Vercingetorix’ Purple Patch!

An enviable ratio of runners to winners

Considering that his progeny have notched up no less than three feature races in the space of a week, Maine Chance stallion Vercingetorix is enjoying a purple patch to say the least.

The quickfire treble was set up by six-year-old son Rascallion, who built on an excellent second in the Gr1 World Sports Betting Cape Town Met by claiming the Gr3 Variety Club Mile at Hollywoodbets Kenilworth.

Cape Eagle (Serino Moodley) storms home to beat One Way Traffic (Richard Fourie) in the Highland Night Cup at Hollywoodbets Scottsville on Sunday (Pic – Candiese Lenferna)

The gelding has been a faithful servant to trainer Vaughan Marhsall and owners Marsh Shirtliff and Bryn Ressell, having won last season’s Gr2 Premier Trophy and as a three-year-old, he finished second in both the Gr1 Cape Derby and  Gr1 Daily News 2000.

This past weekend, ultra-consistent son Cape Eagle ventured into unknown territory when asked to tackle 2400m for the first time in the World Sports Betting Highland Night Cup at Hollywoodbets Scottsville.

He passed the test with flying colours, coming from stone last with a powerful run on the stand side to get up in the shadow of the post. Now that he has proven his staying ability, he will surely be targeted at the staying events during the KZN season.

Thirty five minutes later, Mary Liley’s three-year-old filly Celtic Beauty put the seal on her sire’s excellent weekend with a maiden stakes success in the Listed World Sports Betting Scarlet Lady. Relatively unexposed, this was only her fifth career start and with few miles on the clock, she looks poised to continue her way up the black type ladder.

Richard Fourie drives Celtic Beauty to victory in the Listed Scarlet Lady at Hollywoodbets Scottsville on Sunday (Pic – Candiese Lenferna)

This was also the latest in a long line of stakes successes for veteran owner Mary Liley, whose Vieux rose, cream and green silks have been worn with distinction over the last five decades.

Together with late husband John, the Grande Dame of KZN racing campaigned many a fine galloper. Who will forget the splendid New Zealand-bred trio Sun Monarch, Bold Monarch and Be Noble?

Celtic Beauty’s association with that country is a tangible one, as her dam, the Rip Van Winkle mare Killer Woman, also sports the NZ suffix behind her name. Like her daughter, she was trained by Tony Rivalland and scored three times in the Liley colours.

By the way, the day’s other feature, the Listed World Sports Betting Sledgehammer, is named in tribute of arguably the finest New Zealand-bred to have graced these shores and appropriately, it was won by Narina Trogon, who like Vercingetorix, is a son of Silvano.

One can safely say that Vercingetorix has filled the void left by his late great sire at Maine Chance Farms. Celtic Beauty is his 34th stakes winner, of which eight have triumphed at the elite level.

Looking at Vercingetorix’s stud record so far, what sets him apart from other stallions is his enviable ratio of runners to winners.

Vercingetorix – top notch and overdue a Gr1 success this term (Pic – Gold Circle)

In 2020, he led the way with 53.9%, superior to that season’s champion Gimmethegreenlight’s 50.2%.

It was also the season he made a spectacular breakthrough into the elite ranks by finishing in fourth place with just three crops at the track. Just as impressive, he sired no less than ten individual stakes winners, headed by Gr1 Gold Medallion winner Ambiorix and Nebraas, who annexed the Equus Award of Champion Stayer following his Gold Cup/Vase double.

Vercingetorix has since cemented his top five stallion position and came close to a first General Sires title in 2021/22, when only Silvano deprived him of that honour.

Nevertheless, he again topped the log with 55.4% winners to runners. Pathfork had a higher percentage of 56.8%, but from only half the number of runners.

Third leading sire behind Gimmethegreenlight and What A Winter in 2022/23, he currently finds himself in a comfortable second place behind only old adversary Gimmethegreenlight. While both have sired seven individual stakes winners to date, Vercingetorix has by far the better strike rate, 51.4% compared to the log leader’s 39.8%, Furthermore, there is preciously little difference between their respective AEPR’s of R88,914 and R86,719 respectively.

However, whereas Gimmethegreenlight has been represented by an exceptional duo in Sandringham Summit and Gimme A Nother, Vercingetorix has yet to sire a Gr1 winner this season.

That should come sooner rather than later, given that his three-year-old daughter Golden Sickle went down by a neck in the Gr1 Computaform Sprint, whilst progressive daughter Double Grand Slam blazed a trail when she sauntered to a five-length victory in the Gr3 Umzimkhulu Stakes.

She will have bigger and better fish to fry, as will juvenile daughter Little Ballerina, who ended the undefeated streak of highly touted Almond Sea in the Gr2 SA Fillies Nursery. And then there is last season’s champion juvenile Mrs Geriatrix. She returned from a dismal Cape summer season and showed a welcome glimpse of her true self when third in the Gr1 Empress Club Stakes recently.

A champion on the track, Vercingetorix has been immensely popular since his retirement and has enjoyed continued support from breeders to the extent that the demand for his services has far outstripped the number available.

Success has also brought with it a steady increase in his service fee, and while he was still available at R35,000 in 2019, that has steadily climbed from R50,000 in 2020, to last year’s R220,000.

His draft for this week’s Bloodstock South Africa National Yearling Sale is truly a reflection of the esteem in which he is held, and numbers no less than 43, amongst which siblings to Horse of the Year recipients Rainbow Bridge, Summer Pudding and Captain’s Ransom, as well as the champions Hawwaam, Tempting Fate and Good Traveller.

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