A Group 1-winning breeder

Fran Ovenstone’s nearest racetrack is Mount Panorama rather than Fabulous Flemington or Royal Randwick. In fact, she looks directly across to the spiritual home of the V8s while trying to unearth her own special brand of horsepower in the hilly paddocks adjacent. It is not the typical place to find your typical Group 1 breeder. Ovenstone and her Bathurst-based Little Wych Stud can call themselves that now: a Group 1-winning breeder. It is all thanks to the deeds of Oratorio gelding Mourinho, which stunned a high-class Underwood Stakes field at Caulfield on Saturday. In perhaps the best advertisement for small-time breeders away from the Hunter Valley stronghold in a long time, NSW’s South Coast, Southern Highlands and Central West are now also finding their own niche. Ovenstone, who began breeding more than a quarter of a century ago “more for my love of horses” rather than any family influence, only keeps a broodmare band of six. It complements her spelling and agistment operation, which numbers anywhere up to 40 horses at any given time. “I think you can give them more individual attention when looking after them,” Ovenstone said. “You’re not running them as a big number and you’re able to cater for their needs and put them in paddocks when needed. I’m always thinking about what is best for the horse. “I’ve got 300 acres set up, we’ve got hilly paddocks, we’ve got flat paddocks which go down to a small creek and it’s pretty nice pasture and I think we’re very lucky like that.” Mourinho’s Group 1 triumph may have been 25 years in the making for Ovenstone, whose property is subject to Bathurst’s wintry winds and the occasional snowfall like this year, but she had already ticked off the box for a Melbourne Cup runner long ago. Little Wych bred Barbara Joseph’s 2003 runner Ain’t Seen Nothin’, which is the dam of multiple stakes-winning Singapore-raced Stepitup. And it has been her purchase of Generous mare Benevolent (picturee below middle), which finished her racetrack career in New Zealand as a maiden, which has proved a shrewd bit of investment for Ovenstone. Little Wych Web All five of Benevolent’s foals to race have been winners, highlighted by Mourinho and featuring Group 3 winner Molto Bene. Benevolent has a Shamus Award colt at foot – “a nice leggy foal” – and will be covered by first-season sire Wandjina this spring. Ovenstone sold Mourinho for $36,000 at the Inglis Classic Yearling Sale and Peter Gelagotis has taken the eight-year-old to Group 1 glory. The same sale has a proven track record of unearthing hidden gems, including the Chris Waller-trained dual Group 1 winner Brazen Beau which is standing in his first season at stud this spring. “We’ve got breeders like Fran and that’s the only sale they ever sell at,” Inglis’ National Bloodstock Director Jonathan D’Arcy said. “Owners know that and those horses always sell well there. “Horses like Sincero made $8000 and won over $1 million and there’s been a host of good gallopers come through the sale including Fiveandahalfstar, who won the Derby. “It’s always been a value sale and pound for pound [it compares well]. I think it’s been a sale that a lot of trainers and syndicators target because of that.” Manawanui ($45,000), Secret Admirer (passed in at $38,000), Peggy Jean ($46,000), Ilovethiscity ($40,000) and Pressday ($38,000) are other Inglis Classic graduates to have won at Group 1 level in recent years. And Ovenstone was always confident Mourinho would attract plenty of interest before being knocked down to part-owner Leo Tartaglione. “I thought [Mourinho] was a very impressive little horse,” Ovenstone said. “I really liked him as a weanling and a yearling. We’ve wanted to try to breed a horse that can win the group races and a group 1. It’s very exciting to be able to say I’ve done it now. “We’re trying to be more commercial – and I find that hard to be honest. I’m trying to go to stallions I think we’ll be able to sell the yearlings and I’m trying to upgrade my mares at the moment.”
The Power of Passion