Stephen Baster returns to the mounting yard on Gold Fields after winning the Ladbrokes Sandown Stakes (Reg Ryan/Racing Photos)
All the stars well and truly aligned in Melbourne on Saturday with the victory of Gold Fields in the Group Three Ladbrokes Sandown Stakes.
It was to be the last race ride for popular jockey, Stephen Baster, who, as of Monday, goes from covering lots of real estate to actually selling it.
After nearly 30 years in the saddle and 14 Group One winners, Baster returned to the winners’ enclosure amid thunderous cheers and quite a few tears.
It was somewhat fitting too that Baster should win aboard Gold Fields who is trained by close friend and next door neighbour, Logan McGill, who is based at Mornington and a former ‘hoop’ himself, piloting over 200 winners.
Both Baster and McGill had been apprenticed to Mark Riley and McGill would stay on with his old ‘master’ as assistant trainer prior to taking out his own licence in 2016.
With around 25 in his stable, McGill readily admits he won’t be forgetting Gold Fields’ Sandown Stakes any time soon.
“Racing can be a tough game, but sometimes fairytales do come true,” McGill points out. “Steve’s last winner would have been aboard Gold Fields anyway as he steered him home in the Listed Sale Cup three weeks ago, but to go out with a Group win on your very last ride, that’s something really special.
“Gold Fields’ owners go back a long way with Mark and Steve too, which only added to all the excitement.
“It didn’t take long for life to get back to normal though … on Sunday morning I rode a horse past Steve’s place and he was cleaning up leaves in his driveway.”
A 7YO bay gelding by Churchill Downs from the Encosta de Lago mare, Gold Delta, Gold Fields was bred by Kevin Heffernan, a larger than life owner, breeder, businessman and Melbourne Racing Club committeeman who passed away in 2012.
The Group Three Kevin Heffernan Stakes – first run at Sandown in 2001 – is named in his honour and was won on Saturday by Teleplay.
“Kevin had a lot of horses with Mark over the years and Gold Fields’ mum is a half sister to Gold Busker, which was likewise bred by Kevin,” McGill explains. “Gold Busker was my first stakes winner and I’d only had my licence a few months by that time.”
Interestingly, Gold For Kev – a half brother to Gold Fields – was the last winner trained by Riley in July 2016!
“Gold Busker’s half brother, Gold In Dubai, was bred and raced by Kevin and turned out to be a very good racehorse,” McGill recalls. “I rode Gold In Dubai at his first start – at Sandown – and he finished second to Nicconi, who would later win a couple of Group Ones.
“Anyway, I had the option to ride Gold In Dubai in the (Listed) Blue Sapphire Stakes, but hopped off to ride something that had won her first two starts and then had to watch as Gold In Dubai just sailed by in the Sapphire,” McGill adds with a laugh.
McGill may well have the last laugh though as he was approached by Dubai racing officials to campaign Gold Fields in the United Arab Emirates throughout January and February.
“They spoke to me after he (Gold Fields) won the Sale Cup and they thought that, due to his racing style, he’d go OK on the dirt tracks over there,” McGill reveals. “He’s a terrific racehorse to deal and has a wonderful temperament so I’m confident he’ll handle the travel. There’s a few black type races in the UAE during that period so we’ll probably give it a crack.”
Gold in Dubai indeed!
Gold Fields and Stephen Baster winning the Ladbrokes Sandown Stakes (Reg Ryan/Racing Photos)
With 11 wins and 10 placings from 46 starts, Gold Fields has now banked $633,265 in prizemoney … a neat return on the $42,000 he cost at the 2014 Inglis Melbourne VOBIS Gold Yearling Sale.
Blue Gum Farm’s principal, Philip Campbell, who consigned Gold Fields on the Heffernan family’s behalf, remembers the then colt as being a “nice yearling”.
“His mother, Gold Delta, isn’t that big a mare and while Gold Fields isn’t overly big himself, he’s a neat athlete and presented well at the sale,” Campbell explains. “I know that Mark (Riley) was very keen to buy him and he’s turned out to be a terrific galloper. Well done to Logan and his team.”
Like McGill and Riley, Campbell had a long association with Heffernan: “Kevin was one of my dad’s best friends. In fact, ever since dad moved from Sydney to Victoria as a golf pro back in the 1960s.
“Kevin was with us from the start of Blue Gum in the early 1980s and I’m very happy to say that the relationship with his family continues today with daughter Carol and sons David and Danny having quite a few mares and yearlings on the farm.
“Fortunately, the Heffernans have a three quarter sister to Gold Fields – by Danerich – that they are going to race themselves.”
HOOFNOTE: Blue Gum Farm stood Gold Fields’ sire, Churchill Downs – a Group Two winner by Danehill – for the stallion’s five seasons in Australia. Gold Fields hails from his final local crop.
“He (Churchill Downs) was very popular initially with over 500 mares from his first seasons, but dropped off when he didn’t get early success. He was sold to Libya of all places.
“The new owner used to send me photos of him and his foals and while I don’t know too much about the Libyan industry, their ‘dry’ and our ‘dry’ are very different!”
In a memorable day for Blue Gum, the Richard Laming trained, Jamaican Rain – by resident stallion Manhattan Rain – won the Group Three Le Pine Funerals Summoned Stakes at Sandown. The winner of eight races (three at stakes level) from 19 starts and $461,575 in stakes, Jamaican Rain was sold by Newhaven Park for $90,000 at the 2014 Gold Coast Magic Millions Yearling Sale.
Since arriving at Blue Gum Farm in early 2017, Manhattan Rain’s runners include Golden Slipper winner, She Will Reign and South African Group One winner Whisky Baron.