Spray day: It’s A Dundeel is awash with options. Photo: Pat ScalaThe future for It’s A Dundeel will be decided in the next eight weeks, starting with the Chipping Norton Stakes at Warwick Farm on Saturday. There are plenty of options on the table. Royal Ascot and the Arc at Longchamp get a mention.
A return “for unfinished business in the Cox Plate” is also there, but one thing is for sure – he has lucrative stud career ahead at Arrowfield, whose silks he dons for the first time at Warwick Farm.
“I have not wanted to mock him, so we haven’t planned anything after the Queen Elizabeth Stakes,” Arrowfield boss John Messara said. “He is certainly an exciting horse with exciting options, but it is all dependent on what happens in the next six to eight weeks. He has been inoculated so he can travel if we want him to, but that’s as far as any planning has gone. He could go straight to stud but it depends on this [autumn] campaign.”
It’s A Dundeel goes into the 1600m Chipping Norton first-up by design. He has given every indication that he is the strongest he has been and is fully mature. Jockey James McDonald said after a recent Randwick barrier trial win “he is better, if that’s possible”. It makes it hard for Messara to contain the excitement.
“He is really a 2000m weight-for-age horse with a great turn of foot,” he said. “That’s what makes him special. He needs to be fresh for the mile, which will mean he has that real sprint, which is what [trainer] Murray [Baker] wants. He is an amazing horse; when he won the Australian Derby last year his last 200m was quicker than Black Caviar ran in the T.J. Smith on the same day. That is speed and stamina, and is what you want in a stallion.”
Messara admits to being competitive “when it comes to anything” and it extends to the racetrack, where he shared the success of future Arrowfield stallions such as Charge Forward, All American, Snitzel and Animal Kingdom. He took an option of buying 75 per cent of It’s A Dundeel after he finished midfield in the Cox Plate for about $10 million.
“It is something I really enjoy being part of – the planning with a racehorse that is going to be a stallion,” Messara said. “Finding the right races that will increase their appeal and value and the thrill of winning big races can’t be matched. Here we have a five-time group 1 winner that might have the best in front of him. It is funny to say that, considering he won the triple crown here in Sydney as a three-year-old.
The Chipping Norton will be a stepping stone to the Ranvet Stakes in a fortnight before a start in The BMW or Doncaster, whichever Baker thinks is the best option heading into the main aim, the $4 million Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick on April 19.
“If he can win a couple of those races, there is not much he has left to prove,” Messara said. “The Queen Elizabeth at The Championships is the race everyone is shooting at, but we think he is the right horse. There are plenty of owners in him and they all have their thoughts on what races to target. Mainly we just want to see back him on the track and winning.”
It’s A Dundeel has won group 1s at each of his past three campaigns. His spring was rocked by hoof-abscess problems after he handed Atlantic Jewel her only defeat, in the Underwood Stakes. The Cox Plate, which was his main target, is best forgotten.
“He passed the vets twice before the race but he was a patched-up horse and had no luck in the race,” Messara said. “It wasn’t him at his best. We want to show the best of him in Sydney.”
Messara has nothing but praise for It’s A Dundeel’s trainer Baker, who he labelled an old-fashioned horseman.
“I haven’t had much to do with him before. He doesn’t say much, but it is blokes like him that are really tuned into their horses,” Messara said. “He knows him better than anyone and he is happy.”