Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Guineas Glory All in the Family for Epaulette

by Kelsey Riley

With Australia’s undefeated 2-year-old Triple Crown champion Pierro lining up for Saturdays G1 Caulfield Guineas at Caulfield Racecourse in Melbourne, the classic race is sure to provide a memorable result. Many of the Lonhro colt’s rivals have already conceded defeat, and while Pierro is certain to be a short-priced favorite, Epaulette--the colt who will be second in the betting--could make things interesting, especially if he takes after his older half-brother, last year’s Caulfield Guineas winner Helmet.

In winning last year’s edition of this race, Helmet provided one of the most exciting and impressive performances of the year, anywhere in the world. His victory in this Melbourne Guineas was visually similar to what Frankel had achieved in his own Guineas some six months earlier, except Helmet had more to prove. After winning four of five starts as a 2-year-old, including a Group 1 double in the G1 Sires Produce and G1 Champagne S. (as Pierro did this year), Helmet could manage only a pair of thirds in his first two starts of his 3-year-old campaign: the G3 Run to the Rose, and the G1 Golden Rose S., both at Rosehill in Sydney. 

Helmet at trainer Peter Snowden's Crown Lodge
yard in Sydney
The blaze-faced chestnut showed a liking for Caulfield when winning the G3 Guineas Prelude (his younger brother has already emulated him by winning that event two weeks ago), but many called Helmet’s class into question, wondering if he was capable of winning a Group 1 event against top class 3-year-olds. Two weeks later, Helmet silenced his critics in a big way. When the barriers broke, the fastest horse to the lead was Manawanui, who had beaten Helmet in his last Sydney start in the Golden Rose. Kerrin McEvoy, the jockey aboard Helmet, quickly made the decision to confront his rival immediately, and hustled Helmet forward to blow past Manawanui. McEvoy must have truly believed he had the superior horse on the day, because to make a move like that was incredibly gutsy, and was not unlike what Tom Queally pulled off aboard Frankel at Newmarket, slingshotting clear of his rivals to put it all on the line with a risky run to prove once and for all who was the best. While Helmet did not show the sheer exceleration and wide winning margin that Frankel did in his Guineas, he nonetheless turned back the challenge of Manawanui in the straight, and while the margin of victory was only a neck, it is important to realize that Manawanui did not head Helmet, even in the gallop out. Kerrin McEvoy truly knew what he had, and it showed in not only one of the best performances of the year by a horse, but by a jockey, also.

To watch Helmet’s Caulfield Guineas, click here.

The Caulfield Guineas proved to be Helmet’s crowning glory, and his last career victory before retiring to stud. He was given a tall order when facing older horses for the first time next out in the G1 Cox Plate, and put in a good effort to be eighth, beaten 4 ½ lengths. His first run of 2012 resulted in a close finish to grab fourth in the G3 C.S. Hayes S. at Caulfield, but that was the closest he ever got again to finding the finish line first. After a brief career in Dubai and England, Helmet was retired to stud at Darley’s Northwood Farm in Seymour, Victoria, and it was recently announced that he will shuttle to Kildangan Stud in Ireland for the Northern hemisphere season.   

It would be a disgrace to discuss Helmet and Epaulette without mentioning their dam, the superstar producer Accessories. A British-bred daughter of Singspiel, Accessories has produced three Group stakes winners from her first three foals. In addition to Helmet and Epaulette, her first foal was Bullbars, a son of Elusive Quality who won the G3 C.S. Hayes S. as a 3-year-old. Bullbars finished second in the G1 Australian Guineas, just 1.8 lengths away from giving Accessories three Grade 1 winners from three foals to race. published this article on Accessories a few weeks ago.

Darley's Woodlands Stud 

 Speaking of the Caulfield Guineas pedigrees, it should also be noted that while Pierro and Epaulette compete for different connections now, they were both bred by Darley, and were raised on the same pastures at the operation’s Woodlands Farm near Denman in the Hunter Valley. While Darley opted to let go of Pierro for A$110,000 as a weanling, his dam, the Irish-bred Miss Right Note, still resides at Woodlands, as does Accessories.

Darley's Woodlands Stud

 The Caulfield Guineas is certainly not a race lacking in pedigree strength. One of the dark horses of the race will be Patinack Farm’s All Too Hard, a half-brother to Australian champion Black Caviar, the world’s highest rated sprinter. While All Too Hard has been disappointing in his placings this season, he has never been beaten far, and one of his co-trainers, Wayne Hawkes, has been outspoken in the fact that he believes his colt could upset Pierro with an equipment change of sorts. Read what he had to say here.

Pierro or no Pierro, this year’s Caulfield Guineas is packed with interesting stories, and should no doubt produce an exciting outcome. For a form guide for the race, click here.

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