Trainer Tony Gollan has made little secret of the high-regard in which he holds progressive galloper Antino.
The striking son of Redwood has hardly put a foot wrong as he steps through his grades and made short-work of his seasoned rivals in the Listed Wayne Wilson (1600m) last Saturday at Eagle Farm.
It was the first black-type victory for the rising star four-year-old, who has now won eight of his nine career starts that has already netted more than A$350,000 in stakes.
Now enjoying a well-deserved break, Gollan said the sky is the limit for the New Zealand-bred gelding, who was purchased for what now looks a steal at just $27,000 from the 2020 New Zealand Bloodstock Ready To Run Sale.
Bred by Hong Kong-based George Kit Ma’s Blossom Trading & Breeding Company Ltd, Antino is by Westbury Stud stallion Redwood, who is enjoying a purple patch care of multiple Group One winner Sharp ‘N’ Smart, Hong Kong Derby runner-up Tuchel and stakes-winning juvenile Solidify.
Out of a full-sister to Group One gallopers Hurrah and Best Gift, Antino’s dam Mahamaya was purchased for just $3,000 in foal to Redwood at the 2018 Karaka May Sale by Logan Salvador on behalf of Ma.
“I was managing some horses for George Kit Ma of Blossom Trading & Breeding Company and he is big on pedigree and was drawn to the mare,” Newcastle-based Salvador said. “I can’t take a lot of credit for selecting the mare.
“Antino was a good foal and I have to acknowledge Casey Dando who raised him. I only saw him as a young horse and Casey, who operated under Bradbury Park at the time, always had a big wrap on the horse and he is a good judge.
“I love the stallion and I was underbidder on Tokorangi, who is also by Redwood and was bred and raised by Casey.
“Antino was physically the best horse Mr Ma had bred. We never sent him to the yearling sales. We retained him and were tossing up whether we took him to the Ready to Run Sale or trialled him with the aim of getting him into the Asian market.
“In the end we opted for the Ready To Run Sale, where he was prepared by John Malcolm’s Cheltenham Stables.”
Despite ticking several boxes, including breezing well, Antino had a less than perfect vet report that affected his sale price.
“The horse was sent through the sale unreserved and made $27,000,” said Malcolm, who will offer eight or nine two-year-olds at this year’s New Zealand Ready To Run Sale.
“He had a great brain and was a nice moving horse. He was probably only medium-sized but he was quite a nice physical type of horse.
“As soon as you're a grade three on scope it becomes pretty hard work but that’s why he went through as an unreserved horse.
“Grade three shouldn't be a write off. Here’s a prime example – the horse is the winner of eight from nine and looks destined for even better things.”
Bidding online that day was Hong Kong-based racehorse owner Jeetu Ramchandani.
The 37-year-old these days utilises the services of respected bloodstock agent Craig Rounsefell of Boomer Bloodstock to help manage his evolving portfolio of racehorses and breeding stock.
But short on time and left to his own devices while the 2020 Ready To Run Sale took place, Ramchandani, who along with his brother operates a clothing manufacturing business that supplies a number of European chain stores, acted on gut-instinct.
“I was sitting at work and I pulled up the screen,” Ramchandani said. “This horse walked into the ring and I thought, ‘he looks quite nice’.
“The bidding was going up in small bids of $1,000 and $2,000 and I thought I’ve got to get something. I ended up purchasing the horse for $27,000.
“I had done zero due diligence. It sounds ridiculous, but if you look at it now, it is probably the best thing that happened.
“This was before I linked with Craig. He would probably cut my hands off if he knew I was bidding online now, and we have a much more professional approach.”
Born and raised in Hong Kong, Ramchandani’s first taste of racing was with his friends who owned a horse called Blue Caviar, prepared by Danny Shum.
“He won his first start, we got really excited and thought racing was fun. We thought it was easy,” said Ramchandani.
“We went down a rabbit hole buying a few more horses and it never worked out.”
After his successful online bid, Ramchandani sent two-year-old Antino to Mark Schmetzer at Scone to be pre-trained before he went to Adam Campton who had recently returned from Hong Kong and set-up training at the Gold Coast.
“Mark Schmetzer was very accurate with his feedback and had a high opinion of the horse and did a great job of educating him before he went to Adam Campton,” Ramchandani said.
“I am good friends with Brett Prebble who I have known for a number of years. He trialed the horse for me and he won by six lengths and he recommended we geld him.
“We had looked at bringing him to Hong Kong, but when we made inquiries and looked back at his veterinary history from when he went through the Ready To Run Sale, we found that he had a 3 scope.
“He wasn’t showing any signs or making any sounds, but we knew not to go down the path to Hong Kong because of the strict vetting protocols.
“We decided to race him in Australia.”
A winner on debut for Campton, after a lengthy spell Antino joined the stable of Champion Queensland trainer Gollan and has continued to go from strength to strength.
“He is having a spell and will probably be tipped out for four to five weeks,” Ramchandani said. “I have the ultimate trust in Tony Gollan and Craig Rounsefell to decide what is best for the horse. They have the best interest for me and for the horse and I will defer to them to map out a plan.
“He put away a very good field last start and there are plenty of options. He is so versatile and he really is a dream horse.”
While Ramchandani is acutely aware he has one of the more promising gallopers in Australia, he can’t help but think what could have been as he was offered the lot prior to Antino at the 2020 New Zealand Ready To Run Sale.
“Through a syndicate, I owned a successful racehorse called Will Power that we have just retired here in Hong Kong. He won eight races and HK$10 million.
“He was bought for $80,000 in New Zealand by Joe Barnes.
“Joe actually called me up and asked if I had a permit because he really liked a Sweynesse horse, who funnily enough was the lot before Antino.
“I didn’t have a permit and I turned him down. I definitely regret that decision now, as that horse has gone on to be Lucky Sweynesse, but you can’t buy everything and we are pretty blessed with Antino.”