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David & Pat Jones fly the South Island flag

Canterbury breeders David and Pat Jones had a slightly sour taste in their mouths as they watched Master O'Reilly provide one of their greatest highlights on Saturday.

Master O'Reilly, bred by the Joneses and partner Ross Brown from their mare Without Remorse, qualified for the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups with a solid victory in the Herbert Power Handicap (G2-2400m) at Caulfield.

But in a story many breeders will be familiar with, they watched the win in the knowledge they had no mares from the family left on their farm.

"Without Remorse died last year when she was on her way back from being served at Cambridge Stud, probably from a heart attack," David Jones said.

"She left an orphan filly foal, a sister to Master O'Reilly, but we got a good offer for her three months ago and sold her to the people that raced his older brother O'Reilly Tycoon.

"Now that Master O'Reilly has won this race, I'm sort of wondering if selling the filly was the right thing to do."

The Joneses, from Rakaia, and Brown, who died a few years ago, acquired Without Remorse along with a number of fillies at the Trentham yearling sales in 1993 in an effort to improve the broodmares they had to send to their stallions.

With a fair bit to recommend her – her granddam Lady Patine is a half-sister to the Moore family's outstanding racemare and broodmare Soliloquy – Jones bought the Bakharoff mare for $5000.

"We wanted to buy mares that had a lot of black print – usually those mares have a better crack at being successful – and those Solveig bloodlines were fantastic," Jones said.

"She wasn't very big and wasn't quick enough to race but we thought she had the potential to be a good broodmare."

The pedigree improved again shortly afterwards when Without Remorse's half-brother Unpretentious won the West Australian Oaks (Gr 2-2400m), but it wasn't until the Jones' decision to send the mare to O'Reilly in 1998 that she started to spark as a broodmare.

That mating produced O'Reilly Tycoon, a winner of four in Australia, who was a good enough foal to encourage the partnership to visit him again three years later, the mating which produced Master O'Reilly.

"He was a nice foal, but he wasn't that well for a while. He had a bit of a gut problem and didn't digest his food all that well, but we got him right after a while."

This didn't prove too much of a problem as by the time the colt was put before buyers at the 2004 South Island Sale of two-year-olds he was a very good individual – so good, in fact, that he was snapped up by an Australian buyer for $75,000, the highest price of the sale.

"I think it was Jim Houlahan's daughter that ended up with him. She must have been happy as she was back buying more at the South Island sale this year."

Sent to trainer Danny O'Brien, Master O'Reilly has taken his time to develop but has hit his peak this year as a five-year-old. He was placed in a listed race earlier this spring and his victory on Saturday, his seventh in total, was his first at black type level.

He now gets into the Caulfield Cup with just 50kg, but his connections and Jones believe his best chance will come in the Melbourne Cup.

"On the face of it there's not a lot of stamina in the pedigree – the O'Reillys aren't known as two milers and the Soliloquy family is usually a quick one," Jones said.

"But the Sydney Cup winner Gallic is from that family and the way he races he would have a shot at getting two miles, so who knows."

With the sister to Master O'Reilly gone the Joneses don't have any other mares from the family on their farm. Having gone into semi-retirement they have just one mare they are breeding from this year – The Wake, out of a half-sister to Let's Elope.
They also have two more likely to join them next year – Madame Stravinsky, a Stravinsky mare, and an O'Reilly-Erudite filly, a half-sister to former South Island Filly of the Year Pledge.

And with no stallions on the farm, they are concentrating on sending the mare to commercial stallions outside the South Island.

"It's difficult to stand a top stallion down here now. The foals from those good stallions in the Waikato seem to have the best crack at selling."

- Alastair Bull