Ross & Gwenda Can Handle The Truth

Group One ATC Australian Derby winner Angel of Truth

Group One ATC Australian Derby winner Angel of Truth (Lisa Grimm)


Truth be told, it was a memorable weekend of racing.

Well, it certainly was at least for devoted breeder/owner, Ross Williams, and evergreen Kembla trainer, Gwenda Markwell.

Williams and Markwell combined to win the time honoured Group One Harrolds Australian Derby over 2400m at Royal Randwick with rising star, Angel of Truth, while Williams backed up on Sunday with another home-bred, Superium, capturing the $150,000 Wellington Boot for Warwick Farm mentor, Joe Pride.

It had been a bold move on behalf of connections to back up Angel of Truth in the Derby, particularly as he won the Group Two Tulloch Stakes over 2000m just seven days earlier.

Indeed, it’s been a meteoric rise for Angel of Truth who has now won five from eight but was racing in a Class 2 at Kembla as recently as February.

Still, the decision to progress to the Australian Derby instead of waiting for the Brisbane counterpart was well and truly justified as Angel of Truth led throughout, holding out New Zealand’s dual Group One winner Madison County and scoring with over three lengths to spare.

Angel of Truth also becomes the 13th Australian-bred racehorse in succession to win a Group One Derby or Oaks in Australia.

Meanwhile, Angel of Truth’s pedigree makes for interesting reading and underscores Williams’s faith in his breeding program.

As long-time pedigree buff and leading agent, John Hutchinson, pointed out on social media: “Angel of Truth is the first Australian Derby winner by a Kentucky Derby winner (Animal Kingdom), from a mare by a Preakness winner (Bernardini), whose own sire (A.P. Indy) won the Belmont and was sired by a US Triple Crown winner (Seattle Slew) from a mare by another (Secretariat). And then the family of Epsom Derby winner Generous!”

The founder of Tax Tips, Williams first got involved in the thoroughbred industry in 2000 and, in the nearly 20 years hence, has spent a lot of time studying pedigrees.

“I first had horses with Gai (Waterhouse) and then with John Size before he moved to Hong Kong and currently have around 20 in work – spread around city, provincial and country,” Williams explains. “I lease some of them out but bred 95% of what I race and it’s been working out pretty well with around 33% winners to runners.

“I don’t rush my horses and have a wide spread of 6YOs, 5YOs and 4YOs, but Superium (2 from 2) was just so forward that we decided to race him as a 2YO.”

Williams – who operates under Superhorse Trust – also has some 20 mares and will foal down 14 this year, including a Stratum Star half relation to Angel of Truth from Scarletini, which he purchased for $80,000 from the 2015 Magic Millions National Broodmare Sale.

“I put a great deal of time and effort into my breeding program and have spent well over $100,000 on genetics research,” Williams adds. “The studies have narrowed it down to seven unique bloodlines and I look closely at dominant and recessive traits.

“I don’t follow fashionable trends and that’s often worked against me in terms of trying to get yearlings into sales, but it certainly paid off on Saturday with Angel of Truth.

“I thought that ‘cross’ was about as good as you can get and have an unraced 2YO called Athunder who is bred on similar stamina lines and the plan is to turn him into a prospective Derby horse as well.”

While Williams – fingers crossed – might only have to wait 12 months for his next Australian Derby winner, for Markwell it was 15 years and three days since her previous Group One winner: Grand Zulu in the 2004 Tancred Stakes.

The toast of NSW’s South Coast has been leading trainer at Kembla Grange for 16 straight years with around 45 in work, saddling up stakes winners such as Miss Pageantry, Rolling Pin, La Nikita, The Man, Bold Matador and the ever reliable Osca Warrior.

Training at Kembla for the past two decades, Markwell has been involved in the industry for 40 years and tutored along the way by leading trainers such as Hall of Famer, Colin Hayes.

But it was all Markwell on Saturday.

Angel of Truth’s Derby victory was the cherry on top for camera shy Markwell given that she had considered Grand Zulu a rock solid chance for the Australian Derby all those years ago … particularly after winning the Tancred.

“A lot of people, myself included, tried to convince Grand Zulu’s owner he should run the horse in the Derby but he decided to send Grand Zulu straight to Hong Kong to race,” Markwell recalls.

“He (Grand Zulu) was the same colour, same type, same temperament as Angel of Truth, so I guess it’s a bit of fate involved. All good things come to those who wait.”

Ain’t that the Truth.

HOOFNOTE (or BOOTNOTE!): Ross Williams also won the 2018 Wellington Boot with his home-bred, Miss Invincible: an I Am Invincible filly he sold to Bjorn Baker and Blandford Bloodstock for $100,000 at the 2017 Inglis Sydney Classic Yearling Sale.

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