Failed sire can get his mojo back on track
NORMALLY when a horse wins four group 1 races from 1100 metres to 1600 metres at the biggest meetings in Australia and England he can be assured of a life of luxury and an assembly line of well-bred mares to service.
Alas, for Australian (and European) champion sprinter Starspangledbanner, the dream career as a stallion has failed to materialise because of fertility issues.
The now six-year-old has been forced to forego his harem and go back to the track, with his first appearance as a relaunched racehorse due to come on Saturday at the Curragh in Ireland.
Starspangledbanner won two group 1 races in Australia when prepared by Leon Corstens, taking out the 1600-metre Caulfield Guineas in 2009 before winning the Oakleigh Plate (1100 metres) four months later.
He was then bought by breeding and racing entity Coolmore for a reported $10 million and, after ending his Australian career with a third in the Newmarket Handicap, was sent to Aidan O’Brien in Ireland to be trained.
The son of Choisir did not let anyone down.
He won the Golden Jubilee Stakes, then followed up three weeks later with a victory in the group 1 July Cup.
The colt completed his European career with a second place in another top sprint, the Nunthorpe Stakes (1000 metres) at York, before bowing out with a fifth in a group 1 scamper at Haydock.
Tough, game and consistent, and blessed with pace and power, Starspangledbanner looked to be the ideal breeding prospect – until nature took a hand. He managed to get only a handful of mares in foal, and the decision was taken to bring him back to racing.
He is entered on Saturday in The Minstrel Stakes (1400 metres). Another tilt at the Nunthorpe at York in August has been mooted as a second possibility for the horse.
The difficulty which (an admittedly injured) Black Caviar had in winning over the Ascot 1200 metres and the relatively poor showing over the equally tough Newmarket 1200 metres by Australians Ortensia and Sepoy in last weekend’s July Cup, might serve to put the scale of Starspangledbanner’s achievements in better perspective.
He did not have to travel there to race within a few weeks, as did Black Caviar. Nor did he campaign in Dubai, as did Ortensia and Sepoy. But he did have to make the transition between southern and northern hemispheres and endure a cold winter and spring in Ireland before enjoying his two group 1 successes against the best short-course horses around in his year.
Starspangledbanner rates as one of the top sprinters this country has produced in recent times. His international handicap rating of 121 is only four points behind Hay List’s 125 and hard on the heels of Sepoy (123).