Funstar edges out Libertini & Probabeel to win the Group Two Tea Rose Stakes (Lisa Grimm)
For such a laidback character, Jack Sheather sure likes living life on the edge.
In May last year, Sheather’s home-bred filly, Youngstar, would capture the Group One Queensland Oaks by the shortest of margins in an absolute nail-biter.
Roll the clock forward some 16 months and Sheather and wife, Karen, were at Royal Randwick on Saturday to watch Youngstar’s three quarter sister, Funstar, head around in the Group Two Darley Tea Rose Stakes over 1400m.
On the strength of two city wins in June (including her three length romp at Canterbury on debut) and a close second at Randwick two weeks ago, Funstar was considered a rock solid chance in the Tea Rose, but this season’s dual Group Two winner, Libertini, would ultimately be sent out the $1.85 favourite.
Yet, while Libertini would lead them to the shadows of the post and Probabeel posed a serious risk late, Funstar managed to put her head in front when it counted most to notch up that all important black type.
It was an absolute heart stopper. Not that the Sheathers are complaining.
A brickie by trade who was born and bred at Young in NSW and has lived most of his life in the region, Sheather has long had a fascination with thoroughbred breeding, but waited “until the kids went through school and uni” before indulging his passion.
Attending the 2014 Inglis Broodmare Sale with Bowness Stud’s John North, Sheather spied the winning Danehill mare, Starspangled, eventually snapping her up for just $30,000: in foal to High Chaparral.
The resultant filly, Youngstar, would be sold to Anton Koolman Bloodstock for $200,000 at the 2016 Inglis Easter Yearling Sale and – on the advice of Koolman’s son, Olly – Inglis Deputy Chairman and Director, Arthur Inglis, along with Arthur’s wife, Charlotte and sister, Jan, took a major stake in the filly.
Wisely, the Sheathers also decided to retain a share.
Youngstar hasn’t filled a place since finishing a length off Winx in last year’s Group One Turnbull Stakes and finished eighth in Saturday’s Group One Colgate Optic White (George Main) Stakes at Randwick, but according to Sheather: “we haven’t given up on her yet and she’ll probably run in the Turnbull in a fortnight”.
With four wins and four placings from 19 starts, Youngstar’s prizemoney tally sits just shy of the seven figure mark: $957,712.
Starspangled’s next foal – a So You Think three quarter brother to Youngstar – is the Gary Moore trained Hawkesbury winner, Brilliant Mind, which is also part-owned by the Sheathers, while the 3YO, Funstar, hails from the first crop of Coolmore Australia’s Cox Plate winner, Adelaide.
Funstar was offered at the 2018 Inglis Easter Yearling Sale and Anton Koolman Bloodstock would again step up to the plate, paying $80,000 for the privilege.
And again, a similar ownership group would be formed. Indeed, both Funstar and Youngstar race in the Inglis family’s light blue, dark blue diamonds and red silks, which were carried by successive Canonbury Stakes winners in the 1990s, along with several other black type winners.
“It really has been a tremendous thrill,” Sheather enthused. “This is a family affair for us with our two girls and a son very much involved, plus we have our first grandchild due next month.
“Adding to all the excitement is the way all the people in the Youngstar and Funstar syndicates have been so welcoming. A terrific group of people.
“According to (trainer) Chris Waller, Funstar will only have one more run this time in – the (Group One) Flight Stakes in a fortnight before being tipped out and prepared for the autumn.”
With a handful of mares on their property and “half a dozen racehorses”, the Sheathers will also race the Dissident half brother to Youngstar and Funstar, while Starspangled produced a “lovely Pierro colt” earlier this month and has again been covered by Adelaide.
“A few people have asked me ‘why Adelaide?’ and I’ve told them ‘why not’!,” Sheather points out. “Adelaide was an outstanding racehorse and is by Galileo. Every stallion that has covered Starspangled since I got the mare has Sadler’s Wells somewhere in the pedigree and the Sadler’s Wells / Galileo match up with Danehill mares has been hugely successful.
“Certainly successful for us!”
Certainly successful for the Koolmans too. While Anton has long been regarded as one of the most astute bloodstock agents in Australasia, Olly manages the Hermitage Thoroughbreds interests in Sydney’s west.
Hermitage purchased and raced 5-time Group One winner and boom first season sire, The Autumn Sun, while dual Oaks winner, Egg Tart has also played a starring role for the Asian owned operation.
Through the Koolmans close relationship with Chris Waller, Winx also spent a great deal of her time grazing the Hermitage paddocks.
“It basically started with us sending a couple of horses to Chris around nine years ago and it’s been working very well for us ever since,” Koolman reveals. “You should never take success for granted, but we formulated a game plan and have largely stuck with it. Been a helluva run.
“We buy colts on behalf of Hermitage and, while that is such a competitive market, it’s come up trumps for us with The Autumn Sun.
“However, we have other groups that we specifically purchase well bred fillies on their behalf. Hopefully to have a bit of fun with on the track with plenty of residual as broodmares.
“A good example is the I Am Invincible filly, Lucicello, that we purchased for $190,000 at Easter last year. (Winx’s part-owner) Debbie Kepitis has a 50% share in the filly and at her last two starts has run third in the (Listed) Rosebud and third in the (Group Three) Up & Coming.
“We take the patient approach with the fillies … everything is nominated for the Golden Slipper, but it’s mainly with races like the Golden Rose in mind.”
Koolman definitely didn’t have the Slipper in mind when he inspected Funstar.
“There was nothing really wrong with her but she just needed time. That affected her sale price obviously but Jack and Karen weren’t going to just give her away and good luck to them for staying in the filly.
“We’d purchased Youngstar two years earlier and knew she had ability, but by the time Funstar went through the ring, Youngstar was a week shy of winning her maiden.”
(Insider trading? Commencing with her initial success at Hawkesbury, Youngster peeled off four straight including the Oaks and would also run third in the Queensland Derby).
Koolman believes Funstar has a promising future and it’s seemingly a judgement backed up by Waller.
“That was a top run by Funstar in the Tea Rose,” Koolman explains. “I spoke to both Chris and (jockey) James McDonald after the race and each of them agreed she wouldn’t have won if she wasn’t as good as she is.
“Time will tell but I reckon the 3YO fillies have the wood on the boys this season and both Libertini and Probabeel are very good racehorses.
“Based on her run in the Tea Rose, you’d have to think Funstar will go close in the Flight.”