Surprise Baby

Surprise Baby (Image: Racing Photos)

Baby blazes his own Cup path

Successful trends and winning formulas are highly valued in most professional sports, so you can expect the recipe that guides a horse to Melbourne Cup victory this year is likely to be copied and mimicked in future seasons.

That might prove a difficult task in regards to some of the valuable European imports and certainly in respect to two-time sales reject Surprise Baby, who finally found an owner for just $5500 via an online auction.

Surprise Baby runs for his Melbourne Cup future in Saturday's The Bart Cummings, where a win would secure him a place in the field for next month's $8 million race as well as contribute greatly to the folklore that already surrounds the race that is nearly 160 years old.

John Thompson, the managing director of Rich Hill Stud in New Zealand, where Surprise Baby was bred, has already made a great contribution to the Melbourne Cup by breeding famous 2015 winner Prince Of Penzance.

Prince Of Penzance at least made $50,000 at the yearling sales, but Surprise Baby's return was much more modest and the circumstances far less conventional.

Thompson takes up the story.

"He was bred here to our Melbourne Cup-winning stallion Shocking and he was always quite a nice horse and so we sent him through the New Zealand select sale at Karaka," he said on Friday.

"Unfortunately, his mother (Bula Baby) had been a bit disappointing at the time - she's had four or five foals for no result - and we couldn't sell him at the select sale, but he was such a nice horse I put him through the Ready To Run sale, which I don't normally do.

"He was quite a difficult horse early on and he just didn't breeze up very well so I couldn't sell him at the ready to runs either.

"So, I thought I'd try and sell him on the trials market and we gave him to a trainer over here and they had a lot of trouble to get him to settle and not throw his head around.

"Time was passing us by and in the end - he was already getting towards the end of his three-year-old career - I thought, well, he's already cost me a fortune, so I sold him on (online auctioneer) gavelhouse.com.

"There was nothing wrong with the horse, but he just didn't quite have the attitude and John Fiteni bought him for $5500 off gavelhouse.com and gave him to Paul Preusker and with a bit of maturity mentally and physically, he is where he is today."

While Thompson is one of the few financial losers involved in the life and career of Surprise Baby, he is hopeful the payoff might come later on as a Melbourne Cup victory would do wonders for the Rich Hill Stud stallion Shocking, who commands a fee of just $8500.

"He had a New Zealand Oaks winner in his first crop (Fanatic) and he's threatened to get a really good stayer and this just might be the one," Thompson said of Surprise Baby.