You have to hand it to Craig Thompson…he’s keen.
The West Australian shipping services owner was making his 32nd trip to the east coast last Saturday to watch one of his horse’s race and, on the previous 31 occasions, had pulled up short.
It was clear sailing this time though as the 2YO colt, Santos – in which Thompson owns a majority share – scored a gritty victory in the Group Two Schweppes Skyline Stakes over 1200m at Royal Randwick.
Previously winner of the Pierro Plate and third in the Listed Breeders’ Plate, Santos is now on the fifth line of betting ($11) for the $3.5 million Group One Longines Golden Slipper Stakes at Rosehill Gardens on 24 March.
“Yes, I finally got the monkey off my back,” Thompson points out with a laugh. “I’ve been involved with eight Group One winners and about 40 black type winners overall, but that’s the first time I’ve actually flown east to see one win in the flesh … so to speak.
“It was definitely worth the wait. Some people might have thought Santos was disappointing, but I beg to differ. I reckon he really toughed it out after traveling four wide off the fence without cover for the entire trip and I don’t think the Soft 5 track suited him that well.
“Gai Waterhouse will probably give him a trial beforehand but three weeks into the Slipper and you will see the best of him.”
A son of the all-conquering I Am Invincible, Santos was purchased by Waterhouse – on behalf of Thompson – for $180,000 at the 2017 Inglis Sydney Classic Yearling Sale.
Hailing from the city winning Secret Savings mare, Ghaliah, Santos is a half brother to four other winners including Japanese Group winner Melagrana, while the dam is out of Vain mare, Elated Lady, dam of stakes winners Mutawaajid, Adeewin, Fatoon (dam of Group One Epsom winner, Fat Al) and Jivago, and is also a half sister to Champion Sprinter/Miler, Shaftesbury Avenue.
“I purchase several yearlings annually, but instead of racing them outright, I spread the risk nowadays and race most in partnership,” Thompson explains.
“It’s worked well with Santos and that Group Two on Saturday has hopefully secured him a spot at a leading stud in the eastern states, particularly with his pedigree, and it can only get a whole lot better if he ends up winning the Slipper.
“I’ve got quite a few mares of my own and will definitely be utilising him when he retires to stud.”
The owner of Thompson Shipping Lines and Seacorp, which moves around 600 million tonnes of cargo every year, Thompson first got involved in the thoroughbred industry in 2002 and is also the principal of Mt Hallowell Stud at Denmark.
Initially, Thompson took a share in the five-time Group One winner, Theoso and admits that “your first horse should never be that good because then you’re REALLY hooked!”.
“Sure, you can have some bad luck in the industry too,” Thompson warns. “I recently raced Gold Standard and received an offer of many millions prior to last year’s Caulfie ld Guineas but then he got injured in the race and had to be retired.
“He’s a very good horse though: I’ve kept some lifetime breeding rights and he’ll stand in Victoria this season.
“I had a share in the very good Japanese horse, Admire Deus, too but he broke down badly before last year’s Caulfield Cup and unfortunately had to be euthanized.
“That said, I’m a shareholder in recent Group One Futurity winner, Brave Smash, along with German 2000 Guineas winner, Poetic Dream, who had his first Australian run in a Group race at Flemington on Saturday, so it all evens itself out.
“Well, it has so far.”
One thing is for certain, Thompson is gearing up to embark on trip #33 to Sydney in three weeks time and is confident Santos will make it all worthwhile.