The ‘purple, white stars and cap’ of Denise Martin’s Star Thoroughbreds have become part and parcel of the racing scene in Sydney. John Berry takes a look at the record of one of Australia's most successful syndicators.

Over the past 24 years the distinctive silks have become synonymous with many of the best and most popular gallopers to have graced the city’s racecourses.

High among anyone’s memories of Golden Slippers past must be the joyous scenes after Star Thoroughbreds’ Sebring (More Than Ready {USA}) took the race under Glen Boss in 2008.

The winner the following Saturday of the Group 1 AJC Inglis Sires’ Produce Stakes and subsequently sold for $28 million to join Widden’s stallion roster, Sebring was the perfect syndicate horse, giving his share-holders a massive return on their investment and, even more importantly, thrills that money just can’t buy.

 

 

 

 

A DIVERSE BACKGROUND

Denise Martin was working in the hospitality business in a senior role at Melbourne’s Sofitel Hotel in the early ‘90s when she developed a rapport with Waterhouse, who stayed there on her visits to Victoria. It was still early days in Waterhouse’s training career at that stage, and the pair instantly realised the potential of their shared passion, acumen, flair and charisma. Martin consequently set up Star Thoroughbreds in 1994, syndicating horses to be trained by Waterhouse, and the rest pretty soon became history. Good horses started coming along at a remarkable rate.

Danglissa (Danzero) was Star Thoroughbreds’ first true top-liner, enjoying a winning spree in Sydney’s top fillies’ races in the spring of 1999 by taking the Group 3 Furious Stakes, Group 2 Tea Rose Stakes and Group 1 Flight Stakes before heading down to Melbourne to finish second in the Group 1 Thousand Guineas at Caulfield. The multiple stakes winners Stoway (Geiger Counter {USA}) and Kingsgate (Danzero) came to prominence shortly afterwards and kept the Star flag flying as the old century gave way to the new.

Sebring was the horse who took Star Thoroughbreds to the very top, but he was merely one of several superstars who made 2008 a real annus mirabilis for the operation. While he had cemented Star Thoroughbreds’ reputation for unearthing a top juvenile, later that year two of its older stars reminded us of its ability to produce the type of tough, high-class older horse on whom the game thrives.

Sebring cemented Star Thoroughbreds' reputation for unearthing top juveniles

 

SUCCESS STARTS TO ROLL

That year’s Group 1 Epsom Handicap at Randwick produced a wonderful result for Star Thoroughbreds as the five-year-old Theseo (Danewin) and the four-year-old Bank Robber (Dash For Cash) filled the quinella. Theseo headed down to Melbourne later in the spring and landed the Group 1 Mackinnon Stakes at Flemington before subsequently landing three more weight-for-age Group 1s in later years. He ended the 2008/’09 season as Australia’s Champion Middle Distance Horse of the Year (and NSW Champion Racehorse of the Year) thus giving Star Thoroughbreds HOTY honours for the second season running following Sebring’s award of Champion Two-Year-Old Colt of Australia for 2007/’08.

Hot on the heels of Sebring came another juvenile money-spinner, Driefontein (Fastnet Rock) who landed the Magic Millions 2-Year-Old Classic in 2012. The popular filly then developed into a proper trooper over the subsequent three seasons, ultimately winning five Group races including the Group 1 Sportingbet Classic Robert Sangster Stakes in Adelaide as a four-year-old. She even posted some fine efforts as a five-year-old in the 2014/’15 season including finishing second to Deep Field (Northern Meteor) in the Group 2 Tab.com.au Stakes at Flemington on VRC Derby Day.

 

COACHING CHANGE

In January 2014 all new recruits changed to Chris Waller’s burgeoning stable, for which nowadays “Star Thoroughbreds are the exclusive licensed syndicators of yearlings to Chris Waller Racing”.

One of Chris Waller’s many strengths as a trainer is that he can juggle things with a huge string of horses and massive bank of clients so that every horse and every client has joint-top priority.

Foxplay has been a wonderful filly for Star

Star Thoroughbreds fits perfectly into this well-run operation and has become an integral part of the stable, and ironically it was a Star Thoroughbreds horse who has come closest to derailing the winning run of Waller’s stable star Winx (Street Cry {Ire}).

Foxplay (Foxwedge) was a wonderful filly for Star Thoroughbreds. In the spring of 2016 she emulated the feat of Danglissa seventeen years previously by emerging as the winner of the ATC Princess Series, and she then went on to take both the Group 2 Phar Lap Stakes and the Group 1 Coolmore Legacy Stakes in the autumn. Arguably her finest hour, though, came the following spring in the Group 2 Bob Ingham Warwick Stakes at Randwick when she had the nation holding its breath for a few agonising seconds, only losing the lead in the shadows of the post when Winx’s barn-storming finish allowed her to snatch a thrilling head victory from the jaws of defeat.

Stars for Star Thoroughbreds in recent seasons have been Group 1 Rosehill Guineas winner D’Argento (So You Think {NZ}), Group 2 Silver Shadow, Group 3 Widden Stakes and $1 million Inglis Sprint winner Fiesta (I Am Invincible), G2 Shannon S. winner Noire (Foxwedge), G3 Doncaster Prelude H. winner Cellarman (Mossman) and the ultra-tough Invincibella (I Am Invincible), winner of the Group 1 Tatt's Tiara, four Group 2 races in three different states as well as taking back to back Magic Millions Fillies and Mares Stakes at the Gold Coast, Kubrick (Shooting To Win) narrowly defeated in the Group 1 JJ Atkins and winner of the inaugural $1 million Bondi Stakes and Accession (Brazen Beau) winner of the Listed Inglis Nursery.