Connections were all smiles after Baccarat Baby’s victory in the Sunshine Coast Guineas (Trackside Photography)
The Group Three TAB Sunshine Coast Guineas is starting to look very good on any resume.
First elevated to black type in 2007, the race attained Group status in 2014 when won by Hopfgarten (6-time stakes winner of $898,251). Since then the Guineas has been captured by Winx (the first of her incredible streak), Tivaci (Group One winner), Crack Me Up (6-time stakes winner) and The Bostonian (dual Group One winner).
We’ll have to wait and see whether Baccarat Baby lives up to such illustrious company, but her performance in Saturday’s Guineas was memorable to say the least.
Just seven days earlier the filly had finished a rather ignominious 14th of 18 in the Group One Tattersall’s Tiara at Eagle Farm after drawing an outside barrier and, on that score, she had to again jump from a wide gate on the Sunshine Coast.
It was a totally different story this time around though with Baccarat Baby producing a withering finish – despite being caught three wide without cover for much of the journey – to score with nearly three lengths in hand.
A somewhat delighted, and emotional, trainer David Vandyke had nothing but praise for a filly which, for all intents and purposes, should already have been in the spelling paddock.
“I’ve trained better horses, but none tougher than Baccarat Baby. She just keeps getting better and better and you can’t underestimate her,” Vandyke enthused. “She was heading for a spell after that hard run in the Tiara but pulled up so well, I decided we should go around again. She tells me when she’s ready to race and she was definitely ready to roll on Saturday!”
After commencing training as a 21 year old at Kembla Grange where he won the trainers’ title two seasons later, Vandyke shifted to Warwick Farm before a sea change to the Sunshine Coast in 2016.
Despite a number of top notch performers in the past three decades (minus a 10 year sabbatical from racing), Vandyke really rose to national prominence three years ago via the brilliant, dual Group One winning filly, Yankee Rose: a $10,000 yearling sale purchase who went on to win over $2 million in stakes.
He’s now hoping Baccarat Baby will turn up trumps come the spring, with possible carnival goals including the Group One Empire Rose Stakes over 1600m at Flemington on 2 November.
“We ran Baccarat Baby in the (Group One) Flight Stakes last year and she didn’t disgrace herself (eventually finishing a three quarter length fifth behind Oohood),” Vandyke points out. “This time we’ll have a look at both Sydney and Melbourne.”
Co-breeder, part-owner and Sunshine Coast local, Peter Harris, has his fingers crossed that Baccarat Baby will continue the Guineas ‘trend’ too.
“It was terrific to win a race on our ‘home’ track,” said Harris, who moved back to Queensland five years ago after living and working in Sydney for many years. “My father and I went to the opening of the Corbould Park racetrack in 1985 … back in the days when big Russ Hinze was minister for racing.
“Baccarat Baby is raced by the Harris family along with my former Sydney neighbour and good mate, Matthew Irwin, who also bred the filly with us.
“Baccarat Baby is the best horse we’ve ever raced and she goes around in the Harris Family colours (cerise, light blue quarters). Those colours have been in the family since the 1880s.”
Describing himself as “an enthusiastic amateur” and owning just the two mares – from which he races the progeny – Harris purchased Baccarat Baby’s dam, Meerlust, in tandem with Irwin, for $22,000 at the 2009 Scone Yearling Sale.
“She (Meerlust) won a maiden at Grafton, but had some issues,” Harris explains. “She deserved a chance at stud though and we sent her to Arlington that first year and ended up with Little Lusty, who didn’t do much on the track.
“The next to race though is Baccarat Baby and Meerlust also has an unraced Nicconi filly – Amiche – that we’ve got high hopes for, but has gone shinny and been tipped out for a while.
“Meerlust has a rising 2YO by Shamus Award too but failed to get in foal to Holy Roman Emperor last year and will be covered by Sidestep (sire of 2019 Golden Slipper winner Kiamichi) this spring.”
Hailing from the ‘blue hen’, Fanfreluche, Meerlust is related to Holy Roman Emperor, while Baccarat Baby’s sire, Casino Prince, is by Flying Spur – whose third dam is Fanfreluche.
With seven wins in total (including the Listed Sunshine Coast Princess Stakes and Group placings in the Queensland Guineas and Fred Best Classic), Baccarat Baby has $377,850 in stakes and is among 18 stakes winners for the Vinery Stud based, Casino Prince.
A Champion First Season Sire whose other progeny include Black Caviar’s half brother, 4-time Group One winner AND Vinery stablemate, All Too Hard, Casino Prince stands this season at a fee of just $6,600.
In fact, it’s been a big few days for the Hunter Valley nursery, announcing last week that More Than Ready (193 stakes winners) will again shuttle to Vinery in 2019, covering a restricted book of mares at $55,000.