Best On Breeding
Mark Smith - Thursday October 12

It was to be a memorable Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe day at Chantilly for John Barnes and partner Joy Mackay, owners of the Queensland-based stud Canning Downs, who, along with their long-time bloodstock advisor Dermot Farrington, bred and raced the Group 1 Prix de la Foret hero Aclaim.

The historic farm may again be celebrating after Saturday’s $2 million Group I Ladbrokes Caulfield Guineas (1600m).

The Barnes family will shortly bring up a century of ownership at Canning Downs but the history goes way back before that.

Canning Downs may well have one of the most detailed Wikipedia pages of an of Australia’s historic homesteads. (View it here).

The stud’s black and pink silks were most famously carried to victory by Tails, a magnificent chestnut son of Dalray.

When his distinguished career came to an end in July 1972, Tails had won 23 and placed in 14 of his 81 starts while his earnings of $199,615, which was second only to the great Tulloch.

In recent times, another to carry the Canning Downs silks with distinction was the filly Only Words, arguably the best horse left in Australia by the former Arrowfield shuttler End Sweep (Forty Niner).

Dermot Farrington purchased Only Words for $130,000 from the Trelawny Stud draft at the 2002 Inglis Easter Yearling Sale.

She is out of the top-class Khozaam mare What Can I Say who had the likes of Tie The Knot, Might And Power and Juggler behind her when winning the 1998 Group II AJC Warwick Stakes.

Trained by John Hawkes and unraced at two, Only Words made a winning debut over 1100 metres at Canterbury back in September 2003 defeating Volkaspray, who is the dam of the enigmatic I Am Invincible colt Hellbent, a leading chance in Saturday’s Group II Schillaci Stakes at Caulfield.

Two starts later, Only Words won over 1200 metres at Canterbury, the start of a 5-race winning streak.

She opened her stakes account by defeating Ike's Dream and Shamekha in the Group II Surround Stakes at Warwick Farm. Next came an easy win in the Group II Phar Lap Stakes at Rosehill. Three weeks later Only Words added the Group III South Pacific Classic at Randwick before heading to Brisbane where she claimed the prized scalps of Our Egyptian Raine and Defier in the Group II Sir Byrne Hart Stakes at Eagle Farm.

It proved to be her final win. The best in five subsequent starts came when third in the Group I TJ Smith Stakes at Randwick won by the outsider Shamekha with Fastnet Rock second and the odds-on favourite Alinghi in fourth.

Only Words played second fiddle to Shamekha again in the Group I All Aged Stakes at Randwick before closing out her career on the track when unplaced in the Group I Doomben 10000.

A half-sister to Katsumi Yoshida’s $500,000 purchase Gibraltar Campion (Rock Of Gibraltar), a dual Listed stakes winner, and to the dam of dual Group III winner and Group I Spring Champion Stakes runner-up Darci Be Good (Darci Brahma), Only Words has enjoyed only moderate success at stud despite visiting only the top echelon of stallions.

She had four winners from six foals to race when Canning Downs consigned the ninth foal of Only Words, a son of her old adversary Fastnet Rock, to the 2016 Inglis Premier Yearling sale.

He was knocked down to Yu Long Investments for $260,000.

At that price, he was the equal second most expensive of the 16 yearlings purchased by Chinese billionaire Yuesheng Zhang that year.

Named Holy Snow and sent to Mick Price at Caulfield, the son of Only Words made a low-key debut at Pakenham when fourth behind a highly regarded son of Domesday named Royal Symphony who would win his next three starts including a pair of stakes before finishing fourth in the Caulfield Guineas Prelude.

Holy Snow (pictured as a yearling) missed the start by two lengths when jumping in the air when the gates were released but he was better behaved at his second start.

But again, he had little luck at Geelong when a fast-finishing second to Sky Punch who would win his next start at Flemington.

After an eight-week break, Holy Snow broke his maiden at   Pakenham Park when he charged home under Michael Dee.

It was time to test the son of Fastnet Rock in stakes company.

Sent off a $21 chance in the $200,000 Group II Stutt Stakes at Moonee Valley, Holy Snow was doing his best work at the finish when third behind Showtime and Salsamor.

Those two will oppose Holy Snow again on Saturday in the  $2 million Ladbrokes Caulfield Guineas (1600m) where Royal Symphony has been installed the $4.20 favourite.

With a 67 rating and drawn in barrier 15, Holy Snow has plenty of hurdles to overcome.

But what a 100th anniversary it would be for Canning Downs’ John Barnes and Joy Mackay especially after learning Aclaim’s dam Aris, who was a 75,000 guineas purchase by Dermot Farrington at the 2009 Tattersalls October Yearling sale, is back in foal to Acclamation.