Australian sprinters Target Ascot Takeover

John Berry - - 13 May 2007

BRITISH RACEGOERS WERE unprepared for the Royal Ascot sprinting successes of Choisir in 2003, writes John Berry

But, since then, the “poms” have come to expect the antipodean visitors to be very competitive and Takeover Target’s win in last year’s King’s Stand Stakes merely confirmed the respect in which the Australian challengers are now held.

Four Australian sprinters – Takeover Target, Bentley Biscuit, Miss Andretti and Magnus – are all scheduled for next month’s Royal meeting and two of them put the finishing touches to the domestic part of their preparation on Saturday in the Group One BTC Cup at Doomben (1200m). Of the two, Bentley Biscuit went into the race in better form, with two Group One successes at the Sydney Autumn Carnival to his name. Takeover Target, on the other hand, has had mixed luck since last summer’s successful British raid. A superb win in Japan was followed by the debacle of the positive dope test that ruled him out of the Hong Kong International Sprint; and his preparation for Sydney’s Autumn Carnival was hampered by both lameness and illness.

However, the BTC Cup has confirmed that, once again, Joe Janiak has got Takeover Target going as he would like. He settled behind the leaders under his usual rider Jay Ford, took up the running in the straight and looked set for victory, only to be caught close home by Bentley Biscuit and beaten a short neck. The connections of both horses can now head for England with confidence.

Bentley Biscuit hasn’t spent his entire career sprinting, because he ran third in last year’s Doncaster Handicap, Australia’s premier mile race. However, Gai Waterhouse has confined him to shorter races since then, and he is unbeaten in his five starts at 1200m. Saturday’s win was arguably his best success ever. He was ridden with maximum confidence, coming into the straight in last position after a slow start. His rider Nash Rawiller elected to stick to the inside and he was momentarily held up for a run, but when he had room to weave between horses he flew home like a champion to win with more in hand than the margin might suggest.

English racegoers, as well as being impressed by the quality of these two horses, might be surprised by their pedigrees, because neither are by stallions categorised in Europe as short-distance influences: Takeover Target is by Celtic Swing and Bentley Biscuit by Peintre Celebre. These two stallions both won the Prix du Jockey-Club when it was still run over 2400m.

However, even in Europe, Celtic Swing has already shown that he can sire a horse with brilliant speed (Temple Stakes winner Celtic Mill) if sent a true sprinting mare (Madam Millie). And Takeover Target and Bentley Biscuit are both from very fast families. In the case of the former, he is coincidentally one of two current leading Australian sprinters bred by Meringo Stud Farm from fast daughters of Archregent, and both are by stayers: the stud’s other star protégé is Natural Destiny, a son of AJC Derby winner Naturalism.

Bentley Biscuit, a flashy chestnut in the mould of his father, is from an even more distinguished sprinting family. His pedigree reads like a “Who’s Who” of Australian sprinting stallions: from a Last Tycoon mare, from a Bletchingly mare, from a Showdown mare. His dam, Tycoon Joy, recorded her only win over 1200m. She is a half-sister to Group Two-winning sprinter, Light Up The World (the dam of Blue Diamond Stakes place-getter World Peace) and also to Joy, the dam of Group One-winning sprinter and now popular young stallion, Thorn Park. Bentley Biscuit’s second dam Christmas Spirit is a three-parts sister to Pago Pago Stakes winner, and Golden Slipper place-getter, Christmas Tree.

Last year Pride reminded racegoers around the world that Peintre Celebre, formerly a tremendous middle-distance racehorse, can produce outstanding middle-distance runners. Now Bentley Biscuit has shown Australia that Peintre Celebre can also produce outstanding sprinters – and he looks well on course to demonstrate that to an English audience as well.

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My horses understand me tolerably well. I converse with them at least four hours every day. They are strangers to bridle or saddle; they live in great amity with me, and friendship to each other.

—Jonathan Swift from
Gulliver’s Travels