Rita can revive Duncan’s HQ memories

It’s been 14 years since Neville Duncan watched the ‘best’ horse he’s ever bred win the Makybe Diva Stakes at Flemington.

It’s a remarkable statement from the astute Western Australian breeder given he was the mastermind behind the mating that produced dual Cox Plate and Caulfield Cup champion Northerly, who won the Makybe Diva Stakes – known then as the Craiglee Stakes – five years earlier in 2002.

But such is the regard Duncan had for another of his star gallopers, Marasco, who, despite never landing a Group 1 scalp, won 12 Stakes races during a brilliant career on the track.

Duncan’s Oakland Park Stud is, pound-for-pound, one of the most successful thoroughbred breeding operations in the country, with an honour roll bursting with Stakes performers over several decades.

And while Ripper Rita is yet to stamp her class in the same manner as Northerly or Marasco, she gets the chance to revive Duncan’s fond memories of Flemington in early September when she lines up in the G2 Let’s Elope Stakes on Saturday’s Makybe Diva Stakes undercard.

The daughter of Street Boss already boasts an impressive CV with a win in the $500,000 VOBIS Sires Guineas (1600m) and a placing in the G1 Australasian Oaks (2000m) during her three-year-old season.

Duncan said it was his love affair with Street Boss that was the catalyst for his purchase of Ripper Rita’s dam, Riptide, at the 2017 Magic Millions National Broodmare Sale.

“We’ve been going to Street Boss for some time, way back before Riptide came along,” Duncan said.

“He was doing a sensational job off the back of a $10,000 service fee and we were always looking for mares that we could send to him.

“Riptide came up, she was from the Ride The Rapids family, it was a really good family and she was an Exceed And Excel mare, which had already worked for Street Boss, so it wasn’t rocket science.

“There were two mares that we were looking at – one was Omniscience and one was Riptide.

“Riptide went first and we paid about $150,000 for her in foal (to Street Boss) and Omniscience went for $340,000 and to be honest, I thought Riptide was the better horse.

Duncan admits there was nothing remarkable about Ripper Rita when she was born.

The filly was always on the bigger side as a foal and was later sold to Cranbourne-based trainer Greg Eurell at the 2019 Inglis Premier Yearling Sale.

“She (Ripper Rita) was always above average in size and that’s sometimes a negative because I like normal-size horses or, if I had a default position, I’d always choose a smaller horse than a bigger horse,” he said.

“She was always a sweet horse, she didn’t have any faults, but there was nothing outstanding about her.”

While he wasn’t among the final acceptances for Saturday’s Listed Poseidon Stakes (1100m), Duncan has also been closely following the progress of another Oakland Park graduate, emerging three-year-old colt Bruckner.

Duncan said the son of Snitzel, out of Lonhro mare Jestajingle, had always been a clear standout and he wasn’t entirely surprised to see him top the 2020 Inglis Premier Yearling Sale when purchased by Ciaron Maher and Aquis Farm for $725,000.

His victory in the G3 McNeil Stakes (1200m) last start ensured he continued the rich legacy of a family that includes G1 winner Ihtsahymn, speedy juvenile Jukebox and Stakes winner-turned-top producer Jestatune.

“We’ve had a serious number of Stakes winners from the family, it’s a very good two-year-old family,” he said.

“Bruckner had everything going for him – he was just great when he came out and everything he did, he did with confidence and superiority.

“I think we had a $400,000 reserve on him even though we knew there was probably more than that out there, but we like to throw them in early and have a genuine bidding contest.”

Despite the fact he sold both Riptide and Jestajingle prior to their latest progeny turning heads on the racetrack, Duncan said he would take huge satisfaction from any further feature-race success.

“This isn’t about money, I’m old so this is about balancing the books and producing racehorses like Ripper Rita and Bruckner are high on my excitement list,” he said.

“We’re a very small stud here but it’s all we do.

“I don’t have a drilling company or an oil well, so what we get is what we use.”