Marvel Dothraki continues to thrill owners ahead of Hall Mark
THE marvel that is Dothraki. A $45,000 June purchase from the Magic Millions Gold Coast sale, the raw but talented colt contested the Golden Slipper as a juvenile, came within a hair’s breadth of becoming a Group 1 winner as a five-year-old, and continues to operate at the highest level, winning the Group 3 Maurice McCarten Stakes a month ago as a now seven-year-old, with Stakes earnings totaling over $1.3 Million.
Frustratingly brilliant, agonizingly consistent; His loyal backers at the bookies would have had their fair share of heartache over the years with numerous near misses, but what’s it like to be one of his part-owners? If one thing’s for sure, it’s been one hell of a journey! We catch up with John Hezlett, Stephen Graham, Vince Albanese and Debbie Moore, four of Dothraki’s owners, ahead of this weekend’s Group 3 Tab Hall Mark Stakes – a race Triple Crown Syndications have won twice in the last four years!
Where do we start with Dothraki? Talk us through how you got involved five years ago when he was a baby faced yearling out of the June sale!
JH: Well previously I was with a horse called Flying Snitzel with Triple Crown, not a bad horse herself having won a Group 2 in Melbourne, and I put some of the proceeds from her sale into Dothraki and Charlie Boy. He had quite a similar pedigree and I liked the Mossman’s so after speaking to Chris and Mike I decided to go into the horse.
SG: We were lucky enough be involved with Group 1 winner in Hot Snitzel with Triple Crown. We had such a great run with him and with the professionalism of Triple Crown we decided to go with both Dothraki and Charlie Boy with Triple Crown.
VA: I like the Mossman’s and had a look around and saw Triple Crown had this guy and away we went!
DM: We were part owners of a horse a few years before and the syndicate manager of that horse put us onto Dothraki. We had a look and we decided to buy a share!
He showed immediate talent as a two-year-old, at what point did you think you might have caught on to a good one?
SG: Right at the beginning really! Both Dothraki and Charlie gave great performances early and it was quite amazing that they both got through to the Golden Slipper like Hot Snitzel did.
JH: I think Gerald said to us that ‘this thing runs very fast in his track work’ and the hope was that he could translate that work to the racecourse. I’d say that’s the first moment when I knew he had talent.
VA: I think it was on his second start. It was quite funny as we were in the grandstand at Canterbury and Gai Waterhouse is there talking to her connections and I hear her say to them that Dothraki is the one to beat. And then when he won I was like ‘wow!’
DM: He showed promise right from the start and we crossed our fingers and hoped he stayed sound. We always saw some talent in him.
In the Golden Slipper it wasn’t to be his day, but what can you remember from the race and what’s it like to have a horse involved in the world’s richest race for two-year-olds?
DM: That was a big thrill! Some of the best horses going round have never got to run in a Golden Slipper. We made it a big family day as it was my daughter’s birthday too. We went to the breakfast at Rosehill and the barrier draw at Darling Harbour – It was great!
JH: It was exciting, to be honest, and a fantastic experience to be involved with that race. We’re minnows as far as I look at it and to take on the Sheikhs and the big studs, that was extremely satisfying and quite humbling. I was fine up until about five mins before the race when it sunk it that I’ve got not one but two horses in one of the biggest races in the world as Charlie Boy also made the race for Triple Crown.
SG: It’s terrific – a dream come true for a lot of people. We wouldn’t have been able to do it without syndication.
VA: It all happened so fast! It was a bizarre feeling and awesome to get there.
He’s taken you from Randwick and Flemington, to Doomben and the Gold Coast, and a first Stakes win came courtesy of a Listed success at Flemington on VRC Classic day. Describe the journey that you’ve been on with Dothraki.
JH: It’s been fantastic. It’s the same with Charlie Boy as well. We’re going to different tracks and places that I’ve never been to before! To have horses racing at that level, it’s been very satisfying and friends and family have been involved with our journey and now they’ve got their own horses themselves!
DM: It’s been great – we’ve been everywhere with him and probably only missed a handful of races. I’ve really enjoyed following him around. I just love the races and when you own a horse going around it’s double the excitement! We can go and have a look at him in the stalls and meet all the other owners.
SG: One of my highlights was when he won down at Flemington in the Hilton. I had to make the speech as Chris & Mike weren’t able to make it but that was a terrific experience!
VA: He’s taken us to places we wouldn’t normally go to. Just being at those massive racedays is an awesome feeling.
We have to go back to May 14, 2016. The Group 1 BTC Cup at Doomben, and he gets his head in front of Malaguerra, only to be pipped on the line. What emotions did you go through on that day?
JH: Oh my god, I thought we had it in the bag! The adrenaline of the moment was incredible. It’s the same feeling for every race. And when they do succeed or just miss out – the adrenaline rush is amazing and people don’t realise that until they get involved themselves. That particular race – I thought we had it won!
VA: I remember watching it live and for some reason I thought we got there. That feeling was awesome because we’ve run second in a Group 1 but we didn’t quite get the chocolates. Actually my proudest moment with him was when he ran 5th in a TJ Smith. That was a cracking field of sprinters and he was definitely up there with the big boys!
SG: We really thought we had it that day. He has got a trait of thinking it’s job done when he hits the front!
DM: It was a real rollercoaster! You saw him coming and then he got there and just missed out. It was a close one!
His form recently has been nothing short of superb. Did you think you’d still be racing at the highest level with him as a seven-year-old with over a $1 Million in the kitty?
VA: No not really, no way. After that last preparation that he had where he didn’t quite come up I didn’t think we’d be here. It seems to be a slightly different way of riding him and it’s working for him.
DM: We probably hoped so. But he’s always remained really keen and always given it his all. As long as he’s enjoying it that’s the main thing. You don’t see many of his age running around now.
JH: I think we were hopeful. Everybody was a little disappointed after his run in the Magic Millions as he had been racing well before that and it prompted a little talk of retirement for the horse. Fortunately common sense prevailed and let the horse do the talking. Now he’s racing as well as he has been.
SG: I did have a thought that he might be able to. Hot Snitzel won his Group 1 at six and Dothraki seems to be really enjoying it still.
Despite coming close on several occasions recently, Dothraki did manage to return to the winners’ enclosure when scoring on protest in the Group 3 Maurice McCarten a month ago. Firstly, what’s it like waiting for the result of a protest to come through? And secondly, what were your feelings once the result was announced?
JH: It was very nerve wracking. But I was quite confident on this one. He looked like he was going to run past him.
SG: It was pretty clear cut, but it is always a nervous wait!
DM: I didn’t realise to start with but after seeing the replay I thought it was pretty clear cut. It was a credit to him that he was given the race. He picked himself up and came again after taking the knock that he did. He really did deserve that.
VA: It was a relief more than anything. To have such a good horse and come close in so many races – but then again if you told me that he would’ve done what he has done I’d have told you you’re kidding yourself!
JH: He’s really putting in at the moment and it was great to see him get the win. He really deserved it.
SG: It was good to be back in there. We’ve spent many a time in the runners up bar! But they look after you in the winners bar!
DM: It was great, he’s had so many seconds and a lot of them have been really close. I was just happy to see him back there in the winners’ enclosure – I think they know!
Dothraki bids for glory again in the Group 3 Hall Mark Stakes at Randwick this weekend. What are your feelings going into the race?
VA: I actually think he’s a massive chance. It’s a similar field to what he’s been fighting with over the last couple of weeks and we meet them better at the weights. I think he’s going great right now.
JH: I feel good. I’m always nervous, but I’m going in feeling good that he’s been performing at his best and trying his best.
DM: It looks like he’s got a really good chance again with the weights on our side. He jumps well and he’s always right up there and hopefully he can be there again!
SG: I think he meets a lot of these horses at better weights so I think we’ve got a real strong chance.
And finally, in a few words, what is it really like to own Dothraki?
JH: Surreal! To be involved with horses competing at the highest level is just surreal!
SG: He’s a real trier and it’s great to have such a high class horse!
VA: Just amazing. The people we’ve met and the journeys we’ve been on – amazing! I have to pinch myself!
DM: Exciting and I’m always very proud – it’s like watching one of my own kids at an athletics carnival!