James McDonald celebrates aboard It’s A Dundeel following an emphatic victory in the Australian Derby
(Photo : Jenny Evans/The Age)
“THE AUSTRALIAN TRIPLE CROWN”
Let’s be frank, no Triple Crown is ever a piece of cake, because wherever you are, you have to take on the best of your contemporaries. It’s even tougher in a place like Australia, which today is as competitive a racing jurisdiction as any. The Aussies last witnessed a Triple Crown winner in 1996 when the mighty Octagonal managed it, and for Australian-breds theirs is probably all the more elusive because their producers have spent much of the last century and before, breeding the five and six furlong steeds for which they’re famous. That meant that if ever there was going to be a contender, it was more likely to come from the sturdy beasts across the Tasman than Australia.
The Australian Triple Crown is a big ask, rivalling both the American and English versions in its demands, and arguably outpointing both in the tightness of its schedule. As opposed to the American’s, the range of its distances (1600m to 2400m,) is broader too, comprising the Randwick Guineas (over 1600m), the Rosehill Guineas (2000m) and the Australian Derby (2400m), demanding not only loads of versatility, but buckets of durability, squeezed as it is into a matter of four weeks.
This past weekend, new Triple Crown history was made by a son of High Chaparral, It’s A Dundeel, who completed the third leg with an annihilation of his rivals by a growing six lengths, suggesting his class and stamina could make him competitive in Europe later in the year for the likes of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Gr.1) at Ascot, or Longchamp’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Gr.1). While the stamina profile of Aussie-breds has changed somewhat in recent times, it says something for the skills of New Zealand breeders that both Octagonal and It’s A Dundeel are from the Land of the Long White Cloud, perpetuating a decades-long tradition of producing some of the Southern Hemisphere’s best stayers.
It’s A Dundeel’s sire High Chaparral, who kicked off life very much in the shadows of his illustrious paternal siblings, Galileo and Montjeu, has climbed to the pinnacle of his profession through a tally of no fewer than six individual Group One winners from his first year at stud (four in the Southern Hemisphere and two in the Northern Hemisphere), and he now has this standout in his second crop. Its A Dundeel is not isolated in his class though; among his fellow candidates in Saturday’s production were a further three in the ten horse field (Kingdoms picking up the third place cheque) while his unbeaten son Toronado is a strong Epsom Derby fancy in the UK.
His highest rated Northern Hemisphere product is the Summerhill resident, Golden Sword (Timeform 122), who might’ve been a Derby winner in any other year; it was his misfortune to be born in the same era as the World Champion, Sea The Stars, and Fame And Glory.