Octagonal's death recalls Zabeel's Cox Plate heroes

25 Oct 2016

By Brian Russell

Zabeel, a son of Sir Tristram, a Sir Ivor stallion who at Patrick Hogan's Cambridge stud in New Zealand proved one of the all time great sires of Australasia, was good enough to win the Gr.1 Australian Guineas but he tailed the field home in the 14-runner 1989 Cox Plate, won by Sheikh Hamdan's import Almaarad.

There were three Sir Tristrams - Empire Rose, Riverina Charm and Tristanagh - and a grandson, the Grosvenor stallion Our Westminster, ahead of Zabeel at the finish. 

This failure did not stop the now deceased Zabeel from going on to be the equal - or superior - of Sir Tristram as a sire. In fact Zabeel, also used at the Cambridge Stud, challenges as the most influential sire to stand in New Zealand.

Two gallopers by Zabeel sires took on Winx in Saturday's Cox Plate - Lucia Valentina, by Savabeel, and Hauraki, by Reset. Two-times champion sire Savabeel is one of four Cox Plate winners by Zabeel, sharing this distinction with Octagonal, Might And Power and Maldivian.

The deeds of Octagonal on the track and as a sire were recalled following his death at the age of 24 at Darley's Woodlands Stud in the Hunter Valley 10 days before the running of this year's Cox Plate.

Produced by wonder broodmare Eight Carat at Cambridge Stud in 1992, purchased by Sydney based chicken-processing giants Jack and Bob Ingham for $220,000 at the NZ yearling sales and trained by John Hawkes for their Woodlands Stud empire, Octagonal - or the Big O as he was revered - contested 28 races, all in Australia, for 14 wins (1100m-2400m), all but one in stakes company, and seven seconds, earning A$5,892,231. He was named champion two-year-old of his year and the following season took Australian Horse of the Year honours.

Ten Group One wins came in Sydney: the Australian Derby,Tancred Stakes - twice, Rosehill Guineas, Canterbury Guineas, Chipping Norton and Sires' Produce Stakes and in Melbourne in the Cox Plate, Australian Cup and Underwood Stakes.

In addition, he earned second money in four Group One races, the Golden Slipper (half neck to Flying Spur), Champagne Stakes, Queen Elizabeth and Victoria Derby.

Retired to the Woodlands Stud in 1997 on a fee of A$30,000, the imposing 16.1-hands, dark brown Octagonal was not a big success as a sire, except for leaving a son who was his equal, or perhaps even his superior, as a racehorse, Lonhro. 

Bred and raced by the Inghams,The Black Flash - as Lonhro was known - won 26 races (11 at Group One level) up to 2000m and finished third in the Cox Plate. He earned A$5,790,510 and was crowned Australian Horse of the Year and joint top of 2004 World Rankings at a mile.

Both Octagonal and Lonhro were jewels in the package when Dubai?s ruler Sheikh Mohammed Maktoum acquired all the Inghams' horses, studs and training complexes in 2008. 

Octagonal shuttled to France in 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001 and produced several good winners. All told he has had 867 runners for 508 winners of 1449 races, spread over 16 countries (1110 in Australia) and his progeny have earned more than A$41 million.

Contributors to his honours board of 25 stakes winners have been Group One winners Lonhro, Niello (won Rosehill Guineas, Canterbury Guineas, Spring Champion Stakes), Suntagonal and Laverock.