Hungry Heart and James McDonald win the Group Two Sweet Embrace Stakes (Lisa Grimm Photography)
It has been, by any standards, a remarkable week for Mr Yuesheng Zhang’s rapidly burgeoning Yulong enterprise.
Last Wednesday Yulong announced it had purchased a share in Redoute’s Choice colt, Alabama Express, who – just over a fortnight earlier – had captured the Group One CF Orr Stakes at Caulfield.
Then, in something of a double whammy on Saturday, Yulong revealed it had secured a controlling stake in the previous week’s Group One Blue Diamond winner, Tagaloa.
While at Royal Randwick, the Yulong bred, raised and raced, Hungry Heart, showed she is one of the most exciting 2YO fillies in the land with a resounding victory in the Group Two Sweet Embrace Stakes.
Both Tagaloa and Hungry Heart appear to be right on target for a tilt at the Group One Golden Slipper Stakes at Rosehill on 21 March and currently reside on the third and fifth lines of betting for the $3.5 million scamper.
And if life wasn’t interesting enough, Yulong sold the equal second highest yearling in the first session of the 2020 Inglis Melbourne Premier on Sunday: a Teofilo colt knocked down to Ciaron Maher for $460,000.
“Yes, it’s certainly been an notable year for us and fingers crossed the run continues,” Yulong’s highly experienced Chief Operations Manager, Sam Fairgray, points out.
“(Trainer) Chris Waller told us around June / July that Hungry Heart had a ton of potential and at one stage was heading to the Blue Diamond, but decided to hold her back a week and so shifted the focus to the Golden Slipper. She really could be anything this filly.
“To have two runners in the Slipper – one of them a Blue Diamond winner – is just a phenomenal result for an operation that has only effectively been going for a few years.”
One of the leading owners in mainland China, Mr Zhang grew up around horses and purchased his first horse in Australia in 2014 – Yulong Bao Ma – who now features among Yulong’s 180 strong broodmare band.
Also buying his first farm in Australia in 2014, the Yulong operation currently consists of three properties – Yulong Stud (formerly Limerick Lane), Yulong Farm (broodmares) and Yulong Park (spellers).
Understandably, it’s a massive source of pride for Mr Zhang, Fairgray and the rest of the team that Hungry Heart – a filly by European sensation, Frankel – is the first stakes winner raised at Yulong.
“Mr Zhang is very much involved in the whole process and heads to Australia for around a week once every six weeks or so,” Fairgray explains.
“He’s obviously pretty tied up with racing in China which runs from May through to August, but he’s definitely been on deck this last week through all the negotiations with Alabama Express and Tagaloa … got to cheer home Hungry Heart … attended the Melbourne Premier Yearling Sale … and checked all the developments at the farm. There’s a lot of landscaping going on at the moment.”
Somewhat significantly, Yulong has just completed a 14-box stallion barn, so the buying spree apparently is far from over.
“Getting a Group One winning son of Redoute’s Choice in Alabama Express is very exciting in itself, but so too is the acquisition of horse like Tagaloa, by Japan’s Group One winner and Champion Sire, Lord Kanaloa. The ideal outcross for Danehill-line mares,” Fairgray enthused.
Alabama Express and Tagaloa will eventually join the O’Reilly stallion, Grunt, who won the Australian Guineas and Makybe Diva Stakes before retiring to Yulong last spring and covering 168 mares.
“He (Grunt) had a terrific book which included the likes of (Group One Queen of the Turf Stakes winner) Foxplay, but one of the most encouraging aspects of standing your first stallion is that Grunt’s got something like 90% fertility,” Fairgray reveals.
After offering drafts at ‘majors’ for the first time in 2019, Yulong sold up to $650,000 at the Gold Coast Magic Millions Yearling Sale in January and, aside from its current consignment in Melbourne, has 14 heading to Sydney for next month’s Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale.
“We’re very happy with the team for Easter,” Fairgray adds. “There’s an I Am Invincible colt from 3-time Group winner Gypsy Diamond, a Snitzel three quarter brother to Hungry Heart and five colts and fillies by Frankel.
“I was planning on being fairly busy in Sydney anyway, but I’m sure the tempo will be upped if Hungry Heart comes out and wins the Slipper.
“Win or lose though, it’s already been a remarkable year and it doesn’t look like slowing down any time soon!”