Turn Me Loose - Shades of Hollingsworth at Flemington

Turn Me Loose | Racing and Sports
Turn Me Loose | Racing and Sports

The Kiwis have been enjoying an excellent Spring Carnival in Melbourne. It got even better for the trans-Tasman team when last season's G1 NZ 2000 Guineas winner Turn Me Loose landed the final Group 1 race of the Carnival, the Emirates S. at Flemington. Trained by Murray Baker, Turn Me Loose represents the same stable as the Caulfield Cup winner Mongolian Khan (NZ) (Holy Roman Emperor {Ire}). The similarity does not end there, because the two horses (who were both Classic winners as 3-year-olds last season) came out of the same NZB Ready-To-Run Sale at Karaka in November 2013. Mongolian Khan topped that sale at NZ$220,000, but Turn Me Loose turned fewer heads there, fetching NZ$52,500 to the bid of Todd Hartley. He soon proved to have been a wonderful bargain: within 12 months he had landed both the G2 Hawkes Bay Guineas at Hastings and the NZ 2000 Guineas at Riccarton. Now, thanks to his three big wins in Victoria this spring, his record is even better.

Turn Me Loose is a splendid example of the New Zealand Thoroughbred, and not merely because he is, in the words of winning jockey Kerrin McEvoy, "just a bold-going Kiwi–he likes to get out there and make every post a winner." Like so many of the great NZ-breds of the past, he comes from a wonderful staying family that has had its stamina spiced up by judicious use of high-class stallions.

As with so many of the good families in New Zealand, the roots of Turn Me Loose's clan lie in England. In his case, they lie at the late Dick Hollingsworth's Arches Hall Stud in Hertfordshire. Hollingsworth ranked as one of Britain's last great domestic owner/breeders, renowned for the stream of high-class Dick Hern-trained stayers who bore his "crimson, silver braid" silks with distinction through the '60s, '70s and '80s. A classic example was the Aureole horse Buoy (GB), who finished third in the Irish Derby and second in the St. Leger in 1973 before trouncing the great mare Dahlia in the following year's Coronation Cup. Buoy subsequently enjoyed a successful stud career in New Zealand.

Dick Hollingsworth's influence, incidentally, still exists in diminished form, with Buoy's relative Talent (GB) (New Approach {Ire}), part-owned and part-bred by his nephew Mark Dixon, having won the G1 Epsom Oaks in 2013.

One of the last good horses owned and bred by Dick Hollingsworth was Band (GB), a son of the 1969 Derby winner Blakeney (GB) who carried his breeder's colors to four victories as a 3-year-old in 1983 before being sold to join Khalid Abdullah's nascent racing operation. At the time of the sale, Band had just won the G3 Cumberland Lodge S. over 12 furlongs at Ascot, and he went on to end the year by finishing runner-up in Group 1 company in both the Irish St Leger and its French equivalent, the Prix Royal-Oak. Abdullah looked to have bought a potential Cup horse, and Band, still trained by Hern, lived up to expectations by taking the Yorkshire Cup the following season, beating the previous year's Derby runner-up Carlingford Castle (Ire).

Band's dam, the Vienna mare Zither (GB), had previously bred the high-class Ragusa horse Zimbalon (GB), winner of the King George V H. at Royal Ascot, the Rosebery Handicap at Kempton and the Ormonde S. at Chester. Her daughters, therefore, would clearly be attractive matrons, and her Shirley Heights filly Commanche Belle (GB) was interesting, notwithstanding that she failed to score when racing for Ivan Allan (who had bought her as a yearling for 80,000gns) from Luca Cumani's stable in 1986.

Commanche Belle headed off to stud in Ireland, where her pedigree saw her visit some of Coolmore's best stallions. To Fairy King she bred the Group 1-winning juvenile Fairy Heights (Ire). To the ill-fated Persian Heights (GB) she bred the Group 3-winning stayer Persian Brave (Ire). And to Sadler's Wells she bred the Aidan O'Brien-trained Puerto Rico (Ire), winner in 2006 of the G3 Gallinule S. over 10 furlongs at The Curragh.

Commanche Belle's previous visit to Sadler's Wells, though, had been less successful: the result of her mating with the great horse in 1999 was Kwan (Ire), who never ran for Mrs John Magnier during her brief time in training with Aidan O'Brien.

Kwan, like so many blue-blooded non-achievers over the years, headed off to stud Down Under. In fact, one could say that she hot-footed it down there: stumps were drawn on her (non-)racing career very swiftly and she was dispatched as an autumn 2-year-old, when she was covered at Coolmore Australia by Danehill.

Again, the result of that mating proved to be a beautifully bred non-winner: Indomitable (NZ) ran twice without making the frame. Kwan's subsequent breeding career, though, was more fruitful because she has produced three winners including the Tiger Hill (Ire) colt Martial Art (NZ), a winner in New Zealand as a 3-year-old before finishing sixth in the 2010 G1 New Zealand Derby. He subsequently won several races in Singapore and finished third in the Singapore Gold Cup in 2011.

Like her dam and granddam before her, Indomitable has demonstrated that lack of racecourse form is often no barrier to success for a well-bred broodmare, with her third foal being the dual Group One-winning miler Turn Me Loose. To produce him, Indomitable visited the Zafonic stallion Iffraaj (GB) at Haunui Farm in 2010. Iffraaj, a strong, well-bred and very fast horse who has compiled an impressive record of siring good, tough sprinters and milers, has proved to have been an ideal mate for her, having done a great job in reinvigorating the latent class in her pedigree.

- John Berry


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