By Ray Hickson
She’s a Japanese bred, English and French raced, Perth owned and now trained mare making her Australian debut in Sydney.
Yep, the Heart Of Grace story is a strange one. Her owner Paul Silvestro says as much too.
The five-year-old, purchased for 41 million Yen (a bit over $500,000) from breeders Northern Farm, was trained by William Haggas in the UK and had five starts for two wins, at Goodwood on debut and Lingfield, before Silvestro sent her to close family friend Frank Pangallo to race down under.
“The horse was originally bought for breeding purposes,’’ Silvestro said.
“We put a prep through her up there and then she was going straight to the barn. We bought two originally, both by Heart’s Cry, and one stayed up there and she ended up coming here.’’
Given she’s owned in the west and trained by a Perth trainer you’d expect her to appear at Belmont around about now but instead she’s at Rosehill in the Nathan’s Famous Handicap (2000m).
That suggests a level of faith in Heart Of Grace’s ability and whether it was knowledge or intrigue she quickly firmed from $34 to $18 with TAB after markets opened on Wednesday.
Silvestro said he hopes the mare will be competitive and earn herself a path to the Group 1 The Metropolitan or further south in the spring but it’s wait and see at the moment.
“That’s everybody’s dream, isn’t it,’’ he said.
“We can send her to the barn next year depending on her racing potential. If she measures up then we will continue.
“It’s a bit of a strange story. Frank is a family friend and he was keen to give her a crack at it.’’
Pangallo describes himself as a small time trainer who keeps less than half a dozen in work but he gave them up to head east with Heart Of Grace.
He trained smart filly Mia Dolce through to the Karrakatta Plate then had to undergo an operation, so he passed the filly and a few others on to other trainers.
Then the job of bringing Heart Of Grace across the country was raised by Silvestro.
“They thought we’ll have a go here and see how she goes, we’ll find out on Saturday,’’ Pangallo said.
“I haven’t studied her wins over there, I’m just taking her as she is.’’
Among her form is a last start fourth in a 2800m Listed race at Maisons-Laffitte in September 2018 and she was in action at last year’s York carnival where she was beaten four lengths by Godolphin’s Ghostwatch and Supernova, who is now in Sydney with Team Hawkes, while Our Candidate finished behind her.
She’s had two Sydney trials over 1200m with Hugh Bowman in the saddle and Pangallo said he’s been pleased with them though his preference was to kick off over a mile last week.
“Her blood wasn’t quite right so I had to miss Randwick but she’s quite all right now,’’ he said.
“Hugh said she went all right, and to put her over 1500m or 1600m, but it shocked me that she won the 1200m trial.
“She’s more a dead set stayer than a sprinter. Whatever she does on Saturday she should improve.”