The story of Pornichet has been a relatively short, but oh so very sweet one, and I can tell you that we are certainly not finished yet. Before I laid eyes on this magnificent colt, who was to become the 2015 Group 1 Doomben Cup winner, his journey was to begin in France. Many of you who are reading this ‘Down Under’ may not know much more about Vespone other than the fact that he is the sire of Pornichet. Vespone stands at Haras Du Petit Tellier, just outside Argentan in the north-west of France. This beautiful, family-owned stud farm covers more than 200 hectares (nearly 500 acres) with over 180 horses calling this lush, green landscape home. Vespone is one of five stallions standing at Haras Du Petit Tellier, and he also passed through Deauville’s August Yearling Sale in 2001 as part of their consignment. Vespone was bought for 450,000 Francs (nearly $100,000) by Christophe Clement who trained him to win the Group 3 Prix la Force, Group 1 Prix Jean Prat and Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris before he was bought privately by Sheikh Mohammed. He is a half-brother to Purple Moon who many of you will remember as the 2007 Melbourne Cup placegetter. There are many similarities between Pornichet and his sire, Vespone. Both horses began their racing careers with Christophe Clement, both horses have travelled the world to race, and now both horses are Group 1 winners. Our very own Kerrin McEvoy has even ridden them both in races, going down by only three lengths in each! Thankfully we still have time to rectify and improve on a few of these with Pornichet and that includes beating Vespone’s Group 1 tally of two.
In France, Pornichet started three times as a 2 year old, placing twice and winning at his first attempt over a mile (1600m). As a 3 year old, he started four times in France, winning twice over 1600 and 1700 metres before going on to compete in a historical French Classic, the Group 1 Poule d’Essai des Poulains which is France’s equivalent of the 2000 Guineas. He finished third that day beaten only 1 ¾ lengths.
I first laid eyes on Pornichet in the UK as he prepared to pass through the inaugural Goffs London Sale in June last year, one month after his outstanding performance in the French Guineas and many months after he came on my husband, Rob’s radar. Rob spends hours upon hours following and studying these overseas stayers with a view to bringing them down to Australia to win the lucrative Cups races. Pornichet is a magnificent looking colt with a big, strong shoulder, plenty of length and most importantly, a very strong will to win. When I saw him he had an air about him that said he knew how good he was and I knew I could get it out of him. With no live bids, I secured him for £425,000 outside the ring and this is where our journey began. Within a matter of days a small, very loyal group of owners had committed to the colt.
Stop one on Pornichet’s world tour was the Grade 1 Belmont Derby over 2000 metres at Belmont Park just outside New York. At the time he was still quite green so the blinkers were applied to keep him focused but unfortunately they caused him to go too hard and I knew that if I was ever going to get him to win a Group 1 I would have to retrain his mind. At this stage I was keener than ever to get him back to Australia and get to work but I wanted to focus on an introductory spring campaign three months down the track and I knew that he may have been feeling the effects of all of the travel so I decided to spell him in Newmarket, England for approximately 4 weeks. Although this is not common practice in Europe, the expansive paddocks of the English National Stud allowed him to let down mentally and start to build back up in condition before being transported to Australia. Pornichet arrived at the gates of Tulloch Lodge on 6th September, 2014 and began learning the Australian way before being transported to Melbourne approximately 10 days before his Aussie debut in the Group 3 Yellowglen Stakes. He was beaten only a length that day behind next start Group 1 Emirates Stakes winner, Hucklebuck. Two weeks later he rounded off his first prep Down Under with an eye catching win in the Group 3 Sandown Stakes. Currently in his second prep, Pornichet has won three races at 2000 and 2150 metres, culminating in an explosive 2 ¼ length win in the Group 1 Doomben Cup which saw him rocket to favouritism in the Group 1 Cox Plate which takes place later this year. It is probably only over the last 6 weeks that he has really come of age and this can be seen in his racing pattern. With plenty of work happening behind the scenes and a gear change, he has started to settle in running enabling him to finish off his races the way only a true Champion racehorse can.
It has been a great pleasure for me to get the results for a group of owners who have been so supportive and for my husband Rob who once again has proven that he is a true Group 1 performer. He has an amazing ability to find horses that I am able to train towards Group 1 victories and it is nothing short of remarkable. He is a terrific student of form who has a proven formula with these overseas stayers and I am sure that we would all agree that we are blessed to have him on the team.
I have won the Doomben Cup once before with a very special horse called Juggler. There are many similarities between these two great racehorses and on Pornichet’s magnificent win over the weekend, there is still plenty to look forward to. See you at the Cox Plate.
Written by Gai Waterhouse - gaiwaterhouse.com.au