Fender and Jack Cavanough (Muswellbrook Turf Club)
It’s fairly safe to say that Ann McHardy is pretty excited about the prospects of Fender, the 4YO flyer she bred and now races with partner, John Tyrell and close mates, David and Sharon Ceglar.
And why wouldn’t she be. On Saturday at Rosehill Gardens, Fender won the TAB Handicap over 1200m, making it four wins from as many starts, and the Toronado gelding is now a leading contender for the $1.3 million The Kosciuszko at Royal
Randwick on 17 October.
Impressively, the resuming Fender – last sighted winning at Randwick in April – didn’t have it all his own way and fought back strongly when challenged over the closing stages. He’s a fighter alright.
While it took Fender a tick over one minute and 12 seconds on the Heavy9 to gallop into Kosciuszko calculations, the journey has taken 13 years for McHardy, who purchased Fender’s granddam, Dance on the Wind – with an Arena filly at foot – for
$23,000 at the 2007 Inglis Broodmare Sale.
“I’ve lived on a 200 acre property at Albury for the past 30 years, but my professional background has been in the health industry,” McHardy explains. “It was my late husband, Roger, who had the real interest in horses, but when he passed away in 2006, I decided it was time to study up on breeding myself.
“We had a few mares at the time that were going nowhere so they were sold and I asked my son-in-law’s father, John O’Kane, to buy a mare for me at the Sydney sale. That’s when we got Dance of the Wind and we named her Arena filly, Ceccanti. David and Sharon (Ceglar) had been a tremendous support to me when Roger died and they got involved with the ownership of Ceccanti as well.”
Ceccanti would go on to win six races for McHardy and co., five of them with Fender’s trainer, Brett Cavanough.
Based at Scone since 2017, Cavanough was a leading trainer at Albury for many years and recalls the first time McHardy visited his stables.
“Ann was very thorough and asked a lot of questions and was probably a bit shocked when I told her ‘there’s two things I hate … wasting my time and slow fillies!’,”
Cavanough points out with a laugh. “Ceccanti was neither slow, nor a waste of time, winning quite a few races and finishing third in the Gundagai Cup.
“She certainly deserved her chance at stud.”
Although Ceccanti slipped in her first season, McHardy didn’t hesitate to send the mare to High Chaparral’s Group One Royal Ascot Queen Anne Stakes winner, Toronado, for the second spring.
“I loved Toronado as a racehorse and as soon as Swettenham Stud announced he was coming to Australia, I booked Ceccanti in,” McHardy reveals. “She has since produced a Duporth – called Signore Lucca – but he’s only just turned two and will eventually end up with Brett.
“Brett’s wife, Lauren, and I have become good friends and I often stay with them at Scone when the stallion parades are on. When Fender first came into work Brett would drop the occasional hint that the horse was going OK, but to come out and win his first four is just a massive thrill.
“I’ve only got the two broodmares, so it’s really encouraging when you can be competitive against the bigger breeders with a horse like Fender.
“Ceccanti is in foal to Headwater but will be heading back to Toronado this spring.”
A former track rider, breaker and shearer, Cavanough commenced training in the late 90s and has been leading NSW country trainer on five occasions. His best runners include Group Two winner, The Monstar, and multiple stakes winners Helideck and Niblick.
Although many are suggesting the rich Kosciuszko appears to be a natural progression for Fender, the canny Cavanough is taking a cautious approach.
“I’m not saying that winning a million dollar race wouldn’t be a great result all round, but you need to keep your breeders’ hat on too,” Cavanough adds. “Black type on Fender’s page would help out Ann’s mare enormously and Fender still has some filling out to do. Don’t be surprised if you see the best of this bloke in stakes races next autumn.”
HOOFNOTE: On Sunday, the Cavanough family was celebrating the 21st birthday of Brett’s son, Jack, who suffered a serious fall at trackwork on 23 July and had to be airlifted to Newcastle’s John Hunter Hospital.
Allaying the fears of many admirers from the thoroughbred community, Cavanough told Sky Sports Radio listeners that Jack “was laying on the couch giving cheek”.
We wish you a speedy recovery Jack Cavanough.