Black Caviar breeder confident of pulling off Cable Bay challenge
Martin Stevens speaks to Rick Jamieson about his ambitious plan
When it was announced that Cable Bay, coming to the end of covering his second book of mares at Highclere Stud, would shuttle to Australia from this year it might have been assumed that the identity of his sire, Invincible Spirit, was the overriding reason he was in demand down under. Another son, I Am Invincible, ranks as one of the most exciting young stallions there, after all.
Or perhaps it was the fact his granddam, Haydock Sprint Cup heroine Cherokee Rose, was a half-sister to Volksraad, a multiple champion sire in New Zealand; or his good looks, which have enticed breeders to send him 152 mares in his first British book and around 130 in his second; or even his admirable race record, which included a runner-up effort in the Dewhurst Stakes at two and a victory in the Challenge Stakes on his final start at four.
All of those factors may have contributed to the cause of Cable Bay's working holiday at Woodside Park Stud in Victoria, but the main motivation for Rick Jamieson orchestrating the deal to secure the stallion's southern hemisphere breeding rights was in fact deeply hidden elements of his pedigree that the breeder of unbeaten sprint queen Black Caviar has pinpointed.
For Jamieson is an avid analyst of thoroughbred families and, by choosing matings seemingly - the word seemingly is used because the exact details of his method are not disclosed - based on determining influential ancestors and matching them between the sire and dam, he managed to breed five Group 1 winners from only around 54 foals to have raced in the space of six years.
And what makes the achievement all the more impressive is that the sires he has chosen are not necessarily the most fashionable or expensive. Black Caviar's sire Bel Esprit is a solid source of talent but has never reached the heights of a Redoute's Choice or Encosta De Lago, while this season's Caulfield Cup heroine Jameka, one of the latest star graduates of Jamieson's Gilgai Farm, was bred from the unpretentious Myboycharlie.
“Look, I know there's a lot of luck involved, I'm not stupid, but those winners were from modestly bred mares and I was not afraid to go to less commercial stallions as long as they fitted my matrix,” Jamieson said at last week's Magic Millions National Broodmare Sale on the Gold Coast, where he and his agents were busy sourcing mares for Cable Bay. “Breeding and planning matings is my hobby, and it's worked out extraordinarily well.”
Now Jamieson has set himself the reverse challenge of finding his own stallion and testing whether an impressive strike-rate of winners to runners can be achieved if correctly matched mares are sent to him.
“I wondered for some time whether the same theories I used for mating my mares could apply to a sire,” he said. “My friend Peter Anastasiou [the breeder of Cloth Of Stars] pushed me into turning it into reality. He looked for a stallion, starting in Australia then stretching out and looking in the UK.
“Peter suggested some stallions to see if they had what I looked for and one of them was Cable Bay. The more I peeled back the pedigree, the more comfort I took that we could match mares to this horse.
“So we got him out here and the mission is to turn him into a stallion with double-digit stakes winners to runners. A good horse in Australia might get six to seven per cent; to get over ten per cent is exceptional, then you've got a serious horse.
“It's a bit of a personal challenge, to correctly mate mares to him. I'm pretty confident I'll do it.”
The team that joined Jamieson to import Cable Bay to Australia includes Woodside Park Stud, Grand Lodge and B2B Bloodstock. The partners will be sending around 50 mares who correctly match with the sire, and 12 lots were purchased at Magic Millions by Dermot Farrington and Damon Gabbedy's Belmont Bloodstock for that purpose. They included Miss Cover Girl, a Group 1-winning daughter of Monashee Mountain, for A$500,000 (£296,000/€337,000).
Jamieson did not reveal what criteria those mares filled, saying only his method was “too difficult to explain” but that he looks for “a lot of things – synergies and multiples”.
He dropped one clue by adding that Dancing Brave is “dynamite” in a pedigree due to the influence of that brilliant horse's sire Lyphard and damsire Drone. Dancing Brave was the sire of Cherokee Rose who, remember, is the maternal granddam of Cable Bay.
So there you have it: the key selling point for Jamieson in the acquisition of southern-hemisphere breeding rights in Cable Bay was not necessarily his sire-line, his racing performance or quality of his first foals, as strong as any of those claims may be. Rather, it appears it might have been ancestors in his third and fourth generations and deeper pedigree analysis that clinched the deal.
Cynics would do well to remember the breeder of Black Caviar's phenomenal strike-rate of nine per cent Group 1 winners to runners.
He might just know what he's talking about.
Group 1 winners bred by Rick Jamieson
Bel Esprit-Helsinge (Desert Sun)
The sprint queen, a daughter of inexpensive sire Bel Esprit, retired undefeated in 25 starts, 15 of them at the highest level including a memorable raid on Royal Ascot that just came off when jockey Luke Nolen stopped riding near the finish of the Diamond Jubilee Stakes.
All Too Hard
Casino Prince-Helsinge (Desert Sun)
By some margin the best horse by his sire, this half-brother to Black Caviar was beaten by Pierro in Group 1 company at two but gained revenge at three when he defeated his old foe to win the Caulfield Guineas before also taking the Orr Stakes, Futurity Stakes and All Aged Stakes.
Myboycharlie-Mine Game (General Nediym)
The filly by Myboycharlie - a sire who punches well above his lowly covering fee - is rated comfortably within the top 20 of the Longines World's Best Racehorse Rankings after taking this season's Caulfield Cup and BMW by wide margins.
Street Boss-Soorena (Encosta De Lago)
Jamieson took the punt on US Grade 1 winner Street Boss in the first season he shuttled to Australia, at a fee of just A$16,500 – around £9,700 or €11,000 – and was rewarded by breeding The Quarterback, who sprang a surprise by winning the prestigious Newmarket Handicap last year.
Sebring-Bubble Below (Hussonet)
Jamieson paid a snip more for the nomination to Sebring – A$49,500 (£29,000/€33,000) – but at least he caught the sire on the way up, as he eventually stood for as much as A$77,000. The result was Lucky Bubbles, a new star in Hong Kong sprinting and winner of the Chairman's Sprint Prize last month.