Gatting powers home to win the Group One Makybe Diva Stakes (Racing Photos)
They called it the ball of the century.
Old Trafford, 4 June 1993: Shane Warne’s very first ball against England and he clean bowls Mike Gatting around his legs.
The look on Gatting’s face as he trudged off said it all.
Fast forward a quarter of a century to Flemington last Saturday and there were quite a few astonished looks too when the rank outsider, Gatting, lowered the boom on exciting Tassie galloper, Mystic Journey, by capturing the Group One Makybe Diva Stakes over 1600m.
It might not have been the greatest boilover of this century, but Gatting – sent out a $101 pick – was not expected to trouble the scorers.
Yet as Gatting hit the front at the 200m – striding past fellow Perth raider and last start Group One Memsie winner, Scales of Justice – the gutsy 6YO showed no inclination to cede the lead to Mystic Journey, eventually scoring with three quarters of a length to spare.
The racecaller invoked memories of the 1988 Australian Cup when Dandy Andy (125/1) upset Vo Rogue and Bonecrusher, but Gatting is hardly a ‘make-up-the-numbers’ galloper.
Heading into Saturday’s contest, Gatting had won 10 of 37 starts, including a West Australian Derby and Lee Steere Stakes – both at Group Two level – along with three other stakes races, while, among his 12 placings is a second in the Group One Railway Stakes. Overall, Gatting has won $1,896,200 in stakes … not a bad return on a horse that effectively cost just $17,000 to breed.
Darren McAuliffe, Gatting’s Perth-based trainer (and breeder!), was probably the least surprised soul at Flemington, and had considered his galloper’s penultimate outing (a last of five in the Listed Idyllic Prince Stakes at the end of August) something of an anomaly. He instead focussed on Gatting’s two stakes victories and multiple Group placings last season.
“I always considered him a strong chance in the Makybe Diva, otherwise I wouldn’t have brought him across from Western Australia,” McAuliffe points out. “Every time he’s raced against Scales of Justice he’s beaten him home and they were only offering $4 about Scales of Justice on Saturday.”
(Speaking of Perth ‘raiders’, $14 million The Everest contender, Arcadia Queen, did her spring prospects no harm with a brilliant performance to capture the Group Two Theo Marks Stakes in Sydney on Saturday).
Gatting is managed by McAuliffe’s ‘Impressive Racing’ and has “around 40 owners”, but only one – Shane Artemis – ventured from WA for the Makybe Diva … and confesses to being a tad “bleary eyed” by the time he returned home on Sunday.
“It was an incredible experience. ‘Macca’ (McAuliffe) and I went to the West Coast Eagles game on Friday night and then out to the track together on Saturday,” Artemis enthused. “When I went up to the stables, I noticed the names of other horses like Prince of Penzance and Who Shot Thebarman up on the walls and it felt unreal.
“I really believed I’d backed a winner by just being there and didn’t care whether they thought my bloke had a chance or not. I especially didn’t care after they offered me $126 before the jump!”
A butcher by trade, Artemis is a long-time fan of racing and first got involved in ownership – with younger brother, Gary – around five years ago.
“My father and uncle were right into it and we’re big fans of the Impressive Racing setup,” Artemis explains. “Macca and his racing manager, Kevin Berry, do a terrific job and really look after you. Anyway, we initially got into three horses for $500 each and one of them died, so Macca and Kevin gave us the opportunity to get into another one. We chose Gatting. How lucky was that?
“I have to admit my house is now a bit of a temple to Gatting with photos all over the place and Gaz and I have got into quite a few more horses with Impressive … which were all paid for – thank you very much – by Gatting.
“The (Group One) Underwood Stakes at Caulfield in two weeks is likely to be the next run for ‘Cranky’ (Gatting) and the 1800m should really suit him.
“Unfortunately my brother is a ‘fly-in, fly-out’ with the mines and might not be able to make it, but I’ll be back in Melbourne and I’m pretty sure I won’t be the only other owner next time.”
A third generation trainer, McAuliffe has been running his own stable for nearly 20 years and boasts nigh on 40 stakes winners during that time.
Stationed near Perth’s Lark Hill training complex, McAuliffe has 30 in work and breeds from around 20 mares annually.
(McAuliffe also trained Scenic Lodge’s 4-time stakes winner, Universal Ruler and has saddled up several of the stallion’s black type winners, including Rebel King and The Velvet King).
Gatting is among 74 stakes winners for Darley’s formerly Australian-based Danzig stallion, Hard Spun (also sire of 3-time Group One winner, Le Romain) from the Lonhro mare, Stubborn.
In turn a daughter of Night Shift Group winner, Firm, Stubborn is a full sister to multiple stakes winner Trim, the dam of Godolphin’s 2018 Brisbane stakes winner, Manicure.
McAuliffe purchased Stubborn, in foal to Hard Spun, for just $17,000 at the 2013 Magic Millions National Broodmare Sale.
It proved to be a happy hunting ground for the trainer/breeder as he also snapped up Doubleblack Velvet – the dam of dual 2018 stakes winner The Velvet King – for just $7,500 at the sale.
“We sold Stubborn for $200,000 at last year’s Magic Millions National Broodmare Sale,” Kevin Berry reveals, “but Impressive has Gatting’s Delago Deluxe half sister Massagi, who won two races in town and is in foal to War Chant. Like Hard Spun, War Chant is by Danzig, and should drop a close relation to Gatting, while Stubborn’s 3YO, the Universal Ruler filly Obstination, has just had the three starts.”
Meanwhile, Flemington on Saturday was something of a mixed bag for astute bloodstock agent, Mark Pilkington, who had purchased Stubborn – in foal to Hinchinbrook – at the National Broodmare Sale last year.
“Unfortunately, the subsequent Hinchinbrook filly died in a paddock accident, while Stubborn – in foal to So You Think – had a colic attack and died too,” Pilkington reveals. “However, we do race Spanish Whisper who won her third Group Two in the Let’s Elope on Saturday.
(Winner of the Kewney Stakes and Matamata Breeders’ Stakes too, Spanish Whisper also ran third in the Group One Diamond Stakes).
“Spanish Whisper is by Lope de Vega (62 stakes winners) and it’s quite the international pedigree as she’s related to Rock of Gibraltar as well.”
Next likely to have a tilt at the Group Two Blazer Stakes at Flemington on 5 October, Group One plans for Spanish Whisper include the Toorak Handicap on 12 October and Empire Rose Stakes at Flemington on Derby Day (2 November).