If you haven’t heard of stallion Zacinto – or his superstar son Ugo Foscolo – read on! It won’t be long until both father and son are household names, in racing homes anyway.
You see, Ugo Foscolo, formerly trained by Stephen Marsh, handed his New Zealand-standing sire a Group 1 win from his first crop when he saluted in the New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) on November 5.
It’s the race in New Zealand that continues to produce quality – the past six winners include Xtravagant, Turn Me Loose, Atlante, Sacred Falls, Rock ‘n’ Pop and Jimmy Choux.
But it was earlier than that – a day Inglewood Stud general manager Gus Wigley remembers fondly – that helped raise the profile of little-known stallion Zacinto.
“They (Zacinto's first crop) hit the tracks and he had a stakes double on May 7 this year. We had a filly we train ourselves call Zigwig – she won the two-year-old stakes race down here (at Riccarton Park) – and about 15 minutes later Ugo Foscolo won a Listed race up at Te Rapa,” Wigley said.
“So we announced his fee that week – he was standing for $5,000 and we made it $10,000 and we had a full book of 120 mares in 24 hours, so we really did have a big response to him. He’s handled it beautifully; we’re having a fantastic season fertility wise.”
Two of his yearlings each returned $240,000 at this year’s New Zealand Bloodstock Premier Sale in January, while Mat Ellerton and Simon Zahra were able to get their hands on a two-year-old after it was passed in for $120,000 at the Ready To Run Sale last November.
That juvenile would become Odeon, who has returned $47,485 in earnings after winning a Geelong Maiden by 4.8 lengths, running fourth in the Listed UCI Stakes and finishing sixth in the G3 Caulfield Classic.
But Ugo Foscolo’s G1 a month ago has been the biggest shot in the arm for Inglewood Stud, where the former Great Britain miler stands solo.
The son of Dansili never won a G1, but claimed the G2 Goodwood Celebration Mile in 2009 as a three-year-old before running second to Rip Van Winkle in the G1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (1600m) in the same season to be named the Champion British-trained 3YO of 2009 with a Timeform rating of 126.
He also ran fourth in the G1 Queen Anne Stakes (1600m) at Royal Ascot as a four-year-old, finishing his career with three wins and two placings from 11 starts and £205,979 ($AUD351,021) in earnings.
So how did Zacinto find his way to a small 120-acre stud farm in New Zealand?
“My wife and I moved down from Auckland to take over the family farm five years ago. I had a racing newspaper up north called The Informant, which is the national racing paper over here. I got sick of sitting behind the desk all day long and wanted to get back to my roots so we moved back to the (family) farm and started a search for a stallion,” Wigley said.
“We were looking at a lot of stallions and none of them were quite measuring up to what we wanted. I actually sat down and went through the record of every black type performed entire in Europe, America and Australia – it was about 600 horses – and came up with a shortlist of horses I thought I might be able to buy and send to stud and he was top of the list."
So Inglewood Stud bought him off Juddmonte Farms, purchasing 50 per cent with Kevin Hickman (of Valachi Downs) and Windsor Park sharing the other 50 per cent.
And now Ugo Foscolo (named after the late 18th century-born Italian poet, who wrote the sonnet A Zacinto), a $50,000 yearling purchase who’s returned nearly seven times that amount with five wins from six starts, is ready to put his young sire on the map in Australia.
The three-year-old colt, out of the Stravinsky mare Bequests, was bought into by owners for Gai Waterhouse, while Kevin Hickman upped his share so as to keep Ugo Foscolo out of Hong Kong owners' hands.
“He’s a serious horse too – it’s one thing for a stallion to leave some good horses but to have a superstar like that in his first crop is what every stud master dreams of so we’re very lucky,” Wigley said.
“I’m quite confident he’ll come back in the autumn and be an even better horse, over in Sydney, hopefully.
“There were some doubts whether he’d get past a mile but I think as he strengthens up he’ll make a nice 2000m horse, so I think Gai really has her sights on a Cox Plate next year – a race as a front running horse with a high cruising speed, it will suit him down to the ground.
"So we just hope he can come up to G1 level over there – we think he will, he’s a very special horse – so hopefully he can fly the flag for Zacinto over in Australia.”
And if Ugo Foscolo – or Odeon for that matter – was able to put an Australian G1 onto Zacinto’s stud record, Wigley would be one very happy man.
“That’s what every stud master wants, isn’t it? Our main buying venture is still Australia … so it is important for a stallion to leave horses that can perform in Australia as well,” he said.