvecchio (green cap) leads the Cox Plate G1 field into the straight as Lys Gracieux (red cap) winds up for a big finish. (PHOTO: Bronwen Healy)

Arrowfield is celebrating the Lys Gracieux-Castelvecchio Cox Plate G1 quinella on a couple of counts.

Firstly, it’s no secret that Arrowfield has been waving the Japanese thoroughbred industry’s flag for more than two decades, since John Messara decided in the late 1990s to send mares to Shadai’s breed-shaper Sunday Silence. 

Over time that led to a highly successful breeding partnership with Katsumi Yoshida’s Northern Farm (breeder of Lys Gracieux), dual Group 1 winner Real Impact’s first three seasons at Arrowfield and a powerful trio of Japanese stallions on the current Arrowfield roster: Horse of the Year and 6-time Group 1 winner Maurice and supersire Deep Impact’s sons Champion Sprinter-Miler Mikki Isle and Dubai Group 1 winner Real Steel, whose trainer Yoshito Yahagi now prepares Lys Gracieux.

In 2015 Arrowfield again broke new ground for Australian breeders by sending six mares to Deep Impact, with further mares following in the next two years.  The early results of that project include Arrowfield’s sale of three colts and two fillies by Deep Impact at Inglis Easter 2018 & 2019 for an average price of $910,000. Arrowfield has also sold nine  yearlings by Champion Japanese sprinter and leading sire Lord Kanaloa. 

In 2017 Arrowfield joined Sky Thoroughbred Central to produce the documentary feature Global Impact: The Rise of the Japanese Thoroughbred.

Three dominant Group 1 victories in a fortnight by Fierce Impact (Toorak Handicap), Mer de Glace (Caulfield Cup) and now Lys Gracieux merely raise the volume of the message: Japanese thoroughbreds, their breeders & trainers are right up there with the best in the world.

The second reason for Arrowfield’s excitement about the Cox Plate result is the quality of Arrowfield-bred and-sold Castelvecchio’s performance.  At his 9th start and first at weight-for-age, the 3YO son of Dundeel and St Therese found only a world-class mare too good for him, and finished two lengths in front of the resolute New Zealand star Te Akau Shark, Coolmore’s Magic Wand and Tasmania’s darling Mystic Journey. 

As Castelvecchio’s jockey Craig Williams said, “He was so awesome in defeat.”

Owners Ottavio & Wendy Galletta, who paid $150,000 for Castelvecchio at Inglis Classic, agreed: “People wondered why we were jumping up and down, but to us it was a win. We’re very, very happy, and looking forward to an exciting Autumn.”

Trainer Richard Litt has had an unforgettable fortnight, flying to Queensland last weekend to marry his fiancee Laura in a ceremony planned before Castelvecchio came along, then returning to Melbourne on Sunday morning to supervise the colt’s final lead-up to the Cox Plate. 

Litt handled the pressures of the week as brilliantly as Castelvecchio, who now heads to the paddock for a five-week break before returning to the stable to prepare for a 3YO Classic campaign in the Autumn. 

As for Dundeel, he finds himself back among Australia’s top 5 sires, thanks to Castelvecchio’s $750,000 Cox Plate prizemoney. The contest for the 2019/20 Sires’ Premiership is set to be as enthralling and competitive as any of the 15 $1 million+ races we’ll see in NSW, Melbourne & Perth before the end of November. 


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