Headturner Turns Heads in Australian Derby

Danzig grandson Headturner proved himself the best 3-year-old stayer in the country April 15 with a decisive win in the Australian Derby (Aust-I).

His runaway victory in the $2 million (Australian funds) classic provided Anabaa with his most important success as a sire.

Anabaa, bred at the late Sheikh Makoum's Gainsborough Farm, won group I sprints in France and England for the Head family and is rostered at their Haras du Quesnay. In Australia, he stands at Widden Stud.

Headturner is from Anabaa's fifth southern generation and gains his stamina from somewhere inside his distaff pedigree. The 145th Randwick Derby winner was bred by Trevor Bodle at Whakanui Stud in New Zealand.

Empire Rose put Whakanui, then run by Trevor's father, the late Fred Bodle, on the map with a famous victory in the 1988 Melbourne Cup (Aust-I).

Bodle bred Headturner by sending a minor Zabeel winner, Monroe Magic, to Anabaa. Royal Fiesta, the second dam, was a non-winner by Bakharoff. The third dam, Tasman Dancer, is the pick of his close female line with thee wins including the Lowland Stakes (NZ-III). The fourth dam an unraced daughter of pioneer shuttler Pretendre.

Justice is rare in racing and it seemed well served as Headturner and Darren Beadman rushed past Rosehill Guineas (Aust-I) winner De Beers in deep stretch to win easily by 2 1/2 lengths before more than 50,000 track patrons.

Luck had deserted Headturner in the Victoria Derby (Aust-I) at Flemington last spring, the gelding badly blocked in the stretch before winding up third behind Benicio and Duelled -- both absent from Randwick and close to stud careers.

The crew behind De Beers (6-1) may dispute the justice theory, but handler David Hayes said he was rapt that his charge was able to run second to such a grand 3-year-old. They had a right to some joy in that their well-bred son of Quest For Fame is a colt and won't be short of stud offers. Hayes said the colt is a go forward type of horse who might graduate to weight-for-age and a race such as the W.S. Cox Plate (Aust-I) in October.

Punters splurged on the winner, driving his price into a 5-2 favorite, a point shorter than the morning line, and were happy to reside with the just. There were some concerns when Headturner had only three of the 13 runners behind him as the field wheeled for home.

Once Beadman angled the rangy gelding to track Primus to the outside of those pursuing de Beers, however, the result was never in doubt. The 2:29.92 for the 2,400 meters is 1.5 seconds outside the record.

Headhunter's Derby success was by far the most decisive of the Triple Crown races. De Beers had won the second leg -- the Rosehill Guineas by a neck with a favored passage and the benched Hotel Grand (by Grand Lodge) the opener, the Randwick Guineas (Aust-I) by less than a length.

Whakanui sold Headturner as a yearling at the 2004 New Zealand premier sale for $125,000 to agent Paul Moroney, who sold the colt to 10 lucky owners headed by Melbourne shoe importers Tony Pistikakis, Gerard Peterson, and Michael Lam.

Their black and white silks were carried in last year's Derby by the also Hawkes-conditioned Railings, third at 100-1. Last spring the Zabeel 4-year-old won the Caulfield Cup (Aust-I) and has career earnings of $2.25 million on a yearling price of $300,000.

Headturner has won four of 11 starts, plus three seconds, to earn just over $1.5 million -- $1.2 million from the Derby.

Pistikakis said that Hawkes told him on the eve of the Derby that Headturner's classic-year career was a bonus and he will be at the height of his powers at four and five. Given that the Melbourne cup is the only major to elude Hawkes, Headturner and Railings might be the pick of the local hopes come the first Tuesday in November.