The $96,500 Pyne Gould Guinness Sales Series Pace had an ironic twist to it. First home in the 3-year-old fillies event was Ciccio Star, who is raced by the Ciccio Breeding Syndicate; last home was Belle Matao, who is part-owned by Phil Creighton. Creighton was supposed to be part of Ciccio Star's syndicate, but on the morning of that the two fillies went under the hammer at Karaka he pulled out, wanting to buy one on his own.
"We had marked down four that we wanted to bid on - Belle Matao, Ciccio Star and two others," recalled Sandy Yarndley. Yarndley and his wife Jan bred Ciccio Star themselves, and jumped at the chance to be involved in a syndicate, regardless of which horse they ended up buying. "After Phil pulled out the group couldn't afford to bid on Belle Matao, and Phil bought her by himself. She was the dearest of the four of them; the one we bought, Ciccio Star, was the cheapest," he said.
Knocked down to them for $23,000, Ciccio Star took her earnings to $91,893 when she shot out of the trail to snatch victory. It was a great thrill for the Ciccio Breeding Syndicate, which also consists of the Yarndley's son Scott; retired Dunedin resident Jim Pattison; Auckland's Max Hunter, who handled the bidding on Sale day; Chris and Shona Quinlan, of Te Awamutu, and Helen McPherson of Hamilton.
Trained by Barry Purdon, Ciccio Star showed ability from an early age. "Mike Berger broke her in, and liked her enough to think she would make a 2-year-old, so we pressed on," Purdon said. "She did alright at that age, winning two and running a couple of nice seconds, but then she was a little disappointing when she came back at the start of this season. She is pretty competative at home, so I changed her work around a bit and it seems to have helped," he said.
Both Purdon and Ciccio Star's reinsman Tony Herlihy agreed that the filly's performance to finish second at Alexandra Park late last month was a turning point. "She did a bit of work to get around them and lead that night, and was only beaten a nose by Glenburn Comet," Herlihy said. "Then she came out a week later and beat a nice field of C1s, that was a good effort too," he said.
Having won four of her 15 starts, Ciccio Star will now be aimed at a heat of the Hydroflow series, hopefully qualifying for the Final at Addington on May 12.
Credit: John Robinson writing in HRWeekly 23Feb00
Bruce Negus and Colin De Filippi are mates. And like most friends, they have had the odd difference of opinion. Their most recent one was over Caps Off, and had it not been for De Filippi's insistance the filly could have won the $75,000 Wayne Francis Memorial New Zealand Oaks for someone other than owner Trevor Casey. "I told Trevor to sell her six weeks ago," Negus admitted. "This was before and after she won at Rangiora. Colin and I had a healthy debate; he believed she was getting better and should be given the chance to improve over the next couple of seasons. But she passed the vet and was all but sold to America - the only reason she stayed is because the money didn't come," Negus said.
De Filippi must have had a wry smile as he got the best out of Caps Off to down hot pot Tupelo Rose. It was yet another masterful drive by the Ladbrooks reinsman. With Shivna, Dancingonmoonlight, Pocket Queen and Ciccio Star drawn inside him there was no shortage of early speed, but after Shivna broke De Filippi managed to get Caps Off to the front and then waited for Tupelo Rose to come round and take over. From there the pair had the best seat in the house. Tupelo Rose stacked the field up and tried to outsprint her opposition; Caps Off was equal to the task and nabbed her illustrious rival in the shadows of the post after she ran out under pressure. "She's very fast out of the gate, if she needs to be," Negus continued. "But she's a frail little thing, and she's been a bit timid and a bit weak so we've been a bit scared to use that speed. Lately she has become stronger though and Colin and I have had more confidence that she can do things."
Despite being confident that Caps Off was improving, Negus said they never envisaged her beating such a quality field of fillies. "It wasn't expected," he said. "The run was fortuitous, but in saying that she is a very determined little cookie and she deserved the win. She can follow a hot pace all day. They have got home in 56.5 tonight but she stuck to her guns. Being by Caprock out of a Nero's B B mare she is all Nevele R bred too, so it was quite fitting that she should win a race named after Wayne Francis."
Bred by Nevele R's Danny Boyle, his brother-in-law Ross Stewart and Canterbury Jockey Club's C.E.O. Tim Mills, Caps Off was first sighted by Casey when she had a workout round Addington Raceway as a yearling in July, 1998. Pacing a mile in 2:08, home in 59.4 and 28.4, the co-proprietor of Inter-Island Horse Transport bought her on the spot. Despite another horse of his, Africa, finishing second in two Inter-Dominion Trotting Grand Finals, Caps Off gave him his biggest harness racing thrill.
"Trevor's been a very good owner for the industry, and me in particular," Negus said. "Caps Off has been a bit of a heartache for him. She's put both her back legs through the fence at different times, and she must have kicked at least half a dozen people without warning. She has won five of her 11 starts though, which is pretty good considering she has been unlucky several times or only 80% fit on other occasions. She is a bossy and fearless little thing around home, and can be a real mole. She will try to get other horses to communicate with her, and once they come near she'll swing round and lash out at them. Lately that mean streak seems to have disappeared, because she has taken on Thunder Atom as a paddock mate and seems to be a lot happier since."
Credit: John Robinson writing in NZHR Weekly