Rising star, Graff, after victory in the Gr.3 San Domenico Stakes (Lisa Grimm)
‘Impressive’ probably doesn’t cover it. Leading into Saturday’s Group Three Singapore Airlines San Domenico Stakes over 1100m at Rosehill Gardens, the Kris Lees trained colt, Graff had won convincingly at both Rosehill and Hawkesbury in April before being tipped out for a spell.
And sure, based on those two runs, it was anticipated the Star Witness 3YO would acquit himself well at Rosehill … probably just not that well!
Turning for home in the San Domenico, Graff was giving the free wheeling, Neutrality, a fair start but would ultimately cruise past the race favourite to notch up another comfortable victory: turning the heads of many a veteran racegoer.
Indeed, not known for being overly effusive about his horses, Lees was succinct: “He’s the best colt I’ve ever had anything to do with”, before adding, “he’s a pretty serious horse and he’ll go to the (Group Two) Run To The Rose (over 1200m on 8 September) and then the ($1 million Group One) Golden Rose Stakes over 1400m (at Rosehill Gardens on 22 September).”
Lees was quick to add however that he feels Graff won’t be confined to short courses: “he could be a miler … he’s got that type of attitude and quite relaxed in his work at home.”
Meanwhile, Graff’s victory continues the golden run for leading owner, Alan Bell, who captured the San Domenico two years ago with Star Turn – also by the Widden Stud based Star Witness (14 stakes winners).
Hailing from the Group winning 2YO, Dinkum Diamond (in turn a daughter of multiple stakes winner Raja Lane), Graff was spotted by Bell at the 2017 Gold Coast Magic Millions Yearling Sale, eventually snapping him up for $200,000 from the Widden Stud draft.
“I’ve only had the three Star Witnesses and all three were purchased from the Widden draft up on the Gold Coast,” Bell points out. “I didn’t end up buying one this year, but the first Star Witness – Star Turn – was a multiple Group winner, the next year I purchased (stakes placed 2YO) Eden Roc and the third year I ended up with Graff.
“Graff is a different kind of horse to both Star Witness (a Blue Diamond/Coolmore Stud Stakes winner) and Star Turn in that they were both out and out sprinters, but Graff looks like he could stretch it out to a mile or even further. He’s a very exciting horse.”
High praise indeed: a veterinary surgeon, one-time trainer and now highly successful owner, Bell has been involved in one fashion or another with 30 plus Group One winners, including Champion Sprinter Schillaci (eight Group Ones), Grand Armee (seven Group Ones including two Queen Elizabeths), Primacy (Newmarket and three other Group Ones) and, in more recent times, Deep Field and Star Turn.
“We had a fair idea of Graff’s ability after he trialled in January, but Kris said he wasn’t quite ready and that’s why he was held up until April. I’ve been fortunate to race some very good horses over the years but none would rate as highly as Graff in the sprinter/miler category. Each time you just see more and more and the momentum keeps building.”
After Widden Stud purchased Graff’s dam, Dinkum Diamond for $95,000 at the 2013 Magic Millions National Broodmare Sale, the mare produced a full brother that was sold to Rick Worthington for $320,000 at this year’s Gold Coast Magic Millions Yearling Sale, her current yearling is a filly by Shamus Award and she was covered by Your Song last spring.
Dinkum Diamond has produced two to race – both winners – while granddam Raja Lane was represented by six winners from as many to race.