A Dance To The Rose?

Exceedance skips clear in the Group Three San Domenico Stakes (Lisa Grimm)


Racing fans well remember the deeds of grey legend, Chautauqua, who gave new meaning to the lightning bolt on his jockey’s silks with six Group One victories: from Melbourne to Hong Kong, with Sydney’s three TJ Smiths in between.

Chautauqua was raced by Rupert Legh who is also “privileged” to be paying part of the bills for Saturday’s exciting Group Three Sky Racing San Domenico Stakes winner, Exceedance.

Based on his performance at Rosehill, Exceedance would be quickly catapulted into favouritism for the $1 million Group One Golden Rose Stakes on 28 September.

Adding to the theatre, meanwhile, is the prospect that Exceedance, unlike the gelded Chautauqua, has a busy future in the stallion barn, particularly if he comes up trumps in the Golden Rose.

(While the San Domenico itself has yielded numerous successful stallions – Testa Rossa, General Nediym, Foxwedge and Charge Forward among them – the last seven winners of the Golden Rose are all now at stud. Interestingly, only one horse – Duporth in 2008 – has taken out the double, but the Golden Rose was a Group Two at that stage).

Unlike Chautauqua too, who sported the Legh family’s navy and yellow livery, Exceedance, races in the Vinery Stud silks, courtesy of the Hunter Valley nursery having snapped up the Exceed And Exceed colt for $180,000 from the Newgate Farm draft at the 2018 Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale.

Indeed, the purchase is at the core of a special ‘colt’s fund’ which involves active participation from some industry heavy hitters such as Vinery, Legh, Neil Werrett (of Black Caviar fame), Steve McCann, Glenlogan Park, Phoenix Thoroughbreds, Doug Alderslade and Colin Madden.

The ‘fund’ usually purchases around four or five well bred colts each year with star pupils including the Exceed And Excel Group Two Silver Slipper winner Headwater (purchased for $500,000 as a yearling and now standing for $16,500 at Vinery), along with this year’s Group One placed 2YO, Reloaded (a $350,000 yearling purchase).

It’s a smart move … Aushorse research clearly shows that Australia is the premier source of well-bred yearlings at affordable prices, yet with a far greater upside, in terms of stud fees for Group winning colts, than anywhere else in the world.

“I’ve been involved in the ‘group’ since Headwater, but I also do my own thing,” Legh explains. “I was introduced to Peter Orton (Vinery) about six years ago and we are pretty much of the same mindset in terms of purchasing quality colts.

“The irony is that Mike Moroney trained Exceedance’s dam, Bonnie Mac, and the pair of us went up to Sydney to look at the colt for ourselves. For one reason or another Mike didn’t buy Exceedance but I got involved when Vinery did.”

Keen to fly under the radar – “it’s an absolute privilege to race horses like Chautauqua and Exceedance, but I prefer to let the horses do the talking” – Legh also owns around 20 mares with shares in several stallions … Headwater among them.

“It’s all very exciting really. That was a terrific win by Exceedance and Reloaded appears to be in for a good spring too,” Legh adds. “There’s also an unraced 3YO – Masked Crusader – that they have a very high opinion of as well.

(Masked Crusader is by Swettenham Stud’s multiple Group One winner, Toronado, who is named – we assume – after Zorro’s horse!).

“We don’t get it right all the time though – I race (dual stakes winner) Wild Planet, but we were underbidders on his half brother, Super Seth, who won the Group Three (McNeil Stakes) at Caulfield on Saturday.”

It’s been a steady rise for Exceedance, who was having just his third start on Saturday: winning on debut at Wyong in May before being beaten a head when third over 1100m at Rosehill Gardens in June.

Bred by Nick and Amy Vass, Exceedance becomes the 161st stakes winner for Darley’s Exceed And Excel and is the first living foal of Bonnie Mac, who was sold – in foal to Capitalist – to Allam Racing and Andrew Williams Bloodstock for $375,000 at this year’s Magic Millions National Broodmare Sale.

Bonnie Mac, in turn, is from the stakes placed, Gold Class, also dam of three other stakes winners in Upham, Intimate Moment and Gold Rum.

The full brother to Exceedance was also sold by Newgate for $115,000 at the 2019 Gold Coast Magic Millions Yearling Sale, while Bonnie Mac produced a Sebring filly last spring.

“Congratulations to Nick and Amy (Vass) … they are not only terrific clients of the farm and good friends, but in recent times they’ve raced Group One winners like Sweet Idea and been very successful breeders too with Group One winning Foxwedge filly, Volpe Veloce,” Newgate’s Henry Field points out.

Now the principal of one of Australia’s most prominent stud farms (Newgate also sold Saturday’s Group One Memsie Stakes runnerup, So Si Bon, for $250,000 at the 2015 Inglis Easter on behalf of Morning Rise Stud), Field recalls his first interaction with Nick Vass at the races.

“I started working for Gai Waterhouse when I was 14 years old and strapped one of Nick’s horses when I was 15,” Field reveals. “We struck up a conversation and Nick asked me what I wanted to do for a career and I told him ‘a trainer’. He said, ‘well, I’ll give you your first horse’.

“Anyway, I phoned Nick when I was starting up the farm and asked him if he’d like to buy a mare, so the very first mare on Newgate was one we bought for $350,000 – called Hides. Her progeny ended up selling for well over a million.

“He’s now got a portfolio of eight to 10 broodmares and we sold an I Am Invincible colt for him at this year’s Gold Coast Magic Millions for $1.1 million.

“This industry is built on relationships, but Nick is far and beyond a ‘good client’ … most importantly, he’s a great mate too.”

The Power of Passion