WHAT’S in a name? Some owners don’t worry too much about naming their horses, often taking parts of the sire and dam’s name to come up with something suitable or just plucking one totally out of thin air. Others go to a lot more trouble. Such as Sydney concreting brothers Anthony and Mark Carusi. They certainly dug deep to give a horse they had bred a fitting name. And he has rewarded them with two $1m Group 1 victories this year.
He is LE ROMAIN, the talented Newcastle sprinter-miler who upset hotpot Press Statement in the Randwick Guineas (1600m) in March and then underlined his class by recently capturing the Cantala Stakes (1600m) on the opening day of the Melbourne Cup carnival at Flemington.
We’ll let Anthony Carusi take up the story of how they named the now four-year-old gelding.
“We bought a mare called Mignard for $18,000 at a 2009 Darley reduction sale,” Carusi explained. “All our dealings have been through Darley; they have been terrific. “Le Romain is the mare’s third foal (her first two filly foals, Manhattan Beach (by Street Boss) and Strike Hard (by Hard Spun) did not race, although Manhattan Beach won a barrier trial at Kembla but fractured a pelvis and had to be put down. “We were impressed with Hard Spun’s toughness (the shuttle stallion was runner-up to Street Sense and Curlin was third in the 2007 Kentucky Derby) and sent the mare back to him. “Le Romain was the result.”
Mignard, a Strategic mare, won only one race (a 2009 Hawkesbury Maiden) from 11 starts. Her dam Mielleuse (by Night Shift) also won only one race (a restricted three-year-old fillies’ event at Warwick Farm in 2000), but earlier that year was placed in the Group 2 Reisling Slipper Trial at Rosehill behind subsequent freakish Golden Slipper winner Belle Du Jour, and two Listed races (Keith Mackay Quality and Reginald Allen Quality) at Randwick. The name of Mignard’s third foal was set once the Carusi brothers discovered that Pierre Mignard, a French portrait painter in the 1600s, was given the byname of “Mignard le Romain” to distinguish him from his brother Nicolas, also a painter. But the equine Le Romain apparently wasn’t an “oil painting” to some in his early days.
“He was bred at Darley’s Northwood Park property in Victoria, but was rejected by a sales company to be offered for auction as a yearling,” Anthony Carusi explained. “Le Romain was broken-in by jockey Luke Nolen’s father Vin, who always felt the horse would be able to gallop. “We had a chap offer us $20,000 at the time, but we wanted $40,000 and he wasn’t prepared to pay it. “After that, we tried to sell him a couple of times, but nothing eventuated. “I guess it was meant to be. We decided to race Le Romain with some friends; one of them, Tony Agius, and myself have known each other since our kindergarten days.”
Former Kembla Grange trainer Erwin Takacs, who died two years ago from head injuries sustained in a freakish equine swimming pool accident many months earlier, was going to train Mignard’s first foal (Le Romain’s older half-sister Manhattan Beach) for the Carusi brothers. “Erwin was a good friend and his accident and subsequent death was a terrible blow,” Carusi said. “We had to look for another trainer for Le Romain and called on Kris Lees at Newcastle. “We had a share in a horse called Troon back in the 1990s, which Kris’ late father Max trained. “So we had known Kris for about 20 years and also Lees Racing’s long-term employee Phil Burns.”
Le Romain’s Flemington success lifted his career earnings to more than $1.5m from only 13 starts, which have realised four wins and seven placings. The only time he has finished further back than fifth was his seventh in Tarzino’s Rosehill Guineas in March when he was attempting 2000m for the first time and was galloped on in the straight.
Mignard missed to Von Costa De Hero a year after foaling Le Romain, and then gave birth to a Domesday filly in 2014. Now a two-year-old, she will race as Isabeau and is also being prepared by Lees. Mignard has since foaled both a filly and colt by Kuroshio, and was scheduled to be mated with Exosphere at the time of writing this article. The colt by Kuroshio goes through the upcoming 2017 Magic Millions Yearling Sale as lot 288 and is sure to be very highly sort after following the deeds of Le Romain.
As for Le Romain, Lees rested him after his Cantala Stakes victory and his autumn goal is the $3m Doncaster Mile during The Championships at Royal Randwick on April 1. Perhaps this brilliantly-named gelding will “paint” another pretty picture for his owners. In any case, the joke is already on those “fools” who could have easily secured for a bargain price an equine version of a Pierre Mignard masterpiece!