Sir Mark Todd is embarking on a new equine challenge – he is training the high-class Flat racehorse Eminent and plans to run the five-year-old in two Grade One races in Australia in March and April.
Eminent is principally owned by Sir Peter Vela, who has owned many event horses with Mark, including his 2011 Badminton winner Land Vision and NZB Campino, fourth at Badminton in 2017. He also owns Pencarrow Stud in New Zealand and has bred and raced many top horses, including 2001 Melbourne Cup winner Ethereal.
Mark said: “Sir Peter and [bloodstock agent] Hubie de Burgh bought [Eminent’s former trainer] Martyn Meade out of the horse with the idea of sending him to stud in New Zealand – he’s got a great pedigree and is a Group Two winner.
“They sent him to me to do something with before going to New Zealand, and then I got a phone call, saying they were thinking of taking him to Australia to run in a couple of races before retiring. ‘And we want you to do it!’ they said.
“I had a think about it – and I can never resist a challenge! I’ve had to take out my training licence in a hurry. The plan is to run him in two Grade Ones over 10 furlongs in Sydney – the Ranvet Stakes at Rosehill Gardens on 23 March and the Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick on 13 April, although he does have an entry in the Star Doncaster Mile as well as an insurance.”
Eminent, a son of Frankel out of a Kingmambo mare, won the Group Three Craven Stakes at Newmarket in 2017 for Martyn Meade, finished sixth in the 2000 Guineas and then fourth in the Derby at Epsom before winning a French Group Two and taking third in the Group One Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown that season.
Last season his form dipped and he was unplaced in all of his four runs, three of them at Group One level.
“He’s a lovely horse – on the ball, and he is still an entire of course, but he has a great nature,” said Mark, who has done all the riding work apart from the fast galloping work on the horse himself. “I played around with a bit of flatwork when he first came and popped him over a few fences – letting him be a horse, not just a racehorse. He’d probably be a nice event horse, although I don’t think that is what his owners have in mind!
“He has worked on the gallops here at Badgerstown [Mark’s yard in Wiltshire] and I have also taken him to other gallops to work alongside other horses. The snow and the equine flu virus have upset our plans a bit and we’ve had to resort to plans B, C and D, but he is now in quarantine in Newmarket and he flies to Australia on 28 February.”
Mark, who is continuing his own eventing career, will compete at Isleham on 3 March before flying to Australia the following day.
“The plan is that I will be over there for six weeks if all goes well,” said Mark. “If everything goes right and he is able to reproduce his best form, I think he could be competitive. Winx [the champion Australian mare who has now won 29 times in succession, including a world record 22 Group Ones] is in the Queen Elizabeth and beating her would be a pretty tall order – but you’ve got to be in it to win it.
“Sir Peter is one of the great sporting owners of the world – he embraced it when I started eventing again and has never been afraid to think out of the box. What other owner would give me a chance to do this?”
After Mark first retired from eventing after the Sydney Olympics in 2000, he trained Flat horses in New Zealand with success. His achievements included winning the New Zealand Oaks with Bramble Rose in 2003 and the Wellington Cup with Willy Smith in 2007, but in 2008 he returned to eventing.
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“I’ve toyed with the idea of getting back into training,” said Mark, “but I don’t think it is something I want to do full-time. My wife Carolyn and I would like to have a few horses of our own, and maybe it will develop a bit, but I am not giving up eventing just yet.
“It is a great privilege to be allowed to train Eminent, and winning a Grade One for Sir Peter would be wonderful.”
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