As well as giving his retiring co-trainer Murray Baker a shot at an astonishing sixth and final win in the Group 1 Australian Derby (2400m) at Randwick on Saturday, rapid improver Regal Lion is shining the spotlight on an emerging family-run New Zealand breeding and syndicating operation.
An eye-catching placegetter in the Group 1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) and Group 2 Tulloch Stakes (2000m) in his last two starts, the Jakkalberry gelding was bred by Barbara and Carl McComb. He has become a headline performer for Redcraze Racing, which is made up of the McCombs in partnership with several members of Barbara's family, headed by her father, experienced pedigree expert Les Pratt.
The first foal out of a mare that was purchased in the first year of Redcraze Racing's existence, Regal Lion is taking the family on a remarkable ride.
“We've been over here in Australia to look at a few horses, and we were able to go and watch the Tulloch on Monday, and we'll be at the Derby tomorrow as well,” Barbara McComb said. “The timing couldn't have worked out much better.
“It's hugely exciting and very nerve-racking as well, but we can't wait. It's the first time we've ever had a runner in a Group One race in Australia.
“We're looking forward to watching the whole day at Randwick tomorrow, actually – there are exceptional horses right throughout the afternoon, so it should be a wonderful day's racing. We just hope it pans out well for everyone and that the track holds up okay.
“Regal Lion's performances to place in the New Zealand Derby and the Tulloch Stakes were both outstanding. He seems to be improving with every race.
“He's done an amazing job, and he's a beautiful horse. We certainly believe he has the ability, and we just need a little bit of luck to go his way. The conditions are obviously going to be testing, but it'll be the same for all of the horses, and we're optimistic that he'll handle it.”
After making his first few starts in the stable colours of Baker and training partner Andrew Forsman, Regal Lion has been in the familiar striped silks of OTI Racing for his last three appearances. The same owners teamed up with Baker and Forsman for the Derby triumph of Quick Thinker two years ago.
“OTI had been watching him for a little while, and we ended up signing the deal with them on Valentine's Day,” McComb said. “We thought it was a good opportunity to sell a nice percentage of the horse, but we always thought he was very talented, so we wanted to keep a share for ourselves as well. It's worked out really well.”
Regal Lion is the first foal out of the Congrats mare Red Delight, who was unplaced on the track but is a granddaughter of Group One winner Danglissa and closely related to big-race performers Unite And Conquer, Profiteer and Sweet Redemption.
Red Delight was a NZD$45,000 purchase from Westbury Stud's draft as a yearling at Karaka in 2014. Since producing Regal Lion in 2018, she has been to Rich Hill Stud's Shocking three times and produced a colt and two fillies. The colt is now a two-year-old and has joined the Baker-Forsman stable.
“We've bought a few horses together over the years and won 26 or 27 races, but we decided to have a go at breeding, and Regal Lion is one of the very first horses we've bred in this venture,” Les Pratt said.
“We've got a few two-year-olds that look really, really good, so we're hopeful that one of them might turn out to be another Regal Lion. But it's a hard game.
“Either way, what's happened with Regal Lion so far has been great, and we've got our fingers crossed for tomorrow. We've got great trainers and a great jockey (James McDonald), so who knows what might happen.”