There are three Holy Grails in Australian racing: the Melbourne Cup, Golden Slipper and Cox Plate (well, that’s if Chris Waller ever lets anyone else win one).
However, if you ask any owner, breeder or trainer ‘where and when’ they’d like to win a race, the answer invariably would be Flemington on Derby Day.
Importantly, of the six Group races won by Australian-breds at ‘headquarters’ on Saturday, four were offered at Australian sales and two were syndicated to the masses. Proof again that racing is open to all.
Matter of fact, the tale behind $2 million AAMI Victoria Derby winner, Extra Brut is a beaut.
Bred by Andrew McDonald in Victoria, Extra Brut was offered as a weanling at the Inglis Great Southern Sale where he would be purchased by Gary Mudgway for $52,500, who then put the colt through the 2017 Inglis Sydney Classic Yearling Sale and was knocked down to Brad Spicer Thoroughbreds for $100,000.
Fast forward 18 months and Extra Brut has run second on debut, won at Sandown, won at Caulfield and won his first black type race – the UCI Stakes – at Flemington for a large (and vocal) group of owners.
Extra Brut then attracts interest from major stud and racing operation, Aquis Farm, to which said colt responds by winning a race which has been front and centre of Australian racing since 1855. You just can’t write scripts like that!
It’s been a fair hike though from a cold Oaklands Junction sales complex in late June 2016 to Flemington in November 2018 and, for Mudgway, another day at the ‘office’ when he took a look at McDonald’s Domesday colt from the Stonehouse Thoroughbreds draft.
“I thought I’d probably paid too much for a Domesday, but the main criteria – first and foremost – with what I do as a ‘pin hooker’, is to buy a weanling that you genuinely believe will make a racehorse, not just to turn a quick profit,” Mudgway reveals. “You have to live by the sword in this industry.
“I believed then, and obviously now, that Extra Brut was an outstanding colt and when I told them at Inglis’ I reckoned he would make six figures at the Classic, they rolled their eyes. However, Brad (Spicer) and I go back to Starspangledbanner days and he’s a very good judge.
“There is still some stigma attached to pin hooking and quite a few trainers will just walk straight past the box at a sale, but the astute ones will always have a look.”
Mudgway was at one stage buying up to 20 weanlings annually and operated the former Paringa Park at Nagambie until it was sold two years ago.
Since then Mudgway has taken a ‘sabbatical’ and was actually in Victoria’s high country on Saturday – without mobile reception – and didn’t hear of the Derby result until Sunday morning.
“The sale of the farm was the catalyst but the area of the market I was working had become a little shaky too, so I stepped away from it,” Mudgway adds. “However, things are starting to turn around, I’m back consulting, and reckon we’re heading toward another boom in the next 12 months.”
Boom time for syndicates too. Spicer has purchased Group One winners Starspangledbanner, Awesome Rock, Commanding Jewel, Zabeelionaire and a host of black type stars over the years, but you sense the Extra Brut syndicate is something really special.
“There are about 30 in the group, although it seemed like a whole lot more in the Flemington mounting yard on Saturday!,” Spicer recalls. “The great thing about this syndicate is that a good number are first time owners, while the vast majority are family and good mates too.
“When I saw Extra Brut for the first time at the sales, he just had so much presence about him and was a really good walker: a bit leggy and I knew he’d probably take some time and was more likely a Derby horse.
“He was the equal most expensive Domesday sold that year but people like David Hayes and Darren Weir were the underbidders and, in fact, Darren’s crew came up to me straight after and said they’d be keen to train the horse.”
Extra Brut is among 18 stakes winners (and 5th Group One winner) for Red Ransom stallion, Domesday, who stands at Aquis Farm in Queensland at a fee of $9,900.
Indeed, Extra Brut raced in Aquis Farm’s colours after the Fung family owned operation purchased a sizeable share in the colt – for an undisclosed figure – just days prior to the Derby.
“We were approached by Aquis on Cox Plate eve and the deal was finalised on the Monday,” Spicer explains. “They obviously wanted to highlight their stallion, but the thrill of winning the Derby – even having a runner – is something else and everyone could see just how much of a buzz they got from the win.
“It’s an experience that none of us will ever forget.”