It has been a big week for Anthony Mithen and Rosemont Stud. Huge week actually.
Last Wednesday, Rosemont’s bred and raced, Runaway, won the much coveted Group Three Bet365 Geelong Cup, while on Friday night another of the home-breds in Iconoclasm raced onto the second line of betting for Saturday’s Group One Kennedy Mile after capturing the VOBIS Gold Star over 1500m at Moonee Valley.
Iconoclasm has the added advantage of being a son of Toorak Toff which was also raced to multiple Group One success by Rosemont and stood his first five seasons at the farm.
Yet, while the week that was has given some pause for reflection, Mithen is particularly looking forward to the next 10 days or so, albeit with some “sleepless nights” ahead.
Despite winning the Listed VRC St Leger at Flemington in April and the Geelong Cup (receiving a 1.5kgs penalty), Runaway remains 28th on the order of entry for Tuesday week’s $7 million 2018 Group One Lexus Melbourne Cup (maximum 24 runners).
“I was hoping that the Geelong Cup would have pushed him (Runaway) over the line, particularly after he had won the St Leger and run third in the (Group One) South Australian Derby,” Mithen points out. “I reckon if one of the ‘internationals’ had done what he’s done we’d all be fawning over them and probably be sent out a $4 favourite for the Cup.
“It would be fantastic if they made some of these races exempt from ballot because we could target them with locally-bred stayers and provide more of an opportunity to make it into the Cup.
“The final pay ups this week should see Runaway move into 23 on the order of entry, but the Hotham Handicap winner is automatically exempt, as will be the Victoria Derby winner, so it could be touch and go.”
Mithen, a highly respected media commentator before shifting his full-time focus to the racing and breeder caper, reckons Runaway will need to win the Melbourne Cup to “toss” the Geelong Cup victory from the prime spot on the trophy cabinet.
“I grew up in Geelong, the farms are all near Geelong, my brother-in-law, Nigel Austin (founder and principal of Cotton:On clothing) has a marquee at the Geelong Cup and Rosemont has its end of year party at the course,” Mithen reveals. “We’ve raced Group One winners in our colours such as Toorak Toff, Tarzino and Volkstok‘n’Barrell, plus sold the likes of Santa Ana Lane, Hey Doc and Montoya’s Secret, but winning a Geelong Cup is the top seed for me. It means a hell of a lot.
“We’ve had some runners in the Melbourne Cup too – Winchester and Short Pause – but to have one like Runaway that you bred on farm, sold at the sales (to Gai Waterhouse for $150,000 at the 2016 Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale) and kept a ‘leg’ in, well, that’s truly something special.”
The Rosemont operation now encompasses three farms – ‘breeding’ (the former Makybe property at Gnarwarre), ‘pre-training’ (at Lara) and ‘spelling’ (the original land at Ceres) – along with three stallions, 150 mares and around 100 part or fully owned racehorses.
“My father-in-law, Grant (Austin) was a wholesaler for the rag trade, but dabbled a bit in horses and I started going to the sales with him in the early 90s,” Mithen adds. “I eventually talked him into getting some horse fencing on the farm because I preferred to look out at the horses rather than cattle or sheep when I got up of a morning.
“Sadly Grant passed away 15 years ago, but it was in 2012 that his son Nigel suggested we give it a real good dip, eventually expanding to the three farms. And, while we sell around 75 yearlings annually, we’ll keep a lot of our fillies because we’re aiming to eventually build up the broodmare band to around 200.
“It’s a massive operation these days, but we all still live on the Ceres property: my mother-in-law, Nigel and his wife, my daughter Sarah and her partner … it’s quite the community!”
Aside from (possibly) cheering on Runaway in the Cup, along with multiple Group placed, True Excelsior, in the Group Three Furphy Sprint this Saturday and 2YO stakes winner and multiple stakes placed, Split Lip, in the Group Three Hong Kong Jockey Club Plate over 1400m on Cup day, Mithen will be keeping a particularly close eye out for Iconoclasm in the Kennedy Mile.
“I’m taking particular pride in this one,” Mithen explains. “He (Iconoclasm) required a throat operation in August which, under normal circumstances, would put him out for the spring.
“I had heard of a vet (Ben Mason) who performs the operation while the horse remains standing, rather than putting them fully out. (Iconoclasm’s trainer) Darren Weir was pretty skeptical about it but it went off without a hitch and Weiry is now a convert … from what I understand, he’s even got Ben to perform the op on another of his horses.
“Even more of a convert if Iconoclasm wins on Saturday!”
HOOFNOTE: Runaway is out of the 4-time winning Catrail mare, Catshaan – a half sister to Champion Japanese Sprinter/Miler Kinshasa No Kiseki and closely related to Group One winner and sire, Groom Dancer.
Since first heading to stud in 2003, Catshaan has produced six winners from seven to race including Group One winners Abbey Marie and Absolutely (both by Redoute’s Choice) and now Runaway.
“She (Catshaan) has been tremendous value as we picked her up for $160,000, carrying Runaway, at the 2014 Magic Millions National Broodmare Sale,” Mithen points out. “She had already produced a Group One winner in Absolutely, she was in foal to Manhattan Rain – a three quarter brother to Redoute’s Choice – and we got a free update about 12 months later when Abbey Marie won her Group One.
“She’s got a 2YO Zoustar filly called Shoop that’s with Troy Corstens which we’ll race, plus we’ll also retain her yearling filly by Fastnet Rock. Catshaan missed to Redoute’s Choice last year, but is going back to him this spring.
“I got a call from the Australian Stud Book the other day to say that the name Catshaan is now restricted internationally and can’t be used again because she’s already produced two Group One winners and a stakes winner. Hopefully after next week, it’s THREE Group One winners!”