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El Segundo's Cox Plate makes it all worth while for Phillip and Catherine Brown

Phillip Brown has had to put up with equine influenza and a very badly injured two-year-old this spring – along with a lack of fillies over time – from the Miss Spy family his father bought into in the 1970s.

El Segundo (NZ) storming to victory in Saturday's Gr.1 Tattersalls Cox Plate at Moonee Valley.
Photo Martin King
But when the family members include Saturday's Cox Plate winner El Segundo, the effort to keep it going is clearly worth it.

Brown, who runs Ancroft Stud in Matamata with his wife Catherine, bred El Segundo along with the Pins gelding's owners, Don Howell, Phillip Murphy and Ian Hickey. They all raced his dam Palos Verdes, a group three winner in Australia.


El Segundo's Cox Plate has been a career highlight for them all, but while his spring has been relatively trouble-free, the family members have given them all their share of difficulties.

Palos Verdes has spent most of her breeding career in Australia, but she was sent to Australia as an empty mare this spring to be mated with Encosta De Lago – and promptly caught equine influenza.

"I sent three mares over to Australia and they all caught it," Brown said.

"She had it the worst. She took quite a long time to get over it, but she's clear now.

"We don't send pregnant mares over there and I'm quite glad she wasn't in foal when she contracted it."

Also causing trouble this spring has been El Segundo's two-year-old brother El Hermano, a $500,000 colt bought by Little for the same clients but who unfortunately had a very badly injured pedal bone.

"He had surgery this week for it. It's surgery which is quite invasive and that I don't think has ever been done in Australia or New Zealand before, and we don't know how successful it will be," Brown said.

"We know that he will never race but he's still a colt and we're hoping that he can still stand at stud."

The female family of Palos Verdes is one which has been with the Brown family for four generations.

"My father Bill leased his fourth dam Miss Spy from Ted Laxon," he recalled. "He liked her dam Red Mars and thought she would go well with Battle-Waggon, who we stood."

From Miss Spy they got Chiquatito, a well-performed mare who won four races and was twice placed in Filly Of The Year races.

"We sent her to Brisbane one year and she won twice from two starts and then broke down injured," Brown recalled.

"She was a very capable mare and the best was never seen of her."
Chiquatito proved a more than capable broodmare as well, producing six winners from nine live foals. The best was Gold Deck (by Decies), a multiple listed winner who was fourth in a Victoria Derby, while one other, Raumancer, earned black type through a group three placing.

Raumancer, by Otehi Bay, was then sent to the staying sire Oak Ridge, and to him produced Palos Verdes.

"I liked her a lot and pointed her out to Colin Little when he came to the farm one year before the sales," Brown said.

"She was a bit small but I told Colin that I liked her and would like to keep a half share and he bought her."

After a distinguished race career in which she won 10 races, the best being the group three Manion Cup in Sydney, Palos Verdes returned to Ancroft Farm, still part-owned by Hickey, Howell and Murphy.

"She came back here after she raced and they let me do my thing with matings. We said we'd sell the colts and keep the fillies."

She first produced a Umatilla colt and then after missing the next season, went to Pins.

"I was a shareholder in Pins and I thought he would be a good mating for the mare," Brown said.

"We've been four times now and every colt has been a nice individual."

The first of these four was El Segundo, who Brown took an immediate liking to. "He was not overly big but he always had immense power," he said.

"If I got types like him every time I would have 100 mares on the farm. Instead we've got about 12 of our own – we decided a few years ago to get out of standing stallions and concentrate on a few elite mares "

Given their association with Palos Verdes it was no surprise that El Segundo ended up back with Colin Little and her previous owners after going through the sale ring for $140,000.

It was partly on the recommendation of the mare's other shareholders that Palos Verdes was sent to Australia to be mated with Encosta De Lago, and Brown is very keen on a filly.

"We only have one other filly left in the family, a three-quarter sister out of Raumancer called Forelsa," he said.

"So far Palos Verdes has had seven foals and they're all colts, so it's really a case of 'my kingdom for a filly' now."


- Alastair Bull