Arrowfield’s home-bred filly Teaspoon is a 40/1 chance in Saturday’s $3.5 million Longines Golden Slipper G1, but she knocks it out of the park with the oldest dam of the 19 runners in the field.
The average age of those 19 mares at the birth of their Golden Slipper runners was 9.5, with eleven of them nine or younger and seven aged ten to 15.
Teaspoon, though, is the 16th and last foal of the unraced Patronella (Mister C-All Sterling by One Pound Sterling) who was 23-years-old when she delivered the bay filly by Snitzel on 4 September 2014. The Arrowfield foaling team recorded a “normal foaling, foal of normal size with good body and bone” and similar observations were made of Patronella’s six previous deliveries at the Stud.
Assistant Operations Manager Kerry Stephens says, “We can’t recall any foaling issues with Patronella, and reproductively she’s been straightforward.” Ditto her character too, although she’s no pushover, as Kerry points out.
“She’s an average sized mare, with an attractive head, plenty of bone and substance. She’s straightforward to handle, with no odd habits or quirks, but she has spirit – if she doesn’t like something she’s quick to let you know. All the good ones have spirit!”
Unlike some mares, the now 25 year-old Patronella, pictured right at Arrowfield this week (PHOTO: Bronwen Healy) hasn’t had a special paddock mate and gets on well with most other horses. That’s made for an easy transition to her new life in retirement as a nanny mare.
Kerry explains, “Her latest assignment was baby-sitting the Easter Sale yearling fillies before they began their sale preparation. It’s very useful having an experienced older mare keeping an eye on the young ones, it helps to keep them settled in the paddock and reduces the chance of injury.”
Patronella has visited Starcraft, Charge Forward, Hussonet, All American, Beneteau and Snitzel (twice) during her eight-year breeding career at Arrowfield, failing to conceive only in 2011. Five of the resulting seven foals were sold as weanlings or yearlings for relatively modest prices, and three of those have won races. The best of them was Teaspoon’s full sister Aliyana Tilde, born in 2008 and bought for $50,000 by trainer Kerry Parker at the 2010 Inglis Melbourne Premier Sale.
Aliyana Tilde turned out to be very good indeed, even better than Patronella’s first two foals, two-time Listed winner Stella Artois and Group 3 winner Smytzer’s Trish, born back in the mid-nineties, when their mother was five and six.
Unlike Teaspoon though, Aliyana Tilde’s forte was classic stamina, evident in her ATC Epona S. G3 victory and three Group 1 placings in the Australian Oaks, Sydney Cup and Storm Queen Stakes. That record made her an appealing proposition when she retired in 2013 and so it was that she returned to the ownership of Arrowfield where she’s had two colts by Animal Kingdom and a Dundeel filly.
Research conducted by Arrowfield alumnus Byron Rogers of Performance Genetics confirms both the rarity of mares that produce one Group winner during their careers, and that around one in five of those select mares will go on to leave subsequent Group winners. Three Group winners put Patronella in elite company, though not in the league of the extraordinary Juddmonte mare Hasili, dam of seven Group winners, five of them successful at Group 1 level.
Kerry notes that all of Patronella’s Arrowfield foals have resembled her, and the one most like her is the filly Bacarella (by Beneteau), a year older than Teaspoon and talented enough to win at two and place twice in Sydney Group 2 company last Spring.
However, Kerry adds, “Teaspoon was always a staff favourite as a foal, because she was a particularly attractive filly and a strong individual.”
Like Bacarella, Teaspoon was retained by Arrowfield because she’s a late filly from a wonderful broodmare so, while her fellow yearlings were being prepared for sale, she was being educated at Rick Worthington’s Danric Lodge before joining Michael Freedman’s stable last September.
Teaspoon opened her account with a debut win at Canterbury in November, spelled, then returned to win the ATC Widden S. G3 with a quality performance under pressure, and become Snitzel’s 48th stakeswinner at Rosehill on 28 January. She also completed an Arrowfield graduate Group double with her Golden Slipper rival Pariah (by Redoute’s Choice), successful on the same card in the ATC Canonbury S. G3.
Teaspoon, quirkily named by Arrowfield’s Sydney Office Manager Sophie Swain for Bloodstock Manager Jon Freyer’s habit of leaving teaspoons around the office, goes into the Slipper off a game third in the ATC Sweet Embrace S. G2 and will be ridden by Zac Purton.
Meanwhile, Patronella grazes peacefully in the Hill 5 paddock at Arrowfield, perhaps thinking occasionally of those 16 foals, among them thirteen winners of 43 races, and that final, vibrant daughter out to make her mark on Slipper history at 4.10 pm on Saturday.