Nettoyer wins the Group Three Aspiration Quality (Lisa Grimm)
It may not be the life many of us would choose, but driving a horse float up from Mittagong to Warwick Farm at 2.30am every day does give you time to think. And to dream.
Maybe Wendy Roche wasn’t dreaming of Group success when she first laid eyes on the Sebring filly that her partner, John Crowley, had purchased for just $20,000 at the 2015 Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale, but she did see potential.
On Saturday at Royal Randwick, that potential became reality when Roche’s now 5YO mare, Nettoyer proved too strong for rivals in the somewhat fittingly named, Group Three Aspiration Quality over 1600m.
It would be Nettoyer’s first black type victory and the first for Roche who started training in 2011 at Mittagong, before getting some boxes at Warwick Farm two years ago.
Roche only has a team of 10 in work – doing the track riding for each – but is clearly punching above her weight and has generated a few headlines since starting out: not the least of which being a maiden win at Newcastle with Ardanza when the mare was listed 1000 to one on Betfair.
However, Nettoyer has really been the game changer and her 19 starts and $346,750 in prizemoney include 14 tries in stakes company for placings in last year’s Aspiration (beaten a long neck), the Group Three Epona, Group Three Japan Plate, Listed Lord Mayor’s and Group Three Toy Show.
“She (Nettoyer) was only very small as a yearling … very leggy, but tiny,” Roche points out. “I still had a pony bridle on her as a 3YO!
“She showed me plenty of ability though when I was breaking her in and we decided to put her through the Inglis Ready To Run Sale with a reserve of $80,000. Someone offered us $60,000 but I knew she had a decent engine and we weren’t going to give her away, so decided to race her ourselves.”
Good decision! Despite a sixth of eight at Warwick Farm on debut as a winter 3YO and a third at Randwick next time out, everyone sat up and took notice at start number three over 2000m at Randwick on 10 June 2017. Despite the heavy going, Nettoyer donkey licked the competition to win by 10 lengths.
“She actually broke her pelvis with that run and was sidelined for over six months,” Roche reveals. “We decided to throw her in at the deep end when she resumed and started to race her against top company.
“A few people suggested she was eligible for ‘easier’ races, but I knew she had ability and it’s imperative to get as much black type as you can for those mares when they are three and four. Anyway, she’s now had six top four finishes in black type races, so there was a bit of method behind the madness.
“It’s just taken a while to get there.”
We’re not sure if Roche was referring to herself or her game neddy, but Nettoyer has pulled up well from Saturday’s run and will next start in either the Group Three Epona Stakes over 1900m at Rosehill Gardens on Golden Slipper day (23 March) or step up the extra 100m to Group One level for the $700,000 Ranvet Stakes on the same program.
Either way, it gives Roche plenty to think – and dream – about on those early morning drives.
Meanwhile, Riversdale Farm’s Nick Hodges well remembers Nettoyer from his Easter ’15 draft and believed all she needed was time.
“She (Nettoyer) was bred by the Whites at Robrick Lodge who we are lucky enough to do all the major yearling sales for,” Hodges recalls. “She was still a little immature when she came to us and was one of those horses that just grew instead of filled out in prep.
“She was always going to need time and the Easter market can be unforgiving for those types of horses. Greg and Jodie White are very good at meeting the market, hence why she was a relatively inexpensive Easter Two yearling.
“Aside from the Sebring factor, she’s also from a half sister to a multiple stakes winner in She’s Clean, from the family of Group One winners Kinshasa No Kiseki, Abbey Marie and Absolutely. With that Group win on Saturday on her record, she’ll end up being quite a valuable broodmare.”
Spread over 400 acres just north of Scone, Riversdale Farm has been run by the Hodges family for over 35 years, with Nick and his wife Jasmine taking up the reins in 2016.
Catering for 50 permanent mares, Riversdale prepares some 30 yearlings annually for major sales and recent graduates include multiple Group winning 2YO and 3YO, Meryl, along with the Team Hawkes trained, Group winning juvenile, Irukandji and Sunday’s Listed Canberra Cup winner, Samadoubt.
Riversdale Farm will offer four youngsters at next month’s Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale including a Dundeel full sister to Irukandji and a Hinchinbrook half brother to 3-time stakes winner Caipirinha, which was also bred by Robrick Lodge.