Bargain buy Keats is already a winner over The Valley 1600 metres

$25,000 buy Keats hoping to earn a spot in Australia’s richest mile

Keats was bought by the Mailbag Bloodstock team for just $25,000 in the 2022 Inglis Digital Online Sale. A son of champion Irish sire Galileo, he was yet to fire a shot in his time in Australia, and going by his sale price, many thought he was closer to the end of his career than the start.

That all changed when he joined the Gavin Bedggood stable and found a new home at Cranbourne. The now six-year-old gelding has netted his new owners an astonishing $143,775 in prizemoney since being re-purchased, closing in on six times his sale price, and now sits 9th in voting for the 2023 All-Star Mile at The Valley. He’s won three races in one preparation, ran a gallant second behind promising Cups contender White Marlin, and last Saturday at Sandown he missed third place in the Group 3 Carlyon Cup by only a nose.

So, if you’re looking at the All-Star Mile votes leaderboard wondering who this horse is, that is Keats. He may only be an 89-rated horse, the sole nominee inside the top 10 who doesn’t boast a triple figure rating, yet he has still amassed 1,250 votes as of Tuesday 14 February and looks a great chance to make the race.

Why? Because Australians love a great battler story, and that is what this is.

“They’re only small-time owners, there’s no big-time syndicates or anything like that”, Bedggood told us on Tuesday.

“They’re just everyday people, and I think everyone has got their friends and family on board (to vote) and hopefully our horse can do the talking and that can get him in after his next run.”

The improvement Keats has shown since joining Bedggood has been something to behold. It was only September last year when he won a moderate Benchmark 64 at Sale, and now he looks set to be thrown into the deep end to stares the likes of Alligator Blood, Zaaki and I’m Thunderstruck square in the face.

Unlike those superstars, he doesn’t possess a lethal finishing burst or elite acceleration, but what he does have is a well above average lung capacity, the ability to sustain a good gallop from a long way out, and on Saturday he added another string to his bow by proving he can do it off a brutal tempo.

The leader travelled some 14-and-a-half lengths above benchmark to the 600-metre mark in the Carlyon Cup, a frantically run mile, and the winner Pounding was able to break the track record. Only first up, the performance bodes very well for Keats when he builds up his fitness and rises again in class.

“I was wrapped. I would’ve been disappointed if he didn’t run really well, but obviously they broke the track record, and you only have to draw a line through So Si Bon and even Pounding.

“They’re bottom level sort of group horses, and with good improvement to come I hope he can take another step.”

Speaking of taking a step, Keats is also gaining popularity by way of his pre-race antics in the mounting yard, which the Mailbag Bloodstock tweeted on Sunday after his gallant performance. Keats appears to flick his front legs out in a prancing-like manner, a phenomenon known as the “Spanish Walk”. The Spanish Walk is a trained movement usually performed by dressage horses, but the enigmatic Keats has developed a habit of doing it himself, providing some entertainment before his races and even after his morning work.

“I’ve got no idea (what it means or why he does it).

“It’s something we see pretty commonly from him in the morning and it’s normally when there’s someone else around.

“If he’s just wondering out by himself he doesn’t really get phased by much, but if he sees a camera or another horse or a person, he’s at it.

“Everyone around Cranbourne is now starting to know who he is, and I guess it’s his trademark.”

Keats and his passionate group of owners will be hoping he can run another big race when he next steps out in the Group 2 Peter Young Stakes (1800m) at Sandown on February 25. With voting for the All-Star Mile closing at 10pm on February 26, it will be his final chance to impress last-minute voters, and Bedggood says getting into the race, let alone winning it, would be a dream.

“It would be massive. Obviously, it would be the biggest race I’ve had a runner in.

“The Mailbag boys have only been racing horses for the past 6-9 months, and to get a horse of his quality, this early in the piece is great.

“It shows you don’t have to go to the sales and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on horses. They are out there if you do your homework.”

Inaugural All-Star Mile winning trainer Adam Trinder knows this too well. 2019 champion Mystic Journey was bought for just $11,000, proving horses at the lower end of the market can win Australia’s Richest Mile.