Capitalist’s Golden Slipper: The Race That Shapes A Nation’s Breeding Industry

Sydney’s Rosehill Gardens Racecourse staged the world’s most valuable contest for two-year-olds earlier this month. The sixtieth running of the Golden Slipper, run over six furlongs and carrying A$3.5 million* in prize money, went to Capitalist, a A$165,000 purchase at the 2015 Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale.

The Melbourne Cup might be ‘the race that stops the nation’ but these days it’s relevance to Australian bloodstock is minimal. Sitting at the other end of the distance spectrum, the Golden Slipper is ‘the race that really shapes the breeding industry in Australia’ in the opinion of bloodstock agent James Harron who purchased not only Capitalist but also the 2015 Golden Slipper winner Vancouver who is to race for Aidan O’Brien in 2016.

Just how important the Golden Slipper is can be seen from Capitalist’s pedigree which is full of horses who contested it. In fact, he’s the second from his immediate family to win it after the Danehill filly Merlene who was successful in 1996 – Merlene is a sister to Capitalist’s grandam Compulsion. Another Golden Slipper winner Luskin Star (successful in 1977) sired Capitalist’s great grandam Bold Promise.

Remarkably, his sire, grandsire, grandam and great grandam also each contested the Golden Slipper, but none was successful. Compulsion could only finish last of sixteen in 1998 after meeting trouble in running, while seven years earlier Bold Promise (Australia’s top-rated two-year-old filly of the 1990/91 season) had finished fifth.

His grandsire Iglesia fared much better than his grandam in that 1998 renewal, finishing strongly from the rear for fourth, but Capitalist’s sire Written Tycoon was only eleventh of the sixteen runners in 2005 after showing early speed.

However, both Iglesia and Written Tycoon (the latter from the family of champion Australian sprinter Yell) were speedy two-year-olds with Group 2 successes to their names, while Capitalist’s dam Kitalpha was also a winning sprinter.

Just as speedy was Iglesia’s sire Last Tycoon who made his name principally as a sprinter in Europe though had more than one string to his bow. A winner of three races at two in France at around five furlongs, he also emerged with plenty of credit against older horses to finish fifth in the Prix de l’Abbaye at Longchamp.

However, the same race was not on his agenda at three despite proving himself Europe’s best five-furlong performer with another three wins at the minimum trip, including the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Wiliam Hill Sprint Championship (Nunthorpe) at York. Instead, Last Tycoon went for the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Santa Anita and by winning it entered stud at Coolmore advertised as ‘the fastest horse in Europe and the most versatile in the world.’

Well, he might have been versatile by European standards, but Last Tycoon was to be outdone on that score by his son Mahogany, the gelding who was Australia’s Horse of the Year in 1993/94 thanks to wins in the Caulfield Guineas, Australian Guineas, Victoria Derby and Australian Derby.

However, having won at around a mile and a half as a three-year-old, Mahogany’s later career included wins in 1995 and 1997 in Flemington’s Lightning Stakes over five furlongs (the brilliant mare Black Caviar is the only horse since to have won the Lightning more than once, completing her hat-trick of wins in 2012).

Mahogany’s versatility doubtless owed plenty to Last Tycoon whose own speed belied the fact that, on his dam’s side at least, he was quite stoutly bred.

Last Tycoon’s dam Mill Princess, by Mill Reef, was successful at Longchamp over a mile and a quarter and was a half-sister to the Irish Derby winner Irish Ball. Meanwhile, her half-sister Irish Bird produced the Prix du Jockey Club winners Assert (who also won the Irish Derby) and Bikala and Irish St Leger winner Eurobird.

Mahogany’s success in Australia as a three-year-old was instrumental in Last Tycoon clinching that season’s Australian sires’ championship. That was despite Last Tycoon being represented that season by just the one southern hemisphere-conceived crop which had been the result of his standing at Segenhoe Stud in New South Wales’ Hunter Valley late in 1989. It was to be 1992 before Last Tycoon returned down under, shuttling from Coolmore in Ireland to Arrowfield Stud.

That same crop included the very good two-year-old filly Lady Jakeo, winner of the Group 1 Blue Diamond Stakes, who comes from the same family (Colonial family 2) as Capitalist.

Last Tycoon became Australia’s first champion sire not to be based permanently in either Australia or New Zealand and was also the first champion sire there from the Northern Dancer line, effectively ending the dominance of Star Kingdom (sire of the first five Golden Slipper winners). Last Tycoon’s championship season was a one-off, but having effectively put a foot in the door for northern hemisphere bloodstock down under, it was his Coolmore studmate Danehill who burst in and took up residence, becoming champion sire in Australia in nine of the next eleven years. Now his sons continue that dominance, including reigning Australian champion sire Fastnet Rock.

Let’s now return to Mill Princess who went on to produce plenty more winners after Last Tycoon, her first living foal. Mill Princess was mated exclusively with either sons of Northern Dancer (such as Dewhurst winner Try My Best, Last Tycoon’s sire), or stallions by his sons Nijinsky and Sadler’s Wells.

The Last Tycoon was an unfinished novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald whose wife Zelda lent her name to another one of the daughters of Mill Princess. The Caerleon filly Zelda produced the Prix Robert Papin winner Zipping, but it’s her great grandson The United States (by Galileo) who’s of interest here. A Group 3 winner in Ireland for Aidan O’Brien in 2013, he has since gone on to better things exported to Australia.

He beat subsequent Melbourne Cup winner Prince of Penzance in the Group 2 Moonee Valley Gold Cup last October, and on the same card that Capitalist won the Golden Slipper, The United States was also a Group 1 winner at The Championships in the Ranvet Stakes. The United States, incidentally, is now part-owned by Lloyd Williams who was also part-owner of Mahogany.

*About £1.8m or US$2.6m