Charge Forward in a class of his own

Looking for a Group 1 sire standing for less than $20,000, who averaged more than $100,000 at both the Magic Millions (Book 1) and Inglis Easter Sales in 2015?

That search produces just one result: Charge Forward.

His eight yearlings sold at Australia’s two major sales averaged $115,000, with a top price of $180,000 for the Laissez Faire colt bought at Magic Millions by Tony Gollan & John Foote from the Arrowfield draft.

It’s surely no co-incidence that this colt and the next two most profitable Charge Forward yearlings sold in 2015 are all out of Danehill-line mares.

Charge Forward’s statistics show that he’s sired 7.1% Stakeswinners/Runners from Danehill or Danehill-line mares.

To put that figure in perspective, only Redoute’s Choice among last season’s top 10 active Australian sires have a better lifetime strike rate from all his runners. And all of the stallions in that group are standing at considerably higher fees than Charge Forward.

In all, 17 of Charge Forward’s 29 stakes performers are from Danehill-line mares, and 12 of them either won or placed in stakes company as juveniles. 

It’s a pattern that started early, when Charge Forward’s first-crop daughter Headway (ex Chatelaine by Flying Spur) emerged as his first stakeswinner and progressed to victory in the VRC Coolmore Stud S. G1. She has been followed by another four stakeswinners out of Flying Spur mares, notably the brothers Road Trippin’ & Crack A Roadie who together earned around ten times their combined purchase price. 

Brilliant Group-winning sprinter Solar Charged, from a Danehill mare, appeared in Charge Forward’s second crop, and then came the Group winners Cavalry Rose, Direct Charge & London Lolly whose dams are by three different Danehill sons (Danske, Redoute’s Choice & Lion Hunter).

It’s the same story with several of Charge Forward’s six-figure earners last season: First Light Racing’s multiple city winner Face Forward (ex Endearment by Danehill), Moonee Valley winners Pathways & stakes-placed Fast Cash (both out of Choisir mares) and Singapore winner Good News (ex Rezyana by Redoute’s Choice).

However, it’s a rare rule that doesn’t generate exceptions and Charge Forward’s success isn’t limited to Danehill-line mares. Dual Group 1 winner Response, Group 2 winner Shrapnel and last season’s two-time Group 3 winner Slightly Sweet are from mares by Match Winner, Snippets & Dubai Destination.

In the past couple of years, daughters of Charge Forward have made a splash at broodmare sales, as breeders seek outcross mates for stallions with Danehill close up in their pedigrees. Cavalry Rose & Solar Charged each made $650,000 at the 2014 Magic Millions National Sale, and at the same sale this year Response, in foal to Snitzel, was knocked down for $1.5 million to Katsumi Yoshida.

It’s a pair of talented 4YO mares that are likely to lead Charge Forward’s team this Spring and fittingly, they are both Jason Coyle-trained homebreds for the family of the late Phillip Esplin, a founding director of Arrowfield and the breeder of Charge Forward.

Something Secret (from juvenile stakeswinner Secret Land by Secret Savings) has made a very good impression in provincial company, winning at Wyong & Gosford last month.

Slightly Sweet already has two Group victories on her eight-start record and is about a fortnight away from a trial after returning from her winter break in superb order.

Gai Waterhouse’s 2YOs include what she describes as a “nice colt” called Tribal (ex Mozambique by Redoute’s Choice) for Ron & Deb Gilbert. The Gilberts have already achieved success with Charge Forward as the breeders of Shrapnel, a two-time Group winner, and twice Group 1-placed at three.


Second Group win for Charge Forward filly

Charge Forward’s splendid daughter Slightly Sweet and jockey Kathy O’Hara completed a quarter-million dollar Autumn campaign with a commanding win in Saturday’s $150,000 ATC J.H.B. Carr S. 1400m G3.

The Esplin family’s homebred 3YO filly settled back off a strong pace and pounced late to score by almost a length from Anyaas and Sebrina in 1:24.36 – slightly faster than Dissident posted in the All Aged S. G1 three races later.

Trainer Jason Coyle said, “She hasn’t put a foot wrong this preparation. Full credit to the horse. We pushed her out to the 2000 metres and she wasn’t disgraced but this is her niche, 1400 to 1600 metres.

“She’ll go for a break now, done her job, and we’ll look towards the spring with her. I think she’ll come back a stronger horse off the break and we’re looking forward to the future.”

Slightly Sweet (ex Semitone by Dubai Destination) is by Charge Forward who was bred by the late Phillip Esplin, a founding director of Arrowfield and highly successful breeder in his own right. Slightly Sweet and Coolmore Classic G1 winner Plucky Belle are among several horses bred at Twin Palms Stud and raced by Phillip’s wife Michele, sons Hamish & Patrick and daughter Elise.

That adds an extra layer of significance to Slightly Sweet’s wonderful season, neatly described by Hamish Esplin after the filly’s first Group 3 win in the 1600-metre Keith F. Nolan Classic at Kembla Grange on 13 March.

“It was an especially memorable day for the family as 45 years ago and also on a Friday the 13th Mum and Dad got married.

“But what tickles us pedigree nerds the most is that Slightly Sweet is the culmination of a long history of breeding for Dad and Mum and the family, as we bred her sire Charge Forward as well as her dam Semitone – so a real breeding trifecta!”

Hamish added, “All of the plaudits must go to Jason and Kathy. Both of them have treated the filly with patience and kind hands and allowed her to do the work without being under any more pressure than needed.

“We’ve always been big fans of Jason as well as Kathy and maybe it’s because they’re both such understated people they tend to fly under the radar, but they certainly shouldn’t here.”

The unraced Semitone is descended from US Classic-winning filly How who, along with her equally talented full sisters Cherokee Rose and Sequoia, proved highly influential as the source of leading sires Tom Rolfe, Chieftain & Alzao, Horse of the Year Ack Ack and Grade 1 winner Sham.

Slightly Sweet is one of 15 stakeswinners (and nine Group winners) by Charge Forward whose 22 yearlings sold this season have averaged almost $80,000 – around 5 times his 2015 fee of $16,500 inc. GST.


Sweets for the Sweet at Randwick

Charge Forward’s daughter Slightly Sweet bounced back into the winner’s circle at Royal Randwick on Saturday when she led home a competitive 3YO handicap field in class record time of 1:21.81 for the 1400 metres.

A winner on debut at Kembla Grange last month, Slightly Sweet ended up five wide in Listed Race company two weeks ago at Rosehill, and did well to finish less than four lengths from the winner Abduction.

This time she enjoyed a more straightforward run, settling fifth behind the speed, and finding space easily round the turn. Jockey Kathy O’Hara asked a serious question at the top of the straight and received a generous reply as Slightly Sweet wound up strongly to reach the lead 100 metres from home and cruise to victory a length and a nose ahead of Wine Tales and Careless.

Slightly Sweet is trained by Jason Coyle for her co-breeders Michele, Hamish, Patrick & Elise Esplin after being passed in at the 2013 Magic Millions Gold Coast Sale.

She is out of the Dubai Destination mare Semitone, a half-sister to stakeswinner Stay Tuned, from the family of Tom Rolfe, Chieftain & Alzao. Semitone also has a 2YO filly by Charge Forward, now named Positive Charge, bought by Bryce Heys for $130,000 at the 2014 Magic Millions Sale.

Hamish Esplin said, “Credit has to go to Kathy for a very sensible, calm ride. First time she has ridden for us but not the last. And of course Jason, not easy to come back from stakes level at any time.”

Jason Coyle said, “It is all happening a bit soon for her, I think she is stakes class but she might not just be ready yet for a trip to Melbourne. It was a good win today, it was great to get her back to winning after what happened last start,”

Kathy O’Hara is enthusiastic about Slightly Sweet’s prospects. “I’ve had a fair bit to do with this girl and I think she has nice ability. She is still very green, got a lot to learn and last start things just didn’t go her way.

“Today we got a much nicer run and she proved what she is really capable of. I think next Autumn you will see her improve again.”

Slightly Sweet, First Light Racing’s unbeaten filly Face Forward, and the Gai Waterhouse-trained Confederate give Charge Forward an exciting trio of 3YOs with a fine chance of lengthening his record of 26 stakes performers.

Charge Forward's debut winners worth following

Debut winners always turn heads just a little more sharply than horses that win at subsequent starts.

That suggests three recent 3YO winners by Charge Forward (himself a stakeswinner at both his 2YO and 3YO debuts) deserve more than usual attention when they step out in metropolitan company.

First Light Racing and trainers Mathew Ellerton & Simon Zahra are looking forward to that next step after Face Forward (ex Endearment by Danehill) posted a 1.8 length debut victory at Echuca on Saturday.

“Smart filly – better races ahead for her” was First Light’s tweet after the win by their $105,000 purchase, with Ellerton, Zahra & bloodstock agent Paul Willetts, from the Torryburn Stud draft at the 2013 Magic Millions Gold Coast Sale. The same stable also prepared Charge Forward’s outstanding dual Group 1-winning daughter Response.

Zahra says, “She has a very exciting future. You give yourself every chance to win plenty of races when you’re a tractable filly like she is. She jumps, travels on speed and has a good turn of foot – that’s a great recipe for success.”

Charge Forward’s breeder the late Philip Esplin was always among his staunchest supporters and his family also enjoyed first-up success on Saturday with their homebred filly Slightly Sweet. She stormed home from the back of the field to win by 1.3 lengths on debut at Kembla Grange for Michele, Hamish, Patrick & Elise Esplin, and trainer Jason Coyle.

Slightly Sweet, passed in at the 2013 Magic Millions Gold Coast Sale, is out of the Dubai Destination mare Semitone, a half-sister to stakeswinner Stay Tuned, from the family of Tom Rolfe, Chieftain & Alzao. Semitone also has a 2YO filly by Charge Forward bought by Bryce Heys for $130,000 at the 2014 Magic Millions Sale.

Jockey Peter Wells was certainly impressed with Slightly Sweet’s effort. “I think she could take the next step. I know it is hard to say after her first start, but she did do a good job drawing wide and getting out of her ground, then was really strong late.

“She beat the winner by a length and a quarter and they beat the rest by four and a bit. For her to be able to do that on debut from where she was on a shifty sort of track, I think she could be a serious animal.”

However, Hamish Esplin says the filly won’t be rushed. “At the moment we are considering just where to place her next, but likely in town. The temptation is to push her into stakes company, but we are patient people as you have to be, and Jason has always felt she will be better in the Autumn.”

The Gai Waterhouse stable has an exciting 3YO by Charge Forward, the gelding Confederate (ex Expect To Win by Encosta de Lago) who won his first start at Hawkesbury on a heavy track a fortnight ago after two good trial wins.

Gai’s Blog made these comments about that win: “He handled the track and won on pure class whilst giving the impression that he might be better on top of the ground. Since the first day he came in, this boy has shown plenty of tenacity; he has won all his trials, all his jumpouts, most of his track gallops and now his first start. He certainly has a huge will to win and this is a very important trait in any horse.”

Charge Forward’s record already includes seven 3YO stakeswinners, six of them Group winners. It’s a tally set to increase, and soon.