WA Derby win for hobby breeders

Patronus Star winning WA Derby

10 April 2020

by Brad Reid

Mike and Dawn McQuoid celebrated their biggest thrill as breeders on Friday night when they cheered home Patronus Star in the Group One Western Australian Derby.

Currently in lock down in Roxborough with family, Mike said the family stayed up late to take in the result, win, lose or draw.

“We knew it was on and we thought we would have a punt and either make some money, or lose some money. And as it turned out, we made some money,” he laughed.

The North Canterbury businessman owns a scrap metal company and has only been involved in harness racing since 2007.

He attended an auction for the estate of Bill McDonald with the intention of buying a broodmare.

“We purchased Star Command (2000 In The Pocket) as a dry mare for $7000 after being put onto through a mate of ours who had Nursemepocket and she was a close relative.

“When she came into the ring, he made sure to turn around and tell us to not let her get away and pay what we needed too to secure her. We probably would have drawn the line somewhere, but we got what we came for in the end,” said McQuoid.

On paper the mare doesn’t jump out as mare you have to have, but when you dig a little deeper you soon see this was a family that has a bit more than meets the eye.

And as I have since learned, it was a well-respected breed that was damn hard to get into.

Star Command was unraced but was out of a full sister to the former Open Class pacer Starship in Venetian Star.

Venetian Star and Starship were both by Lordship and the latter took on the town hall company of his era.

Bill McDonald did the training of Starship at two, but the colt ran into Tuapeka Knight who we know was nigh on unbeatable as a juvenile. Starship ran second to Tuapeka Knight an incredible eight times, but still won six races including the G3 Forbury Juvenile and amassed $70,000 in stakes.

At three and four it didn’t get any easier running into the sensational Dillon Dean and Godfrey.

After getting his toes wet in Open Class in 1988, he transferred to the care of John Reedy where was produced fresh up in the Ashburton Flying Stakes having not races since Cup Day the year prior to win the Group 3 ahead of Debbie’s Boy and his old foe Dillon Dean.

He ran second in the Flying Stakes a year later and finished second in the 1990 New Zealand Cup behind Neroship.

He beat Christopher Vance and Master Musician in the 1991 Kaikoura Cup and was second behind Christopher Vance in the 1991 Auckland Cup. Although he never won a Group One, Starship was there abouts in most of the big races in a tough era of racing, winning over $350,000 and 16 races.

He would be tried at stud and despite some fairly good numbers early on, never quite measured up, leaving 39 winners from 209 live foals.

Starship’s full sister Venetian Star was unraced, but as her brother was going to war on the track, she was about to leave a star of her own.

From her first foal in 1991 she left a Vance Hanover colt by the name of Anvils Star.

He never raced at two and waiting for him in the three-year-old ranks was Il Vicolo who was simply a class above.

Anvils Star was second to Il Vicolo in the Sires Stakes final in 1994 however and ran with distinction into his Open Class career without ever bagging a Group One.

Having won the 96’ Hannon Memorial, he ran 2nd in the New Zealand Cup that year behind Il Vicolo as the rank outside in the field.Soon after he was off to Victoria where in his first three runs on Aussie soil, Anvils Star won the Bendigo cup, ran 2nd in the Victoria Cup behind Desperate Comment and was 2nd a fortnight later in the Hunter Cup behind Surprise Package.

On his return home he won the 1998 Waitakere Flying Mile while it was still held at Alexandra Park in a career best 1:54.8, having run fifth in the Auckland Cup four days earlier.

He finished his career with $444,000 in stakes and won 15 races.

Other good performers from the immediate family of Venetian Star include;

  • Rocket Star ($411,000) Out of a full sister to Star Command in Star Rhapsody
  • Marshal Star ($100,669)
  • Crystal Star ($148,406)
  • Star Friendship ($53,000)

What the family lacks in depth it makes up for with some good, tough horses who now with the advent of modern bloodlines, appear to be resurgent with some speed being bred into the breed.

Back to the McQuoid’s who bred the Derby winner after having decided to get into the breeding caper as a hobby.

“We’ve had the mare at Wai Eyre farm for nearly 13 years now and always go out to see the foals and have raced most of the progeny,” said McQuoid.

The first foal they bred from Star Command was a Bettor’s Delight colt who didn’t want to be a pacer.

“Kairanga Star was a high gaited thing and a wee bit crazy on it and was sent down to the road to Joe Clementson and is possibly still there, “he laughed.

The second foal they bred by American Ideal was much better and was to be the McQuoid’s first horse at the races and kick start a bit of success in the 2014/15 season.

“He won three in a row with Phil Burrows and then won the Futurity on Show Day which was a bit of a buzz and shortly after that race we sold him to Perth.

“He ended up running third in the Golden Nugget at his first start behind Libertybelle Midfrew,” said McQuoid.

He would win $145,000 and 12 races in W.A where he finished his career.

The same season Billies A Star came on the scene, the friend (Ray Churches) who had talked the McQuoid’s into the breed did a deal on a mare of his own from the same family, albeit a different taproot.

“He wasn’t going to serve his mare called Nurseme Pocket (In The Pocket – Star Mystery) so I agreed to breed a few with him,” said McQuoid.

“We bred her to Real Desire and got Gracious Star who was a bloody nice mare (won four at four) until she had a freak injury in the Harness Jewels mares’ race and broke her front leg,” he said.

Although the season finished on a sour note, the McQuoid’s had a year to remember in 2015 winning eight races in total.

The next mating of his own mare was to Rocknroll Hanover who at $20,000 didn’t come cheap.

“Perfect Circle won one race, but she was just a wee dot and wasn’t very big, but we gave her away as a hack. Someone recently asked me where she is and she’s enjoying life as a riding horse for a young girl. Better someone else be having a bit of fun with her but she could be bred from one day,” he laughed.

“We actually got a discount mating to Four Starzz Shark for having bred our mare to Rocknroll Hanover and we used it on Ray Churches mare to get Mista Shark.

“He was a nice horse who we sold to Perth and he actually won the San Simeon Final (G2) the same night Lazarus won the Interdominion Final at Gloucester Park,” he said.

After missing with American Ideal to Star Command in 2014, the McQuoid’s waited another two years before serving their mare with the same sire.

The resultant foal produced a full brother to Billie’s A Star and last week’s WA Derby winner, Patronus Star.

“We originally had our progeny trained by Phil Burrows but when Ronnie Dawe sold his property and Phil went to work at the Dunn’s, we sent Patronus to Gavin Smith,” said McQuoid.

Gavin Smith had done a lot of the driving for the McQuoid’s charges in their brief time racing horses, so it wasn’t a completely new association for either party.

Smith always felt the horse would improve with time, and potentially the style of racing, but admits he never saw Derby potential.

“I couldn’t have said he’d win the derby, but he was a really nice horse that was just coming to it after needing time to strengthen.

“His two starts at Blenheim without a trial we’re super. He was very much on the up as American ideals tend to do with time and they seem to thrive in Perth as long as they have speed, which he did,” said Smith.

Patronus Star barely went a bad race in New Zealand before going to WA.

He won his second start at Timaru after placing on debut, ran third on Cup Day behind Ascalabus paying $17 a place and did a nice job on the Blenheim circuit with a win and a second over the two-day meeting.

Patronus Star won fresh up over a mile at Bunbury in a 1:53 mile rate and was sent out a $7.50 chance in the Derby a week later.

In what was an enthralling race with several tactical moves, Gary Hall Jnr launched the favourite, Major Martini with a lap to go making a line of three setting up a third quarter of 27.3.

Patronus Star was sitting four the pegs and sweating a run which never came until several runners tired on the final bend.

With plenty of work to do, Patronus Star gobbled them up right down the outside to nail a gallant Major Martini on the wire.

Having celebrated their greatest breeding achievement under the constraints of the Covid19 lockdown, the next goal for the McQuoid’s is understandably to get their Group One producer back in foal.

“We couldn’t get her in foal this year, but we will be going to American Ideal this coming season,” Said McQuoid.

With the stallion now Vic Bred eligible, the resultant progeny will have a lot of value on both sides of the tasman.