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IRISH EBF BALLYHANE STAKES: Will the Champers Elysees team be Lucky again?
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IRISH EBF BALLYHANE STAKES: Will the Champers Elysees team be Lucky again?
on 23 July 2021
Paul McKeon of Fitzwilliam Racing is looking forward to the €300,000 race at Naas on Monday, August 2nd

THE Fitzwilliam Racing colours are synonymous with Champers Elysees, the filly who rose from handicaps to winning the Group 1 Matron Stakes last season, before being sold to Japanese interests.

Champers Elysees was a €28,000 yearling purchase, almost exactly the same price as Fitzwilliam Racing’s most recent winner, Hapipi Go Lucky.

The similarities don’t stop there as both fillies were selected and are trained by Johnny Murtagh. Hapipi Go Lucky is just a maiden winner at the moment but she is on course for the €300,000 Irish EBF Ballyhane Stakes at Naas on Monday week, August 2nd.

The six-furlong race is open to EBF-eligible two-year-olds with a sire’s median price of no more than €75,000 from last year’s yearling sales.

Paul McKeon, one of the founder members of Fitzwilliam Racing, told us the story behind the syndicate and the latest news on the filly.

“She’s been great since her Fairyhouse win,” Paul reported. “The plan is to run at Naas and we have also given her a speculative entry in the Group 2 Debutante Stakes. We will see how she performs at Naas first.”

Despite their big payday with the Karl Bowen-bred Champers Elysees, Fitzwilliam Racing has stuck with its tried and tested system at the yearling sales. “We leave the buying to Johnny. We give him a budget, so he has a fair idea of how much we will spend. Our average price is around €35,000 to €40,000.

“Mark Flood, the other founder member of Fitzwilliam, did some re search and found that paying between €20,000 and €60,000 gave you the best chance of getting a return.

“Anything below €20,000 probably does not have enough quality, and paying more than €60,000 often does not justify the premium.”

Fitzwilliam Racing has a small number of members but it is not a closed shop and they are always open to hearing from new investors.

Hapipi Go Lucky was a £26,000 purchase at Doncaster and she was one of 10 yearlings the syndicate bought last autumn. “She was always towards the top of the list of our fillies in the spring and in fact we were a bit disappointed when she only finished fifth at Tipperary first time out in May.”

The form was not bad at all though, as three of the first four went on to compete at Royal Ascot, including Queen Mary Stakes winner Quick Suzy.

Paul commented: “We try to run it commercially, so we always listen to offers. You have to time it right but we have never sold on the back of a promising maiden run.”

Hapipi Go Lucky was given a break to strengthen up and there was some confidence behind her when she was sent to Fairyhouse earlier this month. “Johnny told us she would be fighting out the finish and we certainly fancied her to go well. We’re not big punters but I had a little bet at 4/1 and was delighted with the price, only to see her drift out to 11/2 at the off!”

With Danny Sheehy claiming 3lb, the Mehmas filly won by a short-head from a Joseph O’Brien-trained colt who has a Group 1 entry. “We got €14,000 in prize money and we also won a €10,000 sales voucher from ITM as part of the IRE Incentive scheme.”

This scheme offers a €10,000 bonus to owners of Irish-bred, Foal Levy-compliant winners of most maiden races. The condition is that the 10 grand must be spent at an Irish bloodstock sale.

If the aim of the scheme is to get owners to reinvest, it’s working. Paul said: “Normally we work on a two-year cycle – we buy yearlings and bring them forward until the end of their three-year-old season before going again. But this voucher is encouraging us to buy this autumn too.”

Fitzwilliam Racing will be hoping to get a few more quid in the kitty at Naas on Monday week, when prize money will be paid down to 12th place. “We have had a lot of luck at Naas,” says Paul. “We only started in 2016 and I think we have had six or seven winners at Naas, including a double, and Urban Beat won a listed race there.

“Naas chairman Dermot Cantillon is involved in Fitzwilliam too, so it would be very special for him if we could win the big race on the August bank holiday.”

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