A tale seldom told: How Kirsten Rausing’s boys brought the breeder into the spotlight at Sha TinWed 12 December, 2018
It is a rare occurrence for a thoroughbred breeder to hit the racing headlines in Hong Kong.
With all of the territory’s racehorses imported from overseas jurisdictions, the focus subsequent to a horse’s transfer to Hong Kong is very much upon the local trainer and owner.
Where and how the horse’s story began is, naturally, not as widely noted and appraised as it is in countries such as Britain or Australia, where the racing industry goes hand in hand with a breeding industry.
From personal experience, conversation between winning connections in Hong Kong may quickly turn to the sale at which the horse was acquired, or indeed the previous owner if the sale was a private one, yet rarely will it extend to the brains behind the mating plans that produced said horse and the hands that nurtured it during its first few months of life.
It is therefore both remarkable and significant that one of the big stories to come out of this year’s Longines Hong Kong International Races concerns Kirsten Rausing, the breeder of the last two Group 1 Longines Hong Kong Cup champions: Time Warp and Glorious Forever.
Of course, the story of Glorious Forever’s following in Time Warp’s footsteps was made all the more remarkable given that the two are full-brothers. The fact that Archipenko died suddenly in the wake of Time Warp’s victory in 2017 added a further layer of poignancy to the tale. While we can hope for plenty of future half-brothers and sisters out of the dam, Here To Eternity, no further progeny will possess the unique mix of genes that has proved so potent in this most prestigious of international contests at Sha Tin.
I visited Rausing at her Lanwades Stud just outside Newmarket with the TDN just ten days before flying out for this year’s Longines Hong Kong International Races.
“I’ve been associated with this family since 1976, and I have owned the two brothers’ fourth dam since circa 1990”, Rausing recounted, with a glint of well-earned pride in her eye. “Having sold her for a seven-figure sum in US dollars, I bought her back some ten years later as a barren mare. She was very kind to me. She repaid me by giving me four filly foals in four years, and one of them was the third dam of Time Warp and Glorious Forever.
“Another branch of this family has also given me Madame Chiang, who is, of course, another Group 1 winner.”
Lanwades Stud has been in Rausing’s care since 1980. Her acquisition of the property, which along with adjacent satellite stud St. Simon where the pregnant mares live now covers 2.3 square kilometres, was not as facile as one might expect.
She explains with a glint in her eye, “It was in pretty derelict shape, but it was all I could afford with the help of a friendly local bank, who unfortunately would not accept the two mares I had at the time as collateral. They kindly let me buy the farm and the farm itself was its own collateral. They made a mistake: they should have taken the mares, because within four years they had not only paid for the farm with their progeny, but they were also looking at buying the next farm, which was very generous of them.”
Since then, Rausing has grown into a world-renowned breeder of quality bloodstock, with Ascot Gold Cup winner Fame And Glory being perhaps the best known of the Group 1 winners in recent years to carry her name as a breeder.
For Lanwades, 2018 has been a record-equalling year, with 116 winners and six individual Group 1 winners bred by the operation.
The stud’s stallion roster, which in 1981 began with Niniski, a son of Nijinski, is also in rude health. As well as 2006 Epsom Derby winner Sir Percy, it now boasts exciting recruits Bobby’s Kitten and Sea The Moon, the latter of which made a particularly strong impression as his first crop of two-year-olds took to the track this year.
“I think it’s fair to say that Sea The Moon has exceeded most people’s expectations in a major way”, Rausing reflects. “He has, so far, sired 16 individual winners of 21 races, including two Group 3 races and another four black-type performers, including a Group 2 second in Italy.”
The loss of Archipenko from the roster is keenly felt. “The very obvious plan would have been Archipenko for the rest of her life”, Rausing says regretfully of broodmare Here To Eternity. “They would have been steadfastly married had I not very sadly lost Archipenko.”
As for our two high-class sons of Archipenko in Hong Kong, their story had already captured the minds of the racing public well before the build up to December’s showpiece international meeting.
Glorious Forever, who departed from Ed Walker’s yard at the end of his three-year-old season in 2017, did not wait long before asserting his credentials in his new environment, landing a brace of impressive wins at Sha Tin at the back end of the 2017-18 season. In the latter of these races, he smashed the track record set by none other than Time Warp just five months previously.
A similarly authoritative display in his first race of the 2018-19 season in October was to be his warm-up for the first in a series of brotherly duels seen once in a blue moon in Hong Kong.
Experience triumphed over youth in this first encounter in the Group 3 Ladies’ Purse, as Time Warp held Glorious Forever at bay with a characteristically gutsy front-running display. With Glorious Forever’s connections confident that their horse could only be seen to best effect if similar front-running tactics were deployed, it soon became clear that they would not be so forgiving in round two, which was to be held a mere two weeks later in the Group 2 Jockey Club Cup.
This second encounter proved an exercise in futility for both brothers. Jockeys Zac Purton and Joao Moreira set frightening fractions in a stubborn refusal to cede in the battle for the lead. The pair finished a combined 31½ lengths off eventual winner Eagle Way.
Evidently, neither horse would win the Hong Kong Cup if they engaged in similar antics. Yet which would concede the early battle to preserve his chance of winning the war?
As fate would have it, the barrier draw proved to be a deciding factor. While trainer of Glorious Forever, Frankie Lor, had freely told the media that he would be content for his horse to be given a tow into the race, Britain’s three-time Champion Jockey, Silvestre De Sousa, had other ideas. Once Glorious Forever had been handed barrier one and Time Warp barrier seven, the game was on for De Sousa.
The final of the four international races at Sha Tin begins less than 200m before the field begins the right hand bend out of the home straight. The break is therefore crucial if a horse is to secure a handy position. With tactics expected to play a big part in early proceedings, the tension as the horses stood in the gates was palpable. Would Purton really be able to roust Time Warp into an early lead from the outside barrier?
As the gates flew open and De Sousa urged the young pretender to take the plum spot on the rail, it quickly became clear that the race was Glorious Forever’s to lose. With Time Warp being forced to settle for second, De Sousa was able to dictate proceedings and deliver a front-running masterclass at sensible fractions, leaving enough horse under him to power home in the closing stages and secure historic back-to-back Cup victories for Lanwades-bred progeny of Archipenko. Time Warp, caught in the final stride of the 2000m contest by Japanese filly Deirdre, finished a gallant 3rd.
The atmosphere amongst the 96,000 strong crowd was electric. The new kid on the block had overturned the reigning champion in the most fascinatingly tactical of contests, securing a clean sweep for Hong Kong trainers. The script could hardly have been more compelling.
The nature of the Hong Kong International Races meeting – that is to say, the local team taking on the world on the biggest and richest stage that Hong Kong offers – means that captivating stories are sure to be served up year in, year out. The biggest headlines after the 2018 renewal were undoubtedly the aforementioned clean sweep of wins for Hong Kong’s trainers, Lor training two of the four champions, and the repeat victories of Beauty Generation and Mr Stunning in their respective contests.
And yet amongst these trainer-centric headlines, this year’s Hong Kong International Races also delivered a tale seldom told in Hong Kong: that of the breeder. The poignancy and rarity of two brothers fighting it out in an international Group 1 brought into focus this crucial cog within the racing machine, a cog that can often be overlooked in Hong Kong.
The remarkable story of the Lanwades-bred champions should be celebrated with gusto, for without the breeder we would have no horses to race. For Rausing herself, the achievement should not be underestimated. To breed two individual back-to-back winners of one of the Hong Kong International Races is a feat that may not be repeated for decades to come.
Rausing herself is fully aware of the significance of her achievement:
“The top layer of racing in Hong Kong is recognised the world over as being absolute top class and anyone who breeds a winner of a group race in Hong Kong has every right to be proud of such an achievement”, she told me. “I am delighted to have bred these two horses.”
And delighted were we lucky few present at Sha Tin to witness each brother’s moment of glory.