Heavyweight Hero has raced just 19 times over four seasons for his five wins as Todd Macfarlane has waited for him to fill out his massive frame.
Gael Murray is well known as a preparer of yearlings for the Premier Sale but she has just been battling as a breeder and vendor of trotting-bred yearlings from her foundation mare, Springfield Lauren.
However, she may well have turned a corner with the emergence of Heavyweight Hero, the giant five-year-old who has the makings of an open class star when he eventually fills out and strengthens into his massive frame.
The promise of the Muscle Mass gelding was the main factor in Murray selling a Peak half-brother at last year’s Premier Sale for $22,000, which was her best result during the last 16 years of offering yearlings from the family at the sales and on her own account.
That Peak colt is now racing as the juvenile gelding Fighting Fire and he’ll be the fifth winner from the first five foals from Successor, a Sundon daughter of Springfield Lauren who was a sister to a good horse in Running On Time.
Things have been tracking quite nicely since Heavyweight Hero showed up as an unlikely top two-year-old and was only just beaten by a head by Custodian at the Cambridge Jewels three years ago.
But after a run of colts, Murray has become “quite desperate” for a filly from Successor and rather belatedly put her back in foal to Muscle Mass this season with that in mind.
“I really do hope that it’s a sister to Heavyweight Hero as I’m going to have to give Successor next season off after she went in foal so late (January 7) this season,” said Murray.
“You never really know when you’re going to lose a mare, as I found out with Springfield Lauren, so I’m very keen to get a filly from Successor just in case.”
Springfield Lauren, an Armbro Invasion mare who was from a Game Pride daughter of the top trotting mare Tronso, was lost while foaling Successor and Murray had a battle saving the filly.
“She was an orphan for three weeks and bottle fed and not able to stand in that time, until we managed to find a foster mare.
“I’d kept an earlier filly from Springfield Lauren in Enchant, but she was by Earl and a rather nasty piece of work and she’s been a bit of a flop as a broodmare so far.”
Murray was particularly keen to save Successor as Running On Time had won his two-year-old debut at Addington in the previous season and gone on to finish second in the Sales race.
He staged a remarkable recovery that night after an early gallop had cost him 20 lengths, but he would be disqualified.
Running On Time went on to finish second in the Sires Stakes and the Northern Trotting Derby, both to Sovereignty, and he would win 10 races and $138,000, although he went amiss as a five-year-old and never regained any form.
Tronso was a Light Brigade mare who won 10 races including the 1966 Dominion Handicap for trainer Colin Berkett and driver Felix Newfield.
A subsequent Johnny Globe half-brother in Cee Ar won 11 races including the 1974 Rowe Cup for owner-trainer Rod DeFilippi and driver Denis Nyhan.
“Brian West had stood Chiola Cola at stud and I was working for him at the time when Springfield Lauren came up in the Mixed Sale in foal to him. I really liked her and took out a loan for $3000 to buy her.”
Cee Ar would also win the NZ Trotting FFA at the Cup meeting the next year when handled by DeFilippi’s son and then junior driver Colin, a week after they’d been beaten a head and half a head in the Dominion by Nyhan’s Hal Good and Easton Light (40m).
Tronso didn’t get many favours at stud however and produced foals by pacing sires in Scottish Hanover, Fantastic (four-win son of Van Hanover) and Keystone Provider along with a colt by Beau Nonantais, none of which were sighted.
She did produce fillies by Tuft and Game Pride however.
The Tuft one was Elgin Lady and she won five races and produced Elgin Princess (6 wins), the latter leading to the likes of Bohemian (Victoria Trotting Derby) and Over The Love.
The Game Pride one was Elgin’s Pride and she was the dam of Springfield Lauren along with Elgin’s Joy, who to Armbro Invasion produced Jay Bee Ar (14 wins, $122,000).
The latter’s three-quarter sister in Springfield Lauren had been unraced and acquired by Eugene Storck when he was looking for mares to breed to Chiola Cola, who won 18 races for him including the Dominion and one in Europe.
“Brian West had stood Chiola Cola at stud and I was working for him at the time when Springfield Lauren came up in the Mixed Sale in foal to him.
“I really liked her and took out a loan for $3000 to buy her.”
Springfield Lauren had produced two foals by Chiola Cola and they would prove useful sorts in Janover Hanover (3 NZ & 11 Aus wins, $91,000) and perennial placegetter Momo (4 NZ wins).
To Springfield Lauren’s credit, they were the two best performers sired by Chiola Cola along with Delcola (6 NZ wins), a filly from the good trotting mare Aron Del.
Murray got a colt by Chiola Cola in The Man Himself, a winner on debut in Auckland who went on to record numerous placings in Australia, and then she bred the Sundon colts Conquer All (19 Aus wins, $179,000) and Running On Time, with Enchant in between and only Successor to come.
Murray formed a syndicate to race Enchant and she won a race at Wyndham under trainer Jim Curragh, while her first foal was the Sundon filly Enthral (Aus1.57.9, 11 Aus wins, $127,000), who was racing at Menangle up until November.
The second foal in a Majestic Son colt was “as mad as a snake” and Enchant has since produced fillies by Sam Bourbon, Peak and Master Glide.
“I think the Sam Bourbon went in the wind. They were quite happy with the Peak one although it would be six months since I heard about that one.
“I had the Master Glide filly in the sales but I pulled her out because it would have been a waste of time and Murray (Edmonds) took her away.”
Murray did not breed from Enthral for the next two seasons, but now has her in foal to Imperial Count.
“Enchant’s foals have been pretty fiery and Imperial Count has a very good temperament so I’m just hoping for one that is better natured.”
Successor’s first foal was a filly by Great Success in Fatal Reunion, who was sold as a yearling for $9000 and who won three races for Edmonds, but who died while foaling for the first time.
Then came the colts Spurred By Success (1 win), Heavyweight Hero, Success Counts (5 Aus wins to date) and Fighting Fire, a sound fifth behind One Majic Kenny at Addington last Friday night.
Successor’s first four foals were bought by Motueka’s Eric Inwood for a collective $32,000 after he’d bought Running On Time for $9500.
Unfortunately, Inwood passed away soon after Heavyweight Hero began racing as a two-year-old and his estate sold him to clients of trainer Todd Macfarlane, who has started him just 19 times during the last four seasons.
Successor had another colt by Kadabra this season, a late foal after an eventful prior breeding season.
She had been bred twice to Love You and missed, something not shown in official breeding records, and then she conceived twins by Majestic Son.
“We lost them both when the vet attempted to ‘pinch’ one and then she had twins again, and that operation was successful.
“But all that mucking around has stuffed us up and it’s why I need to give Successor next season off, so she can get back to having earlier foals.
“Success Counts was a small foal by Imperial Count, but the rest of them have been big foals including the Kadabra, which can go to the sales next year.
“But I really don’t care what size the next foal is, just as long as it is a filly.”