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Capella heads timely purple patch for Rip Van Winkle
04 Jan 2016 | By Richard Edmunds, The Informant

Windsor Park Stud shuttle stallion Rip Van Winkle enjoyed his greatest day in the southern hemisphere at a packed Ellerslie on Boxing Day, and with the Karaka yearling sales just around the corner his timing could not have been better.

Exciting filly Capella became Rip Van Winkle’s best New Zealand performer with her stirring victory in the Gr. 2 Eight Carat Classic, casting a star-studded field of fillies aside and hinting at even better things to come over longer distances. The Australian Oaks lies on the horizon for the Gary Harding-owned and bred filly.

To make a great weekend even better, a pair of Windsor Park-owned Rip Van Winkle three-year-olds also produced top-class performances to earn black-type bids of their own later in the season.

His Majesty powered down the straight to finish second behind boom colt Xtravagant over 1400 metres at Ellerslie, then 24 hours later Let Me Roar scored a stylish maiden win at Rotorua. The Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman-trained filly is a half-sister to multiple Group One winner Lion Tamer.

“Rip Van Winkle has had a really great week, and it’s been perfect timing with the yearling sales approaching,” Windsor Park’s general manager Steve Till told The Informant.

“He made a good start with his first crop of two-year-olds here last season, including Magic Dancer who won a Group Three at New Plymouth. But I think they’re not naturally precocious horses and not natural two-year-old types. They’re horses who will benefit from patient handling.

“We’ve seen as they mature and get up over more ground that they improve and you start to see the best of them. Rip Van Winkle himself won a Group race as a two-year-old, but it was at three and four that he really hit his straps and won his Group Ones. He won a Group One over 2100 metres as a four-year-old.”

A son of Galileo and the Stravinsky mare Looking Back, Rip Van Winkle carried the famous navy blue colours of Coolmore and was trained by Aidan O’Brien throughout an outstanding racing career.

He started 12 times for five wins, two placings and more than £1 million in prize-money. He won the Gr. 1 Sussex Stakes, Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and Juddmonte International Stakes and was placed in another four elite events.

Rip Van Winkle retired to stud in 2011, based at Coolmore in Ireland and shuttling to Windsor Park. He has sired 74 winners from 178 starters, seven at stakes level including the Gr. 1 Curragh Phoenix Stakes winner Dick Whittington.

Rip Van Winkle’s New Zealand yearlings have been well received at Karaka in the last two years, with more than a dozen of his progeny selling for $200,000 or more. One, a close relative to Lucia Valentina, fetched $375,000 in 2014. The stallion will be represented by 46 yearlings at the upcoming sales, including 24 in the Premier session.

“We’re looking forward to taking his yearlings to Karaka again this season,” Till said. “His first two crops sold really well and we’ve got some lovely yearlings this year including a full-sister to Let Me Roar and also a lovely filly out of Prix Du Sang. Her sister Killer Woman is highly regarded in South Africa and won her last start by nearly five lengths.”

Till took particular delight in the breakthrough performance by the Danica Guy-trained Capella, a filly who was earmarked for big things from a very early age. Her dam Limerick returned to Rip Van Winkle this season and is in foal.

“Capella looked like an exceptional talent from the start,” Till said. “Anyone who’s had anything to do with her since very early in her life has been hugely complimentary of her ability. It was great to see her do that and hopefully she has much more ahead.

“It’s similar with our filly Let Me Roar. Right from the time she was being broken in, all the feedback we heard was very positive. Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman hold her in high regard, and she trialled very impressively at Te Aroha a couple of weeks ago. It was so good to see her confirm that initial ability with a strong maiden win.

“She had to be used a bit early, then she sprinted again in the straight. Not many horses can do it in both ends of a race, albeit in maiden company. We’re hoping she can follow in the footsteps of her half-brother Lion Tamer and snare some black type.

“His Majesty was having his first race over 1400 metres on Boxing Day, and the way he got to the line suggests he could be a Derby prospect. That’s pretty exciting as well.”