As seen in ANZ Bloodstock News - Trevor Marshallsea
As usual in the breeding game, in the chain of events that led to the making of Kindergarten Stakes winner Libertad (Russian Revolution), those imposters rhyme and reason were marked absent, and the only thing certain was uncertainty.
Which is all not so bad. After all, it was no lesser mind than French philosopher Voltaire who coined racing’s oldest rule, perhaps when doing the form for the first St Leger in 1776, when he declared: “There’s no such thing as a certainty!” (Even better, what he really said was “Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.”)
And what it all again underscores is that if it were as easy as paying the big bucks, it’d be a lot less interesting.
The first three foals from the mare Electric Charge (Charge Forward) sold for $170,000, $360,000 and $240,000, but their results on the track have been a tale of slim pickings.
And then along comes bush trainer Tal Nolen who buys her fifth one – from the humble hard road of the Highway Session at Inglis Classic – for just $40,000, and the colt becomes his mum’s first stakes winner in Saturday’s Group 3 Kindergarten.
Benalla-based Nolen had a Group 1 breeding success himself that afternoon at Randwick. His son Luke rode I Wish I Win to victory in the TJ Smith Stakes, a third win in the race after his pair in his famed association with the phenomenon, Black Caviar.
Nolen is a small–time trainer who goes by Tal but is officially listed as Vincent. We tackle that bit of uncertainty. “My middle name is Talbert, but they all thought I was a bit dumb and wouldn’t be able to spell it, so they went with Tal,” he tells It’s In The Blood.
He’s reminded that Luke trots out similar lines of self-deprecation on his own smarts. “Yeah,” says Tal, “that’s why I gave him a short name.”
One thing Tal knows, without any doubt, is horses, and how you can profit from them without winning with them. He says at least 95 per cent of his business is trading, buying low and flipping them through ready-to-run sales, and selling to Asia. This is what he did with Libertad. The colt turned a tidy profit when bought by his current trainer Annabel Neasham at the Inglis Ready2Race Sale last October for $210,000.
Luke doesn’t ride a lot for his father, being based in Melbourne, but did help out in that venture. He was on board in his breeze-up shown on video in the sale catalogue, and backed his old man’s assessment.
“I thought he was a really good sort of horse when I bought him,” Tal says. “He was good and athletic, and had a nice soft eye. He just probably wasn’t quite ‘there’ yet at the sale. But from the time we broke him in, to the time we sold him, he really did well. He always had a great attitude.
“I started to get the idea he was fairly good when his riders – like Luke, and Jake Duffy – all thought he was a real nice horse. And it’s early days but he’s done well so far.” So a good horse can come from anywhere? “Without a doubt. Without a doubt.”
“And thank goodness it’s like that,” he adds. “If the dear ones were all good ones, I’d never get a good horse.”
Bred by Rheinwood Pastoral in the NSW Southern Highlands, and associate John Hawkins of Somerset Services, Libertad has now won both starts, for a team headed by the increasingly busy Trilogy.
He could be the new star from Rheinwood. Owned by insurance broker Ray Willis and wife Marilyn, and managed by their daughter Kirsty, the farm has produced runners including dual Group 1-winner Albert The Fat (Magic Albert) and staying mare Unchain My Heart (Al Maher), the three-time Listed winner having taken Flemington’s Bagot Handicap and Andrew Ramsden Stakes (twice), who made the 2014 Caulfield and Melbourne Cups.
In 2016, Rheinwood bought the Arrowfield-bred Electric Charge for $200,000 from the Magic Millions National Broodmare Sale, in foal to Darley’s Shooting To Win. She’d won her maiden at Pakenham from her 14th and last start, but was well related. Her dam was Miss Bussell (Danzero), a Randwick Listed winner and placed at Group 1 level in both the AJC Champagne Stakes and the Queensland Derby.
Before Electric Charge, she threw Miss Darcey (Hussonet), who won the Group 3 Adrian Knox Stakes and was third in the AJC Oaks.
“She was from a beautiful Arrowfield family that’s often produced stakes horses,” Kirsty Willis says.
“My dad has always loved Charge Forward mares, and she was a lovely physical – everything you’d look for in a broodmare. Plus she was in-foal to Shooting To Win, a first season stallion.”
The resultant foal was bought by Darley’s racing wing Godolphin for $170,000 at Inglis Classic in 2018. Named Static, she battled injuries and retired a maiden from her three starts. Rheinwood bought her back for broodmare duties, for just $3,250.
Their first stallion pick for Electric Charge was I Am Invincible – standing for just $55,000 in the last year that he was still vincible. This produced a filly who fetched that handsome $360,000 when bought by Snowden Racing at the Gold Coast Magic Millions in 2019. She was given the certain-sounding name of Surething To Win, and that proved correct, but only once in eight starts before her recent retirement.
Buoyed by that foal, Rheinwood immediately returned their mare to I Am Invincible, now standing at $110,000. The mare did well for the farm again, throwing an impressive filly bought by Tony Gollan for $240,000 at the Gold Coast. Named Kinetic, she’s fared a little better, improving from three straight seconds with an Eagle Farm maiden win at her seventh start late last year.
Rheinwood then switched to Newgate’s $55,000 first season sire Russian Revolution (Snitzel), for the first of two successive covers.
“Dad loved Russian Revolution as a racehorse, and we’ve always loved supporting Newgate stallions, especially in their first season,” Kirsty says. “It was a good pedigree match and a nice physical match. Electric Charge is a lovely, big mare, 16 hands and very strong, and we thought she’d suit Russian Revolution well since he’s a bit more on the compact side.”
There, however, was where the big prices stopped. The first foal made it into Inglis Easter but fetched only $30,000 – the fourth-lowest lot of the sale – a price likely dictated by open knees. He’s now known as Trotsky, and recently had his first barrier trial in Tasmania.
The second foal was Libertad, a better specimen but still chosen only for last year’s Classic Highway selection.
“He was an outstanding physical, and just a beautiful horse,” Kirsty says. “Russian Revolution hadn’t hit his straps as yet, so we were in the Highway session at Classic. We take horses to yearling sales to sell them, and Tal was the lucky recipient.”
It wouldn’t be true to say the Willis family were delighted with the $40,000 they received for the colt, but they’re happy enough with what’s followed.
“That’s the name of the game. We’re hugely thrilled for Tal. We like people to do well from horses they purchase from our drafts,” Kirsty says.
She, like everyone involved, is less certain why the Russian Revolution-Electric Charge mating seems to have worked substantially better with Libertad than with Trotsky.
“Libertad was a stunner from day one, and Trotsky was a really lovely physical as well,” she says, nonetheless pleased Electric Charge’s fifth foal seems more blessed than her previous four. “It’s a bit like kids, isn’t it? Libertad was perhaps just the brother who got the athletic gene.”
Bred on a similar Snitzel-Charge Forward cross to Golden Slipper winner Estijaab, among others, Libertad looks set to provide Rheinwood reward for recent adjustments at their 163-acre, 40-mare farm, including hiring Dee Foster as stud manager four years ago.
“He’s the first stakes horse we’ve bred over the past few years, so it was great to see him win on Saturday,” Kirsty says. “With our new stud manager Dee, who’s a brilliant horse person, we’ve really worked on refining our breeding processes and trying to breed better athletes.
“It’s good to see all the work we’ve done over the past three or four years come to fruition.”
Now 11, Electric Charge is in-foal to Kia Ora’s $16,500 sire Prague (Redoute’s Choice), and has a weanling colt by that stallion who’ll be headed for the sales next year. While Libertad was a cheap buy, his early form has ensured his younger half-brother won’t be. Almost certainly.