Answer that phone - you never know what's on the other end

1 May 2017

By John Costello (originally published in The Informant and republished here courtesy of that weekly racing publication)

A remarkable breeding event last Saturday would never have come to pass if Cambridge studmaster Patrick Hogan, not yet Sir Patrick, had missed a call from the US some 27 to 28 years ago.

That call resulted in Sir Patrick and Lady Justine Hogan ? then just P and Mrs JA in the breeding records ? becoming the owners of an American-bred mare named L'Quiz.

A 1987 bay mare by L'Enjoleur from Basin, L'Quiz was to become the dam of two multiple Group One winners, Champagne and St Reims.

Last weekend, on either side of the Tasman and just 10 minutes apart, two of L'Quiz's granddaughters, Martique and Imposingly, were represented by Group One winners: Charmont in the New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders' Stakes at Te Rapa and Bonneval, in stunning fashion, in the Australian Oaks at Randwick in Sydney.

Charmont, who carries the colours of her breeder Bob Emery, is by High Chaparral from Martique, by Danehill from Champagne (Zabeel-L'Quiz).

Bonneval, who made up an extraordinary amount of home-stretch ground in the Australian Oaks and in the finish made it look easy, is by Makfi from Imposingly (Aus), by Zabeel-Quiz Queen, by Defensive Play from L'Quiz.

That's right. The 1987 US-bred mare is the third dam, the great-grandmother, of both.

She was in quarantine in Los Angeles, due to get on the plane," said Sir Patrick when he recalled how he and Lady Justine came to be the owners of L'Quiz.

But the authorities wouldn't release her because the owner-to-be hadn't paid for her. I was buying a number of northern hemisphere mares at the time. The agent rang me and asked if I'd be interested in buying this one. I looked at the pedigree and liked it. L'Enjoleur, her sire, was by Buckpasser from the outstanding broodmare Fanfreluche. From memory I paid $40,000 for her."

And thus a story which had many a highlight even before the events of last weekend had its beginnings.

Champagne (1994) was L'Quiz's third foal, the first she'd produced to Cambridge Stud's then young stallion Zabeel, and she was bought by newly retired businessman Bob Emery.

Quiz Queen, by Defensive Play, was the next. L'Quiz went on to produce eight further foals by Zabeel. The 1999 foal, five years after Champagne, was St Reims.

Champagne was one of the best of a strong crop of three-year-old fillies in 1997-98.

She won the Eulogy Stakes and Ladies' Mile, both Group Three, and was second to Tycoon Lil in the Royal Stakes before a successful Australian trip in the autumn, during which she won the Gr.3 Angus Armanasco Stakes, Listed Moonee Valley Oaks in Melbourne and the Gr.1 Ansett (Vinery) Stakes at Rosehill.

In the latter race, she beat On Air, who turned the tables on her in the Australian Oaks.

Champagne wound up her Australian campaign with a second placing to Might And Power in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes. We should perhaps gloss over the fact that Might And Power, that freakish son of Zabeel, won the Queen Elizabeth by 10 1/2 lengths.

The spring of 1998 again saw Champagne in Melbourne ? following a couple of "sighters" in Sydney ? for what was to be her final campaign. She ran 11th in a rough-run Caulfield Cup and then produced her optimum performance when thumping the usual formidable field in the Gr.1 Mackinnon Stakes.

I was in Melbourne for that carnival and remember talking to Bob Emery after Champagne's crushing Mackinnon Stakes victory. He seemed surprisingly unenthusiastic about now having one of the favourites for the Melbourne Cup three days later.

When I spoke to Bob this week after Charmont's Group One win, remembered that day too.

"From a breeding angle the Group One Australian win at 2000m to me carried more prestige than a possible Melbourne Cup win. Breeders tend to associate the big 3200m Cups with dourness."

Trainer Laurie Laxon couldn't believe that you wouldn't go for the Melbourne Cup with a classy mare, bred to stay and in the peak of condition. Her owner went along with it and, as it turned out, Champagne didn't quite pull it off anyway. But how nobly she tried.

For much of the last 300m, Champagne held a slight advantage over fellow Zabeel mare Jezabeel. Then Jezabeel, already an Auckland Cup winner at 3200m and this time with the softer run, stuck her neck out and got the verdict by that margin: a neck.

I remain convinced that Champagne faltered just short of the finish and my impression was that she'd struck a nerve. Bob Emery is just as convinced that the tendon injury that prevented her from racing again occurred later, not during the Cup.

St Reims, Champagne's successor on L'Quiz's CV, won 11 races with aggressive front running which broke a few hearts. His Group Ones came in the New Zealand Derby (following the Gr.2 Avondale Guineas) and the following year's Zabeel Classic.

At stud, with modest opportunities, he has produced nearly 50 individual winners with a leaning towards soft-track performers.

Champagne had just one foal in New Zealand, Nadege (Giant’s Causeway), and then went to Australia, where Bob Emery bred from her until eventually selling her.

Martique, who won three of her seven starts, was bred in Australia and so was her daughter Charmont, by High Chaparral.

Charmont might have ended up back in Australia, too, when she was put through the ring at the 2013 New Zealand Bloodstock Premier Sale.

But Emery brought her home when she failed to reach her $250,000 reserve.

"I’d sold her half-sister for $325,000 the year before so $250,000 didn’t seem an unrealistic reserve," Emery said.

It may have seemed unrealistic at times as Charmont, though showing ability from the outset, kept knocking at the black-type door rather than pushing her way in.

It wasn't until this current campaign that Charmont broke through for a stakes win in the Listed Wairarapa Breeders' Stakes at Tauherenikau on February 6.

"I was delighted with that win and I might have been inclined to settle for that. But Murray [Baker, trainer] said he'd like to give her a crack at Group One in the New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders' Stakes. She ran third behind Miss Wilson in the Cuddle Stakes and then Saturday at Te Rapa was her day.

"Now I've got the pleasant conundrum of deciding whether to retire her next spring to stud, or racing her on for one more season. She certainly hasn't been over-raced."

The decision to bring home the filly that was to be named Charmont from the Karaka sales complex four years ago was finally vindicated last weekend, both in stake-earnings (now just under $300,000) and potential stud value.

Bob Emery is now rather ruefully regretting that he didn't bring home the filly he took to the Sydney yearling sales last week.

"She is by Medaglia d'Oro from Alamantra, an unraced daughter of Champagne, and the fillies by Medaglia d'Oro just weren't in demand. I had to sell her outside the ring at a discounted price and if we'd been in Auckland instead of Sydney, yes - I would have brought her home."

Seldom has a yearling appreciated in value so rapidly. Within a couple of days of her purchase, the Alamantra filly's catalogue page was boosted by two female Group One winners.

On the bright side, Bob Emery was very much taken by Bonneval when he saw her at the Baker-Forsman property last spring. So he mated Alamantra with Makfi, Bonneval's sire, on the strength of it and now has the daughter of Champagne in foal to a hot stallion whose future is in Japan. - The Informant