Westbury celebrates a weekend to savour

By Richard Edmunds

8 Sep 2021

Westbury celebrates a weekend to savourMascarpone caused a huge upset winning Saturday’s Gr. 2 Valachi Downs Foxbridge Plate at Te Rapa

The spring of 2021 is off to an unforgettable start for Westbury Stud, courtesy of Group Two triumphs on both sides of the Tasman and an undefeated up-and-comer in Hong Kong.
Mascarpone and The Inferno, who are both graduates of Westbury’s Book 1 draft at Karaka 2018, produced blockbuster performances to defeat star-studded fields in Saturday’s Foxbridge Plate at Te Rapa and McEwen Stakes at Moonee Valley respectively. The following day at Sha Tin, Packing Victory improved his perfect record to two-out-of-two with a remarkable 1200-metre victory.
“It was a fantastic weekend that really got the spring off to the best possible start for us,” Westbury Stud’s general manager Russell Warwick told RaceForm.
“Hong Kong and Australia are obviously key markets, so any success and influence that we manage to have there is always something to take a huge amount of satisfaction from.
“Packing Victory did everything wrong the other night at Sha Tin – he came out quite slowly, faced the breeze and then wobbled around the corner. We thought he was going to be beaten, but in the end he put three lengths on them.
“The stable has high aspirations for him, so it’ll be exciting to follow his progress. There’s also a half-brother here with a big reputation – a three-year-old Tarzino gelding called Te Toki, trained by Simon and Katrina Alexander. He’s won two trials and looks like an exciting prospect, having his first start this week at either Taupo or Te Rapa.”
While Mascarpone and The Inferno were both first-time Group Two winners last weekend, the latter was already a proven superstar in Singapore. The son of Holy Roman Emperor had been a dominant winner of eight of his nine starts at Kranji, including the Golden Horseshoe, Saas Fee Stakes, Singapore Guineas, Singapore 3YO Classic and Lion City Cup.
In just his second start on Australian soil, he powered past proven star sprinters Portland Sky and September Run for a McEwen Stakes victory that has thrust him into contention for next month’s A$15 million Everest at Randwick.
“He’d carried all before him in Singapore, but as we’re often told – and quite rightly – the Australian sprinters are among the very best in the world,” Warwick said.
“So there were a lot of sceptics about his credentials, and it was a bit of an unknown as to how his Singapore form might translate to Australia. Could he be within a bull’s roar of those good sprinters, or was the gap going to be too big?
“He silenced that to a certain degree with a very impressive performance, and especially when you consider that the second and third placegetters are both Group One-winning sprinters in their own right. This was also only his second start back after 10 months on the sidelines, so there’s still improvement in him.
“But he’s always been a quality horse, and his record reflects that – 11 starts for nine wins, a placing and $1.2 million in stakes. His only time outside the placings was his first-up run in Australia.
“I’ve known his trainer Cliff Brown for 25 or 30 years now, and he’s always been fairly conservative and a bit of a pessimist. He’s loath to build up the reputation of himself or his horses too much. So for him to say this is potentially the best horse he’s ever trained, you sit up and take notice. He’s a multiple champion trainer in Singapore who has had a lot of good horses.”
The Inferno’s story has taken a few interesting twists and turns – from his dam Spina Rosa being mated to sire Holy Roman Emperor only because first choice Pierro was unavailable due to injury, to Warwick and a group of partners turning a $10,000 weanling purchase into a $140,000 price tag as a yearling at Karaka. Among those involved was Tim Barry, a board member of the now-defunct Auckland Racing Club.
“At that time, Westbury was owned by Eric Watson, who was exiting and looking to sell a lot of horses,” Warwick recalled. “The Inferno was one of those who was sent to the weanling sales, and he just had a couple of X-ray issues – the vet was of the opinion that there’d be no lasting effect.
“Meanwhile Tim, whose company Buffalo & Co does all of our marketing and advertising, happened to tell me he wouldn’t mind buying some weanlings to try to take to Karaka and sell as yearlings. He had a group of about eight to 10 people involved.
“I told him I knew a bit about this Holy Roman Emperor colt, who came up well genetically, and I knew his mother had plenty of ability but unfortunately injured a tendon.
“We had a look at him, and he was a really nice, attractive colt. There had been a lot of interest, but in the end those X-ray issues deterred a lot of people. Instead of going for $50,000 to $60,000, we were fortunate enough to get him for $10,000. As they say, the rest is history.”
Warwick also took a lot of satisfaction from Mascarpone’s victory in the Foxbridge Plate at Te Rapa. Bought for $160,000 at Karaka by Team Rogerson, the Shooting To Win gelding has now had 20 starts for seven wins and just under $240,000 in stakes.
“It’s always interesting to look back and see which yearlings were in which draft, and that 2018 group featured The Inferno, Mascarpone and also the VRC Oaks winner Miami Bound,” Warwick said.
“Mascarpone has always had a quality physique and been a big, strong horse, but he’s had a bit of an attitude as well and been quite headstrong. Team Rogerson have done a massive job in getting him to do things right.
“He made real progress from the ages of two to three, and again from three to four, and now he seems to have got better again between four and five. He was third in the Group One sprint at Te Rapa earlier in the year and fourth in the Telegraph, and not far removed from some of our very best sprinters in those races. With the extra year on him and some of the work that the Rogersons have done, we might now be starting to see the very best of him.
“We have a half-sister by Reliable Man who’s heading towards Karaka. She’s very athletic and well-muscled, and her value’s gone up with what Mascarpone did on Saturday. We’re hoping she’ll be one that buyers might be interested in.”