Sun Met winner Whisky Baron, bred by the Arrowfield Group and purchased in Australia, is now set to embark on another overseas adventure, going in to quarantine soon via Mauritius. The precise racing itinerary is still to be finalised in collaboration between the Kieswetter family’s Ridgemont Stud – owners of the son of Manhattan Rain – trainer Brett Crawford, and Mike de Kock who is operating out of Dubai.
Whisky Baron has earned an international campaign by virtue of an impressive unbeaten sequence since being gelded in June 2016, culminating in a Grade 1 Sun Met victory over 2000m this January. He made smooth progress throughout the summer, benefiting from Crawford’s sharp conditioning skills and canny strategic placement in suitable races.
Whisky Baron will spend time in Dubai, though the Ridgemont Stud team do not see that as the main goal. Given onerous export protocols, planning thoroughbred movement is especially challenging coming from the tip of Africa – flexibility and resource-fullness is required. Depending on how things pan out,their long term vision is for Whisky Baron to compete in Hong Kong orSingapore in early 2018. The talented Crawford, already with 21 Grade 1 trophies to his name, and De Kock, a world renowned maestro closing in on his 3000th winner, will orchestrate the logistics.
Whisky Baron will almost certainly be kept to the grass. Not only is he proven on the lawn but the Kieswetter family’s top notch South African filly Cold as Ice’s overseas venture came to an unfortunate end when she broke down campaigning on the all- weather at Lingfield, so they understandably have an aversion to dirt racing.
In a notoriously fickle game where allegiances can switch suddenly, the family are showing steadfast loyalty. Greg Cheyne remains their retained jockey to ride Whisky Baron, wherever in the world he may go. The duo has forged a tight affinity – a perfect five wins from five starts.
It is also a wonderful international opportunity for Crawford, and a show of faith in his abilities that the family entrust ultimate responsibility for Whisky Baron’s racing future abroad in their Cape Town-based trainer, currently flying high in third spot on the national log.
Resuming in October off a rating of 96, Whisky Baron was allocated 103 after successive Allowance romps, was then bumped up to 110 after another fluent score in the Peninsula Handicap, before attaining an official turf merit rating of 120 in the Met.
It is possible that this career peak figure of 120 does not yet reflect his true ability. Four yearold Whisky Baron has only raced 13 times for six wins, so still has scope and upside potential. He is a sensible and tractable horse with a great temperament and the ability to quicken smartly – a positive attribute that nearly all superior turf performers possess.
Owners, former England cricketer Craig Kieswetter and young brother Ross were ecstatic when Whisky Baron made that race-winning move on the outer at Kenilworth to sweep past Equus Champion Legal Eagle, proven Grade 1 performer Captain America and high class three year- old Gold Standard in a true run contest.
Part of a close knit family headed by father, Wayne and mother, Belinda, they are now hugely excited at the prospect of sending their hero abroad.
Of course, it requires the right horse, the financial means plus plenty of expertise and good fortune to pull it all off. The tale of 2016 Met winner Smart Call is a tough case illustrating the difficulties. Her long term Breeder’s Cup aspirations were scuppered just a month out from the big day when she went wrong during preparations at Newmarket.
Despite all the things that can go awry when travelling horses across the globe, there are enough success stories to make it viable and a dream worth pursuing. From way back when equine stalwarts Hawaii and Colorado King made forays to America, to more recent representatives such as London News, Horse Chestnut, JJ the Jet Plane and Variety Club – quality South African invaders have somehow overcome the odds and made an impact.
With a bold, “nothing ventured, nothing gained” attitude, the sporting Kieswetter brothers are getting set to embark on a grand adventure to really test Whisky Baron’s durability, and see how he stacks up against formidable international opposition.