In the end, on the last day of the season, the 2015/16 Australian First Season Sires’ title came down to a $10,000 race at Gawler, at the edge of the famous Barossa Valley in South Australia.
And one brave filly lining up for her first start from the outside gate on a heavy track.
Arleigh, by Smart Missile from Lahana, a Hussonet daughter of the champion filly Alinghi, was sent by Arrowfield to champion South Australian trainer Phillip Stokes almost 12 months ago.
She quickly showed ability, but shin-soreness after her first trial in September and another minor setback in February, after her first trial win, delayed her racetrack debut.
Arleigh returned to the stable in May and this time, everything went smoothly. Trial-placed on 8 July, she won her fourth trial by 5.5 lengths. She was then nominated for her first race start at Gawler on 31 July.
Meanwhile, Smart Missile was deep in battle for Australia’s Freshman Sire honours. By Monday 25 July the brilliant son of Fastnet Rock held the lead, $505 ahead of Love Conquers All, thanks to weekend placings by Hair Trigger in Sydney, Gadfly at Newcastle and Smart Devil on the Sunshine Coast. Less than $25,000 separated the leading pair, Dream Ahead, Pour Moi and Sepoy.
On Friday, just two days before the end of the season, Love Conquers All edged past Smart Missile after The Ambassadore ran third at Ipswich, picking up $2600, including a QTIS bonus.
On Saturday, Fromparis Withlove boosted Smart Missile’s account, while Giroux & Lusitania made ground for Sepoy.
Come Sunday morning and the title was still up in the air, with three runners capable of deciding it.
Dream Ahead’s chance ended when his son Lord Zidane was scratched at Gawler. Henriques needed to win on debut at Pakenham to collect enough prizemoney and VOBIS bonuses to push Sepoy into the lead, but he was unplaced.
At that point, Love Conquers All, who stands at Sun Stud and is Queensland’s Leading Freshman Sire, still held the lead, by $870. Arleigh, named for the celebrated World War II American naval commander, Admiral Arleigh Burke, had to finish in the first three in the set weight 2YO Maiden to claim the premiership for Smart Missile.
Ridden by Kei Chiong, Hong Kong’s Most Popular Jockey of 2015/16, Arleigh bounced out well from her wide draw and pressed forward to settle in the lead alongside From Fifth. Chiong steered her towards the centre of the track as the field rounded the turn, while Vieira sprinted through on the rail to claim the lead, and Artful Jack challenged out wide.
The effort was clearly beginning to tell on Arleigh, but perhaps she could hear Team Arrowfield cheering her on from Sydney & the Hunter Valley. She stuck gamely to her task to secure third placing and the vital $900 prizemoney that took Smart Missile’s season earnings to $454,705 – thirty dollars ahead of Love Conquers All.
Phillip Stokes said, “Arleigh did a great job, going first-up over 1200 metres. She had to do a lot of work to get on the speed, it was a really good effort.” All going well, the filly’s next start will be in three weeks’ time.
Smart Missile ends his Australian season with seven individual winners: Cadogan, Jericho & Mediterranean (all in Sydney), Blazing Steel, Hair Trigger, Missile Coda & Savvy Belle. In addition the fillies Smart Amelia and Smart Manoeuvre were both Group-placed, and Jericho & Fromparis Withlove were placed in Listed company.
Across the Tasman is Smart Missile’s best first-crop 2YO performer, Te Akau Racing’s Sassy ‘N’ Smart, who was successful on debut, a Listed winner at her second appearance and Group 2-placed third time out.
Bred and raced by Gooree Park, and fully booked at Arrowfield every season since 2012, Smart Missile has generated extraordinary sale-ring business in the past three years: 238 yearlings & weanlings sold at an average of more than five times his unchanged $20,000 fee.
Demand for his progeny from trainers, syndicators and agents has remained strong in 2016, with a top price of $500,000 paid by Little Hung & Bahen Bloodstock for Arrowfield’s colt out of Pyrography at Magic Millions 1 – where Smart Missile had 26 lots sell for an average price of $147,308.
Smart Missile’s future looks even better. Eight of the top 10 sires on the 2015/16 Australian General list began their careers with a top-three finish on the First Season Sires’ premiership. And every Champion Freshman since at least 2001 has become a Group 1 sire.
Smart Missile isn’t letting the grass grow under his hooves. Two days into the new season, his 3YO daughters Corporate Missile and Saronissi won trials at Te Teko in New Zealand, while his 3YO sons Missile Strike and Revolver did likewise at the Rosehill trials in Sydney.