(March 22, 2017)
Mark's got a big wrap on this Knuckle
When a guy like Mark Purdon says that the best juvenile filly in his and Natalie Rasmussen's stable is by a first-season sire, that's pretty big news.
The line-up of baby girls at All Stars who've made it to the trialling stage includes a couple by Bettor's Delight and a Somebeachsomewhere, but they've all had to take a back seat as Mark has showered the biggest accolades on Bare Knuckle, a daughter of Raging Bull and Coca Vicola who's unbeaten at the trials and workouts to date.
Mark and Nat have taken Bare Knuckle off the place twice so far, to the Addington Trials on March 6 and then again to the Rangiora Workouts nine days later.
Both events were won by the filly coming from behind, highlighting the obvious speed she has at her disposal. They're a couple of impressive performances too, so click on either of the links below to watch the replays...
"She'd be the most promising 2-year-old filly we've got this season," Mark said.
"Both of her trials have been very good - she's just done everything we've asked of her so far."
Bare Knuckle is having another run in public today at the Rangiora Workouts, in Heat 8 at 12:45pm, and is starting to create a bit of a 'following' for herself with the talent she's displaying.
One of her initial raceday targets is the third and last Heat of the Magness Benrow Sires' Stakes Fillies Series which will be staged at Addington on April 15. A fine showing in that, as anticipated, will see her head north to Alexandra Park for the $150,000 Group 1 Final at the end of the month.
"She's just so versatile," Mark continued.
"She's great-gaited, and has got a good head on her shoulders too.
"I think she's definitely a filly who's going to win races."
It's fair to say that Mark probably knows all there is to know about Bare Knuckle's grandparents on her dam's side, because Coca Vicola is by Il Vicolo out of Scuse Me.
Mark drove the former in all but two of his 31 victories, also training him for the last 13 of those, plus he put the polish on Scuse Me for all eight of her wins and partnered her in five of them.
Scuse Me of course has turned out to be one of this country's finest broodmares ever, because her first 12 foals have all raced and won and include such household names as Adore Me, Have Faith In Me and Imagine Me.
Another first-crop daughter of Raging Bull that made a splash late last year was Princess Holly, who trainer Mark Jones won back-to-back workouts with in October.
Princess Holly went out for a spell shortly afterwards, but is back in now and resumed hoppled work this week; the glint in Mark's eye hasn't disappeared...
"She just keeps growing and is probably about seventeen hands now," Mark said.
"We'll qualify her in a couple of months. She's going to be a nice horse."
(January 31, 2017)
Eighth winner for Raging Bull's mum
The outstanding broodmare career of Raging Bull's dam San Sophia gained even more kudos when her 2-year-old colt Thisbeachrighthere scored with authority on debut at Ballarat last Friday night.
Thisbeachrighthere is San Sophia's eighth winner from nine foals to race, progeny whom have now collectively amassed a staggering 63 victories and $560,000 in stakes between them to date.
It's an international career she's compiling as well, because her progeny have saluted the judge in North America, New Zealand and Australia.
Three of San Sophia's sons and daughters have made appearances in the latter country this season, the others being 7-year-old gelding and Raging Bull's full-brother Red West (12 starts in WA for three placings) and 4-year-old Rocknroll Hanover mare Hilltop Sophia (13 starts in SA for six wins and four placings).
Thisbeachrighthere actually hails from Cobbitty in NSW where he's trained by Craig Cross, meaning the colt was nearly 900 kilometres from home when he stepped out at the races for the first time last week.
Craig had travelled down from Sydney to campaign other horses in the Victoria Cup and Derby Heats being held at Tabcorp Park in Melton the following evening; when there was a spare space on the truck, Thisbeachrighthere got the nod to tag along.
As last Friday night proved though, his inclusion wasn't just for the ride.
Handled by fellow Cobbitty horseman Luke McCarthy, the son of Somebeachsomewhere blasted to the lead from gate 4 and was never headed, reeling off his final quarters in 28.3 and 28.2 to comfortably beat the favourite Kurai Kage by a length.
There was plenty to like about Thisbeachrighthere's overall time for the 1710m event too, because despite pacing a bit roughly early he won it in a 1:57.1 mile rate and credited mum with her seventh sub-2:00 performer in the process.
"He's a real neat little fella," Luke says.
"And he went better than we thought really - he's still a bit fat and doesn't know much yet.
"The only reason he paced a bit unevenly early was because the driver sitting parked on the favourite was whistling at his horse to get it to move up closer, and my bloke just got a bit 'revvy' as a result.
"Normally he's so casual and has been this whole prep, he never even tightens the reins at home."
Steering Thisbeachrighthere to victory on debut meant quite a lot more to Luke than just his share of the $10,000 stake, because he's liked the colt from the moment he first laid eyes on him and was instrumental in bringing the horse home from the Sydney Sales.
"He's owned by our good friends Greg and Skye Bond. There were half a dozen WestBred horses in the APG Sale last year, and they asked me to pick one out for them.
"I knew how good the family was, and what sort of horses San Sophia had already left - plus she's an Artsplace mare, so you just can't go wrong.
"He's a lovely horse... good-gaited, has got speed, and I think he's going to go a wee way."
It's early days of course, but Thisbeachrighthere's purchase price of $62,500 is already looking like money well spent.
His mother San Sophia belongs to what can only be described as a prolific American family, and her 89% winners-to-starters ratio is simply a continuation of the amazing trail that's been blazed before her.
Her dam was Emory Girl, whose seven foals to race were all winners (100%) and collected 60 victories and $2.2m in stakes. Three other daughters of Emory Girl embarked on broodmare careers of their own as well - Mikes Filly [1 foal to race for 1 winner, 100%]; National Gallery [10 foals to race for 9 winners (90%) of 119 races and $1.5m]; and Galleria [8 foals to race for 8 winners (100%) of 49 races and $1.5m].
One generation further back, San Sophia's grandam Jodi's Image had 13 foals to race for 13 winners (100%) of 215 races and $1.2m. She in turn was out of Little Jodi, whose 7 foals to race yielded 5 winners (71%) of 75 races and $375,000.
So no matter where you look, there are just no weaknesses in Raging Bull's pedigree stretching back four generations - all of which augers very well for his career as a stallion.
Raging Bull attracted his biggest amount of bookings ever in the breeding season which is now drawing to a close, his fourth at stud. No doubt the 'talk' which is circulating out there about his progeny had a lot to do with that, because his oldest crop of 28 foals are two and hence old enough to start showing their trainers something.
Names like Cran Dalgety, Mark Purdon & Natalie Rasmussen, Benny Hill, Gav Smith, Ken & Tony Barron, Andrew Stuart and Mark Jones have all got Raging Bull stock in their stables and speak highly of them - the latter even produced Princess Holly to win a couple of workouts prior to Christmas before she headed out for a spell, and is excited about the filly's future.
(October 6, 2016)
First win for Raging Bull filly
In the space of 11 days, Raging Bull's first starter at the Workouts has become his first winner!
Princess Holly stepped off the place for the second time yesterday, in a Learners Pace at Rangiora, and after going straight to the front as soon as the tapes were released she won the 2000m event with ease.
As could be expected, the overall time in Princess Holly's workout wasn't fast but it's the way she zipped home in 59 and 28.4 without raising a sweat that had onlookers sitting up to take notice.
The lady with the best seat in the house yesterday was driver Sam Ottley, and she had nothing but praise for Princess Holly after the performance.
"It was the first time I'd ever seen her," Sam said.
"When Mark (Jones) unloaded her off the float and said 'this is the Raging Bull you're driving', I thought geez she's huge!
"She's so big and tall, but it's all in proportion too; she just doesn't look like a 2-year-old at all.
"She's lovely though, she's got such a great all-round attitude and nothing seems to worry her."
Princess Holly's first workout at Methven on September 24 was from behind the mobile, but on this occasion she was tackling a standing start for the first time and passed the test like an old pro.
"She was first out," Sam enthused.
"When it was time to ask her to speed up a bit, she responded and it felt like she had plenty left at the finish.
"And that's what really impressed me... she's still so inexperienced and doesn't even know how to 'go' yet, it was only her second time off the place.
"It's all quite natural to her though, and she gives you the feel of a much older horse.
"I can't fault her."
Princess Holly's trainer Mark Jones was delighted with the filly's progression from one workout to the next, and wasn't surprised by her apparent 'ho hum' attitude near the finish.
"She's always been a pretty laid-back type and only ever does what she has to," Mark said.
"She's nowhere near screwed down yet either, she'd probably only be at eighty percent - she's never been asked to work a mile in anything faster than about 2:22, put it that way.
"I'll probably give her one more workout and then try and qualify her at the Addington Cup Trials. She'll have a wee break after that, then a trial before Christmas, and then she can go out for another spell.
"Next year we'll either take her down south for a 2-year-old series or go north for the Young Guns."
(September 28, 2016)
Raging Bull 2yo makes an appearance
Last Saturday's workouts at Methven might've been a low-key affair, but the day was rather significant for Raging Bull because it marked the first time one of his progeny has set foot on a racetrack.
Princess Holly is her name, and she's a filly out of the unraced Falcon Seelster mare Abita Sass who belongs to Raging Bull's first crop of 2-year-olds.
The half-sister to Moondyne Joe settled last in her eight-horse 1800m Learners' Heat, then came wide around the final bend to take good ground off the older horses she was up against.
Solely there for experience - such as learning how to race in a field and quicken up late in the piece - Princess Holly was driven by her breeder and former co-owner Matt Cross who said she did everything asked of her and absolutely thrived on her big day out.
And while a midfield finish might not look like much on paper, trainer Mark Jones knows how good Princess Holly is and finds it hard to contain his excitement about a daughter that's going to help put her dad on the map.
"I can't fault her," Mark said.
"Right from the early days she was well above average... she broke in good, is beautifully gaited, and she's got such a lovely kind nature too.
"She's a big filly, so she really shouldn't be doing what she is at this stage; but it's all in proportion, and she's fast.
"I've also got a Christian Cullen filly who's the same age as Princess Holly, and they've been paired up together since since they were late-yearlings; the Christian Cullen filly works up quite good too but Princess Holly just goes straight past her, hard held."
Mark's not surprised that Raging Bull is leaving quality individuals, because he's been a huge fan of the horse right from the very beginning.
"He was an exceptionally good racehorse," Mark said.
"I remember the day he went a tick over 2:26 for 2000 metres at Rangiora at his second 2-year-old start - that was unbelievable, and he just jogged it!
"Ants (Anthony Butt) told me he was one of the best horses he'd ever driven, and that if he had a million dollars he'd have bought him himself.
"I actually tried to buy Raging Bull soon after that, getting some clients together to offer several hundreds of thousands of dollars; I believed Raging Bull would probably win that, plus he was always going to have a stud career later."
Sadly though, Raging Bull started having soundness issues during the latter parts of his first season and they plagued him for the remainder of his career, restricting the gun pacer to just 10 lifetime appearances.
So now the only way he can leave his mark on the industry is via the breeding barn, but if the talent being shown by his first crop is anything to go by then he's definitely got a future in this respect.
"I'm hearing good reports about them," Mark says, adding that with such bloodlines he's surprised Raging Bull isn't standing for a much higher fee.
"Gav Smith's got a filly by Raging Bull that he really likes, and Cran (Dalgety) has a couple of good ones that he bought at the Sales too.
"I wouldn't be scared to have a stable full of them, and I'd advise people to breed to him for sure."
Mark says he can't himself unfortunately, because the couple of mares he's breeding from both belong to the same sire line.
He has splashed out on another Raging Bull though, specifically travelling north to the Auckland Autumn Weanling & All Aged Sale earlier this year to bring home a daughter of Black And Royal.
Now a yearling and still unnamed at this stage, Mark says the filly is "a good type who's already been broken in and turned out".
And while he waits for that one to become old enough to do more with, Princess Holly is likely to 'blaze a trail' in the meantime - for herself, and her sire.
The filly changed hands recently when trialled privately by Wayne Higgs. He took an instant shine to Princess Holly, and the bonus for Mark is that she's staying in his stable.
"Wayne was ready to put the money in the bank as soon as he got out of the cart," Mark quipped.
"But she'd be up to any of the better babies I've ever trained. She's just far more natural than what she probably should be, seeing how big she is.
"We'll give her a qualifying trial before Cup Week, and then turn her out. The main 2-year-old races aren't until about March anyway, and we could possibly even go to Australia with her."