THE FREQUENT FLYER – MORE THAN READY

2017-04-05T02:31:24+00:00 January 30th, 2017|

It is likely that Danehill (Danzig) will always be considered the King of the Shuttlers.   He retired to stud at the right time (1990), just as shuttling was starting to become a relatively mainstream practice.  His outstanding success then cemented the position of the shuttle-sire in the bloodstock world.  Firstly, he proved himself a champion sire in both hemispheres; subsequently, he turned out to be an outstanding sire of both sires and broodmares worldwide.

To achieve such success in both hemispheres is easier said than done.

A stallion needs not only to be able to pass on the wide variety of qualities required in the different racing environments but also, as a regular shuttler, to be physically and mentally able to cope with the rigours of a dual-hemisphere lifestyle. Danehill did just that, though, shuttling annually until his untimely death at the age of 17 in May 2003. While Danehill’s light thus shines the most brightly in the shuttling galaxy, other stars have played solid roles.

Few, if any, have done so more honourably than the redoubtable 20-year-old More Than Ready (Southern Halo), who retired to stud as a 4-year-old in 2001 and who has been commuting between Kentucky and New South Wales each year since then. Having recently arrived back at WinStar Farm from his southern home at Vinery, he is now readying himself for his 17th consecutive breeding season in his native U.S. To keep thriving on this testing schedule is hard enough in itself; to keep coming up with top-class offspring in both hemispheres is truly remarkable.

Few are better placed to comment on More Than Ready’s achievements than Melbourne-based Quentin Wallace, founder and director of International Racehorse Transport (Australia). He explains, “Since I started moving horses around the world in 1967, the two biggest developments that I feel have contributed to the globalisation of the horse industry are the jet plane and the movement of stallions between hemispheres, better known as the stallion shuttle. This started in 1972 when IRT, founded the same year, shuttled Pretendre (GB) (Doutelle {GB}) to New Zealand for Nelson Bunker Hunt. Over the following 45 years, a wide array of stallions have made a total of well over a thousand round trips to New Zealand and Australia with IRT.”

“However, no stallion has been a greater frequent flyer than More Than Ready, who has just completed his sixteenth round trip from the U.S. to Australia,” Wallace continued. “To put this in perspective, that is equivalent to circling the globe 16 times, or five round trips more than the all-conquering Danehill made to the Hunter Valley before his untimely loss to the industry.”

Wallace added, “Horsemen will tell you that the ability to successfully travel a stallion is heavily dependent upon temperament, and More Than Ready has the best.” Wallace’s pertinent observations on More Than Ready’s superb temperament explain not only why he has been able to thrive on a regime with which many stallions have struggled, mentally and/or physically. They also provide a clue as to why the hallmark of his stud career has been his ability repeatedly to sire horses tough enough to thrive in any racing environment.

More Than Ready was a very good racehorse, winning seven of his 17 starts during two busy seasons. He was fast enough and tough enough as a juvenile to win five of his seven starts headed by the GII Sandford S. He ran consistently well throughout a 10-race 3-year-old campaign, most notably winning the G1 King’s Bishop S. over seven furlongs and finishing fourth to Fusaichi Pegasus (Mr. Prospector) in the GI Kentucky Derby over a mile-and-a-quarter. By the time that he bade farewell to Todd Pletcher’s barn, he had demonstrated his versatility and resilience so well that it is easy to understand why he has been able to outperform his more celebrated peers at stud.

Retiring to Vinery in Kentucky in 2001 (at a fee of $25,000), it went without saying that when More Than Ready began to shuttle he would travel to the former Segenhoe Stud in New South Wales. The most historic property in the Hunter Valley, the stud had been renamed Vinery and was in the same ownership as its American namesake. The two properties have both subsequently changed hands, and More Than Ready now spends his northern seasons at WinStar, where he has held court since 2014. However, Vinery in New South Wales has remained his regular southern home.

Each year his arrival there is greeted like the home-coming of a king. Vinery’s nominations and sales executive Conor Phelan sums up the reverence held by all on the property for their patriarch: “It will be a long time before I work with another stallion as good as he is, both in the barn and on the track. All told, his tally of international Group/Grade 1 success stands at 33 races, won by 21 individual horses spread over seven countries.”

As was the case with Danehill before him, More Than Ready first established his top-level reputation in Australia, where he was an instant success. His first Australian crop contained three Group 1 winners. Carry On Cutie (Aus) landed the G1 Champagne S. over 1600 metres as a 2-year-old; Benicio (Aus) took the G1 Victoria Derby S. over 2500 metres as a spring 3-year-old; and Perfectly Ready (Aus) won the G1 Goodwood H. over 1200 metres that autumn.

More Than Ready’s merit was thus instantly clear, as was the fact that he possessed the hallmark of a great stallion: he was showing himself to be an influence for class across the distance spectrum, rather than merely suitability for a particular distance. The subsequent years have further emphasised this aspect of his armoury. More Than Ready’s most recent Group 1 winner, Prized Icon (Aus), became his father’s second VRC Derby hero when scoring at Flemington in the spring. In the process he became his sire’s fifth individual Group 1 Derby or Oaks winner in Australasia, along with Dreamaway (Aus), More Than Sacred (Aus) and last season’s Queensland Derby hero Eagle Way (Aus) now in HK.

He has twice sired the winners of the Magic Millions 2YO Classic and the G1 Golden Slipper S. in the same season, with Sebring (Aus) completing the double in 2008, while Augusta Proud (Aus) and Phelan Ready (Aus) took the two big prizes the following year. Other top juveniles and sprinters for the stallion include G1 Blue Diamond S. winner Samaready (Aus), while Prized Icon was, prior to taking the VRC Derby, best known for his G1 Champagne S. triumph at two. The pick of More Than Ready’s Australian stars, though, is arguably the ultra-tough mare More Joyous (NZ), who showed top-class form for four consecutive seasons before ultimately retiring with eight Group 1 victories to her name, from 1500 metres to 2000 metres.

More Than Ready took longer to climb the rankings in the U.S., but his success there has continued to grow. Tellingly, his fee as a 20-year-old is up $10,000 from the $50,000 which he commanded last year, which itself was double his first-season fee. Buster’s Reward provided him with his breakthrough first top-level triumph in the U.S. by taking the GI Mother Goose S. in 2011, and since then we have seen the dual Grade I winners Verrazano and Room Service, as well as Regally Ready (winner of 20 races including the GI Nearctic S. and the GII Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint) and Daredevil, plus the 2010 GII Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf S. hero Pluck. More Than Ready’s international record has been further enhanced by U.S.-bred Group 1 success in South America, while two of his Australian-bred children have landed Grade 1 races in South Africa. All told, his tally of international Group/Grade 1 success stands at 33 races, won by 21 individual horses spread over seven countries. Furthermore, he came up with a domestic Group 1 success in Macau last season when Duccio (Aus) landed the Macau Derby, racing as Turquoise Power.

More Than Ready’s continued success has further cemented the position in the modern-day bloodstock world of the Hail To Reason sire-line. Few lines have been more synonymous with the ability to produce good, tough horses right the way across the distance spectrum. It has no better advertisement than Sunday Silence (Halo), who was the perfect top-class, tough and ultra-genuine racehorse himself before turning the Japanese bloodstock scene on its head thanks to his ability to sire stock who displayed similar qualities. Along with Sunny’s Halo, Sunday Silence was one of two Kentucky Derby winners sired by the impeccably-bred dual U.S. champion sire Halo (Hail To Reason), whose dam Cosmah (Cosmic Bomb) was a half-sister to Northern Dancer’s dam Natalma (Native Dancer). The line has also flourished through the 1972 GI Derby S. winner Roberto (Hail To Reason), who produced many excellent sires including the top-class racehorses Silver Hawk, Brian’s Time, Real Shadai, Lear Fan and At Talaq, as well as Kris S., Red Ransom and Dynaformer.

More Than Ready has been an outstanding representative of Hail To Reason’s line, firstly by displaying and now by passing on both the class and the toughness which have been its hallmarks. He is closely related to another extremely tough horse from the line, his dam Woodman’s Girl (Woodman) being a half-sister to GI Del Mar Oaks S. winner Bail Out Becky (Red Ransom). He has thrived so well on his busy regime that one hopes that he still has several years of active service ahead of him, but already his legacy is secure.

Sebring continues to do extremely well from his base at Widden, and Perfectly Ready has just sired his first Group 1 winner with Signify (NZ) taking the G1 Telegraph H. over 1200 metres at Trentham. Pluck has a top Australian juvenile this season in the form of G3 Maribyrnong Plate winner Aspect (Aus), while Verrazano (whose oldest offspring are currently yearlings) is clearly an extremely interesting prospect at Ashford Stud in Kentucky. More Than Ready is likely to be similarly influential as a broodmare sire, his daughters already having produced the Group 1 winners Rebel Dane (Aus) (California Dane {Aus}), Luna Rossa (NZ) (Written Tycoon {Aus}), Delectation (Aus) (Shamardal), Miracles Of Life (Aus) (Not A Single Doubt {Aus}) and Atlante (Aus) (Fastnet Rock {Aus}). More Than Ready has packed plenty into his 20 years. Hopefully he will be around for several years yet, and his influence looks set to last for decades.

WinStar Farm President Elliott Walden perfectly sums the qualities which have made More Than Ready the living legend that he is: “More Than Ready is an exceptional sire because of his ability to work in both hemispheres. I think part of why he has been able to shuttle as long as he has is his temperament, size and balance. He is all class, and is extremely durable. There is none like him.”