Unwanted as a yearling, Gypsy Goddess would cap a remarkable rise up the racing ranks if she can deliver victory in the big money Golden Eagle (1500m) for her majority owner Bob Jones and his wife Debra, who will both be trackside at Rosehill this Saturday.
After failing to fetch her $20,000 reserve price at the 2020 New Zealand Bloodstock Karaka Sales, it’s fair to say the Tarzino filly’s prospects of making her mark on the racetrack – let alone becoming a bonafide superstar – looked rather remote at that point.
Indeed, her early work when she joined David Vandyke’s Sunshine Coast stable suggested she might only possess average ability, to put it kindly. But a patient approach has borne spectacular fruit and, two years on, she is a Group 1 winner and is rated one of the leading chances for Saturday’s $10 million feature.
Perhaps only the downright deluded could have foreseen such an improvement, and while Jones – like all racehorse owners – is a dreamer, he freely admits he could never have imagined the ride Gypsy Goddess would take him and her entire ownership group on.
“It’s been an amazing journey,” said the 69-year-old.
“I’ve had a fair few horses in my time but she’s certainly the best, and it’s fair to say she’s changed our lives. The early reports from David weren’t particularly positive to say the very least, her trackwork had been abysmal and at that point even though she’d probably been the cheapest horse I’d ever bought, I didn’t think I would see much return on the investment.
“Her trials leading into her maiden race at the Sunshine Coast weren’t that flash either, which probably explains why she started at $26. I had a little bit on but she was dead last at the 400-metre mark, so I thought I’d lost my money. But she flew home from the back to win, then won her next four starts by increasing margins and at that point we thought we might have a serious horse on our hands.”
The picket fence came to an end in the Group 1 Vinery Stud Stakes (1850m), when she could ‘only’ manage third, and it was also a case of “close but no cigar” at her next two starts, which produced runner-up finishes in both the Group 1 ATC Oaks (2400m) and the Listed Gold Coast Bracelet (1800m).
But Gypsy Goddess had encountered heavy conditions in both races and a return to a much firmer footing for her grand final, the Group 1 Queensland Oaks (2200m) at Eagle Farm, brought out the very best in the mare.
“David was convinced that only the wet tracks had beaten her in her previous starts, so we went into the Oaks pretty confident,” said Jones.
“It was an amazing experience to win my first Group 1, and to do it with a horse trained by David made it even more special. He won the Johnnie Walker Stakes at Flemington and after we won one of our first races together he told me he had a nice bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue at home, which he was going to gift me. I told him to keep it until we won our first Group 1 together, and I made a fair dent in it after the Oaks!”
Jones’ relationship with Vandyke stretches back to 2011, when one of the first horses he owned – Maximus Gladiator – was transferred into his care.
Having finished eighth of 10 at his last start for David Payne, Maximus Gladiator promptly clocked up four straight wins for his new trainer, and from then on the pair have formed a close bond which has seen Jones send Vandyke a large percentage of the almost 50 horses he has owned.
He currently has four in training with Vandyke including the speed machine Weona Smartone, who like Gypsy Goddess will get the services of Willie Pike when he lines up in the $3 million Nature Strip Stakes (1200m) on Saturday.
With nine wins from his 13 racetrack appearances so far, the $160,000 Jones and his fellow owners shelled out at the 2018 Karaka Sales has certainly provided value for money. And with a cool $1.725 million on offer to the winner of Saturday’s 1300m contest, Jones could afford to buy a few bottles of premium whiskey of his own should the son of Shamexpress continue the golden run of Queensland horses during the spring carnival.
“His run in the Sydney Stakes was huge, I thought he was going to win at one point but third was still a great effort against that quality of opposition,” said Jones.
“Even with Nature Strip and Giga Kick not running, we’re under no illusions that it’s going to be tough, which you would expect for a $3 million race. But he’s not without a chance, especially if the rain keeps falling, so I’m pretty confident he’ll run another big race.
“The rain wouldn’t help Gypsy Goddess’ chances in the Golden Eagle, so if the Rosehill track does come up bottomless David may choose to send her to Melbourne for the Empire Rose at Flemington next week.
Wherever she lines up she will only have one start this prep and then go for a spell, with the Caulfield Cup her main target next year.”