Phoenix Park principal Janine Dunlop is hoping the second day of The Championships at Royal Randwick this weekend can provide even greater celebrations than those she had after day one on Saturday.
Dunlop is a part-owner of Gr.1 Sydney Cup (3200m) aspirant The Chosen One and will make her way to Sydney this week to be on course to watch the Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman-trained entire make his bid for the Group One title.
She was however left beaming with pride in the performance of kiwi-bred galloper Mr Brightside on the first day of the prestigious Randwick two-day carnival after the Ben and JD Hayes-trained four-year-old strode to victory in the Gr.1 Doncaster Mile (1600m).
Dunlop was heavily involved in the early development of the son of former Highview Stud stallion Bullbars, after breeder Ray Johnson asked her to prepare him for the New Zealand Bloodstock National Yearling Sale in January 2019.
“I have had horses for Ray over a number of years and he asked me to get this one ready for the January sale at Karaka when he was a weanling,” Dunlop said.
“He just didn’t quite come up for that sale and I said to Ray he didn’t really fit the bill, so we might be better to pop him in the yearling section at the May sale instead.
“Phill Cataldo bought him for the late Laurie Laxon from the sale for what I considered to be a real bargain at $22,000 with the idea that he might be a great pinhook for the Ready To Run sale later in the year.
“I prepared him for that sale and unfortunately, he was a little bit naughty during the prep and he slipped under people’s guard again and was passed in.
“Laurie then had him put into work but the recommendation was that he should probably look to sell him on gavelhouse.com, which he did.
“I am good friends with Sabin Kirkland, who trains down in the deep south and I told him he should buy the horse but he decided against it, so I have had plenty of fun giving him a hard time about what he missed out on.
“As it turned out Ray bought him back and put him with Ralph Manning and they sold him after his first race at Matamata and the story has just got better and better from there.”
Dunlop has always had faith in the horse, right from the day she first saw him.
“He is just such a neat horse, a real good looker with plenty of natural muscle and so athletic,” she said.
“His biggest downfall was that he had his own special quirks and characteristics and could be quite naughty, but I know Ralph put plenty of hours into him and the Hayes boys have continued that and they now have a star on their hands.
“I just thrilled for everyone involved and also for the boost this will give both the May sale and gavelhouse.com.
“We’ve always thought the Doncaster Mile was the toughest mile in Australia and I don’t think it was a coincidence that the first three home were kiwi-bred as our horses continue to excel at the highest level.”
While Dunlop was thrilled with the result, she was also celebrating her own piece of success on Saturday as a part-owner of Gr.3 Manawatu Classic (2000m) winner Amalfi Prince.
“I took a share in the syndicate that Te Akau Racing put together for Amalfi Prince and he was just so brave on Saturday with that win,” she said.
“I actually nearly missed the race and just managed to get in front of the television when they jumped, so it was the start of quite a magical day really.”
Dunlop will be hoping the good fortune continues with The Chosen One this Saturday although she has had to overcome some obstacles to ensure she is on-course to cheer him on.
“I’ve Just got off the phone with Ray Dennis (part-owner and breeder) who is sorting out my accommodation in Sydney for me,” Dunlop said.
“I couldn’t book it myself as my credit card was stolen recently which makes it very difficult when you are trying to travel.
“It’s been a real kerfuffle and I’m just so grateful Ray has been able to help as I can’t say how much I’m looking forward to being on track at Randwick with the syndicate who own The Chosen One and making a very special day of it after all the restrictions we have had in the last two years.
“It is going to be a fantastic day of racing and if we could top it off with a win then it will be quite magical.”