Star Flemington showing puts stakes goals on agenda


This article was written by Bren O'Brien for TDN Australia & New Zealand

The sensational 7l win of Star Patrol (Starspangledbanner) at Flemington on Monday has trainer Clint McDonald aiming up at stakes grade with the 3-year-old, with plenty of upside predicted after he relished his first shot down the famous Flemington straight.

McDonald admits Star Patrol has surprised everyone with his progress, 'jumping out of the ground' in just two starts for the stable since transferring from Mark Newnham, having begun his career with Kacy Fogden in Queensland.

His wayward manners are what prompted his owner Josiah Ma to send him to McDonald, on the suggestion of advisor Shane McGrath, and the Starspangledbanner gelding has relished the change, winning his two starts by a combined 12l.

Star Patrol gaps then at Flemington. Picture: Racing Photos

"We thought he could win (on Monday) and we thought he was a real top-four chance, but obviously, he has got that turn of foot and he can quicken like a really good horse. It’s exciting and it’s fantastic for the stable," McDonald told TDN AusNZ.

The clock backed up what the eye suggested, with the time of 1:08.84 just 0.11 outside of what star colt Home Affairs (I Am Invincible) ran in winning the G1 Coolmore Stud S. over the same track and distance last November. It was also 1.16s or 7l quicker than what the older horses ran in the BM78 H. later in the meeting.

McDonald said it wasn't until after Star Patrol's first run for the stable where it was clear he was a sprinter of considerable talent.

"It was probably after his Pakenham win. We hadn’t asked a lot of him in training. He is a big, bold going type of horse, but I didn't think he needed a lot of galloping. We work him on his own a lot of the time and never sent him out there to break the clock. He trialled up very well at Cranbourne, without trying to do a lot," he said.

"He went to Pakenham and didn't even really get out of second gear there and I thought that was great, but you always want to see it again to confirm. Yesterday was a lot stronger opposition and for him to do that and win the way he did, still be a bit green and a bit new and to run that time, it makes you think he might be a serious racehorse."

McDonald will keep Star Patrol in 3-year-old company for his next run over 1100 metres at Flemington on May 21 before tackling the Listed AR Creswick S. at the same track over the 1200 metres on June 18.

The Cranbourne-based trainer thinks he will benefit with more time to develop and grow over the winter, with some big targets for him in the spring.

"He's a big, scopey horse and he has a frame to fill into, there is no doubt about that. The more time you give them, the better they get, but we are pretty happy with where he is at, at the moment. It’s just a matter of keeping him sound. So often with a fast horse like this, the hardest part is not training them, the hardest part is keeping them sound," he said.

"There's some really good races here for him in the future. We will get through his next two and go from there."

Patrol banishes wayward days

It's been an astonishingly quick development from the 'project' horse McDonald was sent to sort out a couple of months ago after his waywardness had seen him pass through two stables in his first seven starts.

"He came down from Queensland and then Sydney and he had an embargo placed on him there for running off the track. He used to hang out and go to the outside running rail. Shane McGrath suggested they send him to me to fix him and see if we can get him going," he said.

"We just tinkered with a bit of stuff. He (Star Patrol) seems to thoroughly enjoy our training regime and we seem to have got him going. The staff have done a good job, and he has really jumped out of the ground." - Clinton McDonald

Ma, who is Executive Chairman of Shen You Holdings, purchased the son of Starspangledbanner from the Lustre Lodge draft at the Inglis Classic Yearling Sale for $78,000.

He runs in Ma's personal colours of White with a red and royal blue vee, which have been carried with distinction on both Australia and Hong Kong, including by recent Scone winner Read My Future (Nostradamus) and Happy Valley 1000-metre track-record holder Stoltz (More than Ready {USA}).

McDonald believes Star Patrol's future firmly remains in Australia.

"He won't be going to Hong Kong. They go the Sydney way and he doesn't seem to handle that way and so he will be staying here in Melbourne," he said.

Star Patrol is out of the late O'Reilly (NZ) mare It's One, a granddaughter of stakes winner and Group 1 placegetter Tristachine (NZ) (Sir Tristram {Ire}). That family includes some star horses, including recent Coolmore Australia stallion addition Acrobat as well as Group 2-winning sprinter Splintex (Snitzel).

His half-brother, Salutations (Zoustar), is in work with John Size in Hong Kong but It's One failed to produce another foal.

Star Patrol is yet another promising galloper by Starspangledbanner, whose future in Australia as a stallion is uncertain after he did not feature on Rosemont Stud's 2022 roster.

Having had nine global stakes winners, including G1 Cox Plate winner State Of Rest (Ire), since the start of 2021, seven of which have been Northern Hemisphere-bred, he is still very much in demand at Coolmore Ireland.

Side note

Astute Bloodstock purchased Star Patrol's dam It's One (O'Reilly) privately under $100k for Lustre Lodge and partners and the mating to Starspangledbanner was also done by Astute Bloodstock




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