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Oppenheimer optimistic about 2020 team spearheaded by quality Star Catcher

Anthony Oppenheimer’s Classic-winning filly STAR CATCHER (GB) landed her third top-flight victory on Saturday in the Group 1 QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes, giving the owner-breeder his third Champions Day victory in as many years.

Following the race, it was confirmed that the three-year-old will remain in training in 2020 to spearhead a team of Hascombe & Valiant Stud-bred horses that, as a conversation with GBRI on Sunday has revealed, will be as strong in quantity as in quality.

Reflecting on both Star Catcher’s gutsy win and the decision to keep the filly in training next year, Oppenheimer comments:

“We knew it was going to be a very tough race, with so many good fillies in it, and all fairly closely rated, so we could see it was going to be quite a good fight. We were favourite, but I don’t think we expected it. We hoped that we had a reasonable chance of being in the first three.”

The owner-breeder continues: “She’s going to have a break and go back into training next year, so long as she’s well and John is happy with her. I don’t think we have a campaign in mind. We have another useful filly who is rated a couple of pounds below her, and with ENABLE (GB) also running there’s a possibility that we’re going to have to be dodging around a bit. If we race against Enable, that’s fine, but we wouldn’t want to take her on in the early stages.”

The other ‘useful filly’ that Oppenheimer refers to is Group 2 winner DAME MALLIOT (GB), who is also destined for a return to the track next year. Group 2 Musidora Stakes runner-up FRANKELLINA (GB), meanwhile, has been retired to the paddocks and will be covered by SEA THE STARS next spring, Oppenheimer reveals.

For Oppenheimer’s team in training next year, it will be a case of quantity as well as quality, as the stud’s commercial policy of selling the colts and keeping the fillies and a recent spate of filly foals has meant that his black, white and red silks will be carried by a particularly large number of horses next year:

“I’ve got masses of fillies, you see, because unfortunately – or fortunately, depending on how you look upon it – the stud breeds more fillies than colts at the moment. I’ve got a lot of two-year-old fillies going into training. I could have as many as 11 fillies in training next year.”

With so many fillies coming up through the ranks, Oppenheimer is conscious of the need to refine his band of broodmares:

“One has to keep moving them on as fast as possible,” he explains. “We’ve got about 30 at the moment, but we’re dropping down by selling a few at the December Sales. We’re aiming for 27, somewhere around there.”

 Regrettably for Oppenheimer, his band of mares no longer includes Star Catcher’s dam, LYNNWOOD CHASE, who died last year. The star mare has produced four winners to date including Grade 1 Canadian International and Royal Ascot scorer CANNOCK CHASE and the Group 2 winning PISCO SOUR.

However, Oppenheimer is full of hope for her final three foals, a two-year-old KINGMAN (GB) filly named MAURIMO (GB), a yearling filly by FRANKEL (GB) and a colt foal by TIME TEST (GB). He reports:

“Maurimo, who is leased out and is in training with Roger Charlton, has run once but she’s quite small, so I think we’re going to take her back to the stud and beef her up over the winter. I think she could be quite useful next year.

“The yearling is a very nice filly indeed, so we’re quite excited about her. I think she’ll probably go to John Gosden, but I don’t know at the moment. She’s still at the stud, she isn’t named yet.

“Like all foals, the Time Test foal needs a bit of time. He’s just been weaned. The mare was never very big, and so they tend to be on the small side, like Pisco Sour. Being a colt, he’ll definitely go to the sales.”

In the meantime, Oppenheimer has hopes that 2019 will deliver yet more success for his operation with newcomer FRANKLY DARLING (GB) entered at Great Yarmouth on Tuesday:

“Two-year-old Frankly Darling, by Frankel out of HIDDEN HOPE (GB), has been entered [now declared] at Yarmouth on Tuesday, and that’s quite exciting. She’s in training with John Gosden.”