Dobson odds-on for two Group Ones on Jewels day
By Brad Reid
Ian Dobson has had more than his fair share of success when it comes to premier race meetings at Addington Raceway.
It started in the 90’s with the Smooth Fella mare, Jam Cover Girl, named after the business that allowed Dobson to get heavily involved in the sport that is his passion.
What transpired was a golden run for more than two decades through the deeds of the great Christian Cullen, his champion daughter, Mainland Banner and son in Gotta Go Cullen.
For a man who has seen it all, you get the sense his current run of golden results means as much to him as those twenty years ago and they are also providing him with many firsts in the sport as well.
On a cold winter’s night six weeks ago at Addington, Dobson won his first Group One race as a breeder, when Muscle Mountain and Ben Hope combined to down Sundees Son in the NZ Trotting Championship.
“It was just fabulous,” said Dobson.
“I’ve won a lot of races as you would know, but the way he won running down the best trotter in the country was something that is pretty hard to put in words.
“Being Ben’s first Group One as well made for a special night. I don’t have too many late ones now at my age but it’s fair to say we had a late night after that,” exclaimed Dobson.
Anyone who saw Dobson that night understood what it meant to him with tears visible on his rosy cheeks.
It had been a while between drinks with Little Rascal being his most recent Group performer, but you have to go back as far as Joyfuljoy winning the Three-Year-Old Diamond in 2009 to find his last Group One win as an owner.
His involvement might not be what it once was, but it’s hardly like his investment in the sport has ceased.
If anything, it shows how hard it is to not only get to the top in this sport as breeder and owner, but to stay there requires all sorts of good fortune not often accounted for in balance sheets.
Some of that good fortune came early last year when he received a phone call from the champion horseman, Mark Purdon.
Dobson had owned a pacer with Purdon before that never made it to the races. Ian had made it clear to Mark that if there was ever an opportunity to be involved with a nice pacer again to keep him in mind.
“Mark had bought the horse for a Victorian owner that had a sudden change of heart after Akuta was purchased from the sales.
“He called me and said he had a yearling that he really liked and would I like to be involved.
“I looked into the pedigree and liked what I saw. A Bettor’s Delight out of a Christian Cullen mare.
“That’s the great thing about Cullen,” said Dobson.
“His daughters are fantastic broodmares. Even the unraced ones are worth persevering with because they put X factor into their foals.
Dobson wound up taking a three-quarter share in the pacer named Akuta and only a few days out from the penultimate feature card of the season, it appears to be another one of Dobson’s many astute business decisions.
The son of Bettor’s Delight out of the unraced Christian Cullen mare Adore To Our Dreams had a fair bit of hype about him even before his first public appearance at the trials.
Bred by Paul and Pauline Renwick, Akuta hails from a strong maternal family going back to the likes of his fifth dam, Viva Reine (1962 Fallacy – Egyptian Queen).
She left some smart performers in Corfu (Nardins Byrd), Raemses (Noodlum) and Graikos (Jersey Hanover) the later running second to Lord Module in the 1979 Pan Am Mile, the first race where the whole field broke 2 minutes for the mile in New Zealand.
The family from Akuta’s third dam Emily Franco include:
Eden Franco 2012 by Christian Cullen - 1:54.1 $192,757
Franco Edward 2015 by American Ideal - 1:54.2 $221,468
Franco Emirate 2006 by Christian Cullen - 1:53.8 $332,830
Artemis Belle 2007 by Artiscape - 1:56.1 $359,599
Eagle Rox 2009 by Bettors Delight - 1:55.2 $225,656
Rishi 2013 by Bettors Delight - 1:50.2 $242,952
Little Rascal 2011 by Panspacificflight - 1:50.2 $356,863
Franco Enforce 1993 by OK Bye - 1:50.3US $593,738
Winning on debut in the Group Three Kindergarten Stakes at Wyndham he only did what he had to after leading up in a 1:59.5 mile rate leaving some pundits a little underwhelmed.
He was then beaten on his merits a week later in the Welcome Stakes (far from disgraced mind you) which led many to believe that the hype train was more smoke than substance.
“He’s had a few niggles along the way, but he had a month off after that run and we got on top of his issues with the freshen up,” said Dobson.
Akuta second-rated a full field of yearling sales graduates in the NZB Harness Millions final for two-year-old colts and geldings, turning the tables on his stablemate Cosmic Major.
“Akuta is something else,” said Dobson.
“I think we will see that on Jewels Day at Cambridge from his good draw. He really is something quite special and will prove that on Sunday,” he said.
He heads to the Jewels at Cambridge as the shortest of the shorties paying $1.25 to win the Hardwood Breeding Two-Year-Old Emerald, and he could be paying even less on the day after his Sires' Stakes demolition.
“I was talking to Natalie after the race and she told me she stopped driving him at the 400m mark and that he just took over himself.
“To run away from them after drawing 11, never seeing the pegs and sitting parked was a pretty big statement to make,” he said.
The Group One win on May 21 provided another couple of firsts for Dobson. He had never won the two-year-old Sires Stakes final before with Cullen having gone amiss as a juvenile prior to getting the opportunity.
He had also never won back-to-back races with Muscle Mountain winning the Open Class trot on the same card a race earlier, meaning Dobson was able to enjoy the hospitality from the Breckon Winning Owners Bar for a good hour or so!
Sunday at the Jewels will provide Dobson with another opportunity for a first. Two Group One winners in a day?
Akuta’s handy draw should prove very hard to bowl, so too Muscle Mountain having fared better than his main rival, Bolt For Brilliance.
Muscle Mountain showed when winning the Fred Shaw Memorial in April that he has a bit of gate speed if called upon, and with a stable mate inside him, also likely to land handy, he should have some options with any luck.
For a while it seemed, the man we call ‘Dobbie’ was having zero luck with his foray into the trotters after securing the mother of Muscle Mountain whom he bought as a yearling for $48,000 at the 2014 National Yearling Sale in Christchurch.
“I had raced a trotter before in the early 2000’s with Gold N Gold who did quite well in Australia and beat Lyell Creek at his final start,” he said.
“I didn’t have any intention of buying a trotter that year but loved her family and pedigree and bought her largely on that basis,” he said.
Paramount Faith (Pegasus Spur – Paramount Star) had excellent manners and fluent gait but lacked any real speed to push on with as a juvenile, leaving Dobson with what he believes was any easy decision.
“I thought with her breeding and lovely manners she had to be sent to stud. I guess the best decision I ever made with that mare was sending her to the best stallion in the world, Muscle Hill.
The second-best decision he ever made with the mare was sticking to his guns and not selling the resulting colt by the world champion sire Muscle Hill for less than his reserve of $40,000.
At the 2018 sale of trotters, Ultimate Stride was the sales topper fetching $160,000.
There were 10 yearlings by Muscle Hill which no doubt diluted the market for them, however $40,000 was the highest price paid which speaks more to the lack of opportunities for young trotters than it does the foresight of buyers.
Cracker Hill, Vacation Hill, Midnight Dash, Chloe Rose, Bolt For Brilliance and Muscle Mountain all came from that sale in 2018. They have all paid for themselves some time ago!!!!!
In North America and Europe the offspring of Muscle Hill only need four legs and a tail to reach six figures in the ring with the stallions popularity limiting his availability Down Under in recent seasons.
To think Muscle Hill was available at $12,000 here is mind boggling given what Dobson had to pay to secure a service to him in the spring.
“Paramount Faith is back in foal to him, but it is going to cost me a small fortune to make it happen mind you,” he said.
Dobson should already have a full-brother to Muscle Mountain had it not been for a paddock accident.
“We lost a full brother as a late yearling after he was found caught up in a fence which was just horrible.
“She then lost two foals by Trixton in consecutive years which I guess happens with livestock, but I’m not getting any younger and the breeding caper was looking like I might have pulled the wrong reign,” he said.
Dobson now has a Tactical Landing filly out of Paramount Faith, the first live foal since Muscle Mountain whom he is looking forward to seeing develop.
“I am proud of what I have achieved in this sport and I’m going to enjoy for as long as I can,” he said philosophically.
Read more breeding content in the latest issue of Breeders Update: http://bit.ly/BreedersUpdate103