Who remembers Sir Dex? He wasn’t in the same league as Greg Hickman’s current headliner Pierata, but good enough to amass prize money of $831,000 - a tidy sum in 2005 when he bowed out of racing.
Sir Dex recorded eight wins and seven placings from just twenty nine starts and raced at a high level for the last half of his career. In fact three of his last five starts were at Group 1 level.
Greg Hickman and wife Erika found him a home on retirement and for the next year he was used purely as a pleasure horse. Sir Dex eventually found his way to Bimbadeen Park at Werombi (NSW), a beautifully appointed property run by Shane and Niki Rose.
Bimbadeen Park offers outstanding facilities for thoroughbred and performance horses with the emphasis on breaking-in, spelling, pre-training and barrier education.
Shane is well respected in the racing world, having played a major part in the education of Group 1 performers like Shooting To Win (Caulfield Guineas), Fiveandahalfstar (Victoria Derby), Streama (Winner of four Group 1’s including the Australian Oaks and Doomben Cup), Bentley Biscuit (All Aged Stakes) and Racing To Win (five Group 1 wins).
Shane is a dual Olympic medal winner in team eventing, collecting silver in Beijing and bronze in Rio De Janeiro. Thoroughbred commitments restrict the amount of time he’s able to devote to his eventers, but he continues to excel at the highest level.
Shane’s wife Niki has been in the saddle from a very early age and is universally regarded as one of the finest riders in the performance horse field. Shane recalls it was Niki who fell in love with Sir Dex, the day he arrived at Bimbadeen Park. “She had to do all of the work with Dex because I was snowed under with breakers and pre-trainers at the time”, said Shane. “The two became a wonderful combination on the eventing circuit”.
Shane and Niki are recognized sellers. If the right money comes along for one of their competing horses, it becomes a business decision to move the horse on. The right offer came for Sir Dex in 2010. “News of Dex’s talents had been buzzing around the grapevine for many months”, recalled Niki. “It was no surprise when we got a call from Elizabeth Moore, one of Western Australia’s leading eventing competitors. The offer was acceptable and before long Dex was on his way to a new home. I confess to shedding a few tears when he left Bimbadeen”.
The former talented racehorse adapted quickly to the new environment at Pinjarra (WA) some 85 kms from Perth. Leedale Lodge was founded by Elizabeth’s mother Eileen initially as a breeding farm for Arabian horses, but the profile gradually changed when young Elizabeth developed a passion for eventing.
This is where the rangy gelding continued his climb to the upper echelon of the eventing pursuit. Sir Dex and Elizabeth became a formidable duo over the next seven years, winning many a major event at venues around Australia.
Dex’s army of fans were saddened by news of his hind leg injury a year ago. “He’d been so sound for so long, it came as a shock”, said Elizabeth. “He suffered a tendon strain which required a long break from competition. He was eighteen years old at the time, so his future looked uncertain”.
Many months later a scan revealed tremendous improvement, but veterinary opinion was that the tendon would never again stand the pressure of top level competition. The vets did agree however that the injury would cope with light activity if carefully managed. Dex is back in action, doing all the things he did before but at a more leisurely tempo. “He’s the kind of horse who’s happiest when doing something”, explained Elizabeth. “It’s lovely to watch him bowling around out there”.
Greg Hickman reminisced last week about the day he bought the bay colt at the 2002 Inglis Classic Sale. Limited spending power had seen the trainer scouring the pages of the catalogue for something that may not appeal to buyers of healthier means.
He found a couple of negatives. Firstly the colt was by Dexter (GB) - an unknown English stallion who hadn’t raced, but he was a son of the very influential Green Dancer.
Buyers looking for well performed mares in the pedigree would have been quickly discouraged. The Dexter colt’s dam Amwaj was by the influential Marscay, but in just one race start had finished 20 lengths last at Warwick Farm.
Second dam Our Illusion had won one race in twelve NZ starts - a maiden at New Plymouth. She was however, and this was the bit to appeal to Greg Hickman, a half-sister to Donegal Mist, an honest performer for both Geoff Maynes and Graham Rogerson. Donegal Mist won ten races including the AJC Metropolitan, a Moonee Valley Cup and an Ipswich Cup accumulating $1.2 million dollars in prize money.
These are the stories that inspire people to keep chasing the dream. Greg secured the colt with the plain pedigree for $12,000 and syndicated him to a group of ten owners, one of whom was his daughter Jacqueline. “A little while after I thought I’d paid too much for him”, reflected the trainer. “He was an arrogant colt and did plenty wrong in his first couple of preparations”.
A trip to the veterinary clinic quickly improved his manners and so began a racetrack career which would earn him $831,000. He surprised many when he actually showed ability as a two year old, winning a race at Warwick Farm, finishing third in the listed T.L.Baillieu and second in the $800,000 Heroic Championship for Inglis Sale graduates. “After his Warwick Farm win Hugh Bowman described him as a very nice horse which was exactly what I wanted to hear”, said Greg.
After a quick “freshen” Sir Dex was taken to Brisbane where he contested three races. He was unplaced in two of them, but registered a very good second to Lightning Star in the Gr 1 Sires Produce Stakes and then home to the paddock.
Resuming in the spring, the gelding was unplaced twice before heading to Melbourne for a couple of assignments. He provided Greg and his owners with an indescribable thrill by winning the Gr 3 Carbine Club Stakes on Flemington’s hallowed turf on Derby Day. A good fourth followed in the Sandown Guineas, after which Greg decreed Sir Dex had done enough for the time being.
The astute trainer decided to miss the autumn of 2004 and the son of Dexter had been off the scene for ten months by the time he reappeared in the spring. He didn’t win in five runs, but finished a cracking third in the Gr 2 Waterford Crystal mile at Moonee Valley on Cox Plate day.
He was given a brief freshen up before having a quick shot at the Villiers Stakes just before Xmas. He finished a respectable third behind Ike’s Dream, after which the paddock beckoned.
Next prep he raced six times for two wins, ridden on both occasions by Darren Beadman. He won a 3YO+ at Rosehill and the Gr2 Prime Minister’s Cup on the Gold Coast.
His final campaign in the spring of 2005 was his most distinguished even though he recorded only one win. In his last six race starts he contested three Gr 1’s and three Gr 2 events.
First up Sir Dex contested the Warwick Stakes with Zac Purton up starting at odds of $41.00 - the longest quote of his entire career. In a blanket finish he valiantly staved off the top mare Dizelle, his stablemate Sportsman and Court’s In Session. He followed that with a game second in the Chelmsford Stakes before heading to Melbourne.
He kicked off with a fourth in the Underwood, followed by a fourth in the Turnbull and then an unplaced effort in the Caulfield Cup, when he beat only three home at his only attempt at 2400m.
Connections didn’t know it at the time, but Sir Dex’s unplaced effort in the McKinnon Stakes was to be his swansong. He was spelled on returning to Sydney and brought back for another preparation the following autumn.
He was noticeably lame after a Warwick Farm barrier trial, with vets detecting soreness in a fore pastern. “The trouble was minor, but it would have meant another long spell and the consensus was that the horse had done enough - much more than we ever expected”, said Greg.
The summary of Sir Dex’s racing career may be of interest to those thousands of eventing fans who knew he’d been a racehorse, but knew little of his talents.
Old Dex has given a lot of people a great deal of pleasure over seventeen years on and off the track. He’s far from finished yet.
(Banner image courtesy Steve Hart Photographics - Sir Dex canters to the barrier for the Warwick Stakes 2005.)