The Let’s Elope Stakes at Flemington this Saturday honours one of Australia’s greatest ever mares. Now 23, she was pensioned from broodmare duties in 2008 and is enjoying a quiet retirement at Lauriston Park in Euroa.
“Let’s Elope is still in good health,” Lauriston Park studmaster Chris Bakker revealed in the lead-up to Saturday’s race. “She’s a nanny to the foals up here and is spoiled rotten.”
Let’s Elope (Nassipour) was bred in New Zealand and, after winning a couple of restricted races at Arawa Park and Awapuni, was purchased by Dennis Marks for $150,000 in a deal that also included Richfield Lady (Grosvenor).
Marks placed both fillies with Bart Cummings and together they cut a swathe through the 1991 Melbourne spring carnival.
Richfield Lady won the Manifold Stakes, One Thousand Guineas, Wakeful Stakes and VRC Oaks but was overshadowed by her stablemate!
Bart cut Let’s Elope loose to win the Turnbull Stakes and within a month she added Group 1 wins in the Caulfield Cup, Mackinnon Stakes and Melbourne Cup.
Returning the following autumn, Let’s Elope created a new track record when she nailed Prince Salieri first-up in the Orr Stakes at Caulfield. She also left it late to beat Dr Grace a head in the St George Stakes at Caulfield before producing arguably a career-high performance in the Australian Cup.
Darren Beadman replaced regular rider Steven King on the mare and she cruised home by three lengths and broke Vo Rogue’s race record by almost a second!
Let’s Elope came back as good as ever as a five year-old beating Lindsay Park champion Better Loosen Up in a match race at Caulfield. Ten days later she was hailed a winner of the Cox Plate but was run down by Super Impose. It was the roughest Cox Plate on record and, after protests all round, she was demoted to fifth.
Marks transferred Let’s Elope to the United States and she won the G1 Beverley D. Stakes at Arlington but was once again relegated for causing interference to home-town heroine Flawlessly.
Let’s Elope was retired to stud in 1995 and all her four foals to race have been winners. She started with French stakes performers Yes I Will (Danzig) and Over The Moon (Storm Cat) and returned to Australia in 1998 carrying a colt by Seeking The Gold.
Racing as Ustinov, he was a G2 winner of the MVRC AAMI Vase and was also runner-up to Lonhro in a superb edition of the Caulfield Guineas. He has been based at stud in New Zealand since 2003 except for a one-off season in Victoria in 2008.
Let’s Elope foaled Caught Courting (Danehill) a year after Ustinov and he won four races in Sydney and was stakes placed in Perth. He is currently based at Greenvale Park in Queensland for a $6,600 service fee.
Marks retired Let’s Elope after her final two foals by Elvstroem. Her three year-old is a gelding named Outback Joe and he is in work with Colin Little.
Her last foal is a two year-old filly and, being a late November foal, has just been broken in by Bakker at Lauriston Park which is just up the road from the new training complex being developed by David Hayes.
Lauriston Park, which is a different property to the one owned by Kevin and Tanith O’Brien, has been a thoroughbred stud since the days when the Harris family stood Group 1 winner Plush in the 1980s.
Bakker revived Lauriston Park after 15 years working for Dennis Marks at Seven Creeks Estate in Euroa. Marks moved back to Melbourne after a stroke a couple of years ago but he is still very active in the industry.
The Let’s Elope Stakes coincides with the Australian Racehorse of the Year and Hall of Fame Awards on Sunday night.
Let’s Elope was a unanimous choice as the 1991-92 Australian Horse of the Year but has been overlooked for any further honours. Surely she deserves to join Bart in the Hall of Fame.