Hennessy Notches First Aussie Group I

Hennessy landed his first Australian group I win as his 4 year-old son Grand Armee raced to a brilliant 3 1/2 length victory in the $2.5 million (Australian funds) Doncaster Handicap on April 19.

Grand Armee supplied the sixth winner of Australia's richest handicap mile for Gai Waterhouse in the 11 years since she took over the Tulloch Lodge operation from her late father Tommy Smith. He holds the Doncaster record with seven in 50 years of training.

Hennessy spent five seasons on the shuttle to Coolmore's southern base from 1997. The Storm Cat son left 369 foals. Of his 289 of racing age, 168 of have been to the races for 85 winners. The total includes four group winners. Along with Honour and Glory, Hennessy did not join the Australian roster in 2002 or 2003.

After being fifth at the final bend under Danny Deasley, Grand Armee (12-1) strayed not too far from the rails -- the place to be on an oval turned turned into a gluepot by persistent rain. On-pace runners were the only ones with chances on the opening day of the Randwick Autumn meeting. The Doncaster time of 1:36.85 was just over three seconds outside the record but many horses failed to handle the conditions. Back-markers might as well have stayed home.

Chasing his sixth group I success, and the Horse of the Year title, Lonhro was a heavy 5-4 Doncaster favorite but although always in the first half of the 15 runners, the Octagonal 4 year-old could not accelerate in the ground and finished fourth. Closest to Grand Armee at the wire were pacemakers Dash For Cash (10-1) and Boreale (33-1).

Grand Armee was a $150,000 yearling purchase by Alan Bell, who selected and raced champion sprinter Schillaci in the early 1990s. The $1.56 million first prize for his sixth win in eight starts adavanced the gelded 4 year-old's earnings beyond $1.7 million.

His win righted the ship for the shuttles, shut-out in the day's other major race, the $2 million Australian Derby (Aust-I). Making the most of track bias favoring those at the rail, Clangalang (10-1) shook off a hitherto ulucky tag to win by 1 1/4 lengths for Scott Seamer. Strassbourg (50-1) and Mummify (20-1) filled the placings, the best by shuttlers Dehere fourth with longshot Boyd. The 2,400 meters was over in 2:32.31.

Seamer capped an enomous 2001 in landing the Melbourne Cup on Ethereal, but had been out of favor since injured in a Hong Kong race fall last year. By sprinting sire Clang, Clangalang is prepared by Gerald Ryan for 10 owners who pressured the handler to give the fall rides to Seamer.

The Eduardo Cojuangco-headed San Miguel brewery put up a significant amount of the $8 million in opening day purses and the owner was able to garner some of it for himself when his Gai Waterhouse-trained colt Snowland won the $1 million Galaxy (Aust-I) at 1,100 meters.

Cojuangco won a group I race with Oaks candidate Shower of Roses the previous weekend and 12 months ago collected the Australian Derby with Don Eduardo. The Zabeel son was recently retired and goes to Fayette Park in his native New Zealand. Snowland (by Snippets) will join the Widden roster this spring.