Bel Esprit marking time at Eliza Park

While Black Caviar wins the world over, her sire Bel Esprit is marking time at Eliza Park Stud in Victoria.

Eliza Park is up for sale and owner Lee Fleming wants to sell the interstate business for a reported $20 million.  Six properties across Victoria and Queensland have been listed for sale in one batch along with standing rights in 14 stallions led by Bel Esprit.

Bel Esprit (Royal Academy) has been Victorian champion stallion five times and a sixth was already assured before Black Caviar’s latest victory in the $1 million G1 T J Smith Stakes at Randwick on Saturday.

Only legendary stallions Helios (Warlaby Stud) and Better Boy (Range View Stud) with nine titles, have won more Victorian premierships.

Bel Esprit is an aggressive sire of winners – he heads the Australian competition this season with 121 winners – a sizeable lead over Exceed and Excel (112) and More Than Ready (110).

The current crop of two year-olds – his seventh – is fronted by $250,000 VOBIS Gold Rush winner Iconic.  He’s a homebred for Rob Crabtree who has had a long association with Eliza Park and, indeed, sold its headquarters at Kerrie to Fleming in the late 1990s.

Bel Esprit is rewriting the Victorian record-books having sired 365 winners of 1,074 races at a 66% strike-rate.  Rising 14, he served huge books of 210, 266 and 251 in alternate seasons between 2005 and 2009.

Expressions of interest in Eliza Park close at the end of April and there are reports at least two parties will submit a tender.  The local industry would benefit immensely if the Eliza Park brand remained as one and isn’t sold off in parts.

A more worrying scenario would be a separate deal to take Bel Esprit out of Victoria especially after the transfers of Encosta de Lago and Testa Rossa to the Hunter Valley in 2004 and 2006.

Admittedly, after 10 big books, Bel Esprit has plenty of miles on the clock but Victoria can’t afford to lose its third champion sire in a decade.

– Karl Patterson