Not A Single Doubt's 4th Group 1 winner this season

Bruce Neill’s well-known boutique farm Cressfield has achieved more than its share of success as a vendor of profitable yearlings and good racehorses.

But it’s a son of Not A Single Doubt he couldn’t sell that has given Bruce his most satisfying success as both breeder and owner. 

It was Cressfield’s determination to give Clearly Innocent his chance as a racehorse that has been rewarded with a nine-win, million-dollar racing career, sealed at Eagle Farm on Saturday with an exhilarating three-length win in the $700,000 BRC Kingsford-Smith Cup 1300m G1.

Watch Clearly Innocent win the BRC Kingsford-Smith Cup G1 (Race 7).

Clearly Innocent is Not A Single Doubt’s seventh Group 1 winner overall, and fourth this season, after Extreme Choice, Scales of Justice and Arrowfield graduate Secret Agenda.

As Bruce says, “Correct sales horses are not the only avenue to owning and to racing competitive racehorses.” Thanks to Cressfield’s perseverance, and the skills of his first trainer Greg Bennett, Clearly Innocent finally made it to the track as a 4YO in August 2015.

His talent was immediately obvious and he won seven of his 9 starts that season, culminating with victories in the $500,000 Country Championship Final at Randwick and the Luskin Star S. LR at Scone.

After Bennett’s move to work with Aquis Farm in Queensland, Kris Lees took over the now 5YO gelding whose progress this Autumn has been even more dramatic, stepping straight from his second Luskin Star success on 13 May to a runaway victory at his first try in Group 1 company.

Clearly Innocent’s dam No Penalty (by Zabeel) hails from one of New Zealand’s best families of the past three decades, descended as she is from Mary Poppins, ancestress of Group 1 winners Veloso, Domino, Linky Dink, Sale Of Century & Hero.

No Penalty was bred by Sir Patrick & Lady Hogan from the mare Court whose sire Prince Echo, dam Tupelo Honey and damsire Vice Regal all played major roles in Chequers Stud’s remarkable success during the 1980s and 1990s.  

Sold for $160,000 as a yearling at the 2002 Inglis Easter Sale, No Penalty won three races in Sydney and was then bought as a broodmare by Cressfield. Clearly Innocent and 4YO mare Champagne Kisses (4 wins) are the best of the four named foals Cressfield bred from her before selling her to Yarradale Stud for $16,000 at the 2013 Inglis Easter Sale.

Clearly Innocent’s steep rise to Group 1-winning status has been matched by Not A Single Doubt’s emergence as a major Australian sire. Two years ago the son of Redoute’s Choice had just posted his 23rd stakeswinner, including his second Group 1 winner, and he ended the 2014/15 season inside the top 10 sires with progeny earnings of $7 million. Now, he has 42 career stakeswinners on the board, holds fifth spot on the General Sires’ premiership with $10.3 million and is pressing hard to finish the season even higher.

Clearly superior at Scone

“The only thing he’s guilty of – he loves Scone!” was race-caller Darren Flindell’s flourish as local hero Clearly Innocent romped away to his second consecutive victory in the $150,000 Scone RC Luskin Star S. 1300m LR.

Watch Clearly Innocent win the Scone RC Luskin Star S. LR.

The Cressfield home-bred couldn’t have been more impressive as he set out after Sweet Serendipity at the 400-metre mark and sprinted clear to score by more than two lengths from Snoopy and Gold Symphony.

The win extended Clearly Innocent’s unbeaten record at his former home track to six-from-six and delighted his new trainer Kris Lees who added the 6YO gelding to his stable after Greg Bennett’s retirement from training.

Lees said, “That was a great thrill, He’s got a great affinity with this track and he really let fly.

“He’s a lovely horse and that’s very pleasing to be able to produce him and for him to win like that today.”

The winner of last year’s Country Championship Final at Randwick has now won eight of his 14 starts and more than $600,000, and will now head to Queensland for a pair of Group 1 tests, the $700,000 Kingsford-Smith Cup on 27 May and the $1.5 million Stradbroke Handicap on 10 June.

Clearly Innocent is the best performer out of No Penalty, a city-winning daughter of Zabeel from the excellent New Zealand family of Group 1 winners Domino, Hero, Sale Of Century, Linky Dink and, further back, the classy 1980s 3YO Veloso.

Not A Single Doubt has 13 stakeswinners this season, including Group 1 winners Extreme Choice, Scales Of Justice & Secret Agenda, and his Australian prizemoney of more than $9.5 million is enough to keep him in the top five sires.

Clearly Innocent is NSW Country Horse of the Year

While Not A Single Doubt was attacking the new season’s stallion premiership with a stunning Group race double at Moonee Valley, his son Clearly Innocent was being honoured for last season’s achievements in Sydney.

The 5YO gelding picked up the Country Horse of the Year Award at the NSW Country & Provincial Racing Awards dinner held at the Sheraton on the Park on Friday evening.

Bred and raced by Bruce Neill’s Cressfield, Clearly Innocent is out of the Zabeel mare No Penalty, a city-winning member of a family nurtured for many years at New Zealand’s Chequers Stud and responsible for Group 1 winners Veloso, Domino, Sale Of Century, Hero & Linky Dink.

Clearly Innocent emerged from the stable of leading country trainer Greg Bennett to win seven of his 10 starts last season. He capped it all with a brilliant win in the Country Championship Final followed by victory in the Scone RC Luskin Star S. LR. That took his earnings past $500,000 and sealed his bush hero status with country racing fans.

Bennett rates Clearly Innocent the best horse he’s trained and is now Melbourne-bound after the gelding’s pipe-opening sixth in The Shorts G2 two weeks ago. The 1400-metre Moonga Stakes G3 at Caulfield on 15 October will be his next start.

Clearly Innocent gets the verdict

The category for the Most Progressive Horse by Not A Single Doubt this season is rather crowded.

Leading contenders include the Group 1-winning pair Good Project & Single Gaze, and Fell Swoop, so nearly a Group 1 winner in Melbourne & Sydney, before his Group 2 success in Brisbane.

Then there’s the sensational 2YO colt Extreme Choice, who sailed through Listed & Group 3 company before a dominant Blue Diamond S. G1 victory in February.

And surely Don’t Doubt Mamma deserves several votes. She began the season with one juvenile win and barely $30,000 prizemoney, and has banked another $360,000 from four wins since September, two Listed wins and a Group 3 victory.

But if the award recognises a horse whose potential exceeds even his extraordinary rise this season, then Clearly Innocent gets the nod.

His hometown victory for owner-breeder Bruce Neill in Saturday’s $140,000 Scone RC Luskin Star S. 1300m LR was his 7th win from his nine career starts, all of them this season.

It was a stiff test for the 4YO gelding, caught wide in sixth position as Randwick Group 3 winner Music Magnate hauled the field along in front and showed no sign of weakening in the straight. He was challenged first by Cradle Me, but Samantha Clenton pressed the button on Clearly Innocent soon afterwards and the result was quickly settled, with Music Magnate a gallant second and Cradle Me third.

Watch Clearly Innocent win the Scone RC Luskin Star S. LR.

Clearly Innocent’s career began with two winning appearances at Scone last August, a sixth and a second in Sydney during December, followed by five consecutive wins, most notably his 2.5 length romp in the $500,000 ATC Country Championship Final on 2 April. 

That win, despite a stone bruise and the disadvantage of bar plates, crowned a stressful week in Sydney for trainer Greg Bennett. Back at his home track on Saturday, Bennett enjoyed the glow of a very popular local victory, but immediately ruled out a Queensland campaign. Clearly Innocent will now spell and prepare for next season’s Spring & Autumn Carnivals.

Clearly Innocent is the latest star from a family’s that’s full of them. He descends from the fine Chequers Stud broodmare Mary Poppins, whose daughters left multiple Group 1 winners Veloso, (Our) Westminster and dual Oaks winner Domino, dam in her turn of sprinter-miler Hero, whose 15 wins included two at Group 1 level, and Group 2-winning juvenile Super Natural.

Clearly Innocent’s corner of the family has already thrown up Sale of Century (Rosehill Guineas G1), Affleck (Champion Singapore 2YO & 3YO) and Sydney stakeswinner Gimmick. However, he is the first winner out of his city-winning dam No Penalty (by Zabeel), purchased in 2013 by Yarradale Stud in Western Australia.

The combination of Not A Single Doubt with Zabeel mares has a predictably good strike rate: 16 winners from 18 named foals, including Group 2 winner Gypsy Diamond, Listed winner Every Faith and three stakes-placed horses, as well as Clearly Innocent.

Clearly Innocent is the 34th lifetime stakeswinner for Not A Single Doubt whose season earnings in Australia now approach $11 million. The son of Redoute’s Choice is also the year’s leading sire of Australian stakeswinners, with a total of 12, alongside his sire and Street Cry, and is either first or second on the General, 3YO & 2YO Sires’ prizemoney tables.