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The Age                                                                                                                                    April 23, 2011

                                                                                                                     Link to online Age article

Bonny mare like a fine wine  

By Andrew Garvey

For her breeder Ken Williams, last Saturday's Doncaster Mile winner Sacred Choice is a classic example of what you see is not necessarily what you get.

Williams, who owns Tarcoola Stud on the Mornington Peninsula, would have been quite happy to race the daughter of Choisir but could not find any industry expert to give him a thumbs up.

After breeding several average winners from Sacred Habit, a three-quarter sister to Golden Slipper-winner Marauding, Williams elected to have a mating done through British company Thoroughbred Genetics.

''They found she was terribly inbred and recommended outbreeding to a prepotent inbred sire and strongly suggested Choisir,'' Williams explained.

Not wanting to spend a lot of money on her, Williams entered into a foal-share arrangement for Sacred Choice with Coolmore Stud, the home of Choisir.

The result was a nice filly who did not have a lot of strength. Williams said she was initially not accepted into the Magic Millions yearling sale in 2007 before the company begrudgingly allowed her to be substituted for another of his horses that developed issues and could not be sold.

At the sale Williams asked four trainers to have a look at the filly but ''to a man they all said she was too weak and to let her go''.

Foal shares normally stipulate that a horse must be sold at auction, so it was just a matter of how much the Choisir filly would make.

''There were no bidders apart from Coolmore and us who were trying to bid each other up without being left with her and in the end she was Coolmore's for $40,000,'' Williams said..

She was eventually sold to clients of Anthony Cummings and Williams kept in contact with the trainer to see how she progressed as he was weighing up whether to sell Sacred Habit.

The reports from the trainer were far from glowing and when Sacred Choice developed a knee problem that meant she would be off the scene for a long time with just one win on her CV, Williams decided it was time for Sacred Habit to go. The mare had also failed to get in foal the previous two seasons.

''Once I heard that Sacred Choice would need a long spell she [Sacred Habit] was sent to an Inglis broodmare sale where she fetched the princely sum of $2000 in foal to Dubai Destination,'' he said.

'Not too long afterwards, Sacred Choice, having been transferred to Warwick Farm trainer Joseph Pride, resumed racing and kept improving with every run.

On the back of a third placing in last year's group 1 Epsom Handicap she headed to the group 1 Myer Classic on Derby day at Flemington. On her preferred wet ground she proved too strong for Typhoon Tracy and a strong field of mares.

While he was pleased to have bred a group 1 winner, Williams was still scratching his head after the race.

He says that in a conversation with a leading trainer after the race it came up that he had bred Sacred Choice.

''He said, 'She's a magnificent horse. Why didn't you ask me to look at her?'

''I didn't have the the heart to tell him that he had and had told me not to keep her,'' Williams said, adding that he had looked at her in the mounting yard before the race and thought she looked much like she had as a yearling.

It sounds like a take of woe for Williams but having bought Sacred Habit in foal for $62,500 and selling the resultant foal for $70,000, along with several other reasonable results in the sale ring, she more than paid for herself and there is more to come.

''I think I get a trophy from the NSW Breeders for breeding the Doncaster winner. It's probably worth $50,'' Williams laughed.  

 

 
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