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1987 Chestnut Filly
Esplendor (Arg) – Pilgrims Rest (Flower Power)
Breeder: Mr ‘Tolly’ Novick
Owner: Mr ‘Tolly’ Novick
Trainer: Geoff Woodruff
Star Effort was one of South Africa’s true turf superstars and her story remains one of the most exhilarating and exiting in our racing annals. Star Effort raced for 2 seasons for 11 starts and 10 wins. She had 5 starts as a juvenile, winning 4 times including the Gr3 Ascot Fillies Nursery and the Gr1 Allan Robertson. She was unbeaten as a 3yo, winning the Gr1 Post Natal Golden Slipper, the Gr2 Computaform Stakes and beating Flaming Rock at WFA terms, the Gr1 Cape Fillies Guineas, the Gr1 Topsport Bloodline Cape Guineas (becoming the 3rd filly to win the colts’ classic and the first filly ever to win the fillies’ and colts’ Guineas double). She closed out her career in the Gr1 SA 2000, beating the colts despite a career-ending injury sustained during the race. Star Effort was also only the second filly in South Africa to become an equine millionaire. This is her story.
Star Effort was bred by her owner, Tolly Novick by the Argentinian-bred Esplendor and was the second foal out of the Flower Power mare, Pilgrims Rest. Geoff Woodruff had just taken out his license at the time and remembers that he didn’t even have stables yet. “Tollie said ‘I haven’t got a yearling to give you, but I do have a weanling’. I was still working at Ralphs at the time and she was standing just across the road at Hyjo, so I went to have a look. I’d always been very keen on Esplendor as a stallion and she was very well proportioned and a really beautiful filly. When you’re starting you, you’ll take anything really, but to be offered a filly like her was the most incredible luck.”
Star Effort debuted over 800m at Milnerton on 9 December 1989. She won comfortably from Lady Elect and next time out over 1000m at Kenilworth she romped home by 4 lengths on 27 January 1990.
Her last race as a juvenile at the Cape was in the 10 March 1990 Gr3 Ascot Fillies Nursery Stakes over Milnerton’s 1200m and marked her as something out of the ordinary. With Eric Chelin in the saddle, Star Effort came up the track a little off the pace, but when asked for her effort she slipped through the field impressively to take the lead just inside the final 200m. None was able to go with her and she drew away to a very comfortable 2 ¼ length win from Oh So Brave and Exclusive Miss.
1990 Gr3 Ascot Fillies Nursery Stakes – STAR EFFORT
Geoff Woodruff took his star filly to Natal for the rich winter season. Her first appearance was in the Gr3 1200m Strelitzia Stakes in which she was pitted against the high-class fillies Heat And Dust, Henrietta Fair and Swan Ballet. Star Effort met with some interference in the straight, finishing sixth, 2 ¾ lengths behind the winner Heat And Dust. It was the first and last time she would ever finish behind another horse.
Star Effort looked a picture in the ring before the R100 000 Gr1 Allan Robertson Fillies Futurity on 30 June. Heat And Dust was the short-priced favourite at 11/10 with the Esplendor filly at the generous odds of 6/1.
Star Effort was always prominent in the bunch racing on the outside and when jockey Eric Chelin asked her for her effort, she kept going strongly to win by 1 ½ lengths from 14/1 chance Gone West with the 12/1 shot Vanna nearly 2 lengths further back third. A long head away in the minor placing was Babe Ruthe, who had made a lot of the early running. Victory in the Allan Robertson rocketed Star Effort’s earnings from R38 070 to R99 320 and was enough to earn her the well-deserved ARCSA Award for Champion Two-Year-Old Filly.
1990 Gr1 Allan Robertson – STAR EFFORT
1990 ARCSA Champion 2YO Filly – STAR EFFORT
As a three-year-old Star Effort was never beaten in her six outings, all of which were in Graded stakes company.
Star Effort opened her sophomore career with a facile victory in Clairwood Park’s Gr1 1400m Post Natal Golden Slipper on 23 August 1990. Rain earlier in the week had taken the sting from the ground but this made no difference to the Esplendor filly who, under a confident ride from Eric Chelin quickened nicely when asked for her effort to win going away by the best part of a length. Fragrant Lady, a well-connected daughter of Elliodor from American-bred stakes winning mare Diorissimo, was second with Another Cuddle 3 ½ lengths back third.
1990 Gr1 Post Natal Golden Slipper – STAR EFFORT
For the 3 November Gr2 Computaform Stakes, Star Effort took on open company for the first time. Two runners stood out in the field of eight, three-year-old Star Effort, now a winner of three feature events for fillies and five of her six starts, and promising four-year-old colt Flaming Rock, a winner of four of his eight races and runner-up at his last start to subsequent SA Invitation Stakes winner Phantom Robber. Flaming Rock, who was being spoken of as a likely Queen’s Plate contender, topped the boards at 16/10 with Star Effort on offer at 22/10. The prices of the remaining runners, and there were some smart performers among them, ranged from six to 20/1.
1990 Gr2 Computaform Stakes – STAR EFFORT
Receiving 7 ½ kgs from the Irish-bred Flaming Rock as per the WFA conditions, Star Effort ran out a narrow but convincing winner. Eric Chelin was forced to switch Star Effort with 400m to go but she came forward to challenge Flaming Rock to win by half a length. Peaceful Paradise confirmed the class of the first two home, by finishing 3 lengths third.
Cape Fillies Guineas
The Fillies Guineas boasts many names of consequence on its roll of winners since 1972, but few who won it as easily Star Effort. She made her 14 rivals – and there were many well-performed ones among them – look ordinary.
In the 5 January 1991 Cape Fillies Guineas, Star Effort went to the post with only one defeat in seven starts, four of her wins being in feature races. This and the fact that she had downed Flaming Rock – subsequent brilliant winner of the Queen’s Plate – in the Computaform Stakes made her look unbeatable. Not surprisingly, she firmed to 5/10 before the off – and this seemed generous – with the rest of the field on offer at 7/1 and longer.
Star Effort did even better than her price suggested she would. In the hands of Michael Roberts she cruised along in third position as Peony Pink set a smart gallop and brought the field into the straight. Roberts then set Star Effort on her way. Simply riding the filly with his hands he had her in front with 300m to go and striding away. At the 200-marker he took a peek over his shoulder. Nothing was anywhere near Star Effort and he eased her over the final 70m.
Even so, Star Effort finished 3 ¾ lengths clear of Downriver with Peony Pink in third spot another 2 ¾ lengths away. Her time of 1 minute 38,8 seconds, finishing into a strong south-easter headwind, was commendable.
Her Fillies Guineas effort pushed Star Effort’s earnings to over R440,000 for her owner-breeder Mr “Tollie” Novick, who was wise enough to make her a futurity candidate.
1991 Gr1 Cape Fillies Guineas – STAR EFFORT
Topsport Bloodline Guineas
Star Effort and Michael Roberts lived up to all expectation in the Gr1 Topsport Bloodline Guineas at Milnerton, the first R1,000,000 race in the Cape. She was the only filly in the race with 15 of the country’s best colts of her age attempting to hold her at bay. None could manage it and she became the third filly to win the classic and the first to land the Fillies Guineas/Guineas double.
The newspaper headline acclaiming her “the best three-year-old in the land” was no exaggeration and it was no surprise that Star Effort dominated the Guineas betting from the time the prices went up. The only one of the field who appeared to have any chance of giving her a run was Phantom Robber. With the SA Invitation Stakes and National Turf Investments Super Series wins to his credit he had strong claims to being the best colt of his year, but he never challenged her position at the top of the boards. On race day she firmed to even-money while he eased to 4/1 with Spook And Diesel half a point longer and Surprise Attack at 10/1 next in demand. The remaining runners were on offer at 20/1.
Those of Star Effort’s supporters anticipating the same fluent win they had witnessed in the Fillies Guineas Futurity were subjected to some uneasy moments. As the starting gates opened she shot to the front, making the pace for about 200m, but she settled almost too quickly and lost her position on the rail. Nevertheless, she was still up with the leaders going into the near-bend, but here she received a hefty bump from Surprise Attack and was almost knocked out of the race. As Michael Roberts, who was recording his sixth Guineas win, said afterwards, “It was accidental, but she is one of the best horses I have ever ridden and I knew I still had a lot under me when I switched her for a run. She was actually getting away from them at the finish. I’ll fly out and ride her any time.”
In the end, it was neither Phantom Robber nor Spook And Diesel who finished immediately behind Star Effort, but the 20/1 King Kama who came with a burst to reach the filly’s quarters, with the 20/1 Supersonic Surprise another three-quarters away – a good effort as the latter had played up and fallen while being saddled.
But all said and done, the afternoon belonged to Star Effort, her win stamped her as one of the best we’ve ever seen and took her earnings to R940 920. Star Effort’s win was a triumph for trainer Geoff Woodruff and was certainly more than consolation for Pas De Quoi’s narrow defeat in last year’s Cape Guineas. To have won the Guineas with a colt is one thing, but to win it with a filly as well as being the first to saddle the Fillies and Colts double – is definitely one for the history books.
1991 Gr1 Topsport Bloodline Guineas – STAR EFFORT
Gr1 SA Fillies Guineas
Back in Durban for the 1991 winter season, Star Effort duly landed the odds in the 1600m Gr1 South African Fillies Guineas at Scottsville on 18 May, but not before a few anxious moments in the closing stages. She was a 1/3 favourite with 10/1 and better about the balance.
When trainer Michael Airey’s Freedom Land (USA) filly Azania was side-lined with a sprained off-fore joint, the trainer was fortunate to have a replacement in emergency acceptor Piece Of Pie, who was considered a good few lengths inferior to the original stable representative. Be that as it may, Piece Of Pie all but caused one of the biggest upsets in a long time, going under by only ½ length to Star Effort at level weights. In a handicap she would have been in receipt of 9kg.
1991 Gr1 SA Fillies Guineas – STAR EFFORT
Series of incidents
Star Effort was well enough placed in a tightly bunched field going down the back stretch in the Fillies Guineas. Anne’s Guest was taking them along from Piece Of Pie, Strawberry Glen (SNL), Port St Francis and Fragrant Lady when a series of incidents took place going through the 1000m mark.
Pullitzer Prize clipped the heels of Swan Ballet, forcing the latter’s rider to ease his mount and move outwards onto Star Effort. As a result, Forest Fantasy had to check off the heels of Star Effort and Betty Blue clipped the heels of Cool Success and stumbled badly, dislodging jockey Sean Cormack. State Treasure and Double Past were also both forced to check.
Clear of all the trouble and quick to challenge for the lead turning for home, ‘MJ’ Odendaal had Piece Of Pie alongside Anne’s Guest in a matter of strides with Strawberry Glen (SNL) improving outside this pair. It was here that Eric Chelin aboard Star Effort chose what could have been the wrong option. Instead of moving out for his run, he elected a move towards the fence and all of a sudden found himself with nowhere to go.
Having put Anne’s Guest away, Piece Of Pie was going like a winner. She moved out slightly some 200m from home to meet the challenge of Strawberry Girl (SNL). Only then Star Effort saw daylight and slipped through along the fence to race into contention. In a desperate finish she was going that bit too well for Piece Of Pie and won narrowly, but courageously with a fast-finishing Pulitzer Prize a neck off the runner-up at the wire. Strawberry Glen (SNL) stayed on for the minor placing.
With the first prize of R125 000 boosting her winnings to R1 065 920, Star Effort became the second filly in South African racing history to earn more than R1 million in stakes.
Gr1 SA 2000
Next on the programme for this crackerjack filly was the Gr1 Daily News 2000 at Greyville on 8 June 199 and the first time she had been asked to go beyond 1600m – all part of her build up towards a possible crack at the R1 million Gr1 Rothmans July.
While she started favourite for the Daily News, a race in which she was again matched against colts, it was perhaps the doubt as to whether she would get the 2000m that saw her ease to 3/1. This was her best starting price since winning the Allan Robertson a year back.
In no hurry early, Eric Chelin had Star Effort in fifth spot soon after the break. Surprise Attack had come over from his wide stall position to take the field along. There was very little change racing down the side, Surprise Attack continuing to lead from Revolution Land, Northern Gem, Boss Baccus and Star Effort.
The favourite had come off the bit shortly before the field swing into the straight, and at the subway the race appeared wide open with Surprise Attack, Northern Gem, Revolution Land, Special Squad, Boss Baccus, FineToken, Star Effort, Spook And Diesel and Fiery Warrior all in with chances.
Inside the final 200m Surprise Attack was still leading from Northern Gem on the fence. Special Squad, Fine Token and Boss Baccus with Star Effort and Spook And Diesel racing into contention down the outside. Responding to four smacks from Chelin, Star Effort got to Surprise Attack inside the last hundred, and, although the pacemaker fought back gamely, it was the filly by a deserving ½ length at the line. Spook And Diesel stayed on for third in front of Boss Baccus with Stag Hunter, running a great race from the back of the field at the entrance to the straight, going on strongly for fifth. Only 3 ¼ lengths covered the first 11 horses across the line.
With this win, Star Effort took her earnings to R1 253 420 for breeder-owner Tolly Novick. However, it also spelt the end of her racing career. Trainer Geoff Woodruff confirmed that she had been galloped into behind, having one shoe turned sideways and the other peeled right off, resulting in a tendon injury severe enough to call a halt to her racing career. However, she had done enough to earn a second ARCSA Award as Champion 3YO Filly.
Anthony Beck purchased a half share in the filly and she was retired to stud and sent to Golden Thatch. However, the story has a tragic ending as Star Effort contracted biliary and died before being able to carry her foal to term. An enormous loss both to the racing fraternity as well as the stud book.
Geoff Woodruff paid tribute to her as follows: “Star Effort was a brilliant filly with the manners of a lady. I’ve been lucky enough to have had some champion fillies in my care but she is the one that I rate as the best. I was a young, inexperienced trainer when I trained her but she was a champion despite me. Muis really rated her and never mind her overall ten wins from eleven starts, her three year old career was stunning, six starts, six wins, five Gr1’s and a Gr2 beating Flaming Rock over a mile at WFA. Not a week goes by that I don’t think about her. Bless her.”
Maiden Juvenile Plate
Gr3 Ascot Fillies Nursery
(Gr3 Strelitzia Stakes)
Gr1 Allan Robertson
ARCSA Champion 2YO Filly
Gr1 Post Natal Golden Slipper
Gr2 Computaform Stakes
Gr1 Cape Fillies Guineas
Gr1 Cape Guineas
Gr1 SA Fillies Guineas
Gr1 SA 2000
ARCSA Champion 3YO Filly