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Dante hopeful Telecaster bidding to become Meon Valley's latest headline act

James Thomas catches up with the stud's Mark Weinfeld

Mark Weinfeld: "We've been very lucky with horses who haven't sold over the years"
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Rock stars Bruce Springsteen, Joe Strummer and Keith Richards have all been propelled into the limelight by their exploits with a Telecaster. In Thursday's Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Dante Stakes at York, breeders Meon Valley Stud will be hoping to follow suit with the thoroughbred namesake of Fender's famous electric guitar.

Hughie Morrison has coaxed a rare tune out of the son of New Approach, who finished runner-up to fellow Classic prospect Bangkok on debut before storming to a nine-length victory at Windsor on his second start. The form of both efforts has been boosted since, while the trainer has declared Telecaster the best middle-distance three-year-old colt he has ever trained.

While Morrison has made no secret of the esteem in which he holds Telecaster, buyers at Book 1 of the Tattersalls October Yearling Sale in 2017 were rather more ambivalent, as the colt was bought back by his breeders at 180,000gns. Suffice to say, a number of major players have since reassessed their valuations of the horse.

"We've had some reasonable offers since Windsor, and if it all goes wrong on Thursday we might wish we'd taken one," says Meon Valley's Mark Weinfeld, whose family race the colt under the Castle Down Racing banner.

"We decided we're all getting on a bit though and a horse like this doesn't come along every day, so why not just stick with it and see what happens?

Telecaster as a yearling on the Tattersalls sales ground
"Hughie has always liked him and we'd hoped he'd win at Windsor, but he won somewhat easier than I thought he was going to so it seemed sensible to make one or two bigger entries for him. We're stepping up quite a bit by running in this race, jumping in at the deep end."

But the deep end is probably where a horse with Classic form running deep through his pedigree belongs. Not only is Telecaster by Galileo's Derby winning son New Approach, but he is the second foal out of Shirocco Star, who finished runner-up behind Was in the Oaks and filled the same position behind Great Heavens in the Irish equivalent.

"New Approach might've been slightly out of favour [at the sales] that year and the mare hadn't produced anything of note at the time," says Weinfeld on the colt's lukewarm sales ring reception.

"Everybody would like to have a horse who could run in a Derby but it seems few are prepared to go and buy one if they're going to need a bit of time. Many buyers want a fast two-year-old, something that may run at Royal Ascot."

Shirocco Star (left) chases Great Heavens (right) home in the 2012 Irish Oaks
Somewhat remarkably given the innate talent the family has displayed, Telecaster is the third generation to go unsold at the yearling sales, with the bidding reaching just 48,000gns for Shirocco Star in 2010, while Meon Valley retained her dam, Spectral Star, at 100,000gns in 2003.

"We've been very lucky with horses who haven't sold over the years," says Weinfeld. "His dam didn't sell and neither did the granddam – if we'd sold her none of them would be here!"

Things have panned out rather better for the latest progeny of Shirocco Star to reach the Tattersalls sales ring, with her Dubawi colt going the way of Godolphin through Stroud Coleman Bloodstock for 1,100,000gns last year.

A somewhat chequered sales history is not the only similarity between Telecaster and Shirocco Star, however, with Weinfeld saying the three-year-old has inherited plenty of his dam's character. 

"They both like to get on with the job and they're both quite spirited," he says. "They used to have to canter Shirocco Star every day, including Sundays, otherwise she got too full of herself, and Telecaster shares the same traits.

"We know he's strengthening all the time and has turned into a good-looking horse. Hopefully he's going to improve throughout the year. Even if he doesn't run that well on Thursday it may well be that it's later into the season that he comes into his prime."

However, should Telecaster strike on the Knavesmire, he would be maintaining Meon Valley's red-hot run of recent form.

On Wednesday Telecaster's Dansili half-brother, Starcaster, became the stud's 1,000th winner when running out a clear-cut winner of the closing race at York, while last week saw two of the stud's fillies register impressive successes.

Anapurna strides clear in the Lingfield Oaks Trial
First came Twist 'N' Shake, a member of the same Reprocolor family as Telecaster who looked every inch a stakes performer when landing a Nottingham maiden by seven lengths, before Anapurna, a descendant of another Meon Valley foundation mare in One In A Million, won the Listed Lingfield Oaks Trial by a widening six lengths on Saturday.

"We thought the two fillies were quite useful but they've probably exceeded expectations so far," says Weinfeld. "Twist 'N' Shake isn't very big and hasn't grown much over the winter, but John Gosden had told us she'd been working very well and she certainly looks smart. We'd like to try and get some black type before deciding on bigger targets later in the year.

"We thought Anapurna looked useful after she won her maiden, but she looks a bit more than useful now. Barring something going wrong the plan is she will go to Epsom, I think she'll get the trip as in her trial she seemed to be doing her best work at the end of the race."

Moreover, another stud graduate in Value Proposition, who sold to Klaravich Stables for 400,000gns the same year Telecaster came under the hammer, looked a hugely talented colt when making an impressive debut at Belmont for Chad Brown last month. 

With a potentially vintage crop of three-year-olds still containing a couple of live Classic contenders, it looks like Meon Valley Stud could be rivalling this year's Glastonbury Festival when it comes to strength in depth of headline acts.

Meon Valley Stud's 2019 mating plans anything but black and white


We've had some reasonable offers since Windsor, and if it all goes wrong on Thursday we might wish we'd taken one
E.W. Terms