Connections of Ilovemyself after winning the Very Special Kids Plate (George Salpigtidis/Racing Photos)
There were 18 stakes races conducted in Australia on Saturday with many a memorable performance, but none arguably more thrilling than that of Ilovemyself in the Listed Very Special Kids Plate down the Flemington straight.
Despite facing the starter for the first time, Ilovemyself was sent out a solid favourite, yet was held up for a run at a vital stage and it appeared to those on track or watching on telly the 2YO colt was going to have to wait another day before visiting the winners’ stall.
Neville Murdoch – who bred the colt, stood the sire and races the spanking new stakes winner in his colours – is known for his earthy nature and henceforth the first 15 or so words out of his mouth when Ilovemyself couldn’t find ‘daylight’ are probably not fit for publication.
It’s fairly safe to say though that when the Damien Oliver steered youngster eventually got a split and gave the likely winner windburn as he hit the line, Murdoch was a much happier soul.
Trained at Cranbourne by Greg Eurell – of Apache Cat/Pinker Pinker fame – Ilovemyself is next likely to appear in the Group Three Pago Pago Stakes at Rosehill Gardens on 14 March.
“Both Greg and Damien have had a big opinion of Ilovemyself: especially after he trialled at Werribee,” Murdoch points out. “Damien jumped off after the race and said to me ‘is he entered for the (Golden) Slipper?’.
“I sort of half laughed and he said ‘well, do yourself a favour and pay up the late fee ($150,000)’.
“So, it’s safe to say we were fairly confident coming into Flemington and was pretty happy when I got $8.50 about him. I had a shot at Damien after the race for making my heart stop, but he reckons he had a few flutters too when it didn’t look like the colt was going to get a break in traffic!”
Growing up around a different kind of horsepower, Murdoch was a motor mechanic before purchasing Larneuk Stud at Euroa, in Victoria’s north east, nearly 20 years ago.
Standing O’Lonhro, Cluster, Wolf Cry and, until two seasons ago, Ilovemyself’s sire, Ilovethiscity, Murdoch has half a dozen broodmares and interests in some 20 racehorses.
“I raced a good one – around 15 years ago – called Smart and Mighty who won about $500,000 from his 12 wins, with a couple of those in Dubai,” Murdoch recalls.
“I also pay the bills for O’Tauto who showed a lot of ability early, winning at Flemington and running third in the (Group Three) CS Hayes. In fact, I was at Flemington on the same day last year when O’Tauto (by O’Lonhro) ran in the Australian Guineas.
“Unfortunately, he’s had knee chips and a bone chip removed and is currently out in the paddock.”
Murdoch is a great believer that “you don’t need to spend a million bucks to get a winner in this game” and Ilovemyself bears out that assessment.
Ilovethiscity – a Group One Randwick Guineas winning son of Magic Albert – stood at a fee of just $6,600 at the time of Ilovemyself’s conception, while the colt’s dam – Sunstyle – was sold for $700 at the 2014 Inglis Easter Broodmare Sale.
“From memory, she (Sunstyle) was among the last 15 or so lots in the sale and I had to jump on the plane. I was buying a few mares with Lindsay De Souza and asked him to bid on the mare,” Murdoch explains.
“When I got off the plane there was a text from Lindsay, so I rang him back and my first words were ‘how much?’. Lindsay told me 700 bucks and I couldn’t believe it … after all, she was in foal to Teofilo!
“We race the Teofilo – Starspangled Rodeo – and he has quite a bit of ability, winning three from eight with four placings and is now at Bjorn Bakers.”
Indeed, Sunstyle has five winners from six to race, including the Melanie O’Gorman trained, Suncraze, winner of $585,610 in stakes.
“She (Sunstyle) has a Cluster yearling filly and a Wolf Cry colt, but the colt was such a late foal we didn’t cover her last spring,” Murdoch reveals. “I’ve still got lifetime breeding rights in Ilovethiscity and, based on the way Ilovemyself is going, Sunstyle is likely to head back to him this year.”
After initially receiving solid support in his first couple of seasons at stud, Ilovemyself hails from a crop of only 19 Ilovemycity foals, although the pace has picked up in the last two years with the stallion covering 129 mares at Noor Elaine Farm, also situated at Euroa.
“We got Ilovethiscity in 2018, around the time that El Dorado Dreaming won her Group One (ATC Sires’ Produce Stakes) so, not surprisingly, interest in the stallion picked up,” Noor Elaine’s Mark Calwell points out.
“He’s an underrated stallion this bloke … Ilovemyself is his 51st winner but he’s got a strike rate of 66%.
“He reminds me a lot of our old stallion, Oamaru Force, who kept steadily pumping out the winners. The thing about Ilovethiscity is that he always has a stakes horse on the burn … the black type winner Moonlover … Savoie was a Group Two runnerup in Melbourne before going amiss … Chapel City has won nearly $400,000 … King of Hastings is Group placed … and now Ilovemyself looks like he could be anything.”
Calwell is busily prepping 11 youngsters for the Adelaide Magic Millions Yearling Sale (10-11 March) and wishes he had an Ilovethiscity among them.
“It’s a good draft but the oldest Ilovethiscitys we have are foals,” Calwell explains.
“They’re cracking types too and we’ll look forward to selling a few next year.
“It was a brilliant result for Nev on Saturday and wins like that give everyone a bit of hope.”
HOOFNOTE: Naming a horse ‘Ilovemyself’ would normally indicate narcissistic behavior on behalf of the owner, but it’s actually Murdoch’s opportunity to have a dig at the colt’s affable AND modest trainer.
“I’ve had horses with Greg (Eurell) for 20 years and, as it turns out, Ilovemyself’s stable name is ‘Greggie’,” Murdoch adds. “I rang Greg a while back and told him that I’d name ‘that good colt after you’.
“He didn’t pay much attention but when he eventually got hold of the paperwork with the horse’s name on it, he rang and called me a [expletive deleted].
“Still, I’m fairly sure he doesn’t care what he’s called after Saturday!”