Special Turnbull triumph for White Robe Lodge

By Richard Edmunds

5 Oct 2022

Special Turnbull triumph for White Robe LodgeSmokin’ Romans makes no race of the Turnbull Stakes to credit Ghibellines’ with his first Group

There could be no more fitting first Group One winner for White Robe Lodge stallion Ghibellines than Smokin’ Romans, who ran his rivals ragged in Saturday’s Turnbull Stakes at Flemington.
Now the winner of nine of his 23 starts and more than A$1.28 million, the chestnut gelding was bred by White Robe Lodge proprietors Brian and Lorraine Anderton, and he is out of the respected Otago nursery’s multiple Group-winning homebred mare Inferno (by Yamanin Vital).
Smokin’ Romans was a $52,500 purchase from White Robe Lodge’s Book 1 draft at Karaka 2018, and he is trained by Ciaron Maher and David Eustace for a syndicate that includes Kiwi owner Don Frampton.
“A race like the Turnbull is a pretty good one for one of our graduates to win, and having Smokin’ Romans become the first Group One winner for Ghibellines was a special result for all of us,” said White Robe Lodge’s stud manager Wayne Stewart, who is also the Andertons’ son-in-law.
“Smokin’ Romans is from the first crop of Ghibellines, and he always stood out – I can remember him quite clearly even now. Although he was by a bay sire and out of a bay mare, he was a chestnut, so he stood out a little bit.
“He had a lovely head and was always a very healthy, good-looking colt. He was quite English-looking in a way – very scopey and athletic.
“Having Ciaron train him makes it extra special. We’ve got a great relationship with him. He won the Sydney Cup with Etah James, who was the first Group One winner for Raise The Flag, and he won a Sandown Cup with Yogi (also by Raise The Flag) as well.
“We built that relationship through Raise The Flag, and it’s just carried on from there. He’s bought a lot of horses off us, from weanlings and yearlings right through to older horses. We sold horses like Ablaze and Heberite to clients of his stable, and they’ve won over $1 million between them.
“Ciaron loves his jumpers as well as his flat horses, and that really suits the stock that we breed.”
Saturday’s Group One breakthrough continued a remarkable spring campaign for Smokin’ Romans, who had scored his first Group victory in the Gr. 3 MRC Foundation Cup at Caulfield in his previous start on September 17. The TAB now rates him a $4.50 favourite for the Caulfield Cup on October 15.
“He’s taken a bit of time to mature mentally and physically,” Stewart said. “As Ciaron has said a few times in the media, he’s been a bit quirky. I think he’s always shown a fair bit of ability, but he just took a while to put everything together. A lot of our breed have tended to improve with age, and he seems to be another example of that.”
The Turnbull triumph also capped an outstanding 12 months for Ghibellines, who stands for a service fee of $8000 this season. Arion Pedigrees statistics now credit the son of Shamardal with 55 winners from 113 runners, six of them at stakes level.
This time last year, Listed winner El Gladiador was the sole stakes winner by Ghibellines, but Smokin’ Romans has been the headline act in a flurry of black type since then.
Markus Aurelius won the Gr. 2 Coupland’s Bakeries Mile at Riccarton last November, Palmetto went back-to-back in the Listed Dunedin Guineas and Southland Guineas in February, Burgie claimed the Listed Warstep Stakes in April, and Live Drama took out the Listed Great Easter Stakes in May.
“It’s been an interesting ride with Ghibellines,” Stewart said. “We were thrilled with the early results he had, but then he went a bit quiet.
“Since around this time last year, he’s really gone to a new level with Guineas winners, two-year-old winners, Markus Aurelius in the Coupland’s and other stakes performers.
“Smokin’ Romans won the Pakenham Cup over 2500 metres last December, and the two-year-old filly Gwynver ran a big race for second over 800 metres at Riccarton on Saturday.
“He seems to be becoming an all-round sire. Different types of mares can produce all sorts of different results. In that sense he’s a bit like his sire Shamardal, whose progeny have performed across all ages and distances.
“Ghibellines had a bit of a quiet book at this time last year, but it’s completely different this time around. He’s got a lot of bookings, and there are still more coming in now. Everything’s looking really positive.”
There are also encouraging signs with White Robe Lodge newcomer Ancient Spirit. A son of Invincible Spirit who won up to Group Two level in Germany, he has his first foals arriving this spring.
“We’re really happy with how his early foals are looking,” Stewart said. “They’re very nice, athletic types. We’re thrilled.”