Is The Epsom Handicap Under Siege?

Siege Of Quebec wins the Group Three Bill Ritchie

Siege Of Quebec storms home to capture the Gr. 3 Bill Ritchie Handicap (Lisa Grimm)


They reckon a week is a long time in politics (especially in Australia!) but seven days can make a huge difference to a racehorse as well.

Take Siege of Quebec for instance. The high priced, Fastnet Rock entire was unbeaten in two starts at two, ran a resounding second to Menari in his first start at three, secured a Group second behind Kementari and, resumed in August with a rock solid second to 3-time (almost 4-time!) Group One winner, Le Romain, in the Group Three Show County at Royal Randwick.

So, when Siege of Quebec lined up in the Group Two Theo Marks over 1300m at Rosehill Gardens on 8 September, it was anticipated he’d acquit himself well. Unfortunately, he did anything but, eventually finishing last of seven.

However, it was decided by trainers Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott to give the horse another crack on Saturday in the Group Three Bill Ritchie Handicap over 1400m at Royal Randwick and, despite staring down some heavy hitters, Siege of Quebec proved too strong in a thriller.

“I don’t think I’ve ever walked off a racecourse so disappointed as I was after the Theo Marks,” Bott explained. “We honestly felt very confident about Siege of Quebec on what he’s shown us on the track, but unfortunately we had to put it behind us because the heavy track wasn’t to his liking.

“He’s a big, tough horse and when we had a look at him the day after the run at Rosehill, he didn’t appear to have taken any harm from the run. So much so that we were pretty confident leading into the Bill Ritchie.

“He’ll now run in the ($1 million Group One TAB) Epsom Handicap (over 1600m at Royal Randwick on 29 September) as that’s always been his aim. The ‘mile’ is his preferred trip and he’ll be a great lightweight chance in the race.

“He’ll get his chance to show us what he’s really made of.”

(The only Bill Ritchie winner to go on and capture an Epsom was Boban in 2013, but Waterhouse is the most successful Epsom trainer – along with father TJ Smith – with seven wins in the famous mile, including two years in succession [2004-2005] with Desert War).

Originally purchased for $1.2 million from the Newgate Farm draft at the 2016 Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale, Siege of Quebec was re-offered earlier this year at the Inglis Chairman’s Sale of Racing Prospects where he was snapped up by Waterhouse and Aquis Farm for a cool $1 million.

“To win the Epsom with this horse would be simply colossal,” Aquis Farm’s CEO, Shane McGrath enthused. “That run in the Theo Marks was just too bad to be true and the Bill Ritchie should have just topped him off nicely.

“He’s only got 50 kilos in the Epsom and Gai tells me she’s been inundated with calls from jockeys since Saturday wanting to take the ride and she’s been asking for ‘screen shots’ to ensure they can make the weight.

“Full marks to Gai – she came up to us at the (Chairman’s) and said she could win an Epsom with this bloke and we’ll know for sure in a fortnight.

“Aquis has only been in operation for three years, first setting up in Queensland and then acquiring the Hunter Valley operation (Emirates Park) last June. To win an Epsom would mean everything.”

With over 200 mares on the books and standing 14 stallions at the two properties – including five newcomers for 2018 – the Fung family owned, Aquis Farm, purchased over 30 colts as stallion prospects at 2018 yearling sales and has horses in work with leading trainers throughout the eastern seaboard.

“Aquis Farm had 96 winners last season and we’ve already gotten off to a terrific start in 2018/19 with 30 winners, including Lean Mean Machine who won the Group Two (Run To The Rose) last week and is highly fancied for this week’s (Group One) Golden Rose,” McGrath adds. “Lean Mean Machine and Siege of Quebec are both indicative of what we’re trying to achieve at Aquis by sourcing quality colts and, whereas previously we’ve sent half the mares to our own boys and the other half to outside stallions, the majority of mares are now staying at ‘home’ to build up the prospects for our own team.

“It’s actually shaping to be a very exciting spring as another stallion hopeful in Sesar (Group winner) ready to trial, while mares like Sunlight and Houtzen (who is due to the run in the Group One Moir Stakes) are highly valuable mares that could well add to their resumes in the next couple of months.”

Siege of Quebec becomes stakes winner No. 140 for Coolmore Australia’s Champion Sire, Fastnet Rock, and is a full brother to Flemington Group winner and Golden Rose placed, Bull Point, while his dam – Bite The Bullet mare, Rose of Cimmaron – is a half sister to Mica’s Pride, dam of four stakes winners: among them the Group One winners Criterion and Comin’ Through.

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