The recent death at Kambula Stud of the 1994 VRC Derby winner Blevic has robbed South Australia of one of its best stallions, as the result of Victoria’s premier midwinter race, the Winter Championship Final at Flemington, won for the second successive year by the six-year-old gelding Glaneuse, has reminded us, writes John Berry.
The loss of Blevic is particularly cruel for South Australia as that state, blessed as it is with a rich tradition of producing top-class horses and top-class horsemen, has found it increasingly hard in recent years to maintain its quota of top-class stallions to follow in the tradition of such greats as Coronation Boy, Matrice and Without Fear. It’s probably not an exaggeration to say that South Australian breeding still has not recovered from the premature death of Adraan, who died halfway through his first season at Narrung Stud in 1982. The immensity of Adraan’s loss only became apparent in retrospect, when he achieved a phenomenal stakeswinner-to-foals percentage, with seven of his 24 named foals winning stakes races and two of them (the dual Group One winner Magic Flute and the Group Three-winning sprinter Bataan) being good enough to make the field for the 1986 Golden Slipper. Adraan’s death can be seen as having been a hammer-blow to the state; while another major setback was the decision of Coolmore, which had initially (prompted no doubt by Robert Sangster’s friendship with Colin Hayes) sent its first few batches of shuttle sires to Lindsay Park, to concentrate its focus on New South Wales.
Scenic was one of the high-class stallions whose Australian career kicked off by being shuttled from Ireland to Lindsay Park at Angaston in South Australia. A dead-heater with his ill-fated paternal half-brother Prince Of Dance in the 1988 Dewhurst Stakes, Scenic was one of the stars of Sadler's Wells’ first crop and he was also one of the first sons of Sadler’s Wells to make a big impression at stud. Most of Scenic’s best sons were conceived in other states (he spent time in New South Wales, Victoria and New South Wales) but even so he still stands as a notable figure in the recent history of South Australian breeding. Scenic’s influence in South Australia has been reinforced by the success enjoyed by his son Blevic, a member of Scenic’s SA-bred first crop who was trained at Lindsay Park by David Hayes and who then spent his entire stud career in SA at Kambula Stud.
When Scenic retired to stud, Sadler’s Wells did not yet hold the supremely exalted patriarchal position into which he eventually raised himself; but even so he already appealed as a sire of sires, thanks to his stellar pedigree and top-class form and to the fact that he had proved to be an instant success at stud. Arriving, therefore, at Lindsay Park in the spring of 1990 as a young Dewhurst Stakes-winning son of Sadler’s Wells and coming from the family which had produced the recent European champions Rainbow Quest and Warning, Scenic clearly deserved to be sent good mares. One of the good mares whom he received was Blevic’s dam Blooms.
Just like Scenic, Blooms’ dam Queen's Garden had arrived in Australia from the British Isles with good credentials. A daughter of the champion racehorse and sire Mill Reef, she came from the immediate family of the Derby winner Larkspur and the Irish Derby place-getter Meadowville and had been an expensive yearling at 52,000 gns (which is a lot of money nowadays but was even more in the ‘70s). Trained by Ian Balding, Queen’s Garden showed some ability when placed over 12 furlongs at Salisbury as a three-year-old in 1979, but she seemingly had a few problems and failed to progress, showing inferior form when kept in training as a four-year-old.
The obvious thing to do with Queen’s Garden when she arrived in Australia in the early ‘80s was to send her to stallions from the Star Kingdom line, which still dominated Australian racing at that time. Mated with Star Kingdom’s great-grandson Zephyr Zip, she belied her own middle-distance background by producing Zephyr Isle, a top sprinter in Queensland. One might have expected her to do even better with Star Kingdom’s brilliantly fast son (and Zephyr Zip’s grandsire) Biscay, but unfortunately the filly (Blooms) whom she produced to him in 1985 (which season Biscay ended as Australia’s leading sire of two-year-olds for the second time) was less good, even if she did win one race in provincial New South Wales and was once placed in Sydney.
Like her racing career, Blooms’ stud career was slightly frustrating as she only had three foals. However, they all won, and the best of them (Blevic) was top-class. He didn’t take long to show his ability because he raced eight times as a two-year-old in the 1993/’94 season for four wins and three minor placings. Although trained at Lindsay Park, he spent much of his time in David Hayes’ permanent satellite stable at Flemington as he did most of his racing in Melbourne, kicking off with victories in two 1200m two-year-old handicaps there, at Sandown and Flemington. He did win one race as a two-year-old in Adelaide, taking the Group Two SAJC Breeders’ Stakes at Morphetville over 1200m, but the highlight of his first season was his victory in the Group One VRC Sires’ Produce Stakes at Flemington over 1400m, in which he defeated Delsole and the subsequent Golden Slipper place-getter Racer's Edge. Like Racer’s Edge, Blevic then headed up to Sydney for the carnival there. He too did very well, posting Group One placings in both the Sires’ Produce (behind St Covet and Danzero, who had just filled the quinella, albeit in the other order, in the Golden Slipper) and Champagne Stakes (behind Euphoria and Talaga).
Having been a top juvenile, Blevic did even better at three, particularly excelling throughout the spring carnival in Melbourne. He had been busy at two but he was even busier in his classic season, running 13 times. Again he proved ultra-consistent, winning four times and being placed on seven occasions. His spring in 1994 started well when he finished second to Racer’s Edge in the Ascot Vale Stakes up the straight at Flemington (conceding 2.5 kilos to the winner, courtesy of his Group One penalty) before winning two of the best three-year-olds’ races at Moonee Valley, the Bill Stutt Stakes over 1600m (beating St Covet) and the AAMI Moonee Valley Vase (beating the Thousand Guineas winner Northwood Plume). This was excellent lead-up form for the VRC Derby – and seven days later he proved that he was indeed a perfect candidate for the 2500m Group One race, coming home ahead of the top-class pair Danewin and Stony Bay.
Blevic continued to run well in the autumn, winning the MVRC Alister Clark Stakes (run that year at Flemington over 2000m) at the expense of the Australian Guineas winner Baryshnikov. He also put in a terrific run at weight-for-age to finish third behind two proven champions (Durbridge and Paris Lane) in a vintage edition of the St George Stakes over 1800m at Caulfield. Having headed up to Sydney, he continued to show himself to be one of the best and most consistent colts of his generation, finishing third behind in both the Tulloch Stakes over 2000m at Rosehill (behind Ivory's Irish and Few Are Chosen) and the AJC Derby over 2400m at Randwick (behind Ivory’s Irish and Danewin).
Blevic remained in the Hayes stable as a four-year-old in 1995/’96 although under different auspices, David Hayes having moved to Hong Kong and handed over the reins of the family business to his elder brother Peter. Blevic found things tougher in his third season, but having raced so well so often in his younger days that was no disgrace. He ran only five times as a four-year-old, but still showed high-class form, most notably when third at weight-for-age in the spring in the Group One MVRC Manikato Stakes over 1200m (run that year at Flemington, and won by You Remember, with Peter Hayes’ lesser-fancied NZ import Seascay finishing second and with very fast horses like Brawny Spirit, Hurricane Sky, Sequalo, Danasinga and Northwood Plume in arrears) and the Group Two Memsie Stakes over 1400m at Caulfield (behind Island Morn and Station Hand).
Blevic retired to Kambula Stud in the spring of 1996. He was clearly an attractive stallion – even if at the time it was not yet known that his pedigree would shortly get better. His dam Blooms had gone back back to Scenic in 1991 shortly after foaling Blevic, and the result of this mating was Cymric, who won two races in Sydney and was Listed-placed there. Blooms’ only other foal (who was older than either of her two Scenics, being the result of her visit to the Coolmore shuttler Bluebird at Lindsay Park in 1989) was Biscay Bird, who was significantly less good on the track than either Blevic or Cymric and only won one race in the bush. However, Biscay Bird went on to add her own chapter to the family’s story: prompted by the success of Blevic, she was sent to Scenic in 1996 and the result was Universal Prince, a terrific horse who won four Group One races in Sydney including the 2001 AJC Derby. A subsequent visit by Biscay Bird to Scenic, the year after Universal Prince's Derby triumph, produced Universal Queen, a Group One winner in Adelaide in 2007 in the Robert Sangster Swettenham Stud Stakes.
Blevic’s stud career proved to be one of consistent achievement rather than of outstanding highlights, which is no disgrace bearing in mind that he did not generally cover the type of mares likely to breed Group One winners. Like his sire – who was once responsible for the winners of the Melbourne Cup over 3200m (Viewed) and the Lightning Stakes over 1000m (Scenic Blast) in the same season (2008/’09) – Blevic has been represented by good horses right across the distance spectrum. He came up with two winners (Exalted Ego and Miss Pavlova) of one of South Australia’s premier staying races, the Lord Reims Stakes, and also came up with two place-getters (Shablec and Sassbee) in South Australia’s premier sprint, the Group One Goodwood Handicap. His best two-year-old Under The Bridge, winner of the SA Sires’ Produce Stakes in 2003, went on to be placed in the Group One Australian Guineas over a mile and ultimately was placed in a Launceston Cup over 2400m. Streetcar Magic, like Shablec, was a Group Three winner of the D C Mckay Stakes at Morphetville over 1100m, while Moudre won the Group Three Queen Elizabeth Stakes over 2600m at last season’s VRC Carnival at Flemington.
While it is unlikely that Blevic will end up doing anything to extend his branch of the Sadler’s Wells sire-line, he will continue to crop up in the lower halves of pedigrees. He is already the broodmare sire of a Golden Slipper winner (Phelan Ready) as well as of the excellent South Australian-trained stayer Alcopop (each of whom, it might be worth mentioning, has the US-bred former Colin Hayes-trained 1986 Melbourne Cup winner and excellent Lindsay Park-based stallion At Talaq as the sire of his second dam). Blevic will surely be the sire posthumously of many more winners, and maternal grandsire of even more still.