20 March 2017

Usually when it comes to the Autumn Carnival in Sydney, there appears a few horses with Irish backgrounds that find a new level, especially in the best longer distance events. Big race winners in recent years such as The Offer (IRE), The United States (IRE), Gallante (IRE) and Libran (IRE) spring readily to mind in this regard and perhaps another to follow in those hoofprints emerged on Saturday morning at Rosehill in the form of BIG DUKE (IRE) who gained the verdict in the Group 3 Manion Cup after an inquiry.


Head-on patrol replays showed that nose-margin winner Our Century (IRE) – formerly Century (IRE) when trained by Aidan O’Brien previously - had brushed BIG DUKE (IRE) off a straight line on three occasions and the stewards reversed the placings. The Irish-bred one-two came more than 12 lengths clear of the third home on a track rated heavy.


Luke Lillingston’s Mount Coote Stud and Richard Pegum bred this five-year-old son of Kildangan Stud’s Breeders’ Cup Classic hero Raven’s Pass who began his career in Britain as Swashbuckling (IRE). Trained there by Michael Wigham, he was placed three times as a three-year-old and won his only four-year-old outing before switching to current trainer Darren Weir’s base in Victoria. Saturday’s was his second Group 3 success in Australia. The Group 2 Chairman’s Stakes on April 1 is said to be the next target for BIG DUKE (IRE) before a shot at the Group 1 Sydney Cup a week later.   


 The dam of BIG DUKE (IRE) is Hazarayna (IRE) whose page received a huge boost last year as her half-sister Hazariya (IRE) raised Harzand (IRE) to win both the Epsom and Irish Derbies. Late last year a filly foal by Tagula made €16,000 at Goffs while a Redoute's Choice yearling colt was purchased by Sam Sangster for €42,000 at the Orby Sale.


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