Star mare Fireburn sold to Japan

8 min read
The dual Group 1 heroine - a homebred daughter of Rebel Dane - is the latest elite Australian mare to head to Japan for breeding purposes.

Cover image courtesy of Ashlea Brennan

Dual Group 1-winner Fireburn has been retired and will head to Japan to serve as a broodmare.

Louis Mihalyka’s Laurel Oak Bloodstock (FBAA) and the co-owners of last year’s G1 Golden Slipper S. and G1 Sires’ Produce S. heroine have sold her to a Japanese-based buyer for an undisclosed sum.

Bred by Laurel Oak Bloodstock (FBAA), Grant Bloodstock and Carpe Diem Syndicate, Fireburn bows out with six wins and two minor placings from 20 starts, and prizemoney just north of $4.2 million.

She was a brilliant winner of the 2022 G1 Golden Slipper S., and the question was quickly asked: could she buck the recent trend and go on with the job, both during the remainder of her 2-year-old campaign and beyond? Fireburn answered that question emphatically at her very next start, handling the step-up to 1400 metres with aplomb to add the G1 Sires’ Produce S. to her record.

The then-filly lined up in the G1 Champagne S., where a chance to become the seventh Triple Crown winner beckoned. It wasn’t to be, however, with her new rival, the future G1 VRC Oaks heroine, She’s Extreme (Extreme Choice), upstaging her over 1600 metres.

Fireburn has since saluted in the G2 The Roses at Doomben in May, and the dominance of that victory suggested she was the one to beat in the G1 Queensland Oaks a fortnight later. Unfortunately, she was denied the chance to contest the race, with Racing Queensland stewards deeming her to be lame.

Speaking to The Thoroughbred Report, Mihalyka said the sale is “bittersweet”. Fireburn will always be special to him, given he co-bred the mare, who is from Mull Over (So You Think {NZ}) - a $22,000 purchase from Lime Country Thoroughbreds’ draft at the 2018 Magic Millions National Broodmare Sale (Book 1), by a stallion he bred and won two Group 1s with. But this was an offer simply too good to pass up.

“It’s very nice that a mare we bred from a $22,000 mare is being held in such high regard internationally, there’s a lot of pride associated with it,” Mihalyka remarked.

“It’s very nice that a mare (Fireburn) we bred from a $22,000 mare is being held in such high regard internationally, there’s a lot of pride associated with it.” - Louis Mihalyka

“It’s bittersweet. We would have loved to race Fireburn in the autumn and win some more big races. It didn’t happen this year, as being a 4-year-old in the spring against the older horses for the first time… and you don’t get the rub of the green with barriers, it makes it more challenging. That wasn’t the only thing, she had only a short break between the two preparations in the autumn and the winter, and I think that was probably telling in the end.

“We were looking forward to the autumn, but then this offer came along, and it was accepted. It’s phenomenal, given I purchased her dam for $22,000 and devised the mating with Rebel Dane, and for that to come off.

“It internationalises her pedigree and family. The future fillies she may have, or her dam have, will be very valuable, and obviously, Fireburn is a great advertisement to the Laurel Oak breeding syndicates.”

“It internationalises her (Fireburn’s) pedigree and family. The future fillies she may have, or her dam (Mull Over) have, will be very valuable.” - Louis Mihalyka

Mihalyka revealed the plan wasn’t to sell, but the initiative and some due diligence by William Johnson of William Johnson Bloodstock (FBAA), saw the offer about.

“William Johnson was proactive and asked if she is buyable, and I said, ‘Well, one day she’ll probably be sold’,” Mihalyka said.

Louis Mihalyka | Image courtesy of The Image Is Everything

“Laurel Oak’s arrangement is purely that, as a manager of the horse, we are obliged to pass any offers on to the ownership. William started the process by checking Fireburn out and sending some videos and pictures. The buyer liked what he saw and made an offer to the ownership that has been accepted.

“As I’ve said, it wasn’t on the agenda to sell. There’s a smaller number of bigger owners, so a sale has more impact on them.”

More to come?

Although Fireburn will join the soon-to-be snow-filled paddocks in Hokkaido, Mihalyka still has Mull Over, and she is just 10 years of age. Fireburn, born at the magnificent Silverdale Farm in the Southern Highlands with whom she was bred in partnership, is Mull Over’s first foal, with her second, the 3-year-old Kintyre (Hallowed Crown), already a city winner and Group 3 placegetter.

Kintyre winning at Rosehill on August 12 | Image courtesy of Ashlea Brennan

Mull Over has a colt by Yulong’s exciting first-season sire, Pierata, that will be offered at the 2024 Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale.

“We retained Mull Over’s first two foals (Fireburn and Kintyre), but the Pierata is slightly more commercial, and the stallion has had a bright start, and the mare has done well, so the colt has been accepted into Easter,” said Mihalyka.

“We’ve decided to let him go to the sale ring, and if he doesn’t bring the money, we might end up racing him.

“Mull Over is still a young mare, so it’s very pleasing with what she’s produced.”

“Mull Over is still a young mare (10 years old), so it’s very pleasing with what she’s produced.” - Louis Mihalyka

Moving ahead

Mihalyka will press on with life without Fireburn, and Laurel Oak has celebrated two winners this past week - the Kim Waugh-trained Shadows Of Love (Dissident) at Rosehill on Saturday and the Joseph Pride-trained Silent Raindrops (Sebring) at Gosford on Tuesday.

That doesn’t mean Mihalyka won’t stop to think about his special mare every so often.

Reflecting on her glittering career, Mihalyka admits it is hard to go past the Golden Slipper as the highlight of Fireburn’s career.

Fireburn, winner of the G1 Golden Slipper | Image courtesy of Sportpix

“It was beyond our wildest dreams. There’s just no shadow of doubt because we were hopeful going into the Slipper. We gave ourselves no chance during the race, and then what transpired was unbelievable and life-changing,” he explained.

“It was beyond our wildest dreams (winning the Golden Slipper). There’s just no shadow of doubt because we were hopeful going into the Slipper.” - Louis Mihalyka

“The last 150 metres all changed in a matter of seconds.”

Australasian appeal

Mares from both Australia and New Zealand have become increasingly popular with the Japanese over the past 10 years or so.

In 2015, the 2013 G1 VRC Oaks heroine Kirramosa (NZ) (Alamosa {NZ}) was bought by Japanese interests for an undisclosed sum. She has thrown three winners.

The four-time Group 1 winner Mosheen (Fastnet Rock) was part-owned by Katsumi Yoshida of Northern Farm, and when the mare was retired following the spring of 2012, she headed to Japan to be covered by the great Deep Impact (Jpn). Mosheen has produced two stakes winners - the Group 3 victress Primo Scene (Jpn) and the Listed scorer Danon Ayers Rock (Jpn) (Maurice {Jpn}).

AmphitriteSebring2018 Thousand Guineas
DriefonteinFastnet Rock2014 Robert Sangster SStakes
FunstarAdelaide2019 Flight Stakes
Gypsy GoddessTarzino2022 Queensland Oaks
Miami BoundReliable Man2019 VRC Oaks
Mystic JourneyNeeds Further2019 Australian Guineas
PinotPierro2017 VRC Oaks
Set SquareReset2014 VRC Oaks
She Will ReignManhattan Rain2017 Golden Slipper, 2017 Moir Stakes
Single GazeNot A Single Doubt2016 Vinery Stud Stakes
Yankee RoseAll American2016 Sires' Produce Stakes, 2016 Champagne Stakes
YoungstarHigh Chaparral2018 Queensland Oaks

Table: Australasian Group 1-winning mares of the past decade that have been exported to Japan

In 2016, Yoshida purchased the 2016 G1 Sires’ Produce S. and G1 Champagne S. winner Yankee Rose (All American) - the dam of gun Japanese filly Liberty Island (Jpn) (Duramente {Jpn}).

At the 2020 Inglis Chairman’s Sale, Yoshida paid $1.4 million for the 2018 G1 Queensland Oaks victress Youngstar (High Chaparral {Ire}) from the Middlebrook Valley Lodge consignment. Her first foal, Eri King (Jpn), is a colt by Kizuna (Jpn) and he is unraced.

Yoshida went to $2.7 million for Youngstar’s half-sister, the 2019 G1 Flight S. scorer Funstar (Adelaide {Ire}), who was offered by her owners at the 2021 Inglis July (Early) Online Sale. She too has had a colt by Kizuna.

Earlier this year, Yoshida stumped up $1.46 million for the Group 2 winner Kiku (Zoustar) at a special standalone online auction, hosted by Magic Millions. That mare was offered by Brett Howard’s Glenesk Thoroughbreds (as agent for Star Thoroughbreds). Kiku was served by Snitzel in September.

Amphitrite (Sebring) - the 2018 G1 Thousand Guineas heroine - was purchased privately by Japanese interests in 2019 after the conclusion of her racing career. She has had three foals, only one has raced.

The Group 2 scorer Lumosty (Fastnet Rock) and the two-time winner Nicamorae (More Than Ready {USA}) are other mares that raced in Australia to be exported to Japan for breeding purposes. Lumosty has thrown three foals, two have raced, while Nicamorae has produced two foals in Japan.

Louis Mihalyka
Laurel Oak Bloodstock (FBAA)
William Johnson Bloodstock (FBAA)