Couple holds dual hopes in shares
WHAT odds the same family sharing ownership of next week's Ramornie and Grafton Cup winners?
Long odds indeed. Unprecedented.
Amazingly, Rhys and Chloe Smith, from Kulani Park Stud, Willow Tree in the Upper Hunter Valley, have a second to none chance of creating history in the two feature races during the XXXX Gold July Racing Carnival.
Chloe Smith, under her maiden name of Latif, and Rhys Smith's sister in-law, Erin, have shares in dual Group One winner Black Piranha, likely favourite for Wednesday's $130,000 WHK Ramornie Handicap (1200m).
Smith's parents, John and Robyn, race The Verminator, Chris Waller's emerging Melbourne Cup-bound stayer, which is also likely to head betting for the $150,000 Wykes Tyrepower Grafton Cup (2350m) on July 14.
The story just gets better.
Rhys and Chloe purchased both horses as weanlings.
And Rhys used to ride The Verminator's dam, Fraar Side when, as a teenager, he worked at the Hayes' family-owned Linsday Park at Angaston, South Australia.
This year also marks the widely travelled couple's first visit to Grafton.
Chloe comes from a multicultural background. Born in Greece and brought up between India and Australia, she rode ponies as a young girl and later broke in and pre-trained horses in India.
She has lived in Australia for 12 years.
Rhys was raised in Cranbourne, Victoria, and is steeped in racing. His father John owned 1993 Group One Vic Health Stakes winner Black Rogue.
“We're very much looking forward to coming to Grafton,” Chloe said. “We're excited.
“Either way, it's going to be a big week for us.
“To have chances in both major races is unbelievable.”
Black Piranha was purchased as a weanling for $16,000 and sold to furniture king Tony Scali for $41,000 at the Magic Million sales on the Gold Coast.
“He was a rig, otherwise he would have fetched between $80,000 to $100,000,” Rhys said. “A very athletic type, good walker. When he walked he was always heading somewhere. I like that.”
During a trip to Melbourne, Rhys and Chloe met Scali.
Rhys asked Scali is he would manage to syndicate Black Piranha. When informed 20 per cent was still available, he snapped up the remainder.
“I was with my brother Kane. We didn't want to put the horse in our names,” Rhys said.
“Chloe got 10 per cent and Kane gave his share to his wife Erin.
“Bad mistake, terrible,” he laughed. “The girls have copped all the prizemoney.
“Chloe used to rib me all the time about it but I'm immune to it now.
“The only other horse she's owned, Mimzical, won around $250,000. She's lucky.”
Under Scali and trainer Con Karakatsanis, Black Piranha has earned $2.61 million in prizemoney.
Smith's benevolent decision will haunt him forever.
The Verminator, the son of 1993 Caulfield Cup winner Fraar, like Black Piranha, appealed to Smith as a weanling because of his athleticism, presence and Smith's connection to Fraar Side.
He was purchased for $17,000 in Melbourne and offered as a yearling at the Classic Sale with a reserve of $50,000.
“We couldn't get it,” Smith said. “We decided to keep him.”
Smith's parents, John and Robyn, who had Kulani Park, a sprawling 1000-acre agistment and breeding property owned by the family and in the process of being sold, raced The Verminator.The Verminator, winner of five from 18 starts and $213,200 prizemoney, appeals to Smith.
“EVERYTHING will pay off in the next 12 months,” he said. “He's getting better every preparation. He's gone from soft, to a hard horse and probably should have won his past four starts in Sydney.”
While Smith admits their early forays into breeding and ownership were “moderate”, the pair bred dual New Zealand Group One winner We Can't Say That Now and sold 2010 AJC Oaks winner, Once Were Wild.
“We're looking forward to our first trip to Grafton,” he said. “Since I was a kid, I always remember dad wanting to win a Ramornie.
“Black Piranha will get a lot of weight and needs the speed on but The Verminator, he's the one.”