Joe O’Gara’s first question he asks when he gets a phone call at his Goulburn stud tells a lot about Singing Flame’s chances in Saturday’s Australian Derby at Randwick.
“Is it raining there yet? It’s raining here,” O’Gara said in a gentle Irish brogue.
“He can win the Derby on a wet track. That would be wonderful.”
O’Hara has been breeding for more 20 years and Singing Flame is a product of the stallions he has imported. It is not a big operation but a successful one.
Singing Flame is a product of his passion. He is a son of Song Of Tara, which only covers a handful of O’Gara’s mares each year, one of them being the Derby hope’s dam What A Giggle, which is by AirDe France, the foundation sire of his Tobermory Stud.
“We get a couple of inquires to go to him each year, but I keep him for my mares,” O’Gara said.
“He is retired now but he has had some great horses. No Wine No Song won a Sydney Cup, Spirit Of Tara and this fella, who could the best of all of them after Saturday.
“[Song Of Tara] is unbelievable really with what he had done. The cross does work well with Air De France and they like soft going.”
Song Of Tara found his way to Goulburn after not being able to win a group 1 race in Europe. “Coolmore actually had the option on him but didn’t take it up, so I was able to get him,” O’Gara said. “He has been a good stallion for us and a Derby would be a dream.”
Singing Flame is the third Derby runner in Sydney to carry O’Gara’s red silks with a green shamrock, and on a wet track would be an outstanding hope of upsetting the blue-bloods.
“There was the great Air Seattle that ran a place [in 1993] and then won the Queensland Derby. I also had Super Slew, which was in the Octagonal and Saintly year. He was a very good won group race and was runner-up in group 1s,” O’Gara said.
“But this fella looks like he will get the 1-1/2 mile [2400 metres] after last week and will handle the going.”
Trainer Kevin Moses is still getting over Gallatin running over the top of Singing Flame in the Tulloch Stakes, but put it down to karma.
“I have to say I thought he would win last week,” Moses said. “He probably should have, Timmy [Clark] just got going a bit too early.
“I’m sure I have done it myself to a few when I was riding, so it was probably karma that got me.
“He actually rode him perfect to the 1000m. I was watching the race with [ATC tracks manager] Lindsay Murphy and said that to him. Then he went at the 700m and I went 'oh no'.
“The problem when you go that early and you are out in front they get a chance to look around at the stands and the big screen and they shorten stride, and that got him.
“At the 200m Lindsay said to me 'he is still going to win', I said ‘well if he does he is a better horse than I thought’.”
The calls came this week from jockeys looking for the ride on Singing Flame but Moses stuck with Clark.
“He just has to remember it’s Randwick, not Gosford, on Saturday and we will be right,” he said. “Like I said, I did it in my riding career, we all do it, and Timmy will make up for it.”
The Tulloch Stakes winner has a record to match Rosehill Guineas winners in the Derby, and trainer Peter Snowden is confident Gallatin will be in the finish as well, while his Tupac Amaru will be ridden closer.
“The horses coming from the Tulloch have a race hardness edge and I think he will run well again,” Snowden said. “He has been very bright this week.
“Tupac Amaru is a grinding sort of stayer and we will ride him positively.”