Conatus Lights Up In Twilight

Conatus at Plaintree Farms (pic. Heather Pascoe)

Two and a half months into the racing season and with the business end of spring well and truly upon us, a quick scan of the Sires’ tables reveal that 21 stallions have produced multiple stakes winners this season.

And there’s plenty of the usual suspects among them: Exceed And Excel, Snitzel, Redoute’s Choice, Fastnet Rock, Choisir et al. Indeed, nine are either by Danehill or by sons of Danehill … including Conatus.


On Saturday, Conatus’s 5YO mare, Palazzo Pubblico notched up her second career stakes victory by taking out the Listed Crown Lager Alinghi Stakes over 1100m at Caulfield, just six weeks on from another Conatus mare in Felines claiming the Group Three James Boag’s Premium Concorde Stakes at Royal Randwick.

Remarkably, the pair come from a crop of just 36 live foals, of which 25 are runners and 18 are winners!

Heather Pascoe, who stands Conatus with husband and leading vet, David, at their Plaintree Farms in Queensland, explains.

“Gerry Harvey bred Conatus, who is by Danehill out of the 4-time stakes winning Rory’s Jester mare, Light Up The World. That’s the famous Denise’s Joy family and Gerry sold him as a yearling for $650,000 but, long story short, ended up racing him after Conatus had spent some time mustering sheep in NSW as a young horse.

“Conatus won his first two races as a 3YO for John Hawkes but mixed his form a bit and was eventually retired after 13 starts, which included four wins.

“Gerry asked if David and I would like to stand the horse and so we went out and had a good look at him. I was a bit dubious at first but John (Hawkes) told us that while Exceed And Excel was the quickest Danehill he’d seen over 1200m, Conatus was the fastest Danehill over 1100m.

“That comment has always stuck with me and I consider it especially prescient given that Palazzo Pubblico won her stakes race on the weekend over 1100m and Felines won hers over 1000m.

“I noticed when I first saw him that Conatus was in a bit of pain and we got the chiropractor out to look at him and literally all his vertebra were out of whack. He also had this huge scar on his shoulder from his time out west, so goodness knows how good a racehorse he might have been without those issues.

“Gerry sent quite a few mares to Conatus in the early years and deservedly bred and races both Palazzo Pubblico and Felines, but he was never really a commercial stallion as such.

“It’s a shame really because that breeding is really top shelf. There’s always a lot of horses coming through and competition is tough and, to my way of thinking, it’s often silk versus hessian.

“Some breeders prefer the hessian I guess – depends how they are marketed – but when you look at Conatus’s record of late, I still prefer the silk.”

Although no Conatus covers have been returned to the Australian Stud Book since 2014 (5 returns, 2 live foals) and he is now in the twilight of his career, Pascoe points out that he is still effectively standing at stud.

“A lot of breeders, understandably, opt for more commercial stallions but when you’re one of only 21 stallions in the nation that has produced two or more stakes winners this season, I’d be surprised if there weren’t one or two calls before the end of spring.”

Matthew Smith is definitely a fan of Conatus. After all the glitz and glamour of the Caulfield Cup program, it was business as usual for Smith as he was driving back from Nowra races to his Warwick Farm base on Sunday, but the affable trainer was still on cloud nine after Palazzo Pubblico’s Alinghi victory.

“Gerry (Harvey) has been such a great supporter of the stable, so it was terrific to get another stakes win for him out of this mare,” Smith enthused.

“She’s now won seven of her 20 starts and over $350,000 in prizemoney and the Alinghi was her second success at stakes level after taking out the Bright Shadow at Doomben in May.

“Palazzo Pubblico will next start in the (Group Three) Sensis Stakes for mares over 1100m at Flemington on Derby Day (29 October) and while she usually does better with about three weeks between runs, it’s definitely worth a shot.

“We’ll see how she pulls up from that but this mare just continues to improve and I reckon she’ll add to the black type tally this season.”

Smith has around 40 in work and has gotten off to a terrific start to the season, breaking into the Top 10 Sydney trainers with a recent host of winners. And he certainly knows his way around Flemington at this time of year too, having saddled up Hurtle Myrtle to win the Group One Myer Classic in 2011.

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