Bren O’Brien



Begg’s Passive plan sets up Aggressive ambition

Grahame Begg knows what it takes to get the best out of an elite filly or mare and he will be leaning on every bit of that experience in the next 12 months as he looks to elicit the full potential of unbeaten filly, Passive Aggressive.

Grahame Begg watched at close quarters as his father Neville worked with the legendary Emancipation and over the years has applied those lessons with his own elite mares such as Bonanova, Our Egyptian Raine and Secret Admirer.

In Passive Aggressive, the powerfully built daughter of Fastnet Rock who claimed her fourth straight win in the Creswick Stakes at Flemington on Saturday, Begg has a filly on his hands who he believes could be the equal to any he has thrown a saddle on.  

“She’s showing every bit as much ability in her four-start career as any horse I have ever had,” he told Asian Racing Report.

“The best horses do it on sheer ability alone, especially early in their careers. They don’t tend to do it on race smarts. The way she goes about it, it’s incredible.”

You can sense the excitement that Begg has for Passive Aggressive’s potential. Keeping a lid on things is de rigueur among trainers of progressive horses, especially at this time of year, but while Begg has his feet on the ground, he knows he may be working with a very special talent.

She’s showing every bit as much ability in her four-start career as any horse I have ever had

Her unbeaten record is one thing, but the manner of those four victories at Werribee, Pakenham and twice down the Flemington straight, the latest at stakes level, is what has Begg so enthused.

“It really is unbelievable the way she goes about it. She just appears to be in cruise control. She seems to be able to do it with no effort and then be able to kick. It’s a great watch,” he said.

Passive Aggressive’s impressive first campaign owes a lot to the patience that Begg has shown with her. She didn’t debut until early May, having shown before then that she was not ready for the physical challenge of raceday.

“She just wasn’t ready until now to be pushed. We brought her back in two or three times. She had a couple of trials and she was ready to go to the races and we weren’t 100 per cent happy with her. So out she went again and she had another four months out,” he said.   

“It had to get to a point where we felt her body was ready to cope with the rigours of racing.”


Grahame Begg after Passive Aggressive won the A.R. Creswick Stakes at Flemington. (Pat Scala/Racing Photos via Getty Images)

That’s where experience has counted for so much for Begg. What he has learned, both through working closely with his father and watching the best trainers over the journey, is that sometimes the best way to manage a racehorse is to not race it at all.    

“You just have to read them. If they are giving you the sign, you have to cop the tip. You have to know when to put the foot down and also know when to hit the brake,” he said.

“I learned it from watching all the good trainers. Bart (Cummings) used to have that famous saying about patience being the most important thing with a horse. It’s just a matter of reading them.”

You have to know when to put the foot down and also know when to hit the brake

Neither of Begg’s two previous Group One-winning mares, Bonanova or Secret Admirer, raced as 2-year-olds.

Helping in this case, according to Begg, has been the attitude of Passive Aggressive’s owner, Jonathan Munz of Pinecliff Racing.

Munz’s bloodstock advisor Dean Hawthorne went to $500,000 to secure the filly out of the draft of her breeder Cressfield at the 2020 Inglis Easter Yearling Sale.

Less than 12 months earlier, Highclere Stud had paid $2.3 million for her sister, the stakes winner and multiple Group One-placed Missrock, as a broodmare prospect.

Missrock selling at the 2019 Magic Millions Broodmare Sale for $2.3 million (Photo: Magic Millions).

It’s no surprise that speed and quality has emerged from that family. Their dam, Miss Judgement, was a stakes winner herself and is a half-sister to Oakleigh Plate winner Mrs Onassis, while further back in the pedigree, Passive Aggressive’s third dam is Blue Diamond Stakes winner Lady Jakeo.

When Munz and Hawthorne buy a filly of that profile and pedigree, it is with one eye to the racetrack and one eye to the breeding barn, adding an extra level of expectation on the trainer.

But while Missrock was a multiple stakes-winning two-year-old and contested a VRC Oaks as a spring three-year-old, Begg opted for the slowly, slowly approach with her sister, with the backing of her owner.  

“You only have to look at Fastnet Rock himself. He may have raced as a two-year-old but when it came to his three-year-old season, that’s when he really came to the fore,” Begg said.

Missrock ended up proving herself to be a top-level sprinter, placing three times at Group One level and Begg thinks that Passive Aggressive will also be best suited to sprinting trips, despite the fact she travels in her races like a horse that could easily get over more ground.  

“I think she will run 1400 in time, but if you look at her background, she has a sprinting pedigree. In my experience, you always have to read the pedigree,” he said.

I think she will run 1400 in time, but if you look at her background, she has a sprinting pedigree.

With Passive Aggressive now out in the paddock for a well-earned break, the obvious question is where to now? Patience has served Begg well to this point and will continue to be the policy with her going forward.

“She’ll have a couple of easy weeks and have an early spring campaign and then go and have a nice spell over the good months of the spring. She can certainly be aimed towards the Sydney autumn,” he said.

“She has got a lot of options and she loves the give in the ground. She could be a BTC Cup horse, or a (Robert) Sangster horse, any of those races.”



    Subscribe now & get exclusive weekly content from Asian Racing Report direct to your inbox

      Expert ratings, tips & analysis for Hong Kong racing