Belflyer Wins The Inaugural Kosciuszko (Lisa Grimm)
A lot of careers peaked at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
Maybe not so much for the $13 million The Everest winners given Redzel had climbed that mountain before, but for the connections of Kosciuszko hero, Belflyer, thoroughbred racing suddenly became an all-time high.
Grafton trainer, John Shelton, for instance, has been toiling at his chosen craft for 40 odd years and saddled up the 2000 Ramornie Handicap winner (Mother’s Gift), but had never won a million dollar race before … $1.3 million to be precise.
Part-owner, Rodney Rideout, was a trainer too – for around 25 years – and his son Damien now trains as well. Rideout lives at Thangool in Queensland, a six hour hike in the car from Brisbane, and wasn’t at Randwick on Saturday. He’s not a huge fan of cities or crowds, but got one almighty thrill as Belflyer hit the lead.
And what about Thad King? Courtesy of purchasing 20 x $5 tickets, he and his mates not only won an all-important ‘slot’ for the inaugural Kosciuszko, but also managed to secure a 10% – on-going – share in the Bel Esprit 7YO.
As for the horse himself, it’s been quite the journey. Bred in Victoria by John Shannon, Belflyer was passed in at the 2013 Inglis Melbourne Premier Yearling Sale with the breeder left with no option but to race the horse himself, placing him with regular trainer, John Moloney.
Although Belflyer won three of his first six outings, he had remained winless for 12 months by early 2016 and was sold privately and shifted to the sunshine state.
Placed with Damien Rideout at Thangool, Belflyer won at Ipswich in his first start under the new ownership and it was determined the horse should move closer to the big smoke, spending just on 12 months (and 19 starts) with Neville Petersen at Toowoomba.
“I had had a few dealings with John Shelton in the past and thought Belflyer would be a real chance to win a few of those NSW country cups and so the other owners and I decided to send him to Grafton,” Rodney Rideout explains. “Since moving to John he has won seven races including cups at Moree and Ballina.
“I was surprised that he started at the price he did in the Kosciuszko ($71) … he hadn’t had too much luck in his previous two runs and was second in the Ramornie in July. I backed him when they were offering 40s and again at 60s, but some of the other owners got 80s. I was actually pretty confident.”
Rideout is the first to admit that lady luck has gone his way with Belflyer.
“I’ve always been a real fanatic when it comes to breeding and he’s by Black Caviar’s sire, Bel Esprit, and is related to (Australian Horse of the Year and Japan Cup winner) Better Loosen Up,” Rideout adds. “What’s more, he’s out of a stakes winning Rubiton mare, Flying Ruby.
“About two to three months after we purchased Belflyer, his half brother, Flying Artie, came out and won some big races, so I’m not sure we would have gotten Belflyer as cheaply as we did!”
That’s not to say that Rideout and co. didn’t have some nervous moments leading into the Kosciuszko.
“We had set the horse for the race but negotiations went on for quite a few days and we didn’t think we’d get a run, but eventually Thad and his mates picked Belflyer and the rest, as they say, is history.”
Enter Thad King …
“We’ve owned a couple of horses over the years and considered he (Belflyer) was the best chance among the remaining horses,” King reveals. “We thought there was every chance it was going to be wet at Randwick and he appears to be able to handle all conditions so that was a factor as well, while it was obvious he’s capable of running out a strong 1200m. We got along very well with the owners too and the offer of a 10% part-ownership of the horse pushed us over the edge.
“Now that he has won one Kosciuszko, surely someone will pick him up again next year.
“The journey is only just beginning!”
HOOFNOTE: Spare a thought for breeder, John Shannon, who sold Belflyer for “peanuts”, while Flying Artie – who would be named Champion 3YO Colt after winning the Group One Coolmore Stud Stakes and later be sold to stud for millions – was knocked down for just $50,000 as a yearling. Another of Flying Ruby’s progeny, Give, was showing great promise for Shannon, but died after a gelding operation. Bitter? Far from it!
“There’s lot of highs and lows in this industry and that was literally a fantastic high for Belflyer’s owners on Saturday. Couldn’t be happier for them,” Shannon replied.
Fortunately for Shannon, he will race a (now yearling) full sister to Flying Artie, while Flying Ruby produced a lovely Snitzel – sire of Everest winner Redzel – colt in the last few days!