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Australia’s reputation for producing the world’s best sprinters relies on stallion prospects like Portland Sky who could run quick times over sprint trips and win under pressure. He is a Gr.1 winning sprinter with a stellar speed pedigree who looks set to reinforce Australia’s global reputation for speed.
“A look at the honour roll for the Oakleigh Plate-Gr.1 tells you it takes an exceptional three-year-old to win the race and the fact that only Fastnet Rock has run it quicker as a three-year-old colt this century bodes well for Portland Sky,” said Widden Stud’s Antony Thompson. “He’s an exciting acquisition for the farm. Deep Field has gone to the next level with his stock in recent times and to have a Gr.1 winner by him is going to bolster the Widden roster significantly.”
“It’s a thrilling Oakleigh Plate!” An understatement by the race caller as they crossed the line. In a huge field, Portland Sky jumped well and tracked the leader for most of the race. He raced clear, but with fifty metres to go five horses closed ranks in the last few strides. He clung on to win for jockey Teo Nugent, who was having his first ever ride at Gr.1 level. To grab a Gr.1 sprint against the older horses in the blistering time of 1:02.70 over 1100m, demonstrated the pure speed of Portland Sky.
Portland Sky trialled as a two-year-old and was put aside until the start of his three-year-old season. Trainer Matt Laurie sent the colt out for a debut run at Ballarat over 1000m, and Portland Sky duly obliged with a win in the slick time of 0:58.74. He stepped up into city company, before placing in the Poseidon Stakes-L over 1100m, where he ran fourth behind Gr.1 winner September Run. At only his fourth start, Portland Sky won the Red Anchor Stakes-Gr.3 over 1200m with Bella Nipotina in second. He concluded his spring with two wins from four starts and was sent for a short spell. Resuming in January, the fitness gained from his first outing uphill put him in the perfect position for his next start,winning the Manfred Stakes-Gr.3 over 1200m defeating Aysar with (Blue Diamond) winner Tagaloa in third.
“Interestingly, Nicconi won the Manfred Stakes in the lead up to his Gr.1 Galaxy win as a three-year-old against the older division and we’ve found that three-year-olds who beat open age gallopers is a great recipe for success at stud. The form around this horse is outstanding.”
At only his seventh start, Portland Sky was sent out against the older horses in the time-honoured Oakleigh Plate. The dead heat with Celebrity Queen was one of the most thrilling finishes in sprint racing in recent years Portland Sky returned to the races a month later to, once again, take on the older sprinters in the William Reid Stakes-Gr.1, a race containing eight individual Gr.1 winners. He sat in the leading bunch for most of the race, then accelerated clear of the pack, finishing a close second behind 4YO Everest runner-up Masked Crusader.
In the past twenty years, only five three-year-olds have won the Oakleigh Plate (including Portland Sky). The other four are an incredible collection of names, with international traveller and top-class sire Starspangledbanner winning the 2010 renewal. Weekend Hussler was victorious in 2008, and two three-year-olds who would go on to become Champion Sires, Snitzel and Fastnet Rock, won the race in 2006 and 2005 respectively.
Any studmaster would be thrilled to have a young sire classed in the ranks with Fastnet Rock, Snitzel, and Starspangledbanner. Going further back in time, Snippets won the 1988 Oakleigh Plate as a three-year-old, as did super sprinter Schillaci in 1992.
In his four-year-old season, Portland Sky began with promise, running second in the Ian McEwen Stakes-Gr.2 behind Gr.1 winner The Inferno with Gr.1 winner September Run in third. Sadly, fate intervened in the AJ Moir Stakes-Gr.1, when an injury curtailed his racing career, and he was retired to stud with four wins from ten starts.
As a Gr.1 winning sprinter; and one who achieved that as a three-year-old against the older horses, Portland Sky clearly demonstrated his talent on the track.
Purchased from the Alwyn Park Stud draft at the 2019 Magic Millions Perth Yearling Sale by trainer Matt Laurie, who trained the horse throughout his career and is adamant Portland Sky has the makings of a good stallion: “History says these colts, who excel in open company, have the makings and ability to become great
Australian sires, remembering he has the looks to boot!”.
Purchased from the Alwyn Park Stud draft at the 2019 Magic Millions Perth Yearling Sale by trainer Matt Laurie, who trained the horse throughout his career and is adamant Portland Sky has the makings of a good stallion: “History says these colts, who excel in open company, have the makings and ability to become great Australian sires, remembering he has the looks to boot!”.
Portland Sky is from the second crop of Deep Field (Northern Meteor-Listen Here, by Elusive Quality), so when Portland Sky sold as a yearling, Deep Field’s oldest crop were only halfway into their two-year-old season.
Deep Field retired to stud with much fanfare as the full brother to Gr.1 Caulfield Guineas winner Shooting To Win. Noted as one of the fastest horses to retire to stud, Deep Field set a class record in his debut win, then later broke the track record over 1100m at Canterbury. He won his first five races in succession including the ATC Lightning Handicap-L over 1100m and the TAB.com.au Stakes-Gr.2 over 1200m, before running third behind Champion Sprinter Lankan Rupee and boom three-year-old Brazen Beau in the VRC Lightning Stakes- Gr.1 over 1000m.
“Plenty of breeders have had success selling yearlings by Deep Field over the journey and now that he has gone to that next price bracket, we feel this is their chance to ride the wave again via his Gr.1 winning son,” said Thompson. Deep Field stood his first season in 2015 for $22,000, rising to $44,000 in 2019, $55,000 in 2020, and $88,000 in 2021. “Portland Sky defeated Anders (184 mares), Dirty Work (155 mares) and Hanseatic (195 mares) in the Oakleigh Plate and those three were extremely popular freshman stallions in 2021. With his looks and having a Gr.1 victory on the resume, he’s going to be right in the hitting zone for breeders.”
With only four crops of racing age, including this season’s two-year-olds, Deep Field has already clocked up thirteen stakes winners, led by Portland Sky and Hong Kong Sprint- Gr.1 winner Sky Field. Deep Field’s son Cosmic Force was the 2019 Golden Slipper favourite after a seven length demolition of the Pago Pago Stakes-Gr.3 field, and he came back at three to win the Roman Consul Stakes-Gr.2. Cosmic Force was the first son of Deep Field to go to stud. The story of Deep Field as a stallion is only now being written, and Portland Sky features heavily in the narrative to date.
During her racing career, Portland Sky’s dam Sky Rumba placed four times in twelve starts, a race record that has more to recommend it than that of Eight Carat’s racing history. Her ability must have been evident early on, given that her first start was a city class two-year-old race. As a broodmare, Sky Rumba has been far superior, with Gr.1 winner Portland Sky as her second foal, while her third foal is a 3YO winner this season, and her current two-year-old has recently been named.
Sky Rumba is a half-sister to dual Listed winner London Line, who also ran fourth in the Western Australian Guineas-Gr.2, while London Line’s dam, group placed winner Sweepshot, is the dam of triple Gr.1 winner Scenic Shot. Sky Rumba’s sire, Shrewd Rhythm (Danehill Dancer) stood for one season in Western Australia, before heading to South Australia’s Lindsay Park (since renamed Cornerstone Stud). A Gr.3 winner and Gr.1 placed, Shrewd Rhythm did not attract the numbers in a competitive stallion market and has only two broodmare daughters at stud. Portland Sky is his only stakes winner as a damsire to date.
Portland Sky’s second damsire Bletchley Park, by contrast, is one of Western Australia’s most successful sires. A Listed winner by Caerleon, Bletchley Park left thirty stakes winners including two Gr.1 winners, in a state that only hosts a few Gr.1 races each season. As a damsire, Bletchley Park has continued his good run of success with seventeen stakes winners so far, including Railway Stakes-Gr.1 winner Covertly.
Portland Sky’s third damsire, Dr Grace (Sir Tristram) had a very short stallion career with only 167 named foals, but an impressive eleven stakes winners, including Gr.1 winner Crawl, Over, and Referral. Portland Sky’s close relative Scenic Shot headlines the four Gr.1 winners out of Dr Grace mares, the others being Turffontein, Great Shot, and Danleigh.
It’s that magical combination of genetics and environment that takes the best parts of each pedigree and creates a tough, fast sprinter like Portland Sky that will always fascinate breeders. Was it more the sire’s influence, or a combination of something coming from deeper in the pedigree that created the outstanding individual? And how will that flow into the next generation for Portland Sky’s own progeny? It’s the eternal question that intrigues all breeders.
Unsurprisingly, Deep Field has crossed incredibly well with Danehill line broodmares, with nearly all his stakes winners coming from mares by Fastnet Rock, Redoute’s Choice, Commands, Lucky Unicorn (Redoute’s Choice), Tiger Hill, and of course Shrewd Rhythm (Danehill Dancer) as well as Choisir (Danehill Dancer). Deep Field’s stakes placed runners feature damsires such as Flying Spur, Snitzel, Stratum, and Rock of Gibraltar; again with the Danehill line prominent. The best of the crosses is with Fastnet Rock mares with two stakes winners and two stakes placed individuals from 28 named foals. Summarised into maternal sirelines, nine of Deep Field’s thirteen stakes winners to date carry a branch of the Danzig line. And it’s a similar story with Deep Field’s own sire, Northern Meteor, with seven of his 24 stakes winners being out of Danzig line mares.
Northern Meteor also crossed well with Mr. Prospector line mares with six stakes winners carrying this maternal sireline, opening up some potential crosses for Portland Sky.
Portland Sky is largely an outcrossed pedigree with his closest inbreeding being Sir Tristram 5m x 5m, and he also carries four strains of Northern Dancer 5m 6m x 6m 6m. The Sir Tristram cross comes via Portland Sky’s second damsire Dr Grace, and Deep Field’s second damsire Military Plume.
With Danehill being in the fourth generation of Portland Sky’s maternal pedigree, and with Deep Field crossing so well with mares from the Danehill line, there is an opportunity for breeders to bring in more Danehill via his sons and grandsons who’ve already worked with Deep Field.
In a competitive line up of Gr.1 winning sprinters at stud in Australia, Portland Sky shines out with a young pedigree, being the first foal of his dam, and by a promising stallion who continues to excel. During his races, Portland Sky proved his class and speed, and showed plenty of tenacity when attacking the winning post. He’s exactly the type of sprinter who should provide a good foil for all the Danehill-line mares in the Australian population.