Beer Baron, the horse that couldn’t be sold and nobody else wanted, could help make it a very rich payday for his breeders and owners in the $2 million Millennium (1100m) at Royal Randwick on Saturday.
Trained by Neil Osborne and his Mane Lodge team at Sutton and raced by his wife Denise, along with their sons, Stuart and Peter, Beer Baron has captured the imagination of the Australian racing public.
Known affectionately as ‘Crownie’, the Cosmic Force gelding is a ‘miracle horse’, being the last surviving foal out of Ice Cold Crownie.
He was passed in at last year’s Inglis Classic and Ready2Race sales with reserves of $100,000 and $120,000, respectively, and he’s since repaid the faith shown by Denise and the Mane Lodge team.
On debut late last year, he picked up nearly $300,000 when finishing second to the Ciaron Maher-trained Odinson in the Listed $500,000 Inglis Nursery 1000m at Royal Randwick.
With Denise as the majority owner (75%), connections earned $94,000 in prize money and the additional $200,000 Inglis Pink Bonus for Beer Baron being the first majority female-owned-or-leased horse home in the race.
On Saturday, the Inglis Pink Bonus is worth $400,000. That means connections could net as much as $1,555,000 if they were to finish first in the Listed race.
Denise, who usually stays home on race days, should be in Sydney and is thrilled to have Beer Baron racing in the $2 million event.
“It would be fantastic if we could win,” Denise told NSW Country and Picnic Racing.
“I will go down, but my mum (LaReine Beal) hasn’t been well, and that could change things, but if I get there, it will be nice to have a day off, and we might even stay in Sydney if that happens.
“I don’t know if I pack my bags, but I will be there, and it’s very exciting.”
Denise has been there every step of the way for Beer Baron, watching him grow from a Mane Lodge foal to a strapping two-year-old ready to take on the world.
“I do all the foaling, and he is a bit of a miracle horse,” Denise said.
“The mare tore her cervix when she had a foal before Crownie, and we couldn’t get her in foal.
“She was booked to go to Extreme Choice, but with all the problems, we thought we’d send her to Cosmic Force, who we bought a share in.
“She had slipped one foal and lost another to colic, and well, Neil was doing a drop off at Scone at the time, so we had her at the vet, then Neil took her to be covered before taking her back to the vet to get stitched up.
“Everything worked out, and he was always a cracker and a nice type of foal.”
Mane Lodge was looking to sell their impressive youngster, but despite their best efforts, he failed to leave his mark on prospective buyers.
“I always had an opinion of him, so we put him in the Classic Sale, and he was a standout, we thought, but pedigree-wise, Mum’s isn’t that good, and with all the issues she had, we think that might have gone against him,” Denise said.
“Royal Racer is out of his mum, and he’s won half a million in Hong Kong, but that doesn’t show up in the studbook, so a lot of people don’t know that.
“Still, we thought there was plenty of interest, and we wanted $100,000, and he was passed in at $95,000, and the auctioneer said he never had a bid, which we found hard to believe.
“We were going to sell, and we thought we would get him ready for the Ready2Race sale, and he’s got an intelligent head, he’s a smart mover, and we x-rayed and scoped him again, and everything was fine, and when we breezed him up, he ran top-five per cent.
“Even then, with everything he was doing and how he looked, we couldn’t find a buyer, and that is when we brought him home.
“We knew we had a nice horse, and we had paid up for the Inglis races and BOBS to try and make him a more attractive option to buy, so it came time to name him, and Stu named him Beer Baron, and we structured the ownership so we could take advantage of the Pink Bonus.”
Denise was happy to end up with Beer Baron, even before his rich payday in December, and she admitted that those who passed on the Mane Lodge product must be kicking themselves now.
“I just think of all those people that could’ve bought him and found an excuse, and maybe we were a bit blind to it because he is one of ours, but I couldn’t see anything wrong with him,” Denise said.
“I’m not disappointed we kept him because I’ve always liked him, and the horses that we race and Neil trains are typically the rejects that we can’t sell, but it’s turned out he’s a stunning reject, and we’re having some fun.”
For Denise, it’s a terrific reward for all her efforts over the years.
The matriarch of the Osborne family, Denise is a self-described ‘country girl’ who grew up on a farm near Redbank North near Harden, and she has been involved with horses all her life, attending Pony Club and Polocrosse as a child.
She spent the best part of a decade as a nurse at Canberra Hospital, working there from 1971 to 1980 before meeting Neil.
Since then, the pair ‘have had horses coming out of their ears’, and Denise is the backbone of the Mane Lodge operation.
“I’m here all the time, seven days a week at the stables, working morning and evening,” Denise said.
“I rarely go the races, and I’m doing all the work at home, and during the foaling season, I do the nights as well.
“So, it’s nice to have a horse like this, and I can only hope he puts his best foot forward on Saturday.”
Connections will be under no illusion about the enormity of Beer Baron’s task on Saturday.
Considered a $23 chance with bookmakers, the youngster will be taking on highly touted 2YO’s Fully Lit ($3.40), Odinson ($5), and Rue De Royal ($5.50) to name just a few, and they are all in the market for the 2024 Golden Slipper.
Still, Beer Baron draws nicely with gate one, and champion jockey Tommy Berry is in the saddle.