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The decision to press on with Anamoe into a four-year-old campaign has already paid Group 1 dividends for Godolphin, but it is not without its challenges.
There are a host of reasons why it has been 21 years since Australia has had a horse win Group 1 races at ages two, three and four and a couple of them were on display ahead of Anamoe’s history-making win in Saturday’s Winx Stakes.
Firstly, it was clear that Anamoe had undertaken the full boy-to-man transition in his winter break. Trainer James Cummings diplomatically described the son of Street Boss as ‘racing like a slightly heavier horse’.
In plain speak, he looks less like the precocious colt who won the Inglis Sires at two and the Caulfield and Rosehill Guineas at three and more like the stallion who will likely anchor Darley’s Australian roster for years to come.
The physical changes which often occur when a horse exits their colt years make them a very different and often more difficult proposition to train. It is one of the main reasons why stud owners will ‘cash their chips in’ and send the best colts to stud at the end of their three-year-old season. History tells us it is very hard for a Group 1-winning colt to stay at that level once they turn four.
Before Anamoe, it was Show A Heart, in 2001-02, who was the last horse to win Group 1 races at two, three and four, and before him it was Octagonal.
Octagonal completed that achievement in a memorable 1996 Underwood Stakes when many were convinced the ‘Big O’ was a spent force. It was Darren Beadman who proved the difference that day, jumping back aboard the John Hawkes-trained star after he had been unplaced for the first time in his career in three previous runs that campaign. As they had in four Group 1 wins during his stellar three-year-old autumn campaign, the pair were an irresistible combination at Caulfield on that Sunday afternoon.
Beadman was also close by – a little too close by – on Saturday as Anamoe matched the feats of Octagonal and Show A Heart. Beadman, now assistant trainer at Godolphin, felt the rush of wind from Anamoe’s flying hooves past his ears as the stallion unleashed a double barrel kick in the pre-parade.
“You know he’s the king,” Beadman said of his pre-race antics.
A near miss like that doesn’t normally rattle an experienced horseman like Beadman and he remained by Anamoe’s side pretty much until he ran out on the track with James McDonald aboard. But his pre-race scare does speak to the other major challenge of keeping a four-year-old entire fit and focussed on the task at hand. Temperament.
What comes with the physical maturity is a level of confidence which can make these stallions more than a handful. Anamoe has never been the most cooperative of subjects, but now with the strength to match his ambition, it is taking every bit of skill from James Cummings and his team to make sure he puts his best out on the track.
It’s another reason why so many stud owners are happy to send colts to stud at the end of their three-year-old seasons.
There is often criticism of the decision to retire colts early, but it is not just about striking while the iron is hot, it is also the trainer’s willingness and ability to manage a physically powerful horse who may be more interested in his post-racing career than what he can do on the track.
"He's letting his presence be known, put it that way."
Anamoe is ready to put on a show. 😉 🕺 pic.twitter.com/806PlJYPNI
— SKY Racing (@SkyRacingAU) August 20, 2022
Anamoe is the first Caulfield Guineas winner to go on and win a Group 1 race at four since Whobegotyou 13 years ago, and the first colt to do so since the legendary Lonhro 20 years ago.
For the connections of one of Anamoe’s key rivals on Saturday, Profondo, circumstances meant there was little choice but to press on into his four-year-old season. At this point 12 months ago, Profondo hadn’t debuted but once he did, made quick tracks to the top, winning the G1 Spring Champion Stakes at just his third start.
A sale-topping son of Deep Impact with a Group 1 on his resume so early in his career, he was hailed as one of the most valuable colts in the land, but for Profondo to stamp an equally quick progression to the breeding barn, he needed to back it up in the autumn.
What eventuated was somewhat of a trainwreck. His inexperience was clear for all to see in his failure in the Australian Guineas and he over-raced and was among the first beaten when nearly nine lengths behind Anamoe in the Rosehill Guineas.
Trainer Richard Litt, who has already made owner Ottavia Galetta a stallion with Castelvecchio, needs to resurrect Profondo’s prestigious talent this spring and the four-year-old backed up his trainer’s faith with an excellent third on Saturday, having tracked wide throughout.
The scope for improvement for Profondo is much greater than most other horses coming off a Group One winning three-year-old season as it is just his third racing preparation. In contrast, Saturday was the start of Anamoe’s fifth campaign.
Another four-year-old colt and possible stallion prospect to run well in the Winx Stakes was Hilal. Already a Group Two winner, Hilal can stamp his progress to the breeding barn with a Group 1 for his breeders and owners at Emirates Park.
The decision to point a stallion prospect at another spring campaign is an all-in strategy. Unlike top-class mares, who can be headed straight for the breeding barn or digital sales ring if they just don’t come up, the nature of the stallion industry does not allow for a late change of heart.
When new owners Newhaven Park decided to push on with a five-year-old campaign for dual Group 1-winning stallion Mo’unga it raised some eyebrows at the time. Given he trailed the field on Saturday in a race he had won 12 months earlier, his racetrack career is at a crossroad.
The search to put an exclamation mark on racetrack credentials can often lead instead to question marks and the manner in which Mo’unga handled the pre-race parade on Saturday would indicate he’d rather be somewhere else.
But he is already locked in on the track for the spring and any change of heart to send him to stud this year is highly unlikely. It would result in a rushed mare book and compromise the start to his stud career.
It’s such a fine line and one that Godolphin, so replete with resources and stacked with stallion talent, can afford to walk with an exceptional talent in Anamoe. That risk has already yielded reward, the question now is whether they are prepared to go again and test their Australian champion out on the world stage. It is one James Cummings and Godoplhin Australia Managing Director Vin Cox are certainly contemplating.
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