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.