FEBRUARY 8, 2024: STEVE O’Halloran was closely associated with five Golden Slipper winners - make it six to really push a point – during his 17-year tenure at Tulloch Lodge.
Now in the relatively early stages of his training career, the skilled Hawkesbury horseman has the opportunity to make headlines of his own by winning Saturday’s $2m Inglis Millennium (1200m) at Royal Randwick with underrated filly Nymphadora.
Remarkably, she is rated a $61 bolter by TAB.com.au in spite of an outstanding third in the Inglis Nursery (1000m) at Randwick on December 9 at her last start, overcoming trouble to come from virtually nowhere and be beaten little more than a length.
O’Halloran rode work and looked after Gai Waterhouse’s Slipper winners Dance Hero (2004), Sebring (2008), Pierro (2012), Overreach (2013) and Vancouver (2015), and also the 2020 winner Farnan after she and co-trainer Adrian Bott joined forces in 2016.
“I took Farnan to the Magic Millions at the Gold Coast in January, a couple of months before he won the Slipper, but when I came back the opportunity arose to train for Paul Fudge’s Waratah Thoroughbreds,” O’Halloran said.
That was at the state-of-the-art property in the Southern Highlands, now owned by RacingNSW, but when Fudge took ill and decided to sell, the new trainer was left to start from scratch again and set up shop at Hawkesbury in 2022.
It might not carry the glamour of a Group 1 Golden Slipper Stakes but O’Halloran, understandably, is excited to have a runner – and with a live chance – in such a rich race for eligible two-year-olds on Saturday.
“I’m pretty proud of myself,” he said today without sounding as though he was wanting to blow his own trumpet.
“I don’t have the clientele of the bigger stables, and Nymphadora was the only horse I bought at last year’s Inglis Classic yearling sale.
“Myself and my wife Stephanie picked her out. It was Day 3 of the sale and we couldn’t believe we were able to purchase her for $30,000.
“I didn’t have a big budget, and thought she would bring a lot more money than that.
“To be able to not only buy her but then bring her along to make the field for the Inglis Millennium is very rewarding indeed.”
The $1.155m first prize is enticing enough, but there is also a $400,000 bonus for the first Inglis Pink Series horse home.
“Stephanie and myself syndicated Nymphadora amongst a group of friends (including bloodstock agent James Harron’s wife Alison and equine photographer Laura Lebedeff) to ensure at least 75 per cent were women, thus making her Pink Bonus eligible,” O’Halloran explained.
“I think there are five or six horses, including Gai’s favorite Fully Lit, in line for the bonus on Saturday.”
O’Halloran is pleased to have Tom Sherry in the saddle for the Millennium assignment.
“Tom has ridden her in two trials and also the Inglis Nursery, so he knows her well,” he said.
O’Halloran gave Nymphadora a break after her third to Odinson and Beer Baron (rivals again on Saturday) in the Inglis Nursery, and was pleasantly surprised how well she did during her three weeks’ leave.
“If anything, she did a bit too well and came back a bit bigger than I had expected, but that is encouraging from a future viewpoint,” he said.
“Thus I gave her a slow build-up, and was very pleased with her close second in an 800m trial at home last Thursday.
“I told Tom (Sherry) not to leave her race behind by giving her a hard trial.
“Nymphadora has done well since. All I’ve got to do now is keep her alive for another couple of days,” he joked.
. HOOFNOTE: Nymphadora’s owners will be hoping their filly has “super powers” when she jumps from the barrier at 4pm on Saturday.
The daughter of 2019 The Everest winner Yes Yes Yes got her name via the famed Harry Potter series.
Hufflepuff (the filly’s dam is Miss Hufflepuff) was one of the four houses of the school of witchcraft and wizardry.
Nymphadora Tonks was a half-blood witch from the Hufflepuff house, and connections dropped the “Tonks” when naming their filly.
O’Halloran yesterday inspected Nymphadora’s younger half-sister (by So You Think), who will go under the hammer as Lot 479 on Monday at the 2024 Inglis Classic yearling sale.
“She is a very nice filly; a lot bigger than Nymphadora,” he said.
And no doubt he will need a “bigger” cheque to buy her should his own filly win on Saturday!
. Hawkesbury has three two-year-olds lining up in the Inglis Millennium.
Leading trainer Brad Widdup has Art’s Alive ($350,000 Australian Easter yearling) and Bella Khadijah ($80,000 Classic yearling), and had hoped to have three representatives, but Tequila Baby came down with a temperature yesterday and has had to be withdrawn.