Phoenix Thoroughbreds have been lucky enough to own several talented fillies and mares. While the likes of leading ladies Loving Gaby and Dream Tree take most of the headlines, the importance of their support cast shouldn’t be overlooked. Just below these top-level performers is a band of consistent and talented girls keeping the results ticking over, both winning vital prize money and racing into the hearts of their owners.
Leading this category of likeable race mares is Best Stone. A four-year-old I Am Invincible mare, her career has been expertly and, perhaps most importantly, patiently guided by Randwick based John Thompson. Remarkably in her 14 starts to date, she has only failed to hit the places on three occasions, winning four times. While all of her best work has come in the challenging surroundings of upper-end Benchmark handicaps, she has readily amassed over $172,000 in prize money, which is more than $12,000 per start. It’s stats like these which is why you can consider her one of the unsung heroines of the Phoenix team. So let’s clear our throats and prepare to belt out an aria to this compact little star.
It’s not just her owners that have a special place in their hearts for Best Stone, it would appear her handler has also developed something of a soft spot for his charge. There’s no doubting the detection of great warmth in his voice when he reports back to Phoenix HQ the latest on his “bonny little mare”. We caught up with John a week after the mare ran her last race of her most recent preparation, a fine second at Randwick in a Benchmark 78 despite being at the wrong end of her latest stint of racing. The period of two months of competition yielded more success with a win at Canterbury two more placed efforts and a fine display to narrowly miss out on the places in the Group Three Tibbie Stakes. A typically consistent campaign.
“She’s just such a professional mare, honest as the day is long.” Says John as he explains why he holds Best Stone in high affection. “You just know she’s going to give you all she’s got. She’s been a very sound mare from day one and she has shown that she’s got ability. She’s just going through the grades very nicely now and I think she’ll reach black-type level.”
John describes the four-year-old as “the quietest horse in the yard” and “very good to do anything with, in every way.” This perhaps, in stark contrast to another of Phoenix’s I Am Invincible mares in Loving Gaby, whose general attitude of ‘the queen of the stable’ and food-stealing behaviour made her a social media star. But there is one huge similarity and that’s consistency.
“She’s not very big, but she’s very good,” explains John after considering why Best Stone runs to such a high standard in most of her races “We’re a stable that doesn’t overwork our horses, we keep it for race day.”
That’s a formula that has bought plenty of success for the yard, and consequently, the Pheonix owned four-year-old. But while on the subject of consistency that element of her form is amplified when she takes to the track at Canterbury. Her record there is outstanding with four wins and a placing from her five races at the track.
“The way she races suits that track.” says John, explaining her track record. “She races on speed, she dictates her races and gives a good kick on the corner. Canterbury has a short straight and back-markers find it hard to run down horses like that.”
The other main element to her continued run of results is the presence of Nash Rawiller in the saddle. Present for all of the mare’s wins ,and most of her placed efforts, it’s a combination that seems to suit both horse and jockey.
“Nash is one of the best jockeys in this Country.” John says in answer to why the relationship between human and equine has been so fruitful. “He’s a very good, strong, on pace rider and he’s built up a good affinity with the mare. I think Nash has a lot of confidence in the horse and it works both ways. It’s a big help he knows her so well. He rides for me a lot at home and the fact he knows she’s going so well gives him the confidence in the race.”
John Thompson has not really given himself enough credit for his part in the story of Best Stone. His patient approach has allowed her to develop into a tough and talented racer, while his race-planning has allowed her to thrive. That planning is in evidence again as Best Stone heads for a well-earned break. It’s not just for the sake of rest that she goes for a holiday now.
“We’ve had to spell her know to give her enough time to spell and come back for the Autumn Carnival.” explains the trainer. “There’s a good half-dozen or so options through the Autumn Carnival for mares to get black-type, she’ll have a couple of cracks at landing that black-type next preparation.”
Phoenix Thoroughbreds undoubtedly own more high-profile and even talented fillies and mares. But, as a favourite among her owners, there as much will for Best Stone to win some black-type as there was for some of those more illustrious names. After all, with her record, it would be hard for anyone to begrudge her that crowning glory.