Chartres follows in Prince’s footsteps

Matt Laurie has long been considered an astute trainer, but the Mornington horseman seems to come to the fore when autumns turns to winter and Victorian Owners and Breeders Raceday comes into view.

Having trained the inaugural winner of The Showdown in Prince of Sussex, who swept to success in 2019, this year Laurie claimed the other feature contest on the card when Chartres took out the $500,000 VOBIS Sires Guineas for three-year-olds.

The parallels between the two horses are clear, with Swettenham Stud’s resident stallion Toronado having sired Prince of Sussex and Chartres, and both racing in the colours of prominent racehorse owner-breeder Paul Dugan.

Dugan might have experienced mixed feelings in mid-November last year when, having sold Prince of Sussex to Hong Kong connections for a sizeable sum, he watched the horse now known as Lucky Express break through for his biggest win in the Class 1 Panasonic Cup at Sha Tin.

But any twinge of seller’s remorse was partly dispelled when Chartres – who caught Dugan’s eye at the 2020 Inglis Melbourne Gold Yearling Sale given his striking similarities to Prince of Sussex – stamped his class on Cranbourne Cup Day.

Chartres raced well clear of a smart field of three-year-olds to bring up career win number two, having broken his maiden under Ethan Brown at Sale in July – when the beaten brigade included Bon’s A Pearla, who recently finished fourth in the Group 1 Australasian Oaks.

Fast forward to Victorian Owners and Breeders Raceday and Brown was back in the saddle on Chartres, who was rated a $5 chance by bookmakers to take out the VOBIS Sires Guineas.

With Dugan watching from the stands in the company of his fellow owners, many of whom had thoroughly enjoyed – and indeed shared in the proceeds of – the wild ride Prince of Sussex had taken them on, Chartres duly fulfilled his potential to carry his career prizemoney earnings close to $450,000.

Sharing in the success was passionate breeder Kristen Manning, who despite having only retained a two per cent share in the horse, was perhaps screaming loudest of all when he crossed the line first ahead of Eventually (trained by Tony and Calvin McEvoy) and The Claimant (Mick Kent).

Manning bred Chartres from her broodmare The French House, and subsequently sold the horse to Dugan for a mere $40,000 after it had been passed in at the sale. Manning and her fellow breeders in the Victorian Pedigree Group had identified Toronado as the ideal match for her mare, but she was unable to afford the stud fee commanded by the super sire.

Instead, she pleaded her case to Swettenham’s Principal Adam Swettenham, who – for the first time in Toronado’s long and illustrious career stud – agreed to a foal share [an agreement whereby a mare’s owner and the stallion’s owner co-own the resulting foal, with no money having changed hands].

“I thought he [Toronado] would be the perfect match for The French House, but from a financial perspective he was way out of our league,” said Manning.

“So I thought I’d see if I could get a foal share, but Adam [Sangster] told me he doesn’t do them. So he told me to write down my thoughts and I sent him what I thought was a pretty convincing letter, and luckily he agreed to it.

“He told me it was the first foal share he ever did, and you’d have to say it’s worked out pretty well for both of us!”

Perhaps inevitably, in the aftermath of his win in VOBIS Sires Guineas offers have come in from Hong Kong for Chartres, who had previously finished third behind Finance Tycoon – the 2020 winner of The Showdown – in the Group 3 Zeditave Stakes at Caulfield.

Manning is hopeful Chartres’ ownership group will resist the lucrative offer on the table, but whatever the future holds she will always cherish the memories of his dashing success in the $500,000 contest.

“It’s always exciting to win a race with any horse you own, but it’s a completely different thrill when you have bred them as well,” she said.