American St Leger scouting report: Billabong
Jalobey Racing’s Sharif El Alami has been wanting to bring his homebred over here for a couple of years. In 2015, he had designs on the Belmont Gold Cup, and then nominated to the Sword Dancer (G1), but neither came to fruition. So this American venture is long in the crafting.
From a stout German male line, Billabong claims as his grandsire the redoubtable Monsun, who sired back-to-back Melbourne Cup (G1) winners in Fiorente (2013) and Protectionist (2014). Billabong is by the Monsun stallion Gentlewave, the 2006 Italian Derby (G1) hero, and his dam comes from the extended family of high-class stayer Jukebox Jury, runner-up in the 2009 Canadian International (G1).
Billabong began his career on the Moroccan dirt, where he compiled an exceptional record by going 9-for-11, including Morocco’s signature race, the Grand Prix de Sa Majeste Le Roi Mohammed VI. He deserved a chance to compete at a higher level in Europe, and accordingly joined Pascal Bary in France.
Although no longer a win machine as he’d been at home, Billabong has held his own admirably. After placing in a pair of listed events, he demonstrated the heart of a lion to earn his black-type laurel in the 2015 Prix Lord Seymour at Longchamp. Doesn’t Billabong just seem to want it more than Juddmonte’s Glaring, as he fights and scrapes his way back in front?
Billabong next traveled to San Siro for the Gran Premio di Milano (G1), and did well to finish easily best of the rest behind Dylan Mouth, who at that time was still unbeatable in Italy.
Back in France at Deauville, Billabong was third in the Prix de Reux (G3) to Loresho, an Aga Khan homebred who was added as a late entry to the 2015 Melbourne Cup. Unfortunately, Loresho was denied his chance through injury, but it underscores how well he was regarded. That’s the kind of horse Billabong was trying to five pounds to as the 136-pound co-highweight, and yet was beaten about a length. Note that fourth-placer Vengeur Masque was next seen finishing fifth in the St Leger (G1) at Doncaster, England’s final classic of the season:
Billabong’s ensuing fifths in last fall’s Prix Gladiateur (G3) and Gran Premio del Jockey Club (G1) are best ignored, for the ground may have been too soft for him.
In his only 2016 appearance, Billabong was runner-up to the streaking local The Blue Eye in the February 27 Emir’s Trophy at Doha – Qatar’s biggest prize. As the best of the shippers, Billabong notably left Brian Meehan’s classy Agent Murphy in fourth.
Billabong has spent much of his European career at about 1 1/2 miles, but he did capture an about 13 1/2-furlong conditions race over Chantilly’s Polytrack. And his grinding style suggests he’ll be well suited to longer trips. Combine his stamina with a generous heart, and you’ve got the right recipe for a stayer.
Bary is accustomed to American success as a three-time Breeders’ Cup winner, courtesy of Miss Alleged in the 1991 Turf (G1) and Domedriver (2002) and Six Perfections (2003) in the Mile (G1).
Nominated to the September 4 Bosphorus Cup (G2) at Istanbul’s Veliefendi, and to the November 1 Grosser Preis von Bayern (G1), Billabong may keep flying the Moroccan flag at more international venues.
Photo courtesy Arlington stakes coordinator Michael Adolphson via Twitter