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Strawberry Road -  Profile of a Champion
Bay Stallion Born 28th September, 1973
by Whiskey Road  out of Giftisa
by Jenny Barnes

strawberryroadcolour300.jpg (26621 bytes)The story of Strawberry Road began in 1973 when the New Zealand bred mare Giftisa was bought as a weanling for $3000 by Jim Pantos. Sired by Rich Gift a grandson of Nasrullah from Wahkeena (by Red Jester) Giftisa showed little on the racetrack and was retired after seven starts. Unknown local stallion Whiskey Road was selected to sire her first foal. Whiskey Road, a son of Nijinsky, had commenced his stud career at Strathallan Stud at Braidwood NSW (about an hour’s drive outside Canberra) in 1977. On September 28 1979 a bay colt foal was born and for a total of $4500 one of Australia’s greatest overseas campaigners had been produced.

Strawberry Road was Gifitisa’s first of only six foals. Sent to Tristar for the following two seasons she produced a colt called Treble Gift who went to stud but died at a relatively young age and a gelding called Trytisa who was a successful racehorse in the Canberra/Queanbeyan district. In 1982 Giftisa produced a filly by New Gleam called Kleodora before being returned to Whiskey Road in 1984 and 1985 where she produced Strawbrette and Whisky’s Gift.

Whiskey Road was imported to stand under the care of Neal Lavis at Braidwood where he remained throughout his stud career. In his first crop he sired the talented sprinter Bronze Spirit and the 1981 Melbourne Cup winner Just A Dash before producing a steady stream of winners and was a renowned sire of horses with wet track ability. He is a well known sire of broodmares and is presently represented by top stayer Tie The Knot a foal of Whisked one of his many stakeswinners. Whiskey Road is also the sire of Queensland based stallion Sea Road.

Despite Jim Pantos and G Georgopoulos both residing in the Canberra district they chose to send the young colt to the Queensland stables of Doug Bougoure who had trained another racehorse for the pair previously. On arrival the unraced 2yo Strawberry Road stunned the stable being all of 14.2hh and all fat with Doug Bougoure questioning how he was going to make a racehorse out of this pony. With time the colt grew but was always remained a good ‘doer’ something which probably hindered him during his last Australian campaign but held him in good test for his overseas career.

The first promise of what was to come was in Strawberry Road’s first barrier trial where he powered home from last at the 200m to win. He then made his racetrack debut in the Todman Hcp at Doomben in late July but could only manage fifth behind Rival Planet. A week later he was sent to Eagle Farm and ran second only a long head behind winner Panama Red.

Strawberry Road parading (photographer unknown).jpg (12931 bytes)Less than two weeks later the now 3yo Strawberry Road was entered in the Queensland Maiden Handicap which was billed as the richest maiden race ever conducted by a metropolitan raceclub in Australia. Coming to the 200m Strawberry Road was in front and well clear but drifting away from the rails as Chief Mate started to charge home. In the run to the line Strawberry Road came back strongly and was in front by nearly 2 lengths. After the race Doug Bougoure declared Strawberry Road as the best horse he had ever had and was planning to set him for the AJC Derby. Not everyone shared his opinion of the horse and though he may be aiming a touch high but Strawberry Road headed to the paddock before the campaign that would take him to greatness.

On January 6th 1983 Strawberry Road resumed with a last to first victory in an Improvers Hcp at Bundamba then cruised home by four lengths against a field of 20 in a Novice Handicap at Doomben. He easily won a Transition Handicap and then Graduation Stakes at Eagle Farm before facing his biggest test so far. Taking on Australia’s best 3yos at the autumn carnival in Sydney.

His first race in Sydney was the Hobartville Stakes over 1400m. Riding instructions were to let Strawberry Road stride along during the race but on settling he was caught in behind the leaders. Into the straight he was still trying to get clear as Marscay sprinted well clear. Once out Strawberry Road charged after the leader but it was all to late as he failed by a short neck to catch Marscay with Veloso two lengths away in third.

Up against a similar field two weeks later in the Canterbury Guineas with his frontrunning ability he was expected to be right in the finish. Strawberry Road disputed the early lead before being eased back to sixth turning out of the straight after being checked past the post. Moved up to fourth during the run along the back but by the 600m he had been shuffled back to about 8th after again being checked off heels. He lost further ground around the tight turn for home and was many lengths off the leaders where Marscay and Chiamare led as Mr McGinty challenged. Mc McGinty hit the front soon after and raced away from the others to win from the fast finishing Veloso as Strawberry Road finally got clear and ran home strongly behind them missing third by a neck and was ultimately placed sixth.

A week later Strawberry Road faced an open weight for age field in the Rawson Stakes. In the early stages of the race he was last in the eight horse field and didn’t improve position until they started around the home turn. Our Planet and Fountaincourt led with Bianco Lady chasing three wide as Strawberry Road ran seven and eight wide to circle the field. Well into the straight Fountaincourt fought off Our Planet as Dalmacia started to run on well with Strawberry Road chasing hard wide on the track. With 100m left Dalmacia hit the front from Fountaincourt as Strawberry Road tried to drift in towards the rail behind them. Fountaincourt tried to fight back but Dalmacia proved too strong winning by a neck with Strawberry Road behind them and a gap to the remainder of the field.

Back to his own age group in the Rosehill Guineas Strawberry Road backed up for his third race in three weeks. After jumping from a wide barrier he stayed well off the rails early before crossing to a clear lead from Mr McGinty, Chiamare and Tristram Lad. Little changed until they turned for home where Mr McGinty challenged Strawberry Road well clear of Tristram’s Lad and Chiamare. With 200m to run Mr McGinty couldn’t sustain his effort as Strawberry Road fought back strongly under hands and heels riding. Inside the final 100m Strawberry Road raced away to score easily from Mr McGinty with Veloso running on late for third.

On April 4 1983 Strawberry Road lined up for the race that had been his target since his third start the AJC Derby at Randwick. Constant rain had turned the racetrack into a quagmire but it was deemed safe to race on so the time honoured event took place. Strawberry Road started well from a wide barrier to go to the front turning out of the straight from Chiamare then followed by Admiral Lincoln and Hermod. Revelling in the conditions Strawberry Road strode to a clear lead passing the 1600m from Chiamare and Hermod then Admiral Lincoln and Veloso. Little changed until the 1000m where Strawberry Road led Chiamare as Veloso moved to third from Admiral Lincoln. Chiamare joined Strawberry Road around the home turn from Veloso with Dynamo moving up along the rails inside Hermod as the rest of the field, including future Group 1 stayers Mr McGinty, Mr Jazz, Hayai and Secured Deposit, began to struggle in the conditions. Passing the 250m Strawberry Road began to draw right away from Veloso then Chiamare with the rest well beaten. Over the final 200m Strawberry Road cruised away to win by 5 1/2 lengths from Veloso with a further 16 lengths to Chiamare and another gap to the rest of the field. The time for the 2400m was 2.41.8 which was the slowest recorded since 1902 on the extremely heavy track.

Strawberry Road returned to his home state of Queensland a hero. His connections had reportedly refused offers of up to $1.5 million after the Derby and he was set for a short winter carnival campaign. He paraded at the Doomben races and recorded an unofficial sub 35 second for the final 600m and soon after trialled with noted sprinter Handsome Prince at Bundamba in an effort to keep his fitness up as the constant wet tracks played havoc with trackwork. His first start for the winter was in the XXXX Hcp at Eagle Farm where he was beaten into third by Home Maid conceding seven kilograms in weight to the winner.

Now the critics came out saying that the horse was showing he had enough and needed a spell and the pressure was on connections for their galloper to regain winning form. Regain form he did giving nothing else a chance a week later in the Channel 7 Stakes over 2020m. On a dead track Strawberry Road raced away to record a four length win over talented mare Hayley’s Hope and proved he was on track for the Queensland Derby. His final lead up run was the Power Hotels Quality over 1350m and despite the drop back in distance he was sent out at 5-2 winning by 1 3/4 lengths over Grand Rocky with Brenlaine third. The time of 1.25.1 was considered remarkable considering the state of the track.

His final start as a 3yo was the Queenland Derby on June 11 1983 over 2400m at Eagle Farm. Passing the 800m Strawberry Road was third inside So Good as Tristram’s Lad led. On straightening Tristram’s Lad kicked well clear as Strawberry Road shouldered his way out of a pocket to make a run with So Good with Forward Charge running on out wider. With 200m to go Strawberry Road hit the front but Tristram’s Lad fought back as Forward Charge continued making ground down the outside. In the final 50m Strawberry Road got the better of Tristram’s Lad and held off the determined Forward Charge by a half neck with two lengths to Tristram’s Lad in third.

Strawberry Road’s 3yo campaign came to an end as he had a short break from training at Doug Bougoure’s Hendra training complex. During this time he was named Queensland Horse of the Year for the 1982/83 season and was reportedly nearly sold to a NZ/US joint venture for $1.7 million but after clearing the vet checks the sale fell through when the deposit wasn’t lodged by the deadline.

Strawberry Road headed to Melbourne for his Spring campaign and was stabled at Tommy Hughes’ Flemington stables. He faced 11 opponents in the Freeway Stakes (now renamed the Manikato) over 1200m at Moonee Valley. Strawberry Road led as they headed around the home turn where he was challenged by Toy Pindari along the rails followed by Red Tempo then In The Slot and Brummel Who. He fought off Toy Pindari with 100m to go as Red Tempo gave chase but Strawberry Road gave nothing else a chance winning by two lengths from Red Tempo with a gap to the others.

In the Memsie Stakes two weeks later Red Tempo was too brilliant defeating Strawberry Road by 3/4 of a length which led to a third match up of the two rivals in the Centennial Stakes (now known as the JF Feehan Stakes). Passing the 800m Strawberry Road was third with Red Tempo in fourth alongside as the pair were two lengths off the lead. Approaching the turn Cossack Prince hit the front as Strawberry Road and Red Tempo made their runs together. With 400m to run Strawberry Road and Red Tempo took over from Cossack Prince with the rest of the field well back. The pair went stride for stride until well into the straight where Red Tempo’s rider went for the whip and Strawberry Road edged ahead. In the final 50m Strawberry Road came away under hands and heels to win by 1 1/2 lengths to Red Tempo with Cossack Prince a similar margin back in third.

Plans for the Cox Plate were going to plan with his next run programmed as the Underwood Stakes over 2000m. Strawberry Road led early but soon Cossack Prince took over but tried to slow the tempo resulting in Triumphal March moving up to second with Strawberry Road behind them in third. Passing the 800m Triumphal March and Cossack Prince were the joint leaders with Strawberry Road third on the rails inside other runners as Trissaro moved up behind him. Around the turn Triumphal March hit the front from Cossack Prince as Strawberry Road tried to find a way out of the pocket as No Peer ran on out wide and Trissaro also waited for a run along the rails. Cossack Prince fought back to head Triumphal March inside the 200m as Trissaro made a run inside the pair as Strawberry Road started to struggle. Cossack Prince despite drifting in again drew away to hit the line first from Trissaro just ahead of Triumphal March with Strawberry Road a battling fourth just ahead of No Peer. A protest second against first was upheld with Trissaro awarded the race. The lack of acceleration in Strawberry Road was a concern but the way the race was run was thought to have perhaps dimmed his brilliance. Given the benefit of the doubt Strawberry Road continued on to his next start.

Only two weeks before the Cox Plate and many of the prospective contenders lined up for the Caulfield Stakes over the same course and distance as the Underwood Stakes. By the 800m Cossack Prince and Strawberry Road were joint leaders from Emancipation and Mr McGinty with the rest of the field well strung out behind them. On straightening Mr McGinty sprinted around the leaders to hit the front from Strawberry Road with Cossack Prince and Emancipation next. Strawberry Road tried to fight back as Mr McGinty drifted wide on the track as Cossack Prince made a run between them. Over the final 100m Mr McGinty got balanced and came away to win from Cossack Prince with Cool River grabbing third just ahead of Emancipation as Strawberry Road faded to 6th over five lengths from the winner. Now the connections of Strawberry Road were worried about the sudden lack of form. His regular rider Mick Dittman was reported as speculating that perhaps the horse wasn’t handled the tricky Caulfield racetrack but extensive tests also revealed that Strawberry Road has been suffering from a virus which could have been affecting him in both disappointing runs. Vet John Bryden was given the responsibility of treating the Whiskey Road entire to recover in time for the WS Cox Plate.

WS Cox Plate day at Moonee Valley brought together one of the best fields for the race. Star New Zealander Mr McGinty, top class mare Emancipation and brilliant 3yo Sir Dapper were expected to prove the hardest for Strawberry Road to overcome. After the start Albany Bay and Sir Dapper had an early bumping duel as they crossed to the front with Strawberry Road as Emancipation was checked on the rails behind them with Come To London moving up wide from Mr McGinty and Fine Offer. As they turned out of the straight there was a lot of early jostling which resulted in Emancipation being turned sideways as Deb’s Mate moved up along the rail while Fine Offer, Allez Bijou and Mr McGinty were involved in another scrimmage. At around the same time Strawberry Road hit the front but was soon joined and headed by Come To London with Mr McGinty moving up alongside Sir Dapper as Perfect Bliss was stuck three wide followed by Handsome Seattle around Fine Offer with Deb’s Mate on the rails. By the 1400m Come To London led Handsome Seattle who had gone forward with Strawberry Road and Perfect Bliss next from Deb’s Mate, Mr McGinty and Fine Offer then Sir Dapper and Allez Bijou followed by Emancipation and Trissaro with Albany Bay and Kiwi Slave at the rear. Approaching the turn Fine Offer charged to the lead from Handsome Seattle and Perfect Bliss with Come To London on the rails as Strawberry Road was pocketed inside Mr McGinty with Sir Dapper very wide. Turning for home Fine Offer led narrowly as Strawberry Road got out to give chase from Mr McGinty and Sir Dapper from Kiwi Slave who had been threading his way through the field. Strawberry Road put the race beyond doubt as he hit the front and raced clear of Fine Offer, Handsome Seattle, Mr McGinty and Sir Dapper with Kiwi Slave the only horse making ground. Strawberry Road powered to the line to win by 3 1/2 lengths from Kiwi Slave with Mr McGinty third.

Strawberry Road was then spelled before his autumn campaign. At the end of the year he was voted VRC Horse of the Year and was soon the subject of offers for sale. One sale that would have resulted in the stallion moving to the stables of Bart Cummings fell through when vets reports found a suspected fracture in his knee which had reportedly deteriorated in the previous six months. Uncertainty over his future caused Strawberry Road to enter work for his last Australian campaign later than had been planned and Doug Bougoure had a battle to get him up to the fitness level to be at his top at each run. First up he finished third of seven runners behind Emancipation in the Apollo Stakes beaten just under four lengths on a heavy track.

Three weeks later he stepped up to 1600m in the Chipping Norton Stakes at Warwick Farm. Passing the 800m Mr McGinty led Chiamare with Emancipation close by as Strawberry Road raced in sixth place. Around the turn Mr McGinty fought off Chiamare as Emancipation started her run and Hayai joined in along the rails with Strawberry Road next. With 100m left Emancipation hit the front from Mr McGinty as Trissaro started to charge along the inside with Strawberry Road making steady ground. Emancipation held on to win narrowly from Trissaro with Mr McGinty third as Strawberry Road ran into fifth only 1 3/4 lengths from the winner.

A fortnight later in the Rawson Stakes Strawberry Road had his first start in new colours. A controlling half share had been sold to Ray Stehr and John Singleton for a reported $1 million with a view to retire him to stud at Princes Farm for the 1984 spring. Passing the 800m in the Rawson Chiamare led Strawberry Road from Fountaincourt, Penny Edition and Mr McGinty. Around the turn Strawberry Road hit the front but Mr McGinty was chasing hard from Chiamare and Penny Edition. By the 200m Mr McGinty hit the front with Strawberry Road trying to fight back valiantly but his fitness gave out as Mr McGinty raced away to win from Trissaro as Strawberry Road faded to fifth.

His final Australian race was the Tancred Stakes over 2400m. He took up his favourite roll as the pacemaker from Fountaincourt and Mr McGinty then Hayai and Bounty Hawk. Strawberry Road held his position throughout and turning for home was a handy leader over Fountaincourt. With 300m to go he sprinted well clear of Fountaincourt and Bounty Hawk with Admiral Lincoln and Hayai wide on the track. Passing the 100m Strawberry Road started to tire as the backmarkers started to charge home late headed by Hayai. Hayai hit the front 50m out from Strawberry Road as Trissaro gave chased with Beechcraft and Bounty Hawk. On the post Strawberry Road was officially placed seventh but was only three lengths from the winner Hayai. Soon after plans were made to send Strawberry Road to France under the care of Sydney based trainer John Nicholls to prepare for the Prix l’Arc de Triomphe and put off his stud career.

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