Bel Esprit winner tally reaches 140

Vain Saint began what could be a big week for Bel Esprit with an eye-catching victory in the Tooheys New Maiden Plate (1100m) at Scone on Monday.

Vain Saint (4g Bel Esprit – Egrette by Bletchingly) came from a minute back in the straight to win running away by a length.  He increased Bel Esprit’s winner tally to 140 at a very healthy 59.3% strike-rate.

The Eliza Park sire will be gunning for another Group 1 winner this Saturday when his star filly Black Caviar runs in the William Reid Stakes at Moonee Valley this Saturday.

Vain Saint isn’t in that league but he has a lot more in common with Bel Esprit than the standard sire – son connection.

The Bel Esprit story began back in September 1998 when Llanilo Stud owners Phil and Leonie Gunter sent their Vain mare Bespoken to nearby Coolmore Stud to be mated with Royal Academy.

The result was a colt and they sold him for just $9,000 at the 2001 Inglis Sydney Classic yearling sale.  It was a bargain-basement buy because the youngster went on to record Group 1 victories in the MRC Blue Diamond Stakes and BTC Doomben 10,000 before embarking on a lucrative stud career at Eliza Park.

The Gunters have continued to support Bel Esprit and their prize mare Egrette was part of his book in 2004.  She was 22 at the time and had already foaled a stack of winners including G1 Caulfield Guineas winner Kenwood Melody (Royal Academy) and Listed AJC Anniversary Cup winner Kalamarco (Kala Dancer).  

Egrette was bred by Bruce (A.I.) McHugh and her dam Jewel Bronze was a sister to 1960s Hall of Fame horse Tobin Bronze.  

The Bel Esprit colt was her last foal and he was catalogued for the 2006 Magic Millions National weanling sale but the Jerrys Plains couple kept him home instead of travelling to the Gold Coast.

The Gunters sent him to Scone trainer Rod Northam who also took a part-share through his R & R Racing Syndicate.  Named Vain Saint, he has endured several setbacks with spells of 21 weeks and 50 weeks punctuating a stop-start career to date.

Northam has made up for lost time with Vain Saint this year starting with a second at Muswellbrook on January 22.  He reappeared 10 days later for another second at Tamworth and then buttered up for his third run in 17 days at Scone.

Veteran hoop Robert Thompson hasn’t been off Vain Saint’s back in all his five starts which suggests Monday’s maiden win wasn’t a fluke.  

Bel Esprit has 30 lots catalogued for the 2010 Inglis Melbourne Premier yearling sale on March 1 -4.

They include a half-brother (Lot 4) to Listed Canberrra Black Opal winner Delago Bolt, a colt (Lot 79) from G3 SAJC Auraria Stakes winner Dane Belltar and a colt (Lot 225) from a winning half-sister to Bel Esprit’s G1 SAJC Robert Sangster Stakes winner Bel Mer.