Snitzel's fair dinkum
Despite the valiant efforts of some super sprinters and a continuing torrent of Australian-bred winners in Asia, it is fair to say that the Australian thoroughbred is on the back foot – and if one doubts that, one only needs to go to Park Paddocks in Newmarket and see how many horses from Tattersalls’ Horses-in-Training Sale are being bought for export down under. At any distance beyond a mile, the lack of depth among the ranks of Australian gallopers is woeful, witness the fact that imports play such a major part in so many valuable races. Fawkner’s victory in the Caulfield Cup, therefore, was a great boost (particularly as he hails from a stable which, apart from him, revolves primarily around imports from Europe) and the result of the Cox Plate is also very heartening. While the MVRC would probably have preferred its premier race not to have been won by a maiden, and Australian racing in general would probably have preferred to have seen the race won by a horse whose credentials were less flimsy, it was still heartening to have a fair dinkum Aussie horse win the great race, Shamus Award taking the status of his upwardly-mobile young sire Snitzel to yet another level, writes John Berry.
Bearing in mind that the horse is not indigenous to Australia and that the thoroughbred as a breed was created in the British Isles, one could argue that no thoroughbreds are as Australian as Ampol. That, though, would be silly, and one would be hard put to claim Shamus Award as anything other than an Australian creation. His dam and grand-dam are both Australian-bred, while his sire Snitzel is an Aussie born and bred, being by the Australian-bred stallionRedoute's Choice from the Australian-bred Snippets mare Snippets' Lass. While Redoute’s Choice, admittedly, is a son of the US-bred shuttler Danehill and Snippets was a son of the imported Lunchtime, that’s by the by: Shamus Award’s roots are firmly planted in New South Welsh soil.
Throughout most of the second half of the 20th century, one could have believed that Star Kingdom’s line would dominate Australian racing forever. Star Kingdom, admittedly, was an Irish horse, but his arrival in Australia in 1951 changed the face of breeding and racing in that country utterly, and it wasn’t long before he became the country’s favourite imported son. However, during the 1990s he had to cede domination to another import, albeit a part-time import: the American-bred Danzig stallion Danehill, who shuttled between Ireland and the Hunter Valley, making as big an impression (often with the help of mares from the Star Kingdom line) as Star Kingdom himself had made a few decades previously.
One of the Star Kingdom-line mares with whom Danehill combined best was Shantha's Choice, a daughter of the Golden Slipper-winning Bletchingly stallion Canny Lad. Shantha’s Choice’s roots were in America, but her dam Dancing Show (a grand-daughter of the great American broodmare Best In Show) had been imported to Australia, producing the 1994 Blue Diamond winner Hurricane Sky from her mating in 1990 with one Golden Slipper-winning son of Bletchingly (Star Watch) and then producing Shantha’s Choice the following year from a mating with another (Canny Lad, of whose first crop she was a member).
Shantha’s Choice has proved herself a terrific broodmare, and the most special of her several special children is Redoute’s Choice, a top-class colt at both two and three who, since retiring to stud in 2000, has come close to filling the shoes of his late father Danehill. Ironically, Redoute’s Choice did not sire a Group winner during the 2003/’04 season when his first offspring were two-year-olds (although Not A Single Doubt and Tahni Girl both won Listed races) but he really hit his straps the following season when his oldest were aged three, and when his second crop of juveniles did really well.
Redoute’s Choice got off the mark as regards Group races when Tahni Girl won a Group Three race at Caulfield in the first month of her three-year-old season, and once the floodgates had burst open the torrent continued to flow. That spring another three-year-old filly (Lotteria) became Redoute’s Choice’s first Group One winner by taking the Flight Stakes at Randwick – and then the two-year-olds kicked in. Stratum, Undoubtedly and Fashions Afield were the stars of the crop, earning Group One laurels by, respectively, taking the STC Golden Slipper, the MRC Blue Diamond and the AJC Sires’ Produce Stakes. The supporting cast included Black Opal winner Al Samer, Blue Diamond Fillies’ Prelude winner Doubting, Bloodhorse Breeders’ Stakes winner Leveller – and Snitzel, winner of four races as a juvenile including the Group Three Skyline Stakes at Canterbury, in which he beat the subsequent Golden Slipper winner Stratum as well as Paratroopers, subsequently a Group One weight-for-age winner. Remarkably, this was Snitzel’s third stakes victory of the season: he had earlier demonstrated his precocity by winning the Breeders’ Plate at Randwick early in the spring before going up to Brisbane to land a second Listed race at Christmas time.
The following season (2005/’06) was even better for Redoute’s Choice, who became champion sire, thus ending the reign of his sire Danehill, who had topped the table for the past six seasons, and nine times in all. Redoute’s Choice’s principal stars during his first championship season were the outstanding juveniles Miss Finland and Nadeem, who enabled their sire again to take the Golden Slipper/Blue Diamond double. Miss Finland subsequently trained on particularly well to be a champion at three, while Redoute’s Choice’s previous batch of juveniles too had trained on well. With his first crop daughter Lotteria still winning Group One races as a four-year-old, his three-year-olds in the 2005/’06 season were collectively outstanding. God's Own won the Caulfield Guineas, Fashions Afield gave Redoute’s Choice a second successive Flight Stakes victory, Doubting and Duelled each won at Group Two level – and Snitzel was terrific, winning three Group races, headed by the Group One Oakleigh Plate.
Snitzel’s trainer Gerald Ryan had him out early in the spring, keen to capitalize on his proven precocity in the good early-season three-year-olds’ races in Sydney. He certainly did that, winning the Group Two Up And Coming Stakes over 1200m at Randwick in the third week of the new season, once again beating Stratum. However, as the season went on, Snitzel showed himself to be much more than just a precocious juvenile able to carry his good form on into the following spring. He continued to improve as the season went on. He enjoyed an equally good autumn, winning the Group Two Challenge Stakes over 1000m at Randwick - and by this time he was already a Group One winner, having taken the historic Oakleigh Plate down in Melbourne.
As there are nowadays more plentiful and more valuable opportunities at weight-for-age for sprinters than there used to be, the quality of the fields in the big handicaps can be variable. The Oakleigh Plate, run over 1100m at Caulfield at the end of February, can in particular suffer in this respect – but not in 2006, when (despite a heavy track) it attracted a cracking field. Ridden by the local lightweight jockey Craig Newitt, Snitzel came out best, and he was chased home by two real top-liners: Virage De Fortune and Takeover Target. He followed this up two weeks later, raised in the weights for his Oakleigh Plate triumph, by chasing Takeover Target home in the Newmarket Handicap at Flemington, with his old rival Stratum just behind him in third. The fact that he kept beating Stratum merely emphasised the frustration his connections must have felt the previous autumn when Snitzel had posted the only disappointing run of his career when only twelfth (from a wide barrier) in Stratum’s Golden Slipper.
Snitzel only raced for two seasons, but in those two seasons he proved his toughness fully. He raced almost exclusively in stakes company, winning four of his six starts as a two-year-old before graduating to win three races, and running three minor placings, in a busy nine-race three-year-old season. He signed off after running third at weight-for-age behind Red Oog andGlamour Puss in the Group One T. J. Smith Stakes and then fourth behind Paratroopers under similar conditions in the All-Aged Stakes on the final two Saturdays of the Sydney Autumn Carnival, heading off to join his father on the Arrowfield roster.
As well as proven speed, precocity, soundness and genuineness, Snitzel offered breeders an imposing physique and a strong pedigree. As a son of Redoute’s Choice, he needs no further introduction as regards the top half of his pedigree, while the lower half is of similar merit. His dam Snippets’ Lass was one of many good, fast horses sired by the inaugural Magic Millions winner Snippets, whose sire Lunchtime, winner in England of the Dewhurst Stakes in 1972, proved very influential in Australia and who features in the pedigrees of many good horses, including that of his grandson Choisir. Snippets’ Lass won seven races in her younger days, included two at Listed level, and ranks as the second best horse bred by her dam Snow Finch, a well-bred American filly who won at Listed level in Ireland prior to her export down under. The best of the 10 winners bred by Snow Finch, incidentally, was Snippets’ Lass’ full-brotherCaptain Bax, whose 10 victories included three stakes races, headed by the Group Three Missile Stakes at weight-for-age over 1100m at Rosehill.
Snippets’ Lass has proved an excellent broodmare. Since foaling Snitzel in 2002, she has produced his stakes-placed More Than Ready half-sister Wiener (who was sold for $1.25 million as a potential broodmare at the end of her racing days) in 2003; Royal Snippets, a daughter of Royal Academy who won a sprint in Melbourne, in 2004; Snitzel’s Group Three-winning full-sister Viennese in 2005; and his Fastnet Rock three-parts brother Hinchinbrook in 2007. Hinchinbrook was Snippets’ Lass’ seventh and last foal and was retained by his breeder Francois Naude, who had previously enjoyed some good results at the yearling sales with the mare’s progeny. He started his racing career with Snitzel’s former trainer Gerald Ryan and ended it with Peter Moody, along the way winning two stakes races (headed by the Group Three Skyline Stakes at Randwick) as a juvenile and running several excellent minor placings, including in Group One company in the AJC Sires’ Produce Stakes, MRC Oakleigh Plate and AJC All-Aged Stakes. He now stands at a fee of $15,000 + GST at Yarraman Park Stud, whither he retired after an abortive trip to England for Royal Ascot in 2011.
As one would have hoped and expected, Snitzel has done very well since retiring to Arrowfield in 2006. Having his first runners in the 2009/’10 season, he finished second in that term’s first-season sires’ table. The following season saw him finish second in the second-season sires’ table. And in 2011/’12 he topped the third-season sires’ table, finishing ninth in the overall General Sires’ Table. Last season, his fourth with runners, saw him end the term in seventh place in the General Sires’ Table – and Cox Plate Day ended with him leading the field this term.
Snitzel’s stud career got off to a flying start in the sweetest possible way, thanks to a real darling of a filly called Chance Bye. The cheaply-bought and tiny speedball won a place in the hearts of Sydney racegoers, putting up a series of stunning sprinting performances under Kathy O’Hara in the 2009/’10 season headlined by her victory for her unheralded trainer Michael Tubman in the Group Two Silver Slipper Stakes at Rosehill. The following season saw him represented by two very good two-year-olds – Salade and Hot Snitzel, who each won at Group Two level as a juvenile – and his third batch of youngsters included the stakes winnersSnitzerland, Flying Snitzel, Dances On Stars and Sizzling, the last-named of whom became Snitzel’s first Group One winner when the last of his four stakes victories of the season came in the T. J. Smith Stakes at Eagle Farm.
Snitzerland, Flying Snitzel and Sizzling all progressed to enjoy excellent three-year-old seasons last term, when Hot Snitzel enjoyed a third good season as a four-year-old and Silver Slipper winner Sweet Idea proved to be the star of Snitzel’s fourth batch of two-year-old – except that we now know that Shamus Award is the star of Snitzel’s fourth crop.
Shamus Award was a very good two-year-old, being placed in the spring in the VRC Maribyrnong Plate and in the autumn in the VRC Sires’ Produce Stakes, as well as finishing an excellent fifth to Miracles Of Life in the Blue Diamond. From that he developed into a very good three-year-old, being nosed out by the top-class Stratum gelding Divine Calling in the MVRC Bill Stutt Stakes and finishing third to Long John and Divine Calling in the MRC Caulfield Guineas. The only problem was that he never actually won a race – until taking Australasia’s weight-for-age championship, the Cox Plate, having only gained a start in the legendary race when Atlantic Jewel was scratched. In the process he shot his sire to the top of the General Sires’ Table, and confirmed that Snitzel really is now in the major league.
Snitzel was a terrific two-year-old who became a terrific three-year-old – and, had he been asked to race for a third season, he would surely have been a terrific four-year-old too. It’s lovely to see that he is now siring plenty of horses of the same mould – particularly as he can be hailed as a fair dinkum Aussie.