Sydney Musings: The Championships Week 2

Etah James | Trish Dunell


With their own domestic racing programmes decimated by COVID-19, many Europeans naturally looked to Randwick's card in Sydney to get their weekend fix of high-class racing. There was further reason to focus on 'The Championships' with Newmarket-based William Haggas having a fancied runner in two of the Group 1 races, the G1 Schweppes Sydney Cup and the G1 Longines Queen Elizabeth S. Happily, his representative Addeybb (Ire) (Pivotal {GB} won the latter race, the meeting's showpiece feature. This triumph (which, of course, is likely to be the final British-trained overseas winner for quite some time) provided a splendid advertisement for the merit of British bloodstock, British training and British jockeyship as Tom Marquand guided Addeybb across the line in front of their rivals.

Addeybb was not the only European-bred stakes winner in Australia on Saturday afternoon, with Inverloch (Ire) (Fastnet Rock {Aus}) taking the G3 Le Pine Funerals Easter Cup in Melbourne. Inverloch, formerly under the care of Nicolas Clement in France and now trained in Victoria by Trent Busuttin and Natalie Young, has a pedigree steeped in Europe's Classics, his dam Ideal (GB) (Galileo {Ire}) being a three-parts sister to the 2012 2000 Guineas, Derby and Irish Derby hero Camelot (GB).

Haggas's runner in the Schweppes Sydney Cup, Young Rascal (Fr) (Intello {Ger}) was unable to justify favouritism but even so the race still provided further advertisement for the merit of European bloodstock thanks to the victory of Etah James (NZ), a daughter of the British-bred stallion Raise The Flag (GB).

Over the years, White Robe Lodge near Wingatui on the South Island of New Zealand has been one of the most successful stallion studs in the antipodes. In particular, it enjoyed a spectacular run of success during the 1970s and '80s when it was home, one after the other, to two champion sires.  Mellay (GB) (Never Say Die) was champion sire of New Zealand in 1972/'73 and again in 1976/'77. Noble Bijou (Vaguely Noble {GB}) arrived at White Robe Lodge the year that Mellay died (1974) and went on to top the table for three consecutive seasons beginning with 1981/'82. In all three of those campaigns Mellay was champion broodmare sire, a title which he had also won in 1980/'81 and which he subsequently retained when completing five straight premierships in the 1984/'85 season. In that period, the White Robe formula of Noble Bijou over a Mellay mare became established as arguably the most successful 'nick' the country has ever seen.

These two stallions were both recruited by stud principal Brian Anderton using the same theory: that the key to success when working on a limited budget was to recruit lesser-performed relatives of unaffordable Northern Hemisphere champions.  Mellay, who was born in 1961, never raced but he was bred to win a Derby, being by the 1954 Derby winner Never Say Die (Nasrullah {Ire}) from the 1955 Oaks winner Meld (GB) (Alycidon {GB}). His theoretical credentials became even stronger in 1966 when his younger half-brother Charlottown (GB) (Charlottesville {Ire}) won the Derby. Noble Bijou never raced, either, but he was a Vaguely Noble half-brother to the outstanding racemare Allez France (Sea Bird {Fr}), descending from the breed-shaping matron La Troienne (Fr) (Teddy {Fr}).

The days of Mellay's and Noble Bijou's dominance seem to belong to another era, one in which it seemed totally normal for New Zealand's champion sire to be standing on the South Island (just as in those days nothing seemed strange about the best stallion in North America, i.e. Northern Dancer, standing in Maryland rather than Kentucky). Geographical fashions might have changed, but the principles still apply; and White Robe Lodge adhered to those principles when recruiting Raise The Flag in 2010.

Unlike Mellay and Noble Bijou, Raise The Flag had at least raced, albeit only once and finishing unplaced, when trained for his owner/breeder Prince Khalid Abdullah by Andre Fabre. Like them though, he offered the best bloodlines that the Northern Hemisphere had to offer, being by Sadler's Wells out of Hasili (Ire) (Kahyasi {Ire}). Hasili, of course, has the rare distinction of having produced five individual Group/Grade 1 winners. Now, following the victory of Etah James in the Sydney Cup, she is the dam of four stallions who have sired at least one Group 1 winner, Raise The Flag joining the Danehill full-brothers Dansili (GB), Cacique (Ire) and Champs Elysees (GB) in being able to boast this distinction.

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