Blackfriars two year-old Benall will make his debut at Flemington on Saturday and trainer Geoff Cousins is already looking ahead to the G1 Victoria Derby on November 1.
Blackfriars won the 1999 Victoria Derby and is poised for a fourth WA sires’ premiership from his base at Scenic Lodge north of Perth.
Benall (2g Blackfriars – Miss Megari by Toy Pindarri) is named after bushranger Ben Hall and will face the starter for the first time in the Eugene Gorman Handicap (1400m) at headquarters.
“Since Day 1, he has just kept improving,” Cousins told Racing Victoria journalist Daniel Miles this week. “I wanted to give him a run as a two-year-old and then give him a break before the spring carnival.”
Benall (2g Blackfriars – Miss Megari by Toy Pindarri) is a younger brother to Blackfriars Bridge, a Moonee Valley winner for Cousins before she succumbed to colic as a lightly-raced four year-old.
Cousins had won four races with their dam Miss Megari but sold the grey mare to a riding school thinking he would breed from Blackfriars Bridge. “I was working full time as a paramedic with a wife and three kids and couldn’t afford to feed too many horses,” Cousins recalled. “But when Blackfriars Bridge died, I went back looking for Miss Megari.
“She had been on-sold and we found her in a paddock unwanted and neglected,” Cousins said. “We brought her straight back home to Cranbourne. She took time to get healthy and then we sent her across to Scenic Lodge to be served by Blackfriars again.
“Benall was the result and we bred her back to Blackfriars for another foal the following year.”
Miss Megari stayed home last year and was covered by Melbourne Cup winner Americain at Swettenham Stud.
“It’s exciting when you get a horse like Benall,” Cousins said. “From shipping his mum off to Perth, then seeing the foal, breaking him in and now he gets to debut at Flemington.
“Even if we don’t make it to the Victoria Derby, he will be an even better stayer in the autumn.”