Dreamforce wins the George Ryder Stakes at Rosehill Gardens (Lisa Grimm)
There’s every chance that John McGrath had a few celebratory drinks with family and friends on Saturday night after notching up his first Group One victory as a breeder/owner: courtesy of Dreamforce’s gutsy display in the George Ryder Stakes over 1500m at Rosehill Gardens.
However, McGrath would be the first to point out that the thoroughbred industry is not all beer and skittles.
McGrath was forced to take Dreamforce home when the then colt was passed in at the 2014 Inglis Easter Yearling Sale and then, after the clearly above average galloper began displaying genuine talent, the decision was made to geld the well-related son of Fastnet Rock.
“That was a tough call from (trainer) John Thompson to suggest we should geld the horse, especially considering what had led up to it,” McGrath reveals. “Sure, it was disappointing, albeit understandable, when Dreamforce didn’t sell at Easter. He’d developed a bad step and really looked out of place in a sale like that, but some good judges told us that shouldn’t affect the horse too much. So, we just gave him plenty of time and didn’t start the horse until he was three.
“But then he won a race and was placed in town and we began to think he could turn into a very good racehorse and, potentially, a sire. So, I didn’t envy John having to ring me up and suggest Dreamforce be gelded.
“Let me say right now that John is a fantastic trainer … he’s never pushed Dreamforce, he’s incredibly patient and places him perfectly. Never more than four or five runs per campaign.
“Still, it was disappointing to get the call. Yet, John believed gelding Dreamforce would add ‘three to four lengths’ and turns out he was right.”
Indeed he was. Saturday’s George Ryder success now takes Dreamforce’s tally to 12 wins and 11 placings from 32 starts for $2,188,135 in stakes, with other victories from the bold front-runner including the Group Two Tramway, the Group Three pair of Chatham Stakes and Liverpool City Cup, plus the Listed Winter Stakes.
Regarded by Thompson as “the best I’ve had”, Dreamforce should likewise be remembered for the races he didn’t win: a length second in last year’s Group One Doncaster, second in the Group One George Main, a head second to Alizee in the Group Two Apollo Stakes and, fittingly, a third behind Winx in the 2019 George Ryder Stakes.
What a difference a year makes! Last year McGrath and co. were at a jam packed Rosehill racecourse to urge on Dreamforce amid all the blue and white regalia at Winx’s penultimate start, yet had to content himself with watching from home on Saturday.
McGrath runs the hugely successful McGrath Real Estate, with 100 offices from Townsville in north Queensland to Victoria’s Geelong, but keeps his bloodstock numbers “to a handful”.
“I only ever race a couple at a time with some close friends,” McGrath explains. “Aside from Dreamforce, we also raced Cuba who won his first stakes race in the (Listed) National Sprint in Canberra earlier this month.
“We’ve got the 2YO sister to Dreamforce as well – her name is Ladybeetle and she’s had a couple of trials and is showing quite a bit of promise. She’s due to race in the second half of the year.
“As for broodmares, I sold Dreamforce’s mum, Eskimo Queen, but have Cuba’s dam, Tabasco Kitten, a well related Exceed And Excel mare and, of course, when she eventually retires, Dreamforce’s baby sister, Ladybeetle.
“Doesn’t really matter what Ladybeetle does from here … her broodmare value shot up considerably as of Saturday!”
McGrath is adamant though when it comes to breeding it’s not a matter of just putting two and two together and expecting you’ll end up with a champion.
“It’s tougher than it looks and unfortunately, it’s not a simple matter of sending a Group One winning mare to a champion sire and ending up with a Group One winner,” McGrath points out. “So much can happen along the way, but I’ve always found you can’t go too far wrong in surrounding yourself with the right people.
“Tony Crisafi (secretary of the NSW Jockeys’ Association) manages my bloodstock interests, John does a super job with training my horses and don’t underestimate the brilliant ride of Nash Rawiller on Saturday.
“And then of course there’s Mick Malone from Kitchwin Hills. I’ve raced horses for around 25 years but got into the breeding side some 12 years ago. I had been introduced to Mick and, through his advice, Eskimo Queen was the first mare I purchased ($600,000 at the 2009 Gold Coast Magic Millions National Broodmare Sale). Great judge.
“If you’ve been in this industry long enough you endure your share of troughs, but there are few things more fun in life than racing (and breeding!) a Group One winner with friends.”
Becoming the 39th individual Group One winner (156 stakes winners overall) for Coolmore Australia’s sire phenomenon, Fastnet Rock, Dreamforce is a half brother to Group placed 2YO, Deep Chill, and among five winners – from five to race – for the Shinko King mare Eskimo Queen.
Winner of both the Group One Queensland Oaks and Group One Coolmore Classic, Eskimo Queen is closely related in blood to Kiwi Group winner Our King Sway and hails from the family of Asgard, Casey Belle, Tristabelle and co.
So, it was no surprise then that astute bloodstock, Paul Willetts, was also cheering from his living room on Saturday – albeit from further afar – given that he bought Eskimo Queen for $400,000 at last year’s Inglis Chairman’s Sale.
Purchasing on behalf of Boutique Bloodstock, Eskimo Queen was in foal to Snitzel and produced a “cracking filly” last September.
‘Quarantining’ in New Zealand, Willetts explains that Eskimo Queen is now owned by Boutique Bloodstock, a relatively new operation which is living up to its name.
“We purchased five mares in total last year, ranging from $80,000 to $400,000,” Willetts points out. “They have gone on to produce some lovely foals by in-form stallions like I Am Invincible, Snitzel, Pierro and Dundeel, and the mares and foals are based at Three Bridges in Victoria.
“Representatives from Inglis were out inspecting the foals recently and came away really impressed, in particular, the Eskimo Queen filly.
“And, I’m happy to say, Eskimo Queen is in foal to (4-time Group One winning first season sire) Trapeze Artist.”