Country Cups double for Theodore, Trippin' and Hussler

Cranbourne trainer Stephen Theodore can be forgiven for requiring the driving services of fellow trainer Brett Scott to get home safely after winning the Bairnsdale and Benalla Cups within 20 minutes this afternoon.

Arrowfield-bred Road Trippin’ (Charge Forward-Road To Damascus by Flying Spur) lined up first, in the $50,000 Bairnsdale Cup (1600m) where he took the lead 700 metres from home and responded generously to Peter Mertens’ strong ride to prevail by a head and a length from Pro Tour and Clear For Action. 

Theodore purchased Road Trippin’ for $22,500 from the Bellerive Stud draft at the 2011 Inglis Melbourne Premier Sale, and has prepared him to win five races, place in Group 2 company and earn more than $268,000 prizemoney for owners Chris Alsemgeest, Trevor Christian, Mathew Cox, Ken Fagan, Luke Galliott, Geoff Kemp, Trent Murphy, Hit The Line Racing and Frank & Shirley Welsford.

Road Trippin’s success is providing the stable with some consolation for the loss of his talented younger brother, 2YO stakeswinner Crack A Roadie, killed in an accident earlier this year. Theodore is also training the 2YO Manhattan Rain colt from Road To Damascus, who foaled an All American filly last month and has been served by Animal Kingdom.

Road Trippin’ and Crack A Roadie are among the seven Group performers from 25 runners bred on the Charge Forward/Flying Spur cross.

Flying Hussler’s victory in the $100,000 Benalla Gold Cup (2050m) was achieved in quite different fashion from his stablemate’s win, as he was sent to the front by Craig Newitt early in the race. The pair gave their rivals no chance either to relax or make up ground, and passed the winning post five lengths ahead of Precedence and Bianmick.

Theodore said of Flying Hussler, “On that win today, he might earn himself a run in the Cranbourne Cup next Sunday. He’s got remarkable recovery powers. I said to Craig I wish I was as fit and as tough and honest as him.”

Flying Hussler is by Hussonet from the Arrowfield-bred Flying Spur mare Paris Plaits and was a $30,000 purchase by Matthew Williams from Robyn Wise’s draft at the 2010 Magic Millions National Yearling Sale. He’s now returned more than $216,000 from 8 wins for his owners Stephen Allen, Lewis Bearman, Jacob Bonnett, Craig Crellin, Stevie Deacon, Andrew Harris, Neville Matthews, Matthew Scholten, and Greg Wilson. 

Acknowledgements to Racenet’s Brad Waters for Stephen Theodore’s post-race comments.

Zirna's girls building a star record

After breeding seven fillies in a row, Russell Warwick, manager of Watson Bloodstock, now plans the matings for Group 1-winning mare Zirna in confident expectation of a filly.

And why not? The all-girl approach has been a highly successful strategy for Zirna, producing more than $1 million in yearling sale returns, and three talented performers, headed by the admirable Sydney Group 3 winner Crafty Irna (by Starcraft).

Progressive 4YO mare Raziyya of Sydney (by Redoute’s Choice) has won three races up to 1800 metres this year in Singapore for owner Mark Read, and earlier this month ran a terrific fourth in Better Life’s Singapore Derby 2000m Sgp-1.

La Siroque (by Zabeel) was successful in Adelaide and placed in Melbourne before retiring to stud last spring, and the unplaced Dr Kate (by Danzero) is also at stud.

Rising 3YO Snow Petal (by Bernadini) has just returned to the stable of Peter & Dawn Williams in New Zealand with an Oaks preparation in mind.

Zirna’s rising 2YO filly by Encosta de Lago was purchased for $170,000 from the Bellerive Stud draft at the Inglis Australian Easter Sale and is currently spelling at Carinya Lodge. She will soon join her older sister Crafty Irna in the Ron Quinton stable for the next stage of her education.

Zirna has a 2012 filly by Snitzel, is in foal to Encosta de Lago and is booked again to Snitzel this spring.

Jo Monehan, manager of Arrowfield’s sister farm Bellerive Stud, where the almost 15-year-old mare has been based since 2006, says, “Zirna leaves absolutely outstanding foals, they’re all very correct and very hard to fault. They’re all gutsy fillies and good to deal with.”

She recalls, “Crafty Irna was a lovely athletic foal, with a lot of scope, and she oozed class, while Razziya of Sydney was a cracking type, in my top 10 foals on the farm that year.”

“The Snitzel filly is slightly different, she is maturing sooner and has plenty of natural muscle.”

Stallion selection has played a role too, as Russell Warwick explains, “We’ve been conscious of Zirna’s lack of size, so we’ve gone for size and scope in her early matings, which has given us good physical athletes.”

He says of Zirna, “She’s a lightly framed, neat mare, not much more than 15.2 hands, but she raced with the attitude of a 16.2 horse. She was tough, but in a lovely way, with a very good spirit.”

Bred by the late Jim Campin, Zirna showed plenty of ability in her first two seasons of racing, winning and running second to Our Egyptian Raine in a Listed Race at two, and third in the ARC Eight Carat Classic G2 as a 3YO. However, Russell suspected she would prove more effective if she could be held up during her races and saved for a sharp final sprint.

That change of tactic proved instantly successful and Zirna won three of her six starts at four, including the Te Aroha JC NZ Thoroughbred Breeders’ S. G1 over 1600 metres.

The prospect of a million-dollar bonus encouraged Russell and Eric to pursue an unprecedented campaign for a Group 1-winning mare. They sent Zirna to Singapore trainer Malcolm Thwaites for a tilt at the Patron’s Bowl-Derby Trial-Derby treble.

She won the Derby Trial and placed in the other two races, so missed the bonus, but she so impressed Thwaites that he urged Eric and Russell to leave her with him for the Raffles Cup (1800m) and Singapore Gold Cup (2200m), both carrying domestic Group 1 status.

Ridden by Mark du Plessis, Zirna won both races in classic drop-from-the-clouds fashion and added more than $S1 million to her earnings. (Watch Zirna’s 2003 Singapore Gold Cup victory here.)

Crafty Irna’s sustained power style of racing distinguishes her from both her mother and from other leading Starcraft progeny, most of whom display their sire’s explosive acceleration at 1200-1600 metres – think brilliant 2YO and 3YO sprinter Star Witness, New Zealand filly We Can Say It Now and Group 2 winner Hallowell Belle.

None of that matters to Ron Quinton whose store of adjectives is fully utilised when he talks about Crafty Irna.

“She’s one of our favourites, she’s a doll, she’s just so honest…she’s very sound, she’s a beautiful mare…gee, she’s a lovely mare!”

The rising 6YO is back in work and, all going well, her 2013 spring programme will be similar to last year, beginning with the ATC Toy Show Quality. LR over 1300 metres on 24 August, and then possibly the 1600-metre La Gioconda S. at Wyong which she won in 2012.

Although her first-up record over sprint distances is good – her previous campaign openers include seconds to Red Tracer and Dystopia – Crafty Irna’s victories have all been at 1500-2400 metres.

With three daughters on stage, and two more in the wings, Zirna’s chorus line of fillies is likely to draw plenty more applause yet.