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Back from injury, Mr Optimistic storms home from last for big win at Mornington

Tony Noonan Racing :: Back from injury, Mr Optimistic storms home from last for big win at Mornington

Having overcome two serious tendon injuries, it was a delightful sight at Mornington for owners of Mr Optimistic, who stormed his way back into the winners’ circle for local trainer Tony Noonan.

With Mr Optimistic resuming from a spell having endured two consecutive tendon injuries over the past 18 months, Noonan was understandably ecstatic with the result.

“It’s just such a relief to see this horse back in the winners’ circle because he showed us so much as a younger horse before he sustained two serious injuries,” Noonan said.

“Full credit has to go to the owners because they have been extremely patient and understood what we have been trying to do.

“He (Mr Optimistic) had only had two runs in 18 months so to have him finally sound, it was just good to see him hitting the line like we saw earlier in his career”

Slow out of the gates under rider Jake Noonan, Mr Optimistic settled at the tail of the field behind a strong tempo with the younger Noonan remaining ever patient as the race unfolded ahead of him.

Stuck behind a wall of horses down the side of the track, Noonan started looking for runs prior to straightening but with the field fanning wide, he elected to go back towards the inside, spotting the leader six lengths upon straightening.

When the gap finally opened by the 125m mark, the Mr Optimistic ($4.80) surged through under patient hands-and-heels riding to hit the front and ultimately score by half-a-length from Bisseu ($8) and Bicondova ($15).

“This horse has 62 kilos here today so just riding him that way and riding him for a bit of luck was always going to suit him if the luck played its way,” Jake said after the win.

“He just came onto the bridle right when I needed him to from the 500 and things just opened up on the inside.

“He’s a classy horse on his day. He’s stakes-placed and was just too good. He’s a classic Tony Noonan horse – ridden cold to finish off.

“A big thank you goes to the owners because it can be quite frustrating when you’ve got a horse of his ability and you don’t get to quite reach the standard you know he can make.

“The fact that he’s got that potential has kept us in the game and it’s good that they’ve stuck by us and stuck solid.”

The win was the second of Mr Optimistic’s career having shown promise as a 2-year-old when placed in the Group 3 Hampden before succumbing to consecutive tendon injuries.

The 4-year-old Domesday gelding was the first foal of Group 3 winner Be Positive, also trained by Noonan for Laurel Oak Bloodstock, and is the older half-brother of She’s Positive (Sepoy) who Noonan trained to win the Adelaide Magic Millions Classic.

News from Tony Noonan Racing

Rebel Dane to stand at Swettenham Stud

Adam Sangster of Swettenham Stud and the owners of Rebel Dane are delighted to announce that the dual Group One-winning stallion will stand at Swettenham Stud from the 2017 season.

Rebel Dane will continue his racing career over the coming weeks in a number of Group One options that will be available to him in Sydney, Brisbane or Adelaide before the curtain comes down on a magnificent racing career.

Rebel Dane has raced in top-class company for the majority of his career and his last 30 starts have been in Group One or Group Two company, a testament to his ability and his soundness. Since his 4th career start he has not raced below Group 3 company.

rebel-dane-manikato-4

His Group Ones win have come in the Manikato Stakes and the Rupert Clarke Stakes. After his magnificent win in the $1million WFA Manikato Stakes last October Rebel Dane contested the Hong Kong International Sprint, where he was beaten just over four lengths after a wide run in a race that was rated one of the best International Sprints in 2016.

He has been a high-class racehorse for several seasons and the opportunity to stand him at Swettenham Stud was enthusiastically accepted by Rebel Dane’s owners. Louis Mihalyka of Laurel Oak Bloodstock, Rebel Dane’s managing owner reported ‘Standing Rebel Dane in Victoria was a natural fit as the horse has won his two Group Ones there and a number of Victorian Studs expressed interest in him. The opportunity to stand him at Swettenham is simply a bonus as they are one of the leading stud farms in Victoria with a wonderful reputation and  a well-established client base that will give Rebel Dane the opportunity for a successful stud career.’

Adam Sangster was equally enthusiastic. ‘The opportunity to access a dual Group One-winning sprinter is rare for Victorian breeders, especially the winner of one of our iconic sprint races the Manikato Stakes. We were keen to get the stallion for Swettenham Stud and Victoria and were delighted when the owners agreed. He will provide Victorian breeders the opportunity to access a sound, high-class sprinter bred on the successful Danehill/More Than Ready cross that will compliment Swettenham’s existing stallion roster and be ideal for SuperVOBIS.

Trainer Gary Portelli was also effusive in his praise. ‘Rebel Dane has been an incredible horse over the past five years for me competing at an elite level every start. His speed, temperament, and courage were matched by his soundness. I can’t wait to be training his progeny.”

Rebel Dane’s career earnings to date are over $2.4m and his wins aside from his Group One victories include the Group 2 The Shorts, Group 2 Royal Sovereign Stakes and Group 3 Show County. He has also been placed nine times in Group One or Two company highlighting what an exceptional sprinter he is.

By California Dane, Rebel Dane is bred on the Danehill/More Than Ready cross and as a Group One sprinter should make an exceptional SuperVOBIS stallion.

A service fee for the upcoming breeding season will be announced shortly.

News from Swettenham Stud

Rebel Dane Prepares For Stud Duties

Dual Gr1 winner Rebel Dane is not only preparing for the richest race of his career but he’s also eyeing a stud career from the 2017 breeding season.

The Gary Portelli trained 7YO is looking in the finest form of his career, fresh from a convincing win in the prestigious Gr1 Manikato Stakes and preparing for the Gr1 Hong Kong Sprint on 11 December. On his return to

On his return to Australia he’ll be set for the Gr1 TJ Smith Stakes at Randwick in April, with a Queensland campaign an option after that. Louis Mihalyka,

Louis Mihalyka, syndicate manager at Laurel Oak Bloodstock, says Rebel Dane’s owners would support him, but don’t have large-scale broodmare holdings to stand him themselves.

“The owners are now considering options out of the Hunter Valley mainstream and believe Rebel Dane’s next step will be better suited to studs in Victoria, Queensland, New Zealand, South Australia, Western Australia or Tasmania,” Mihalyka said. “His last 27 starts have all been in Group One or Two company which is a testimony to his ability.”

He added: “Until now Rebel Dane has stayed in training as his earning potential on the racecourse has exceeded the value of offers received for him. The time has now come to find a stud position for this high-quality racehorse.” Mihalyka estimates a stud could successfully stand him at around $8,000, which would make him an attractive and worthwhile investment in the $1.2 million to $1.5 million range.

“Of course, if he can achieve further success in Hong Kong, his reputation and appeal will be further enhanced.”

Full steam ahead to Rebel Dane’s next adventure

Rebel Dane is breathing a lot easier these days and so is his trainer.

Gary Portelli credits a successful throat operation and a change in his training methods with getting the horse back to Group One-winning form which he hopes he can transfer to the big stage in Hong Kong.

Rebel Dane’s win in the Manikato Stakes earned him an invitation to the International Sprint at Sha Tin on December 11.

The seven-year-old will tune up for the trip with a barrier trial at Rosehill on Tuesday which will be held on the course proper as a mark of respect for Australia’s lone representative at this year’s showcase meeting in Hong Kong.

Rebel Dane took three years from his first Group One win in the Rupert Clarke Stakes to win his second with many near misses in between.

‘He can breathe normally now and he turns up on race day,’ Portelli said.

‘And I’ve got no doubt the way we are training him has helped. He has gone over a few jumps and we’ve been taking him to the beach and the change of scenery has sharpened him up.

‘At the moment he is the best I’ve had him this deep into a preparation.

‘He’s vibrant and happy and has four sound joints which is always a plus.’

Portelli has no concerns about how Rebel Dane will handle the trip to Hong Kong on December 4, a week before the big race.

‘He’s done many trips to Melbourne and Brisbane on a float so I think a plane to Hong Kong will be much easier,’ he said.

‘There are no traffic lights or turns. It will be a breeze.’

A seven-year-old, Rebel Dane has earned more than $2.4 million but attempts to find a suitable home at stud have so far come to nothing.

And if a stud can’t be found, Portelli is more than happy to keep him in his Warwick Farm stable.

‘He’s part of the furniture and I hate to think about the day he retires,’ he said.

‘I’d be happy to keep training him for another year.’

A field of six will take part in Tuesday’s 1000m barrier trial.

News from AAP Racing

Laurel Oak looking for ‘significant’ victory as Rebel Dane heads to Hong Kong

Gary Portelli, some 25 years ago, was dreaming of training racehorses in the ‘big smoke’ as he worked the nightshift, making pies at a bakery in Orange, a country town 254 kilometres west of the New South Wales state capital, Sydney.

That dream became a reality in 1996 when the man who brings recent Group 1 winner Rebel Dane to Hong Kong for December’s LONGINES Hong Kong Sprint set up stables at Warwick Farm, which is still fundamentally west of Sydney but more than 200 kilometres closer.

Ten years earlier, the seven-year-old stallion’s managing owner Louis Mihalyka set his dream in place when he abandoned the security of his career as an accountant – also in Sydney – to take on the much more fickle and fanciful world of horse racing by establishing Laurel Oak Bloodstock.

“I loved racing from my mid-teens. I worked as a chartered accountant for twelve years after leaving school but left the day before my thirtieth birthday; went on an overseas holiday for seven months and started Laurel Oak on my return, which I had really planned even before I left the accounting job,” Mihalyka.


Interestingly, Mihalyka – who bred Rebel Dane – recalls that he wasn’t the only young man then employed with Coopers & Lybrand with a passion for horse racing.

“In 1981, when I moved to Coopers (& Lybrand) there was a young university graduate in my audit group. The young graduate was John Camilleri, who bred the champion mare Winx, so that audit group provided the breeders of the two Group 1 winners at the Cox Plate meeting 35 years later,” he said.

This year’s HKIR will certainly not be Mihalyka’s first encounter with Hong Kong racing. Each year, he manages a tour group of enthusiastic owners and racegoers generally affiliated with his racing and bloodstock business, to the December meeting at Sha Tin.

Indeed it will not be his first visit as an owner. Laurel Oak had an interest in Into The Night who was beaten seven and a quarter lengths into ninth placing behind the all-conquering Silent Witness in the 2003 Hong Kong Sprint and Mihalyka is looking forward to having another ‘crack’ at the sprint title.

“Everybody loves travelling to Hong Kong, I certainly do and this year we come with an in-form horse. I understand it’s no easy task to go there and win but Rebel Dane is a very good horse and generally underrated. His asset has always been his devastating dash. He can really sprint for 150 to 200 metres and if he gets the right run in the race, as he did at Moonee Valley, then he can be very effective,” he said in reference to his 21 October Manikato Stakes win.

Mihalyka said that to win an international race with Rebel Dane would be especially significant. “We started Laurel Oak with our first horse in January 1986 and had our first winner in June 1987, which was Georgian Gold who is the great grandmother of Rebel Dane, so there’s a great history with this horse,” he said.

As to Portelli, his dream has materialised in the shape of major races wins from Group 1 sprints with Rebel Dane and Gold Trail to an ATC Oaks success with Rena’s Lady and this too will not be his first racing trip beyond home shores.

It was Gold Trail with whom he travelled in 2010 – going to New Zealand, Singapore and England: the gelding won the G1 Railway Stakes, ran fourth in the G1 KrisFlyer International Sprint and was 10th in the G1 King’s Stand Stakes.


“I’m really looking forward to going (to Hong Kong). It will be a great experience. The horse is in great form, he couldn’t have come through his last run any better and we think he can be competitive.

“I’ve spoken to Michael Hawkes who went over with Chautauqua earlier this year, to get some insight into how things work in the quarantine stables and he’s been great. You go somewhere new and it’s wise to get as much help as you can.

“Back in those days in Orange, in between riding some track work and working at the bakery, I certainly dreamed of going to Sydney to train but I couldn’t have imagined that overseas travel with a horse was ever going to happen. But here we are, bound for Hong Kong and my feeling is ‘why not, let’s have a go,’” Portelli said.

Steve Moran,
Hong Kong Jockey Club

Unsung Dane Proves To Be The Rebel In Manikato

It was probably the last thing Louis Mihalyka wanted to hear as he sat eating his lunch last Friday.

Attending a special Cox Plate eve function, Mihalyka listened on as MC, Steve Moran discussed Rebel Dane’s chances in the Group One William Hill Manikato Stakes that night.

Moran pointed out that Rebel Dane’s previous three efforts in the Manikato had seen him miss out by a cumulative 3.2 lengths … costing Laurel Oak and connections some $1.6 million in earnings. Moran actually said he thought Rebel Dane was good value at the odds, given his record in the race, and now that he had drawn a good barrier.

Turned out to be quite prescient as Rebel Dane – who was bred by the Laurel Oak Texarcana Syndicate and is part-owned by Mihalyka’s Laurel Oak Bloodstock – got up in a thriller. Hugging the rail throughout, Rebel Dane surged to the lead turning for home and had enough left in the tank to hold off a fast finishing Fell Swoop.

“That was a terrific thrill after having finished fifth, fourth and third with the horse in the last three Manikatos,” Mihalyka points out. “Seriously, this horse has had to contend with some absolutely diabolical barrier draws throughout his career: amongst them he drew 10 of 11 in the Doomben 10,000 and finished less than a length off the winner, jumped from 18 in a field of 18 in the Stradbroke and got beaten just on two lengths … he’s a much better horse than has been given credit for and has top four finishes in 20 black type races.”

The Manikato lowered the colours on two of racing’s superstars in Chautauqua and Buffering, with the former out until autumn and the latter retiring after a brilliant career that produced seven Group One victories and over $7.3 million in stakes.

However, Mihalyka reveals that no immediate plans have been made for Rebel Dane. “As for what happens from here, I’ll have to talk it over with (trainer) Gary Portelli,” Mihalyka adds. “He might be spelled until autumn, but I also got a call from Hong Kong at 7.55am on Sunday about him running in the big sprint race at Sha Tin in December and he’d had his (inoculation) shots by 8.30am!

“It’s very tempting to try and follow Australian-bred sprinters like Chautauqua, Sacred Kingdom, Silent Witness, Absolute Champion and co. that have raced to Group One success in Hong Kong, but we’re really just keeping our options open at this stage.”

Given that Laurel Oak is the Australasian agent for Brain Pedigree Analysis, Mihalyka was quick to add that Rebel Dane is a “Brain mating” but agreed – on paper – that the pedigree page was unfashionable. Indeed, apart from Rebel Dane, black type is almost non-existent in the first five dams.

“Georgian Gold, Rebel Dane’s third dam, was actually our first Laurel Oak winner back in 1987,” Mihalyka recalls. “She ran nine consecutive city placings at one stage and eventually won five races – three of those in town – so we decided to send her to stud.

“Her second foal, March To The Sea, was with Kerry Jordan who had a high opinion of him and thought he was stakes class. He won five. The half-brother, Rustaveli, won three as well but a promising career was cut short by injury.

“Same with Rebel Dane’s dam, Texarcana, who won three races but was more talented than her ultimate record showed and her career was cut short by equine influenza. It’s not a commercial pedigree by any stretch but it has a lot of very good city-class horses.

“Funnily enough, when we did the Brain mating that resulted in Rebel Dane, it came up with two options … California Dane and another Hunter Valley stallion.

“When we tried to book into the other one we were told that the mare’s pedigree wasn’t good enough so we went to California Dane.”

HOOFNOTE: It has been a big week for Laurel Oak with another of its home-breds in Maygrove winning the Listed Jakkalberry Classic at Rotorua on 15 October, while Rebel Dane’s Manikato Stakes was followed up by Sir Bacchus winning the lucky last, giving Mihalyka a running double at Moonee Valley’s premier night meeting.

By Sebring out of the Encosta de Lago mare, Bacchanal Woman, Sir Bacchus is raced in partnership by Laurel Oak and was purchased by Mihalyka at the 2014 Magic Millions National Yearling Sale for $130,000.

“The breeder (Lockyer Thoroughbreds) is a Brain client and the yearling was a really nice type and, as it turns out, a very good racehorse.”

Story: Aushorse

Winning Double for Laurel Oak

The equal highest earning BOBS winner for the past season, consistent Sebring four year-old Sir Bacchus scored an eye catching last to first win at Moonee Valley on Friday night bringing up a memorable double for Laurel Oak Bloodstock, who also won the Group I MVRC Manikato Stakes with Rebel Dane

Given a patient ride by Kerrin McEvoy, the Chris Waller trained grey was able to overhaul the leaders and win the 1200 metre open event by a long neck as favourite.

A $130,000 Magic Millions National Yearling Sale purchase for Laurel Oak Bloodstock from the draft of Widden Stud, Sir Bacchus has won six of 12 starts earning over $368,000 in prizemoney.

He was bred by David O’Keefe’s Lockyer Thoroughbreds and is the first foal of his stakes-winning Encosta de Lago mare Bacchanal Woman.

Bacchanal Woman was on-sold last year at the Inglis Broodmare Sale where she was snapped up by Goldin Farms for $340,000.

Laurel Oak purchased a Sepoy filly from Bacchanal Woman for $230,000 from the Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale this year.

News from Breednet

Group 1 Manikato Stakes to Rebel Dane!

Rebel Dane shocked punters winning Friday night’s $1 million Group I Manikato Stakes (1200m) at Moonee Valley in his fourth attempt.

The seven-year-old entire finished fifth in the Manikato Stakes in 2013, fourth in 2014 and third in 2015 before winning and despite having not won in 12 starts since winning The Shorts last September. Trainer Gary Portelli said the easing track gave him confidence.

Settled in sixth place along the inside by Ben Melham, Rebel Dane ($61) was able to come through unimpeded along the inside into the home straight and powered home to defeat Fell Swoop ($7.50) by a head with Japonisme ($16) one length away third.

“The cut in the ground certainly helped him and he’s always run well in this race,” Portelli said.

“What a ride – I saw him (Melham) have a look behind him when he tried to push Holler out the way then he cut back to the inside – that’s what won the race.

“I knew he (Rebel Dane) still had it in him, the sectionals he ran last start were the best outside of Astern so I said we’ve got to have a go at this race.

“Sometimes you can be right and he’s won at a massive price.”

Portelli said he had been mixing up Rebel Dane’s routine to keep the seven-year-old stallion interested in his work.

“We’ve been taking him down the beach, putting him over some jumps, just trying to break things up,” Portelli said.

“I’ve got to thank the syndicate for letting me have another crack at this race – we could have pulled up stumps earlier in the campaign but we’ve been confident the horse is right and it was just a matter of him getting some luck.”

Ben Melham said Rebel Dane enjoyed a trouble-free run.

“There was that much room there I was a bit worried the grey (Chautauqua) might have come through there so I had a good look,” Melham said.

“When he wasn’t there, I was happy to have a crack and my horse gave me a good kick. I gave him a click before the corner and he picked up underneath me.”

Rebel Dane won in 1:10.99, the fastest 1200m race on a soft (5) rated track since 2011

Rebel Dane

News from Sportingnews

Maygrove wins Listed Jakkalberry Classic

Maygrove made light work of his topweight of 60kgs to record a strong win in the $50,000 Listed Jakkalberry Classic at Rotorua.

The Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman-trained gelding got his New Zealand Cup campaign back on track after the grey had missed two races due to rain-affected tracks recently.

Ridden for the first time by Michael Coleman, Maygrove settled midfield, as Admiral and I’llav Bubbles set the pace. Maygrove moved forward to the leaders close the turn then strode clear of the opposition to win by a length and a quarter. Gentil Tonton (S.Spratt) finished strongly for second, with six lengths to Flyinby (A.Schwerin) in third.

Maygrove’s winning time was 2:10.35 for the 1950 metres on a Heavy10 track.

“He’s a very good horse. He’s been consistent all the way through, especially on left-handed tracks. I wasn’t too worried about the conditions. I looked back at his win in the Awapuni Gold Cup on a heavy track and he won well that day, so I was quite confident today – even with the 60 kilos,” winning rider Michael Coleman said.

“He travelled really nicely, and got through the ground well. He possibly got there a bit too soon, but you don’t want to lose any of your momentum in this sort of going,” Coleman added.

Maygrove now shares $8 favouritism with the in-form Chris Wood trained galloper Pacorus for the next month’s Group 3 New Zealand Cup. Gentil Tonton is at $14.

“He won well today, it was pretty easy in the end with his big weight. We’ll probably only get one more race into him before the Cup – it will probably be in the Metropolitan (2500m), then the New Zealand Cup (3200m) a week later,” co-trainer Murray Baker said.

The six-year-old has now had 36 starts for seven wins – including three stakes races. Along with Saturday’s win, was last year’s Wellington Cup (Group 2) the Awapuni Gold Cup (Group 2), and with 10 placings has earned over $340,000 in prize-money for owners Lib Petagna and P W O’Rourke.

Bruce Perry purchased Maygrove for $110,000 from Haunui Farm’s draft at the 2012 Karaka Select Yearling Sale where the son of Authorized was offered on behalf of the Laurel Oak Lady Zhivago Syndicate.

Bowman weighs up Sir Bacchus’ prospects

Sir Bacchus captured his fifth career win when resuming in a 1200-metre benchmark 85 handicap last month at Rosehill.

The flashy grey will start in an identical race this Saturday, only this time he will be asked to shoulder 61.5kg as opposed to 59.5kg.

A 2kg rise at the top end of the weights is of some concern to rider Hugh Bowman but Sydney’s leading jockey has no doubt in the horse’s ability.

“He has got a bit of weight,” Bowman said.

“But I think he’s a horse that can carry a weight against this sort of grade. He’s obviously a horse that needs things to go his way but he’s pretty handy.”

Having carried a minimum of 57kg at eight of his nine career starts (56kg on debut), Sir Bacchus could be entitled to some weight relief in the coming weeks.

“I’m sure he’ll make it to stakes company but I just don’t know where he’ll fit in,” Bowman said.

“He might be a horse that could be better in a really good race with no weight than sort of going through that Listed/Group III stage.

“I just think he might be a horse that could pop up in an Epsom or possibly one of those Group I handicaps in Melbourne and he’d get in really low.

“I think he would be more suited by that than carrying bigger weights in Listed/Group III company.”

Early punters baulked at Sir Bacchus’ opening quote of $2.20 which has since eased to a top price of $2.50 with Sportsbet. The undefeated Bullrush, trained by Hawkes Racing, is shaping as Sir Bacchus’ biggest danger, quoted a $3.60 second favourite.

Tom Walter, Racenet