A first-up Winx Stakes (G1) victory by Mo’unga, his second at the highest level, assures the son of New Zealand’s champion sire Savabeel a career at stud, but at what farm or even what country that will be in remains unanswered.
The Aug. 21 Randwick success in the first group 1 of the new Australian racing season proved an important one for Mo’unga given the commercial realities of the stallion business.
The Tony Fung-owned 4-year-old won the Sky Racing Rosehill Guineas (G1) in the autumn but winning a 1,400-meter (about seven-furlong) group 1 race, and defeating star mare Verry Elleegant in the process, reminded breeders of his speed in a market which gravitates towards sprinters.
Shane McGrath, the manager of Fung’s racing interests, is certain Mo’unga can follow in the footsteps of other colts raced by the Hong Kong owner in Longines Golden Slipper (G1) winner Farnan, Anders, and Prague by finding a home a stud.
“He wintered really well up at the farm at Canungra (in Queensland), he had the sun on his back, and he’s gone from an immature colt into a proper stallion. That is a proper weight-for-age, seven-furlong group 1 first-up. It is everything we were hoping for,” McGrath said Saturday.
“Our whole business model is built around identifying colts with pedigrees that can be stallion prospects and I think he’s franked that now.
“The beautiful headache for the whole team now is, where does he go now? Does he go to a Golden Eagle? Initially, you might have thought he was a Cox Plate (G1) horse, but now the Golden Eagle comes into the mix.
“That’s the beauty of race programming here in Australia, it provides so many conundrums when you’ve got a good horse. We are just thankful that we have a good horse because we’ve always felt that he was the real deal and I think today he’s shown everyone what we’ve thought privately.”
Ridden by Tommy Berry, the Annabel Neasham-trained Mo’unga stalked Verry Elleegant in the run then peeled off her back and outlasted the mare to the line to get the decision by a head.
Stayer She’s Ideel flashed home from last to grab third in an eye-catching performance ahead of a wall of horses, including Japanese import Keiai Nautique (fourth) and The Star Doncaster Mile (G1) winner Cascadian (fifth).
Brandenburg, a winner of AU$1.25 million for trainer John Sargent and part-owner Seymour Bloodstock’s Darren Thomas, suffered a fatal injury 100 meters from the finish line, which caused jockey Rachel King to hit the turf, just as he was about to fight out the finish with Verry Elleegant and Mo’unga.
Thankfully, King was able to walk back to the jockeys’ room but she had to forgo her final two rides on the Randwick card.
“I’m a bit emotional actually,” Neasham said.
“He looked the winner a long, long way out. He came up outside Verry Elleegant and I knew he was going to be in for a tough battle as she’s such a fighter as well.
“He’s improved a hell of a lot from 3-year-old to 4-year-old.”
McGrath indicated connections will weigh up where to head next with Mo’unga, mindful of his value as a stallion.
“I suppose in the old days you would have gone to Catalina for a bit of lunch (in Rose Bay, Sydney) on Sunday and everyone would have thrown a few ideas around but it will probably be a Zoom meeting now between trainer, owner, and jockey,” he said.
“As I said, the Golden Eagle has to come into consideration. I see he’s shortened in the market for the Epsom. We were hoping for a really big run first-up and he’s done that and more and he’s a stallion prospect for anyone going forward.
“We have just to plot a course. I’d love to know what Tommy thought when he let him go because it looked like he had a proper sprinter-miler underneath him.”
When Mo’unga does eventually go to stud, he will be Savabeel’s third group 1 winner to retire to stud following Cool Aza Beel, who won the Sistema Stakes (G1) for Te Akau, and Al Basti Equiworld 45th New Zealand Two Thousand Guineas (G1) winner Embellish .
Embellish enters his third season at Cambridge Stud in 2021 while Cool Aza Beel will stand his first season at Newhaven Park in Boorowa this year.
“I think Savabeel’s quite an interesting sire because, if you actually look through his numbers, he’s a very good sire of sprinter-milers and I am not convinced that is the perception (by the market),” McGrath said.
“This horse might change it because this horse might be a sprinter-miler. The way he’s going at the moment I think he’d be an appealing horse for plenty of commercial operations.
“From Tony Fung’s point of view, he’s put an awful lot of money into the game and he’s shown that he’s a commercial operator and, thankfully, he’s got another good horse to think about tonight.”
Mo’unga was bought by Fung’s Aquis Farm for NZ$325,000 (US$222,008) at the 2019 New Zealand Bloodstock Karaka Yearling Sale from the Waikato Stud draft. Now a winner of five of his 10 starts and AU$1.05 million in prize money, Mo’unga is out of the group 3-placed Kiwi mare Chandelier (O’Reilly), who is a sister to the group 2 winner Irlanda and a half sister to Go Our Kingi, a listed-placed Hong Kong winner.
He is also from the same family as group 1 winner Chenille and group 2 winner Chintz, herself the dam of group 2 winner Not An Option, a 4-year-old who is now in training with Mike Moroney in Melbourne.
Chandelier has an unnamed 2-year-old sister and yearling brother to Mo’unga and she is due to foal to Waikato Stud’s new sire Super Seth this year.