Bren O’Brien



What a difference a Star makes for Heathcote

Marquee results from Startantes on the track and Baggy Green in the sales ring have highlighted the commercial importance of a strong female family.

What made Saturday’s Group One Tatts Tiara success of Startantes so special for trainer and breeder Robert Heathcote was that it had been a success 22 years in the making.

Heathcote was in the relative early days of his training career in 2000 when he paid $18,000 for a Just Awesome filly. That filly, Cantantes, is the grandam of Startantes, who on Saturday became the trainer’s 12th Group One winner, putting a very valuable stamp on a family which Heathcote has heavily invested in.

Cantantes never did a great deal on the track. While consistent, she took 12 starts to break her maiden and another 16 to register a second win. Her career finished with just those two wins from 37 starts.

However, it was as a mum where she excelled. From 11 foals to the track, she produced 10 winners, all of whom raced for Heathcote. Among them were the multiple stakes winners Funtantes and Excellantes, who won 22 races and just short of $1.5 million between them.

Funtantes was, at least in that generation, the star of the family, with a Group Two success as a two-year-old on her resume as well as a pair of Listed wins. She seemed the logical choice to continue the bloodlines through for Heathcote.

There was a moment where someone else could have jumped in on Heathcote’s success, with Funtantes offered as a broodmare prospect on completion of her racing days in 2012. He put a $300,000 reserve on her head and could only get bids to $250,000.

There would have been times early on in Funtantes’ breeding career that Heathcote might have wondered about the wisdom of retaining her. The only surviving foal from her first four trips to the breeding barn was a colt, now a gelding, named Ziemba.

But after four visits to Rothesay, Heathcote opted to send Funtantes to Vinery’s Star Turn in what was that stallion’s first season. The result was a petite filly, who would prove the star that has elevated the family to a whole new level.

Raised at Vinery until she was broken in, the filly was catalogued and then withdrawn from sale as a yearling. Heathcote syndicated her among a group who had raced much of the rest of the family, headed by his wife Vicky and close friends Rob Ciobo and Bruce Harry.


Startantes as a foal (Photo: Vinery Stud)

A winner of two of her five starts as a two-year-old, Startantes would win her first three as a three-year-old before heading to Sydney early last spring where she finished sixth in the Golden Rose and third in the Flight Stakes. She was placed again at Group One level in the autumn when beaten a lip in the Surround Stakes before being set for her hometown Queensland carnival.

Up until Saturday, it had been a frustrating campaign, with Startantes conceding big starts in her previous four starts, working home well, but not really threatening.

When she was buried back on the rail in last position on turning in the Tatts Tiara, it looked like it might be another repeat of that pattern, but a clever ride from Jason Collett saw her pick her way through the field and finish over the top of her rivals.

“She’s probably worth a few bob now, aye?” Heathcote said after the win, immediately recognising the commercial value of the success extended far beyond the winner’s cheque of $420,000.

While Cantantes died in 2018, Heathcote retains three of her daughters, Funtantes, Alle Vongole and Bellissimi Amici. Funtantes’ two-year-old Russian Revolution filly Ekaterina recently won her first race, while there is a yearling colt by Spirit Of Boom and a filly by Rothesay yet to come through, half-sibling to Startantes.

Both Funtantes and Alle Vongole are now in foal to Star Turn with what will be close relatives to a Group One winner, further upsides to Saturday’s win for Heathcote.

Startantes became the first Group One winner for Vinery's Star Turn. (Photo: Vinery Stud)

The $10 million family

The commercial value of elite female performers also came to the fore late last week when Baggy Green became the fourth member of her family to sell for a seven-figure amount.

Baggy Green, the dam of four-time Group One winner Tofane, was offered as part of the Valachi Downs Dispersal on New Zealand Bloodstock’s Gavelhouse Plus platform and was sold for $1.75 million on Friday.

The buyer was no surprise. Yulong, Yusheng Zheng’s burgeoning outfit, which has its Australian base in Victoria, paid $3.1 million for Tofane last month on the Gold Coast, and was the winning bidder this time around.

Tofane is headed to Yulong’s Written Tycoon this season, and so too, it appears, is her dam. Baggy Green is a daughter of Galileo who has also produced the Group Three winner No Compromise and the Group One Australian Derby runner-up Benaud.

Mothers and daughters both selling for seven figures is not unparalleled, but when you throw in Baggy Green’s Group One-winning sisters, Youngstar and Funstar, the commercial success of this family is unprecedented in Australasia.

Tofane winning the C.F. Orr Stakes at Caulfield in February. (Photo: Reg Ryan/Racing Photos via Getty Images)

Katsumi Yoshida took a shine to both of Baggy Green’s sisters, paying $1.4 million for Queensland Oaks winner Youngstar in 2020 and then going to $2.7 million for Flight Stakes winner Funstar last year.

Both are now embarking on their breeding careers at Northern Farm, which like Yulong, has backed this family to continue to grow.

The three siblings have sold for a total of $5.85 million in the past two years, while if you throw Tofane in, the total is just short of $10 million.

This week, Tofane’s yearling sister sells on Gavelhouse Plus, with expectations high on what she might fetch.  

As a measure of how these families can appreciate in value, in 2013 Baggy Green sold for just $23,000, while a year later, Starspangled, the dam of the three $1-million-plus mares and granddam of Tofane, was secured for $30,000.  



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