Hope springs eternal for repeat Railway upset

5 min read

By Bren O'Brien

Santa Monica's (NZ) (Per Incanto {USA}) remarkable racetrack journey is coming to an end, with Wednesday's G1 Sistema Railway likely to be her final start, but her breeder and owner Stuart Hope is hoping for another monumental upset before the 6-year-old heads to a career as a broodmare.

The Stephen Ralph-trained Santa Monica caused a huge upset when saluting in the Ellerslie New Year's Day feature in 2019 at odds of $71, seeing off a quality field which included now-10 time Group 1 winner and New Zealand Horse Of The Year Melody Belle (NZ) (Commands), who ran third.

That result alone makes her extremely valuable as a broodmare prospect and with that in mind, Hope and his wife Cherie have their fingers crossed that maybe she can repeat the dose again on Wednesday.

"This has been her target to let her defend her title. She's six now and a valuable broodmare with a lovely pedigree. She's an outcross to Danehill and a number of people in Aussie have been eyeing her up. We've had a number of phone calls for her. It might be time to start to think about life after racing," Hope told TDN AusNZ.

"If we were to defend that title and go back-to-back, it would be gold, absolutely gold. It would still be the end of her career, but if she could finish on a high like that, it would be outstanding.

"If we were to defend that title and go back-to-back, it would be gold, absolutely gold." - Stuart Hope

"It would be great for the family. The truth is I'll look to take her across to the May Broodmare Sale on the Gold Coast and that would be fantastic to put her name up in lights before we go to that sale."

Time for rest of family to shine

Hope's decision to sell Santa Monica after her racing career is backed up by the fact that her own dam, Monarch (NZ) (Volksraad {GB}), who he also bred, is still very much in her prime, and Hope still has two full sisters to Santa Monica.

"We’ve still got her dam and got her two full sisters at home, the youngest is a 2-year-old showing really good promise," he said in reference to the filly now named Monet (NZ).

Monarch has just had a filly to Thunder Down Under and is now in foal to Per Incanto again.

"We’ve got some good stuff ahead. It’s time for Santa Monica to get to the breeding barn and do her thing and let the younger siblings do their thing," Hope said.

Santa Monica (NZ)

Amazingly for a Group 1 producer, Monarch is the Hopes' only broodmare.

"We bred her years ago and raced her. She had a few tying up problems, so we retired her and a mate of mine, a line breeder, told me to go to Per Incanto," he said.

"I'd never heard of Per Incanto, and he was only a $5000 service, see we thought we'd go to him.

"The first foal, she was a little underdone filly, down on her fetlocks. She looked like she was going to be a dead loss and that ended up being Santa Monica. Five years later, she goes out and wins the Railway. It goes to show you can never write off the foals that don't look right at the very start."

One last chance

Perhaps that's why despite the fact Santa Monica hasn't visited the winners' stall since her Railway triumph on New Year's Day, Hope refuses to rule out a fairytale farewell on Wednesday.

"I don’t think she is quite where she was last year and that extra weight she has to carry means she hasn't had the results. But she's not far off. She's still as honest as she ever was. It’s just the extra weight has taken the last bit of zip for the last furlong or so. We go in there hoping more than expecting," he said.

"But these races tend to suit her. She needs a race with speed and she needs a good track and she gets that."

"But these races tend to suit her. She needs a race with speed and she needs a good track and she gets that." - Stuart hope

"If she can sit back and finish off up the straight, then she'll be fine, She'll be back there again this year, like last, maybe further back but I think if anybody writes her off, it will be at their peril."

Santa Monica is currently around $51 in markets for the Sistema Railway, having finished sixth in her lead-up run in the Listed Hallmark Stud H. on Boxing Day, but Hope said that run was as much about getting her right for her Grand Final on Wednesday.

Santa Monica (NZ)

"We used that run just to get her ready for the Railway. Even though she carried 60kg, she ran alright against the others who had a lot less. That was purely to get her ready for this," he said .

"Could she do it again? Well she can because she is in the race and if she has a bit of luck go her way like last year, we all know a bit of luck can go a long way."