Allison’s Quest For Flemington Triumph

El Questro wins the RMBL Investments Rising Stars Final at Flemington (Racing Photos)


Training your first winner at Flemington can be a fairly emotional experience … especially when you’re also the breeder of the winner!

Cranbourne trainer, Allison Sheehan, admits that El Questro did a better job of holding off rivals in the RMBL Investments Rising Stars Final over 1400m than she did of holding back the tears after the rising 7YO scooted away to a three length victory on Saturday.

It was indeed sweet justice for El Questro and Sheehan as the mare had finished a lip second in the Leilani Final at Flemington last year before again running second in the Rising Stars Final a fortnight later.

Despite El Questro’s ‘vintage’, the mare has only been lightly raced and Saturday’s success takes her win tally to five, with a further nine placings – from just 25 starts – for $221,925 in stakes.

“It’s been over 12 months between wins but she was off the scene for nine of those months due to injury,” Sheehan explains. “It’s just a shame that the other owners couldn’t be at the track on Saturday … there’s only a few in the ownership group, including co-breeder, Rod Pearse, but they’ve been with me since I started out.

“Because she’s not exactly ‘fashionably bred’, I ended up keeping 50% of El Questro. She was a big, gangly type at the start and was always going to need time, but the other owners trusted me and never once pushed me to get her to the track.”

Training out of Cranbourne in Melbourne’s south east, Sheehan is based at nearby Lang Lang where she usually keeps eight in work: albeit with about 25 horses on farm.

“There’s a mix of racehorses, spellers, young horses, broodmares and retired horses,” Sheehan points out. “El Questro’s mum, El Rayo, only managed to produce the one foal but is living out her days at Lang Lang. I’d trained El Rayo for a win at Sale, along with her full sister Regibush (3 wins and city placed) and Tackleberry who won five AND was twice placed at Flemington. Tackleberry is a three quarter brother to El Questro as they’re both by (Encosta de Lago stallion) Lago Delight.

“We’re in no hurry to retire El Questro, but she’s the only one left that we can breed from.”

Sheehan saddled up her first winner in 2005 and started dabbling in breeding about five years later … and is proving to be quite the dab hand at it.

“The first horse I bred was Andrassy, who won four in Melbourne – six wins all up,” Sheehan reveals. “I’ve had four winners from the six I’ve bred and another one of those – fingers crossed – is close to a win. I’ve mainly been breeding to relatively cheapish sires, but upped the ante a bit in the last couple of seasons and have some coming through by stallions such as Dream Ahead and Helmet.”

Sheehan saves special mention though for former Caulfield trainer, Rob McGuinness, in whose colours – royal blue and light blue checks – El Questro races.

“I first met Rob when I was pre-training and I ended up getting some of his horses when he went to work for Lloyd Williams,” Sheehan adds. “In fact, my first winner, Jo Bangles, was initially trained by Rob … he’s been a terrific mentor and has a fantastic knowledge of the industry. To win that on Saturday, in his silks, is just fantastic.”

Originally a school teacher who took out an owner/trainer licence in the mid 1960s, McGuinness had around 30 in work at Caulfield at one stage – operating out of the stables that Peter Moody and Black Caviar would later occupy.

“I actually began training for a couple of mates, but really gave it a serious go in the 70s and 80s,” McGuinness recalls. “Deck The Halls won a (Group One) Rosehill Guineas and (Group Two) Kewney Stakes for me, while Lord of Camelot won a stakes race at two and a couple of Group Twos, but kept on running into a horse called Red Anchor, finishing second to him in the Caulfield Guineas and Moonee Valley Stakes. He was also fourth to Red Anchor in the Cox Plate.

“I decided to work for Lloyd Williams in the early 2000s and that’s when I basically handed over my horses to Allison … she does a great job with them.”

These days McGuinness breeds from a handful of mares and races the progeny – all of them with Sheehan – but has long had an association with El Questro’s family.

“I purchased El Questro’s third dam, Neranto, on behalf of David Kobritz and she won a couple and was placed in town about nine times,” McGuinness explains. “David raced a lot of good horses including Subzero (Melbourne Cup) and Danzero (Golden Slipper) and he eventually sent Neranto to Danzero. I purchased the resultant filly, Danto, at the Inglis Easter Yearling Sale and she’s gone on to produce El Questro’s mum, El Rayo.

“El Questro’s the last of the line though. All she needed was a bit of luck on Saturday – which she got for a change – and it would be great for all of us if she picks up some black type in the spring.”

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