(Coverage from ANZ Bloodstock 20th October)
Mark Player is hoping he can go back-to-back in tomorrow's Inglis Banner (RL, 1000m) at Moonee Valley, but this time he’d gain much satisfaction from achieving stakes success with a two-year-old colt in cohort with his business partner and fellow agent Rob Roulston.
Operating under the PR Funds banner, Player and Roulston selected, purchased and co-own the Ciaron Maher and David Eustace-trained colt Cape Byron (Capitalist), who lines up in the $500,000 Inglis restricted race.
Player’s International Thoroughbred Solutions selected 2021 winner Semillion (Shalaa) as a yearling.
“We had Semillion get up last year for Neil (Werrett, owner) and Neil’s also in the ownership of Cape Byron, so it’d be great to have a bit of luck again in the same race, it’d be fantastic,” Player said yesterday.
“If you can run on the big days, it’s really worth double for your owners in terms of the fact that they really enjoy being out there and seeing their horses run in the good races. Certainly, Rob Roulston and I, when we’re trying to go through the yearlings each year, we’re looking for horses that meet various criteria and one thing we do is try to find an early runner amongst them.
“We’ve been lucky with Cape Byron that he is one who has put his hand up.”
Into its second year of a colts’ fund, with the backing of clients including Werrett Bloodstock, Gerry Ryan, Colin Madden and Musk Creek Farm’s David Kobritz, among others, the Merricks Station-bred-and-sold Cape Byron is the first of the second-crop to make a public appearance - and he almost didn’t make Player and Roulston’s shortlist.
“We’d been down to Merricks to do inspections prior to the horses arriving at the Premier sale and Dearne (Gess-Jones, farm manager) had said to us that she wasn’t able to show one of the horses, a Capitalist colt, who was in the box and just couldn’t come out that particular day and recovering from some small issues,” Player recalled.
“When we went to the sale we had a couple on the shortlist to go back and buy, and we actually bought an Exceed And Excel filly that we loved on the day (of on-farm parades) and she continued to impress us when we saw her at the sale.
“Then, when we were looking, this particular colt by Capitalist came out of the box and we just looked at each other and said, ‘what’s that?’ and he was the Capitalist we didn’t see (on the farm).
“He was just one of those horses who had a lot of presence. Capitalist has been doing a good job and he was a very athletic colt, he moved beautifully. He had a great shape about him, a real Australian sprinter type, and he looked to be a forward and very nice colt.”
A half-brother to two multiple winners out of Wind On Tide (Snitzel), herself a half-sister to Group 3 winner Detours (Ad Valorem), Player and Roulston outlaid $260,000 to buy the colt at the Inglis Melbourne Premier Yearling Sale from Merrick’s Station’s Ben Cooper, who is also a shareholder in Cape Byron.
Maher and Eustace gave the colt a 650-metre jump out at Cranbourne on October 10, the juvenile finishing third to the Lloyd Kennewell-trained I Eff Oh (Santos), in a performance which showed Cape Byron was still “very new”.
He will wear blinkers and a tongue tie in the Banner.
“Johnny Allen, a very good horseman, was very positive about him afterwards. It was all very new to him, but he really found the line well when asked to by John and that was the key to him,” Player said “Everything is new to him and he’s a boy trying to become a man. He certainly impressed there and he was taken to the Valley for Breakfast with the Stars on Tuesday."
“Again, he had a look around… but once he trotted off and got past the 1600-metre point and they started to canter down the back straight and down the side, when he was asked to really concentrate, he balanced up very nicely and he did everything well. When Johnny gave him a squeeze in the last 100 metres, he found the way we were hoping he would find.”
“He pulled up very clean and David Eustace is particularly keen to come to this race.”
The syndicate’s royal blue, red epaulettes, striped sleeves and white-capped silks will also be seen in the Moonee Valley Vase (Gr 2, 2040m) on Foujita San (Maurice), a three-year-old colt from PR Funds’ first year of investing.
The talented Hawkes Racing-trained colt’s spring campaign, Player says, has been hampered by wet tracks and bad luck.
He ran fourth first-up in the McKenzie Stakes (Listed, 1200m) on a heavy Moonee Valley, ran second in the Stutt Stakes (Gr 2, 1600m) two starts later and was forced to go back to last from the outside barrier (16) in a slowly run Caulfield Guineas (Gr 1, 1600m), finishing 1th, but just three and a quarter lengths behind the winner Golden Mile (Astern).
“He’s probably a horse, like many through the spring, who hasn’t quite had things go his way. We’d very much targeted the Guineas, but he struck wet tracks along the way and then drawing widest of all in the Guineas was a pill you had to swallow,” the Melbourne-based agent said.
“He was ridden to try and get some luck, but the way the race played out, it wasn’t really run to suit and we thought his run was better than it appears on paper.
“He certainly has to get back to his best form on Saturday at the Valley, but it’s a track we know he likes and and we certainly think he’s up to the quality.”
By Arrowfield Stud’s Japanese shuttler Maurice (Screen Hero), he is a half-brother to the former Hawkes-trained stakes-winners Messene (Lonhro) and Cordero (Gio Ponti), who won up to 2000 metres and 2400 metres respectively.
“He’s a horse Rob and I targeted at the sale who, on breeding, we believe will get to the 2000 metres without a problem,” Player said
“We think the Maurice cross with the Redoute’s mare is a really high-quality cross. He’s a beautiful horse. I saw him on Tuesday at the Hawkes’ stables at Flemington.
“He’s had a bit of bad luck this campaign, but that all can all change very quickly on Saturday.”
Foujita San, who was also nominated for the Spring Champion Stakes (Gr 1, 2000m) in Sydney tomorrow, could also be given his chance to run in the Victoria Derby (Gr 1, 2500m) on Saturday week, but Player did not want to get too far ahead of himself by declaring him a certain starter.
“Intention’s probably the wrong word, but it would certainly be the hope and the dream if he came through it well and the horse told us and the Hawkes team that he was right for the race, then that’s where we’d love him to end up,” he said.
“When you use trainers like the Hawkes’, they won’t go to the well once too often if he shows any signs that he’s not right.
“We believe he’ll be an even better horse in the autumn and the Hawkes team have had a particular amount of success with the family.
“The two half-brothers they trained to win 16 races between them, including at Group and Listed level, so it’s a family that they know well and it’s a family that goes a little bit better in the autumn than in the spring, but this colt is such a high-quality colt that we’ve tried to keep finding the right races through the spring.”