Royal Descent on Caulfield Cup quest

After Royal Descent’s heroic second in last Sunday’s VRC Turnbull Stakes 2000m G1, owner-breeder Gerry Harvey and his Racing Manager Claire Bird had a robust discussion about the next major target for the daughter of Redoute’s Choice.

Watch Royal Descent’s run for 2nd in the Turnbull S. G1.

Claire’s preference was for the VRC Myer Classic G1, run over the metric mile at which Royal Descent has compiled six of her eight Group 1 placings, all at Randwick: three seconds in the George Main Stakes, a second & a third in the Doncaster and a second, by a nose, to He’s Your Man in the 2014 Epsom Handicap.

However, Gerry has been thinking for some time about giving Royal Descent a second crack at the Caulfield Cup, two years after she ran fifth in the race, only 1.9 lengths from Fawkner, and three years after her spectacular 10-length victory in the ATC Australian Oaks G1. These have been her only two starts at 2400 metres.

Gerry, who enjoys working with people able to argue with him, says, “I know I’m pushing the odds, but we still don’t really know what her best distance is, and she deserves another chance at 2400 metres. It’s possible she may be much better at that distance than the mile.”

Gerry maintains he doesn’t win many arguments with his team, but this time “they let me have a win.” Royal Descent was paid up for the Caulfield Cup on Tuesday with 53.5 kg. Gerry then called Hall of Fame jockey Glen Boss who rode the mare for only the second time on Sunday.

“I told Glen not to take the ride if he had a better option, but he said he’s very keen to ride her, has learned a lot about her and wants to ride her a bit differently next time.”

While Royal Descent’s preferred distance remains unsettled, there is no doubt about her class or her competitive will. The evidence is in her record: five wins, 15 placings and $2.7 million from 29 starts (16 at Group 1 level) with only three finishes outside the first five.

On the one hand, her Group 1 runner-up record is heart-breaking: she has been denied six Group 1 victories and an additional $2.1 million prizemoney by a total of around 2.5 lengths.

On the other hand, there is so much to celebrate about a mare that has competed with undaunted resolve in the best company over four seasons and has beaten outstanding horses like Adelaide, Criterion, Dear Demi, Dissident, Fawkner, Hallowed Crown, Happy Trails, Hawkspur, Lucia Valentina, Rising Romance, Sacred Falls, Shooting To Win and Silent Achiever.

Gerry sums up Royal Descent’s best quality as “consistency at the top level – there aren’t many horses as consistent as she is. It’s much harder to run second in six Group Ones than to win one Group 1, a Group 3 and four Listed Races.”

Royal Descent is the seventh foal of Group 2 winner Mulan Princess (by Kaapstad), a three-quarter sister to dual Group 1 winner Golden Sword. She visits Snitzel this Spring, and has six daughters in the Baramul & Westbury Stud broodmare bands, including two city-winning full sisters of Royal Descent, The Warrior Woman & Chateau Lafaite.

Gerry has supported Redoute’s Choice every season since the start of his stud career, and has bred 10 stakeswinners by the champion sire, among them another wonderful Group 1-winning mare Lotteria. Gerry continues to breed from her, as well as a third Redoute’s Choice Group 1 winner he raced, Fashions Afield, and retains all their daughters.

The broodmare paddocks at Baramul will soon be home for Royal Descent too. But not just yet.


Royal Descent returns triumphant in Warwick Stakes

Two days after winning last season’s NSW Miler of the Year title, Royal Descent opened her 2015/16 campaign with a classy victory in the $250,000 ATC Warwick S. 1400m G2.

The daughter of Redoute’s Choice hadn’t won since her extraordinary ten-length romp in the 2013 Australian Oaks G1, but she has notched up six Group 1 placings, in all the big Randwick miles (the Doncaster, Epsom & George Main Stakes) and a fine third behind Criterion & Red Cadeaux in last Autumn’s weight-for-age grand final, the 2000-metre Queen Elizabeth S. G1

Chris Waller, who trains the now 6YO mare for owner-breeder Gerry Harvey, says, “She has been placed in so many big races and I’ve never been disappointed in her. And she has come back stronger and looks the best she ever has at the start of a preparation.”

I will talk to Gerry Harvey but we’ll aim her at the Epsom Handicap and see where we go from there, up in distance or stick to the mile and go to the Myer. It will work itself out.”

Royal Descent jumped well and settled just behind Zaratone, Pornichet and Messene until jockey Hugh Bowman eased her out on the turn and urged her forward. Pornichet proved the most resolute of her rivals but the mare drove hard to catch him 150 metres from the post and pull away for a 1.5 length victory in 1:21.57 on the Good3 track. 

Sadly, the accomplished Group 2 winner Burbero broke down badly during the running and was unable to be saved. His trainer Bjorn Baker described the winner of 13 races and more than $700,000 as “a little horse with a big heart who loved competing.”

Royal Descent has now earned $2.4 million from five wins & 12 placings in her 26-start career and she must be rated a strong chance of adding further Group 1 success to that record.

Her dam Mulan Princess (by Kaapstad) won six races, including the STC Hill S. G2 and has two sisters to Royal Descent, The Warrior Woman & Chateau Lafaite, now alongside her in the Baramul Stud broodmare band.

Royal Descent is the first stakeswinner of the new season for Redoute’s Choice after runner-up finishes by Great Esteem in the ATC Winter Challenge S. LR on 1 August, and King’s Troop in the ATC San Domenico S. G3 on 15 August.

Royal Descent, Wandjina & Cox Plate history

As if to echo their historic Australian Sires’ Premiership quinella, Redoute’s Choice and his son Snitzel each has a runner in Saturday’s $3 million MVRC W.S. Cox Plate G1.

Redoute’s Choice is represented by Gerry Harvey’s magnificent home-bred mare, Royal Descent (ex Mulan Princess by Kaapstad), four times Group 1-placed over 1600 metres in Sydney since her 2013 Australian Oaks G1 victory.  She has ventured to Melbourne for only two previous starts, both of them last Spring when she was unplaced in Happy Trails’ Turnbull S. G1, and a gallant fifth in Fawkner’s Caulfield Cup G1.

Trained by Chris Waller, her form this season could hardly be better, or more frustrating: four runner-up finishes at Randwick, mostly recently beaten a very skinny nose by her stablemate He’s Your Man in the Epsom H. G1.

That performance earned Royal Descent a Timeform figure of 125, though with a ?, indicating some doubt about its accuracy. Only Sacred Falls (127) goes into this year’s Cox Plate with a higher figure.

Gary Crispe at Racing & Sports, who compiles the Timeform ratings, explains, “In the case of Royal Descent she has a well-defined Timeform ratings profile of 121 established over several runs. This campaign her form has been faultless and her ratings have gone 112, 118, 119 and 125.

“We seldom see a jump like this at this level in older horses but having said that, being a quality mare, it is possible she has improved beyond her previous 121 master figure. We have cautioned the run because at WFA it makes her the one to beat with the 2kg allowance mares receive.”

Royal Descent and Lankan Rupee, favourite for the Manikato Stakes on Friday evening, give Redoute’s Choice a chance to achieve an unprecedented double, by siring the winners of both races with two different horses in the same year. Sunline (2000), Rubiton (1987) and Strawberry Road (1983) have won both races in the same year, a feat no longer possible because they are now held on consecutive days.

Snitzel, the sire of last year’s sensational winner Shamus Award, has the Gai Waterhouse-trained Arrowfield graduate Wandjina (ex La Bamba by Last Tycoon) in the field after his owners Edmund & Belinda Bateman paid the $130,000 late entry fee and he received the nod from the MVRC committee.

Wandjina’s last-start third in the Caulfield Guineas G1 earned him a Timeform figure of 121, again with a modifying ?. The other two Australian 3YO colts in the field, Almalad and Sweynesse, are rated 119 and 116 respectively.

Gary Crispe says, “In the case of Wandjina his established Timeform ratings profile is around 105. He has five ratings around that mark, so when he suddenly jumps to 121 at 100/1, alarm bells ring for us. Hence the ? as we are not at all sure about him being at that level just yet.”

In the TAB Fixed Odds betting for the Cox Plate Fawkner is now a clear favourite ahead of Northern Hemisphere 3YO Adelaide (considered a 4YO in Australia), Sacred Falls and Criterion, with the rest of the field at double-figure odds, including Royal Descent ($11) and Wandjina ($41).

A review of Cox Plate results achieved by 3YO colts and fillies & mares over the past decade casts light on their chances in this year’s race.

Eleven 3YO colts have started in the Cox Plate from 2004 to 2013 and three have won: Shamus Award (2014), So You Think (2009) and Savabeel (2004).  Another three colts have placed in the Cox Plate: Manhattan Rain (2nd in 2009) and All Too Hard & Pierro who filled the placings behind Ocean Park in 2012. 

Of those six 3YO male Cox Plate winners and placegetters, four brought a top three Caulfield Guineas finish into the Cox Plate. All Too Hard won the Guineas, while Pierro was second and, like Wandjina, Shamus Award & Manhattan Rain were third.

So You Think was fifth in the 2009 Guineas behind Starspangledbanner, Carrara, Manhattan Rain and Extra Zero. Savabeel had not started in Melbourne before the Cox Plate and came into the race off a Spring Champion S. G1 win.

A total of three wins and three placings from 11 starters gives an excellent 2004-13 Cox Plate top-three strike rate of 54.5% for 3YO colts.

Incidentally, the only two 3YO fillies that have run in the Cox Plate over the last ten years are both by Redoute’s Choice: Samantha Miss (3rd, 2008) and Miss Finland (6th, 2006) – she also ran as a 4YO in El Segundo’s 2007 Cox Plate, finishing fourth.

In all, twenty-one fillies and mares have started a total of 24 times in the Cox Plate since 2004. (Avienus, Miss Finland & More Joyous each started twice.)

Makybe Diva (2005) and Pinker Pinker (2011) have won the race during that period, while Samantha Miss and a third daughter of Redoute’s Choice, Lotteria (2nd, 2005) have both placed. One other Redoute’s Choice mare, King’s Rose, finished 7th as a 4YO in the 2011 Cox Plate.

A total of two wins and two placings from 24 starts gives a strike rate of 16.7% for fillies and mares in the Cox Plate.

What can be concluded from this examination of recent Cox Plate history?  With rose-coloured spectacles firmly in place, and one eye slightly closed, the obvious bets are surely the 3YO colt with Caulfield Guineas form, and the mare by Redoute’s Choice!

Redoute's Choice & Snitzel head Sires' premiership

Two superlative Group 1 performances on the first day of The Championships at Royal Randwick have shot Redoute’s Choice to the top of the Australian General Sires’ list with $8.7 million, ahead of his brilliant son Snitzel on $8.2 million.

The world’s top-ranked sprinter Lankan Rupee (ex Estelle Collection by Stravinsky) staked his claim to Horse of the Year honours with a powerhouse victory in the $2.5 million ATC T.J. Smith S. 1200m G1, his first start in Sydney. He is Redoute’s Choice’s third winner of the race, after Melito (2010) and Master of Design (2012).

Lankan Rupee jumped well from barrier 1 and jockey Craig Newitt sent him forward to take the lead, with Buffering sitting almost a length away in second. That was as close as any of his rivals got to Lankan Rupee who sprinted clear at the 400-metre mark and won by two lengths from Rebel Dane, with Buffering a short half-head away in third place.

It  was Lankan Rupee’s sixth straight win and his third consecutive victory at Group 1 level following his successes in the Oakleigh Plate at Caulfield and the Newmarket Handicap at Flemington. He has now won nine of his 16 starts and prizemoney of $2.8 million for owner-breeder Muzaffar Yaseen’s Teeley Assets and trainer Mick Price.

That combination also produced stakeswinner number 112 for Redoute’s Choice at Morphettville on Saturday when 3YO filly Tango’s Daughter (ex Tango Fire by Anabaa) won the SAJC H.C. Nitschke S. LR 1400m LR.

Tango’s Daughter and Lankan Rupee were both foaled and reared at Arrowfield which will present the Teeley Dispersal, including Estelle Collection in foal to Redoute’s Choice, at the Magic Millions National Sale, 25 May-5 June. Click  here  for the Teeley Dispersal Catalogue Preview.

Redoute’s Choice’s final contribution to the inaugural Day 1 of The Championships was made in the $3 million ATC Doncaster Mile 1600m G1, won for the second consecutive year by Sacred Falls (ex Iguazu’s Girl by Redoute’s Choice), from Gerry Harvey’s high-class 4YO mare Royal Descent (ex Mulan Princess by Kaapstad).  

Snitzel, who had occupied top spot on the Sires’ Premiership since last October, added more than $300,000 to his season earnings on Saturday, thanks largely to 2YO colt Scratch Me Lucky, a very game runner-up to Peggy Jean in the $1 million ATC Sires’ Produce S. G1. Arrowfield graduate Time For War, also by Snitzel, was fourth in that race, and another 2YO colt Klammer chimed in with a third placing in the ATC Kindergarten S. G3. 

Bred by Stuart Ramsey & Laurel Oak Bloodstock from the stakes-placed city winner Radiant Star (by Success Express), Scratch Me Lucky is the 7th Group 1 performer for Snitzel.