The following articles by Shayne O’Cass appeared in this morning’s Australian.
Just how does a member of Australia’s breeding royalty and the bloke who came to paint his house end up sharing the dam of last week’s tearaway Ramornie Handicap winner, Howmuchdoyouloveme?
Victorian breeder Bill Cockram, grandson of the exalted W W (Wally) Cockram and son of Edward (Ted), the breeder of the state’s champion sire Century, inherited Howmuchdoyouloveme’s dam, Betula Belle, from his father in 2003.
Ted Cockram picked up Betula Belle’s dam, Excited Regent, from the famed US racing and breeding figure Nelson Bunker Hunt at a sale in the US, son Bill explained. “Unfortunately, Betula Belle was injured as a foal and could never race. She had a degenerative knee after being kicked by another horse.
“So when dad sold the farm she was one of the mares he gave me to breed from. But in the sale ring, in terms of selling her progeny, we just weren’t winning any trophies so I basically put her into semi-retirement.”
As a result, Howmuchdoyouloveme (winning the Ramornie above) was the last foal that Cockram thought he would source from Betula Belle.
A huge horse from the start – 79kgs at birth – Howmuchdoyouloveme was sold for just $3000 as a weanling at the Great Southern Sale at Oaklands in Victoria. “Even though he was a really lovely horse no one wanted him because he was too big and it was frustrating because (buyers) don’t want them if they are too small, they don’t want them if they are too big,” Cockram said. The horse was then on-sold to his current owners for $5000 at the Sydney Inglis Classic sale.
With Betula Belle hardly the goldmine producer, Cockram chose not to breed from the mare again until her previous foals, four in all, showed something worthwhile on the track.
Enter professional painter Glen Towers. Towers was at Cockram’s farm, brush in hand, and the pair’s conversations soon turned from paint to ponies.
Cockram sensed Towers was keen to try his hand at breeding and came up with a way of getting him started -- and saving some cash in the process. “I thought we might do a contra so instead of paying for the painting, I gave him Betula Belle,” Cockram said.
About a year after she left Cockram’s farm, Betula Belle was back on agistment but when the bills mounted, Towers handed the mare back to Cockram.
And that’s when things started to turn for the mare.
“I saw that Howmuchdoyoulove was starting to perform well so I rang Glen and said ‘look this horse is starting to look like it might be pretty smart, I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I thought I have taken a good mare back off you, so why don’t we just go halves from now on’ and so I offered him back a share when this horse came good.”
Howmuchdoyouloveme is a son of Eliza Park stallion Written Tycoon who was crowned leading first season sire in 2010-11 with progeny earnings of $644,700.
Racing’s latest Ramornie winner, Howmuchdoyouloveme, has a long way to go to emulate the 2004 hero, Takeover Target, but the pair is closely aligned in terms of pedigree.
Takeover Target (above) is a son of Celtic Swing out of a mare by a son of Vice Regent, Archregent.
Howmuchdoyouloveme’s dam, Betula Belle, is bred along similar lines to Joe Janiak’s globetrotting great, being by Celtic Swing out of a daughter of Vice Regent.
Celtic Swing, a son of Damister, was European champion two-year-old colt of his year thanks in part to his stunning 12-length win in the Group I Doncaster Racing Post Trophy.
Connections bypassed the Epsom Derby with Celtic Swing because of concerns about the firm ground, setting him instead for the French Derby, which he won. Celtic Swing briefly stood in Australia at Collingrove Stud in Victoria, from 1997 until 1999.
He sired 23 stakes winners from 11 crops, none better than seven-time Group I winner Takeover Target.
Celtic Swing died in Italy in September 2010 following a short colic-related illness.
Howmuchdoyouloveme’s grand-dam, Excited Regent, produced eight named foals, seven of which raced. Six won, led by Kenmare colt Kendel Star, which won nine races between 1000m and 1700m and was runner-up in the 1993 Group II MVRC Bill Stutt Stakes.
Kendel Star has been at stud in Western Australia since 1995 and has sired 60 winners from 108 runners.
The Con Karakastanis-trained Howmuchdoyouloveme won the Ramornie at his fifth start. Takeover Target did so at his sixth.