Speed on speed on more speed. That is the simple formula behind the breeding of last Saturday’s Silver Slipper Stakes (Gr 2, 1100m) winner Headwater (Exceed and Excel).
Impressive in taking a 1000 metre race at Moonee Valley in late December at his only previous start, Headwater assumed control early in the Silver Slipper and never appeared in danger, easing down late for a two and a quarter length victory reports ANZ Bloodstock News.
In becoming stakes winner number 94 for his champion sire Exceed and Excel (Danehill), Headwater has now displaced Vancouver (Medaglia d’Oro) as early favourite for the rich Golden Slipper Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m) on 21 March.
A big, powerfully built colt typical of his sire, Headwater was purchased from the draft of Cressfield Stud and sent to Hawkes Racing, for $500,000 at last year’s inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale and races for Vinery Stud, Kia Ora Stud and Legh Racing. If this so far unbeaten Cressfield-bred can further add to his record in feature races he will make an exciting addition to Vinery’s stallion roster.
Headway’s father Exceed and Excel was one of the best two-year-olds in Australia in the 2002/03 season, winning the Todman Slipper Trial Stakes (Gr 2, 1200m), defeating Untouchable (Danehill) and Niello (Octagonal), but two weeks later he could finish only ninth in the 2003 Golden Slipper behind surprise winner Polar Success (Success Express).
Possessed of great speed and able to extend it to 1400 metres, Exceed and Excel made considerable improvement at three, in the spring taking the Up and Coming Stakes (Gr 2, 1200m) and Roman Consul Stakes (Gr 3, 1200m) in Sydney before going to Melbourne to win the Invitation Stakes (Gr 1, 1400m).
Exceed and Excel next failed in the Caulfield Guineas (Gr 1, 1600m), was spelled, then resumed in Sydney in the autumn to win the Royal Sovereign Stakes (Gr 2, 1180m) before crowning his racing career against the best older sprinters with a brilliant, front running victory in the Newmarket Handicap (Gr 1, 1200m). This win earned him the title of Australia’s champion sprinter of 2003/04.
Champion sire in Australia in 2012/13 when he was also leading sire of two-year-olds, Exceed and Excel became a very popular reverse shuttler to the UK in 2005 after serving his first mares here in 2004 and has so far generated nine Group One winners worldwide, six of them juveniles, standouts in Australia being Golden Slipper winner Overreach, Blue Diamond Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m) winners Reward For Effort and Earthquake, Guelph and Helmet, also now a shuttle sire.
Headwater’s dam River Dove (Hurricane Sky) was just as speedy, perhaps even faster, than his sire Exceed and Excel.
Her eight wins at 1000 metres and 1100 metres were highlighted by her success in the 2003 Oakleigh Plate (Gr 1, 1100m) in which she defeated North Boy (Rory’s Jester) and Choisir (Danehill Dancer).
River Dove inherited her speed from both sides of her pedigree as a result of a speed-on-speed mating between her sire Hurricane Sky (Star Watch) and dam Ride The Rapids (River Rough).
Hurricane Sky, a successful sire, scored a memorable win in the 1994 Blue Diamond Stakes in which he ran 1:8.1 to equal the Caulfield course record. He was more than just a short course sprinter, also winning the 1995 All Aged Stakes (Gr 1, 1600m).
Ride The Rapids, second dam of Headwater, won over 1000 metres but her most important win came in the James HB Carr Stakes (Listed, 1400m). She was one of only stakes winners left by River Rough (Brigand), a Star Kingdom (Stardust) line horse and one of Australia’s finest sprinters of the mid-1980s when he won two renewals of the Pure-Pak Stakes, now known as the Darley Classic, (Gr 1, 1200m) and also two renewals of the Lightning Stakes (Gr 2, 1000m), long since upgraded to Group One status.
Headwater ranks as a three-quarter genetic relation of the similarly speedy Kulgrinda who shares the same sire and whose stakes placed dam River Crossing (Bellotto) is a half-sister to River Dove.
Cressfield acquired Headwater’s dam River Dove for the high price of $800,000 at the 2005 Inglis Australian Select Broodmare Sale in Sydney. From one of Australia’s best contemporary families, she had been covered in September 2004 to Elusive Quality (Gone West).
When River Dove later slipped that foal and then slipped again the following year to Redoute’s Choice (Danehill) the wisdom of the large investment must have seemed questionable but in more recent years the mare has given Cressfield some wonderful financial returns despite missing three times.
Headwater’s stakes placed sister Fare Well (Exceed And Excel) began the good run when she sold for $510,000 as a yearling in 2012 and Headwater made $500,000 last year but the big pay day for Cressfield was at Easter in 2013 when River Dove’s still unraced but promising colt Emaratee (Fastnet Rock) sold for a near record $4,000,000.
This family, tracing back to Irish import Sheeaun (Continuation), Headwater’s fourth dam, is studded with stakes winners including Headwater’s third dam Kilmarie (Bletchingly) who produced not only Ride The Rapids but also Catchfire (Century) and I Love Sydney (Century).
Notable other factors for speed in Headwater’s background are the 3 x 3 inbreeding to Northern Dancer (Nearctic) found in Exceed and Excel and the 3 x 3 inbreeding to the brilliant Bletchingly (Biscay) which is the dominant feature of River Dove’s pedigree.