Celebrating Beneteau's first-crop success

It’s the one experience every stud farm hopes to avoid, when a young stallion’s every winner elicits more sorrow than excitement, because their sire is dead.

Yet almost every well-established stud has a “What if?” stallion in its history, and every breeding industry has several gaps left by shooting stars who burned out far too soon.

Think of champion 2YO Star Watch, who died at Woodlands Stud in February 1991 leaving two crops that produced 10 stakeswinners, including three Group 1 winners, from only 126 live foals.

A more recent keenly felt loss is that of Widden Stud’s Northern Meteor, who died a day before he claimed the 2012/13 title of Champion Australian First Season Sire.

Arrowfield is reluctantly writing its own What if? story with Beneteau, runner-up on the 2014/15 Australian First Season Sires’ list by earnings ($812,725), individual winners (12) & wins (15) and level with Hinchinbrook and Star Wtiness by stakeswinners (2).  Like Star Watch, Beneteau died before his first runners appeared, and left two crops totalling 135 live foals.

Beneteau was very much more than a stallion acquisition for Arrowfield, which bred him in partnership with International Equities after sending Slice of Paradise (by Encosta de Lago) to Redoute’s Choice in 2006. Slice of Paradise, a very attractive, strongly made mare, was a city-winning & stakes-placed juvenile, but her major appeal lies in her status as a full sister to champion filly Alinghi.

Foaled at Arrowfield on 2 September 2007, Beneteau was sent to the 2009 Inglis Easter Sale, where he was knocked down for $1 million to Blue Sky Thoroughbreds with Arrowfield retaining a share of him.

He proved to be easily the best of that Sale’s eight 7-figure yearlings, progressing from a sparkling January debut win at Randwick to success in the MRC Blue Diamond Prelude G3 and an unlucky third behind Star Witness & Shaaheq in the Blue Diamond S. G1. 

Beneteau’s trainer Paul Messara has steadfastly maintained that he possessed the class and ability of a multiple Group 1 winner, but a spelling paddock injury curtailed his Spring 3YO preparation. He was retired to stud at a fee of $11,000 inc. GST in 2011.

Beneteau died in January 2013, just as 47 of his first-crop yearlings headed to the sale-ring where they averaged more than four times his fee, with a top price of $170,000.

The most expensive of his first four 2YO stakes performers was Prompt Return (ex Prompt by Exceed and Excel) bought for $60,000 by Beneteau’s original fan, Julian Blaxland at Blue Sky Bloodstock, from the Newgate Farm draft at the Magic Millions Gold Coast Sale. 

The good-looking colt quickly put his sire’s name in lights with an exuberant two-length victory in the VRC Maribyrnong Plate G3 on Oaks Day. That performance gave Beneteau an early lead on the Freshman Sires’ list that he held until Snitzel’s half-brother Hinchinbrook overtook him in early June.

That perfect start was backed up in December by Voilier (ex Ivyrose by Strategic) who scored by 3.5 lengths on debut at Rosehill. He later returned after a short break to run second in Headwater’s ATC Silver Slipper S. G2.

Arrowfield graduate Lady Jivago (ex Hussterics by Hussonet) chimed in with a debut win in January, before taking out the ATC Inglis 2YO Classic (R) LR in February to become Beneteau’s second stakeswinner.

The filly Aegean Sea (ex Tyche by Saltgrass) looked a genuine Slipper prospect when she won first up at Randwick on 22 November for Mark Sowerby & Ron Hamer (who also race Prompt Return) and trainer Clarry Conners. However, injury ended her 2YO season prematurely and she remains in the spelling paddock.

Other pre-Christmas performers for Beneteau were It’s Vegas Baby (ex Anigma by Machiavellian), placed in the BRC Phelan Ready S. LR, and debut winner Parcel (ex Gibraltar Range by Rock of Gibraltar) who was subsequently fourth in the MRC Chairman’s S. G3.

In the final third of the 2014/15 season Beneteau was represented by two-time winner Tatoosh (ex Miss Columbus by Spinning World), also placed twice in Sydney, and a pair of July debut winners: Geoff (ex Granma Gertey by Danzero) successful at Pakenham for Robbie Griffiths, and Universal Law, (ex Simply Wicked by Scenic) impressive in Perth for Grant Williams.

Beneteau’s second and final crop of yearlings met a more enthusiastic market this year, averaging more than ten times his fee, with a top price of $340,000 paid for the Zaldivar colt offered by Yarradale Stud at the Magic Millions Perth Sale. The opportunities they’ll receive in the wake of his first-crop success, and the physical scope of his progeny ensure that this What if? story is far from finished.

The bittersweetness of Beneteau’s stud career is balanced by Arrowfield’s perfect record with the Redoute’s Choice sire-line and the “Coming Soon” sign already posted for the Stud’s next son of the great champion sire: another classy & charismatic colt called Scissor Kick.

Beneteau lives in Blue Sky dreams

Racing a horse called Bless Me Pat with the local priest in central New South Wales and planning Blue Diamond and Golden Slipper campaigns might seem worlds apart, but actually, they’re the same story, linked by Mark Sowerby.

In partnership with Ron Hamer, Mark races last Saturday’s debut Randwick winner Aegean Sea and Maribyrnong Plate G3 winner Prompt Return. Both 2YOs are by Australia’s leading first season sire Beneteau and both wear the same Blue Sky logo silks that Beneteau carried in his brilliant Sydney debut victory almost five years ago. 

Prompt Return, trained by Danny O’Brien, won his first start at Bendigo in October, and stepped up to a fine Group 3 victory at Flemington on 8 November.  The colt ended his first campaign with a good second to Carriages in Saturday’s Magic Millions Clockwise Classic at Ballarat where he was unsuited by the tight track. 

Mark says of Prompt Return, “He’s done very well, he’s been in work since the end of July and is now having a nice break at Barwon Heads. All going well, he’ll head to the Blue Diamond and possibly the Golden Slipper, with the Coolmore Stud Stakes a likely target next season, given how well he handled the Flemington straight.”

The Clarry Conners-trained Aegean Sea will probably be seen out again before Christmas. “We’d like her to have another run, it will season her for her second prep and take the pressure off having to qualify for the Slipper in the New Year. “

Mark also explains the subtle thinking behind the filly’s name. Her dam Tyche (by Woodman’s son Saltgrass) is named for the Greek goddess of good luck and fortune, and Beneteau is the famous French firm of luxury yacht designers and builders. The Aegean Sea, between Greece and Turkey, is where the two might naturally meet.

Mark’s interest in horse-racing began 33 years ago with his family’s first racehorse Bless Me Pat in Warren, Australia’s “Cotton & Wool Capital”, on the banks of the Macquarie River, more than 500 km north-west of Sydney.

These days he’s based in Brisbane as the Managing Director of the Blue Sky Group, a private equity house Mark founded in 2006 to invest expansion capital into Australian small and medium-sized businesses.

It was Julian Blaxland’s independent company Blue Sky Bloodstock which purchased the Arrowfield-bred colt Beneteau and gave its Stallion Fund concept a notable early success when the charismatic Redoute’s Choice colt became one of the country’s best juveniles in 2009/10. 

Trained by Paul Messara, Beneteau brilliantly won his first start at Randwick in January 2010, and progressed immediately to victory in the MRC Blue Diamond Prelude G3. He started favourite in the Blue Diamond S. G1 and finished a close-up third to Star Witness and Shaaheq after a rough passage during the race.

Bad luck dogged Beneteau’s final three starts at two and a spelling paddock injury prevented his return at three, so he joined the Arrowfield roster in 2011 at a fee of $11,000 inc. GST. Beneteau died in January 2013 after serving two books of mares that have produced a total of 135 live foals, five of which are owned by Ron and Mark.

Mark bred Aegean Sea while Ron bred Prompt Return (ex Prompt by Exceed and Excel), with each taking an ownership share of the other’s foal at yearling stage.

Mark has a yearling full brother to Aegean Sea; Ron, also a part-owner of recently retired colt Dissident and promising Manhattan Rain filly Boundary, owns a yearling sister to Prompt Return; and together they own the 2YO Beneteau-Rocketing colt, who returned to work this week with trainer Mick Price.

Mark explains, “Ron was one of the first guys to back our Blue Sky investment business, he was a shareholder in Beneteau, and now he’s either my good luck charm or I’m his!

“We never had any doubts about Beneteau as a sire, especially when we saw that his progeny look so much like him. They’re very sound, with brilliant temperaments and scope for development at three.”

Beneteau’s too-early death inevitably shadows the performances of his sons and daughters. However, with first-crop contenders for two races that eluded him, the Blue Diamond and the Golden Slipper, Mark Sowerby and Ron Hamer have their sights fixed on a fairytale finish to the story of a very special colt.

First stakeswinner for Beneteau

Handsome 2YO colt Prompt Return made the step up to Group company at Flemington with ease to claim Saturday’s $150,000 VRC Maribyrnong Plate 1000m G3, and become the first stakeswinner for his sire Beneteau. In turn, Beneteau is the 14th stakes-siring son of Redoute’s Choice.

Prompt Return jumped smartly from barrier 4 and was quickly directed by jockey James Winks to the inside rail where he soon took control not only of the group on the flat, but also the larger group on the stand side.

Prompt Return extended beautifully to stretch his lead and score by two lengths from Old Trieste. Sailing By and Jaqueric (also by Beneteau) both finished strongly from well off the pace to fill the third and fourth spots.

Trainer Danny O’Brien said, “He’s a very nice colt. He went to Bendigo and it was really a barrier trial, he won and he came home and improved on it and you saw the improvement today.

“He’s been very dominant today in what has been historically a very good formguide for the two-year-old season.”

Prompt Return was bred by Ron Hamer and sold from the Newgate Farm draft for $60,000 to Blue Sky Bloodstock at the 2014 Gold Coast Magic Millions Sale.  Hamer, who retained a share in Prompt Return to race him with Mark Sowerby, also has a yearling full sister to the colt.

The colt’s dam Prompt is a daughter of Exceed and Excel and the good New Zealand racemare Amnesia whose race record includes nine Group & Listed Race placings and a fourth in Pace Invader’s 1998 CJC NZ 1000 Guineas G1. Prompt Return is the second of his dam’s two runners to win, after Caulfield juvenile winner Diamond Glow, also second to Miracles Of Life in the 2013 MRC Blue Diamond Preview LR.

Options for Prompt Return include the Magic Millions 2YO Classic in January and the Blue Diamond S. G1 n February.

Beneteau (Redoute’s Choice-Slice of Paradise by Encosta de Lago) was sold by Arrowfield for $1 million to Blue Sky at the 2009 Inglis Easter Yearling Sale and, in the hands of trainer Paul Messara, quickly proved to be one of Australia’s most exciting juveniles.

After a debut win in the Blue Sky colours at Randwick in January 2010, he travelled to Melbourne to claim the MRC Blue Diamond Prelude G3 before finishing an unlucky third in the MRC Blue Diamond S. G1 and fifth in Crystal Lily’s Golden Slipper.

Beneteau joined the Arrowfield roster in 2011 and served 179 mares during two seasons at stud before his death in January 2013.

The second and final crop of yearlings by the much-missed son of Redoute’s Choice will be offered in 2015.

A prompt first winner for Beneteau

The clue to Beneteau’s first winner was there from the beginning, when a mare called Prompt delivered him on 3 August 2012.

He’s now called Prompt Return and on Saturday he became the first winner for the brilliant son of Redoute’s Choice, who died in January 2013, and has only two crops totalling 135 live foals to represent him.

Prompt Return started favourite in the Elmore 2YO Plate over 900 metres at Bendigo and won in convincing fashion by a length from Hello Hornsby and Stryking Love.

His dam Prompt is a daughter of Exceed and Excel and the good New Zealand racemare Amnesia whose race record includes nine Group & Listed Race placings and a fourth in Pace Invader’s 1998 CJC NZ 1000 Guineas G1. Prompt Return is the second of his dam’s two runners to win, after Caulfield juvenile winner Diamond Glow, also second to Miracles Of Life in the 2013 MRC Blue Diamond Preview LR.

Trainer Danny O’Brien said it was a “nice debut” for Prompt Return who was bred by Ron Hamer and sold from the Newgate Farm draft for $60,000 to Blue Sky Bloodstock at the 2014 Gold Coast Magic Millions Sale.  Hamer, who retained a share in Prompt Return to race him with Mark Sowerby, also has a yearling full sister to the colt.

Prompt Return’s victory came less than an hour after Beneteau’s very first runner, Swift Reply (ex Docherty Woods by Tale Of The Cat) ran fourth on debut at Randwick.

Beneteau (Redoute’s Choice-Slice of Paradise by Encosta de Lago) was sold by Arrowfield for $1 million to Blue Sky Thoroughbreds at the 2009 Inglis Easter Yearling Sale and, in the hands of trainer Paul Messara, quickly proved to be one of Australia’s most exciting juveniles.

After a sparkling debut win at Randwick in January 2010, he travelled to Melbourne to claim the MRC Blue Diamond Prelude G3 before finishing an unlucky third in the MRC Blue Diamond S. G1 and fifth in Crystal Lily’s Golden Slipper.

Beneteau joined the Arrowfield roster in 2011 and served 179 mares during his two seasons at stud.

As Blue Sky’s Julian Blaxland tweeted on Saturday, “It was great to be able to provide Blue Sky Bloodstock yearling grad Beneteau with his first winner as a sire with Magic Millions grad Prompt Return.”