Denny Baker was overcome with emotion after Rags To Riches won Saturday's ARC
A tearful Denny Baker (left) is congratulated by bloodstock agent Robert Dawe after RAGS TO RICHES wins the $150,000 ARC Easter H. G1 at Ellerslie on 15 April.
Denny owns and operates Hallmark Stud near Te Kauwhata with his wife Lyn, son Mark and daughter-in-law Vicki. They are best-known as studmasters, breeders and outstanding horsemen but as fate would have it, their biggest win arrived courtesy of a horse they purchased as a weanling for wealthy Irish friend and client Eamon Cleary.
And that's only one of the twists in a tale with more than one happy ending.
It began in 1999 with an act of generosity by Terry Jarvis, then-owner of The Oaks, and Sir Patrick and Lady Hogan. They donated a nomination to shuttle sire Entrepreneur to the NZTBA which then held a raffle and raised more than $30,000 – a much-appreciated contribution to the Association's finances at the time.
The lucky raffle winners were NZTBA member Paul Schlotjes and his wife Kelly Danford who had just one problem: they didn't own a mare. With some guidance from The Oaks studmaster Rick Williams, they purchased a non-winning daughter of Bassenthwaite named Candescent. The price? A very modest $350.
Candescent's immediate pedigree was thin on performance, but her second dam Europeana (IRE) was a half-sister to a smart English stayer Wrekin Rambler, and dam of Glanoe, a very useful Irish two-year-old, and Bonne Nouvelle, who left the very good Group-winning Australian sprinter Nouvelle Star. In her turn, Nouvelle Star became dam of the fine producer Giladah, and Mwaared, owned by Bloomsbury Stud and dam of Flemington stakeswinner Wyndam Special.
Candescent duly visited the handsome, classic-winning Entrepreneur at The Oaks in 1999, the second of the two seasons he shuttled to New Zealand, and delivered a bay colt in October 2000.
Paul and Kelly offered him for sale at the 2001 New Zealand Bloodstock Weanling Sale where he was purchased for $22,000 by Mark Baker as a likely pinhook prospect for Eamon Cleary. When the colt failed to sell at the subsequent New Zealand Select Sale, Mr Cleary offered the Bakers a half-share in the horse with the aim of selling him as a trial or race winner.
Rags To Riches played his part by winning two trials and his first race, sparking the desired offer, but failed the veterinary inspection due to a minor injury. The partners then decided to carry on and race him, a decision rewarded by ten wins and $187,000 in prizemoney.
Interviewed yesterday, Paul Schlotjes says he was "quite excited" to see the first horse he'd ever bred win a Group One race. Moreover, that sale five years ago has allowed Kelly and Paul to carry on with Candescent and another mare, Rift (Racing Is Fun-Tytisca). They have Candescent's two-year-old filly by Rossini in training alongside Rags To Riches, with Ralph Manning, and are considering further thoroughbred breeding options with the mare after she foals to an Andalusian stallion this spring.
Kelly and Paul, whose drainlaying and civil contracting business is now based in Waikato, can also be grateful that their two attempts to sell Candescent, carrying Rags To Riches in 2000 and again last year, haven't been successful!
Thirteen stakeswinners (2.4%) from 531 foals at a bewildering range of ages and distances weren't the results expected from Entrepreneur who began stud duties in 1998 as a brilliant English 2000 Guineas winner with an annual Timeform rating of 123. He's now left three Group One winners: English two-year-old filly Damson, Irish Oaks winner Vintage Tipple and Rags To Riches.
Interestingly, the results from his two New Zealand crops have been slightly better than his overall figures: six (3.4%) stakeswinners from 176 foals. In general they've appreciated more time and more distance than their sire, without displaying the ability to compete in the best Australasian company.
And, it has to be said, that's disappointing considering the well-bred mares he served. For example, thirty-three of his New Zealand foals are from Sir Tristram mares, but they include only two stakeswinners, G3 Justine Coup and SW Coup Entrepreneur, both successful in the South Island. While this is a better strike rate than Sir Tristram's 4.5% SW/foals as a damsire, thirty-three daughters of a nine-time champion sire of broodmares sent to a classic-winning son of Sadler's Wells could fairly have been expected to leave one or two Group One winners.
It's a delicious irony that Entrepreneur's only southern hemisphere Group One winner to date is from a mare that has elevated herself from a drawer well below those occupied by Sir Tristram's daughters.
- Susan Archer