January 19, 2009
words by DANNY POWER
photography by HORSESFIRSTRACING.COM
Australian trainer Jeremy Gask, who has become hot property in England following an extraordinary winning run through the winter, produced former Adelaide mare Mrs Penny to win at Wolverhampton over the weekend.
Mrs Penny (Br m 2004, Planchet-Respective, by Noalcoholic (FR)) was trained in Adelaide by David Jolly, winning successive 1050m races at Morphettville over the Christmas period in 2007-08 from only six starts. Her last run was a luckless, but excellent, sixth to Vivacious Spirit in the Group 2 Yallambee Stud Stakes (1200m) at Morphettville on March 10.
Gask bought the mare for an undisclosed sum in July on a return visit to Australia, when he also purchased the smart Lee Freedman-trained mare Catalan Bay (B f 2004, Rock Of Gibraltar (IRE)-Kim Angel, by Serheed (USA)) and the Mick Price-trained gelding Horseshoe Reef (B g 2003, Encosta De Lago-Christies Beach, by Naturalism (NZ)).
A disillusioned Gask quit training in early 2007 after being in the top half dozen trainers in Adelaide for a number of seasons, but rekindled his enthusiasm for the business after accepting a retainer to train in England. Owner Eamonn Wilmott, under the banner of Horses First, had searched world-wide to find a trainer with an attitude of "green" training which concentrates on horse welfare using alternative training methods, and Gask, who had trained on the beach at Goolwa in South Australia, was awarded the contract in late 2007.
In the last six weeks, Gask, who had only 15 starters during the flat-turf season, has trained 12 winners on the all-weather surfaces used during England's winter. In January, he has led five winners from 13 starters.
Mrs Penny, who arrived in England in October, was beaten only a length with a first-up fourth at Wolverhampton, over 1200m, on December 30. Gask said he was confident the mare would win over the same course at her second outing. Mrs Penny settled last of five in a dawdling affair, but produced a scintillating burst to win by 2.25 lengths, easing down.
"It was a dominant win. We did a lot of homework on her ratings before we bought her, which suggested that she would measure up to good handicap class, and maybe a Stakes race, so it was nice to see that our ratings are spot on," Gask said.
"It was decided to give her a winter preparation in the stable rather than have her, and the other Australian horses, enduring a near freezing winter in the paddock. I think she will be even better when he can get her onto the turf tracks next time in."
Mrs Penny is an all-Australian girl. Her sire Planchet (B h 1999, Canny Lad-Penny, by Metal Precieux (IRE)) was a top class 2YO for trainer John Hawkes, winning the 2002 Group 2 Pago Pago Stakes (1200m) at Rosehill and the 2002 Group 3 Black Opal Stakes (1200m) at Canberra, and three Stakes wins as a 3YO before injury forced his early retirement to stud. He stood five seasons at Eliza Park, Kerrie, near Romsey in Victoria, before he was bought by McLaren Bloodstock to stand in Adelaide. Last season he served 24 mares, thanks to a boost in interest after Morgan Dollar (B g 2004, from Sapphire Flash (NZ), by O'Reilly (NZ)) won the 2008 Listed Dermody Stakes (1000m) at Cheltenham in July. His fee is only $4400.
Mrs Penny, who was bred by Eliza Park's principal Lee Fleming, is from a mare that boasts the champion sprinter Dual Choice (ch m 1967, Showdown (GB)-Unit, by Power House (IRE)), as her fourth dam.
Dual Choice is one of Australia's greatest sprinters. Her 13 Stakes wins included two Group 1 Oakleigh Plates (1100m, 1971 and 1972), the 1970 Group 1 Caulfield Guineas (1600m), two Group 1 Freeway Stakes (1200m, 1970 and 1971)), the 1971 Group 1 William Reid Stakes (1200m), the 1970 Group 1 Sires' Produce Stakes (1400m), the 1970 Group 1 Craven 'A' Stakes (1200m, now the Patinack Farm Classic) and the 1970 Group 1 Lightning Stakes (1000m). Unfortunately, Dual Choice and her descendants have failed to produce anything of near comparable ability.
Gask said the decision by Horses First to invest in Australian bloodlines came from a realisation, especially following the winning performances of Choisir, Takeover Target and Miss Andretti at Royal Ascot, that our sprinters might have the edge on the more dourly bred European breeds in England.
"Catalan Bay was ready to start a few weeks back but a foot abscess set her back. She's going well now and should have a run in a couple of weeks. Horseshoe Reef, who will be got ready for a jumping career, also is close to racing, and I am happy with him," Gask said.
The Gask profile has risen in England not only because of his winning streak, but also due to his success with horses that had been failing for other trainers. One of those, El Diego (b g 4, Sadler's Wells (USA)-Goncharova (USA), by Gone West (USA)), was a maiden with Aidan O'Brien in Ireland, but the gelding has won his last two for Gask.
Gask has extended his Australia imports to five following the arrival of the jumping prospects One Way Or Another (B g 2003, Carnegie (IRE)-True Blonde, by Naturalism (NZ)) and Denton (b g 2003, Montjeu (IRE)-Melora (NZ), by Sir Tristram (IRE)) late in November. One Way Or Another won four races for trainer David Hayes, including two at Sandown and one at Caulfield. Denton is a lightly raced maiden from the Lee Freedman stable.
Danny Power's full story on Jeremy Gask's move to England, titled Aussie Hope Lies in English Fields - was in the spring 2008 edition of The Thoroughbred magazine. To read the article CLICK HERE.
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