Dundeel trio tackles the Victoria Derby

Dundeel is on target for his best season yet in Australia with $6 million prizemoney and 7 stakes wins by the end of January, (PHOTO: Bronwen Healy)

Dundeel has his best chance yet to add a major domestic Derby to his stud record when his sons Let’s Karaka Deel, Hit The Shot & Cetshwayo line up in Saturday’s 166th edition of the $2 million Victoria Derby G1.

Dundeel himself was an exceptional winner of the Australian Derby G1 after finishing 7th in Fiveandahalfstar’s 2012 Victoria Derby, and he has already left a Derby winner, Atyaab in South Africa. And Dundeel’s pedigree combines two celebrated sources of superlative quality at the Derby distance, Sadler’s Wells and Zabeel.

However, the great Flemington Classic presents a particularly daunting challenge over 2500 metres, three months into the season. Only four of the 21 stakes wins compiled by Dundeel’s progeny have been beyond 2000 metres, but as his sons Castelvecchio (Champagne S. & Rosehill Guineas) and Super Seth (Caulfield Guineas) have shown, he transmits the superior class that can trump dour stamina. 

Let’s take a closer look at the credentials & background of the two colts and a gelding that now seek to become Dundeel’s fifth Group 1 winner:

LET’S KARAKA DEEL bay colt ex Tegwin (by O’Reilly)
Since Ciaron Maher & David Eustace began their training partnership in the 2018/19 season they have won six Group 1 races, most recently Sir Dragonet’s Cox Plate, Etah James’ Sydney Cup and Loving Gaby’s William Reid Stakes. From 2005 to August 2018 Ciaron Maher trained the winners of 10 Group 1 races, notably the VRC Oaks, Caulfield Cup & The BMW with Jameka.

Bred by Dundeel shareholders Tony & Wendy Craig with the Hawkins family’s Llanhennock Trust, Let’s Karaka Deel was an $80,000 purchase by Cameron Bennett’s Flying Start Syndications & Dave Mee’s Pinhook Bloodstock from the 2019 Karaka Premier Sale. 

Second on debut as a July 2YO, the colt broke his maiden over 1600m at Swan Hill in August and two starts later split Albarado and Hit The Shot in a tight battle for the Caulfield Classic G3 (formerly the Norman Robinson S.). 

Dean Hawkins, who manages Wentwood Grange near Cambridge with his brothers Sean & Leigh, remembers him as a “lovely, quality, athletic colt right from birth, and after the Australian trainers’ tour before the sales three or four of them said he was the nicest horse on the farm.”

Let’s Karaka Deel wins his second start over 1600 metres at Swan Hill on 24 August 2020, with his Derby pilot John Allen aboard. (PHOTO: Brendan McCarthy/Racing Photos)

He describes Tegwin as a “tall, plain mare who showed a lot of ability early on in her racing career but couldn’t go on with it. We thought Dundeel suited her on type and would add class, and if you like a mare enough to breed with her, you have to over-mate her to give her a chance.”

Tegwin’s stakes-winning dam Anne Carina (by Danehill’s son Danske) was one of the first and favourite mares bred by the brothers’ father Des Hawkins, and the family has thrown a number of good fillies in recent years, including Group 1 winner Costume and Group 3 winner Kisses. Tegwin foaled a colt by Eminent this Spring and is now in foal to Super Seth. 

Tony Craig explains his part of the story, “When Dundeel went to stud we had no idea of the breeding side of the business, but we took a leap of faith in approaching the Hawkins family to see if they would partner with us on one of our two services to Dundeel each year.

“They are a fantastic family and we feel the relationship has worked really well for us both.  We totally rely on their judgement of mares, but they always consult on why they select what they do. We’re just so excited to see Let’s Karaka Deel line up in the Derby, not just for us, but the owners who took the chance on him and of course, our partners. 

“The icing on the cake is Dundeel having three runners in the Derby and all with a chance according to the experts.  As Tommy Heptinstall [who has Albarado & Wertheimer in the Derby] said to me after Dundeel retired, ‘TC, the new fun is when you can sit back, switch on the TV, and watch his progeny race.’”

HIT THE SHOT bay colt ex Tang (by Redoute’s Choice)
Trainer Matt Cumani’s best performers since he took out a licence in 2015/16 are Group 3 winner Etah James & Listed winner Khoekhoe.  Matt’s father, leading UK trainer Luca Cumani counted Epsom Derby victories with Kahyasi & High Rise among his career tally of 55 Group 1 wins. 

Hit The Shot produced a big finish to win on debut, beating the hot favourite Holster at Ballarat in August, then was unplaced at Moonee Valley and fourth behind Cetshwayo at Flemington before flashing home late for third in the Caulfield Classic G3.

Hit The Shot, sold for $170,000, was among the five Dundeel yearlings that headed Arrowfield’s 2019 Inglis Classic draft. (PHOTO: Georgie Lomax)

Bred and sold by Arrowfield for $170,000 at the 2019 Inglis Classic Sale to Gu Tao’s Zhongli Thoroughbreds, Hit The Shot is from the wonderful family established by Summoned, dam of Champion 3YO and leading sire Zeditave and ancestress of a host of top-liners, including  Arrowfield’s Group-winning young sire Pariah and resident mare, the dual Group 1 winner Norzita. 

Hit The Shot is Zhongli Thoroughbreds’ first Group 1 runner in their first year of operation in Australia. As the company’s representative Quinton Cassidy told ANZ Bloodstock  News, “He’s been really well prepared by Matt and he’s always had an opinion of him. Every time he’s stepped him out he has shown us signs that he could be the real deal…getting him to Flemington on a big roomy track over 2500 metres looks ideal for him.”

Hit The Shot’s year-younger full brother was a $100,000 purchase by Baystone Farm from Arrowfield’s 2020 Magic Millions draft before their dam was sold online to South Australian breeder Ben Leverink.  Tang has since produced a colt by Mikki Isle who posted his first Australian winner Oriental Princess last weekend, and Arrowfield continues to breed from her three-quarter sister Zing and Swing (by Not A Single Doubt), who has a yearling colt by Mikki Isle and an early positive test to Castelvecchio.

Arrowfield’s list of 77 Group 1-winning graduates includes just one Victoria Derby winner, Nothin’ Leica Dane (by Danehill),  born in the same crop as Filante, Octagonal & Saintly.  Nothin’ Leica Dane was bred & sold by Arrowfield for $165,000 at Magic Millions and trained by Gai Waterhouse to win the 1995 Spring Champion S. G1 as well as defeating Octagonal in the Derby. Three days later he ran  a memorable second to the great New Zealand stayer Doriemus in the Melbourne Cup.

CETSHWAYO bay gelding ex Haraka (by Foreplay)
Trainer Danny O’Brien’s 20 Group 1 successes since 1995 include a Melbourne Cup (Vow And Declare), Caulfield Cup (Master O’Reilly), Cox Plate (Shamus Award), Australian Derby (Shamrocker), VRC Oaks (Miami Bound) & South Australian Derby (Russian Camelot). 

Already a Flemington winner, over 1800 metres at his second start in November, Cetshwayo has emerged from Trevor & Terrie Delroy’s highly successful Wyadup Valley Farm operation, dedicated to breeding and racing top-class distance performers such as Group 1 winners Cedarberg, Ethiopia & Gondokoro. Like all of the Delroy horses, he carries an African name, in his case a very powerful one: Cetshwayo, the king who led the Zulu nation to a famous defeat of the British at the 1879 Battle of Isandlwana.

Derby contender Cetshwayo as a foal with his dam Haraka, Spring 2017. (PHOTO: Courtesy of Trevor Delroy)

Trevor explains why he sent Haraka to Dundeel in 2016. “I don’t usually use unproven sires and there’s no such thing as a sure thing, but I thought Dundeel was very close to it. You always need a turn of foot and he had plenty of that.” He has continued to support Dundeel and has four mares foaling to him this Spring. 

Trevor bought Cetshwayo’s grand-dam Drawbridge principally for her genetics: she’s from the Carpet Slipper branch of the Simon’s Shoes family, responsible for English Classic winners Golan & North Light and 3-time Champion Hong Kong Miler Oriental Express among many excellent horses. “I sent her to Foreplay for a turn of foot and some stamina and got Haraka, a very athletic type who didn’t race because of a serious hoof injury.”

Although he’s had only three starts, Cetshwayo will not be found wanting on the score of preparation or readiness for the Derby test. “He was always mentally and physically mature, he did a lot of early hill work at our Lancefield farm [in Victoria] and then a lot of beachwork with Danny.” 

On the TAB’s Fixed Odds betting for the 14-horse Victoria Derby field, Hit The Shot is currently paying $7, Let’s Karaka Deel $10 and Cetshwayo $17.

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