Winton trainer Johnny Phillips always thought Madam de Soir (Raise The Flag[GB]- Grace De Soir) was capable of winning a Cup race.
He was right as she recently took out the Listed Nellies Restaurant and Bar Dunedin Gold Cup, however the mare he bred and owns with his brother Barry turned out to be trained by Riccarton trainer Danny Crozier.
Phillips trained the nine-year-old mare for the first of her eight wins, but decided in the New Year that if he was going to have a chance in the Dunedin Gold Cup - a race that has eluded him in over 45 years in the industry – he needed to give the mare a change of scenery.
On the back of a win over 2200 metres at Ashburton in late October, Phillips took Madam de Soir to Riccarton for a tilt at the 3000 metre Road to Jericho qualifying race, but she was wasn’t ridden to suit.
“She thrived in Riccarton when I was up staying with Danny and came out and won three weeks later at the Cup Carnival,” he said.
“I bought her home and she ran a couple of seconds and I knew if I had any chance of having her fit for the Dunedin Cup, I would have to move her up to Danny.
“The tracks down here had got rock hard, and Danny has the advantage of a pool and irrigated tracks to train on, plus Rachael puts the magnetic pulse blanket on the old girl in the afternoon and that helps her old muscles.
“She is coming down to Invercargill for the Invercargill Gold Cup and we are not sure if she won’t stay here and head for the Riverton Cup, then we might eventually head to the New Zealand Cup.
“She is a typical Raise The Flag(GB) she just keeps going, she is not a brilliant horse as far as speed goes but you can’t ask for much more than what she has done. I’ve got a few other horses that I wish I could transfer the heart. She’s obviously thrown to the sire as she is out of a Volksraad(IRE) mare and they didn’t run much beyond the mile.”
Johnny and Barry Phillips hail from a racing family which includes the former successful southern jockeys Bert and Sid Phillips. Johnny started his apprentice with leading South Island conditioner Rex Cochrane about 45 years ago and rode six winners.
“Due to increasing weight I decided to give it a miss went training. I spent 10 years as Foreman for Cochrane,” he recalled.
“He was a marvellous conditioner of animals, I learnt from the best.”
The brothers have raced and bred dozens of horses over the years, and like many Southlanders are dual gaited delving into standardbreds as well.
They raced Grace de Soir on lease from Lars Pearson and won a couple of races with her. Part of the deal was that they could also bred a couple of foals from the mare after she retired. Grace de Soir had won two races in the North before heading south to Phillips and he won a further three races with the mare. She returned to the north to Pearson and she produced Sam The Man by Danske a winner of eight races in Singapore.
The first foal the Phillips bred was Dermott Brown by Rusty Spur(USA), and then they put the mare to Raise The Flag(GB). Dermott Brown won three races for them and now Madam de Soir has won eight. They returned her to Pearson and she has produced a filly and a colt by Shocking(AUS) the colt being Zelenski who is a winner and in the stable of Kenny Rae.
Madam de Soir was raised on Barry’s extensive sheep and beef farm at Te Anau where all their youngsters have the luxury of growing out. She didn’t start racing until she was five and all her racing was in the deep south until late in her six-year-old season, when she first ventured to Riccarton, however she could be destined to travel further afar.
“Now that she is a black type winner we are looking forward to breeding from her,” added Phillips.
“There are some pretty exciting young sires up north now that we would consider sending her to, but she will let us know when she is ready to go to stud. Regardless whether you breed them or just own them it doesn’t matter if they are winning. It’s a great game to be in when you are winning!”