Surely there can be nothing better for an owner than winning a Group One race … especially when you can do it ‘twice’ in the space of 20 minutes or so.
The 2017 $1 million Manikato Stakes at Moonee Valley will prove to be a race for the ages following controversy at both ends: firstly when Chautauqua was sensationally scratched at the barriers, and then with Hey Doc having to survive a protest after crossing the line first.
The vocal Friday night crowd erupted at the Valley when the highly favoured, Chautauqua, was initially passed fit to race after getting fractious in the gates, only to be scratched moments later by the vet: much to the dismay of trainers, jockey and his large fan club on course.
Meanwhile, Hey Doc – somewhat the forgotten horse in the race given his $21 SP – had considerably fewer in his corner, but connections did their best to make up for what they lacked in numbers by increasing the decibel level as their horse hit the line.
Imagine then the distress when the protest siren sounded a short time later … second against first for alleged interference at the 900m mark.
Breeder and part owner, Adrian Hall, was front and centre in the winners’ enclosure and reckons it was a real roller coaster ride until the protest was dismissed.
“It’s hard to describe the feeling,” Hall points out. “You’re absolutely over the moon at having ‘won’ but then when the protest was lodged, it’s a bit like letting all the air out of a balloon.
“Still, when I found out the interference was at the 900m mark, I had high hopes that it would be dismissed. When correct weight went up, so did the rest of us, but this time it was more out of relief than anything.
“It didn’t take anything away from the win though … we celebrated long and hard on Friday night and backed up again on Saturday,” a somewhat ‘croaky’ Hall reveals.
Ironically, Hey Doc’s connections appear to have more staying power than their 4YO who won the Group One Australian Guineas over 1600m in March (having run third in the Caulfield Guineas the previous spring) and appeared, for all intents and purposes, to be shaping as a Cox Plate hopeful.
However, after winning the Group Three Aurie’s Star over 1200m at Flemington when resuming in August, Hey Doc was fourth in the Group One Memsie over 1400m in September and followed up a fortnight later with a disappointing 10th of 12 in the Group One Makybe Diva … over the same journey as the Australian Guineas.
“I had to get his mind right, just had to freshen him up a bit,” trainer Tony McEvoy mused about the turn around of fortunes. “It was a fabulous result … we were a bit confused by him in the mile race (Makybe Diva) so we decided to come back to sprinting and it’s worked out for us.
“He is now unbeaten at Moonee Valley and he’s also effective up the straight at Flemington so we’ll press on to the (Group One) Darley Classic (over 1200m on 11 November).”
The Manikato was Hey Doc’s second Group One success and his eighth victory overall from 18 starts for $1,760,900 in prizemoney.
A healthy return indeed given that Hey Doc was sold as a yearling through the Rosemont Stud draft at the 2015 Inglis Melbourne Premier Yearling Sale where he was knocked down to McEvoy for $85,000. Wisely, Hall kept a share.
“Tony (McEvoy) has done a marvellous job with Hey Doc,” Hall adds. “Despite everything pointing to him being more of a middle distance type horse, Tony has managed to get him to a point where he can knock off some of the best sprinters in Australia.”
Hey Doc is by the Group One winning Red Ransom stallion, Duporth, who was re-located this year to the Lamont family’s Kooringal Park in NSW’s Riverina district, having stood previously at Kitchwin Hills and Jindera Park.
Hey Doc is one of three stakes winners for Duporth, who is also represented by this month’s Hong Kong Group winner, Dashing Fellow.
Meanwhile, Hey Doc is out of the General Nediym mare, Heyington Honey, who was purchased by Hall and his father Brian for just $3,500 at the 2010 Inglis August Thoroughbred Sale.
“We had a 50% share in Heyington Honey and while she had shown talent early on, she had knee problems and the decision was made to the retire her to stud. It’s still the best $3,500 I’ve ever spent!,” Hall reveals.
“Her first foal was a filly by Congrats, called Heather Honey, and she won a race for us, while the next one along was Hey Doc.
“Unfortunately, Heyington Honey died on Melbourne Cup day three years ago and her Your Song foal a few days after that, and she was my only mare at the time.
“I’ve got four mares now though – all of them close relations to Hey Doc – including Heather Honey, who was covered this spring by Street Boss, while Heyington Honey’s half sister, You Will Be Queen, produced an Alfred Nobel colt in September and is now in foal to Lonhro.
“It’s certainly been a very good spring so far.”
HOOFNOTE: The Manikato Stakes is named in honour of one Australia’s greatest ever sprinters who, in the late 70s and early 80s, shared racing’s stage with another immortal in Kingston Town.
The Manikato Stakes was originally named the Freeway Stakes (a ‘Principal Race’ when first run in 1968) and allocated Group Two status in 1979 when captured for the first time by Manikato.
Manikato would lift the race again in 1982, the same year that Kingston Town won his third straight Cox Plate.
News from Aushorse