Hungry Heart Proves Staying Power in Australian Oaks

Source : Bloodhorse, By Tim Rowe/ANZ Bloodstock News

Photo : Bradleys Photos

Have the group 1 floodgates opened for Yuesheng Zhang and his enormous Australian racing and breeding operation?

Chinese businessman Zhang’s prized 3-year-old Hungry Heart, who defied the on-pace and rails bias to win the Vinery Stud Stakes (G1) at Rosehill a fortnight earlier, proved this season’s superior staying filly in The Star Australian Oaks (G1) at Randwick April 17.

The performance backed up trainer Chris Waller’s judgment that the daughter of Frankel  would handle the extra journey of the Oaks at Randwick after initially indicating she could drop back in distance after her Vinery success.

“As we said after her first group 1 win a few weeks back, the international stage is what racing’s all about,” Waller said.

“People are recognizing Australian racing for all the right reasons during COVID and when you’ve got a Frankel filly winning the Australian Oaks I think it’s pretty special.”

Hungry Heart defeated TAB Adrian Knox Stakes (G3) winner Duais by 1 1/4 lengths with a short neck back to Bargain in third.

Waller said: “She backed up that good run two weeks ago and it’s a good advertisement for our system.

“We had her running in the Golden Slipper (G1) and now she’s running at the extreme distance for a 3-year-old filly, so thanks to my team and obviously a great ride by Kerrin McEvoy.”

Jockey McEvoy settled Hungry Heart in sixth place behind a steady tempo set, as expected, by Harmony Rose.

“I jumped well and got into a spot not far from the front,” McEvoy said.

“I was happy with the rhythm that she got into. It was a different sort of race to last time out at Rosehill, and Josh (Parr on Harmony Rose) rated his horse quite (nicely) in front.

“I wasn’t (worried) as I was in a position to move into it when I wanted to and that is what I did. She was full of running from the 600 meters onwards.”

Saturday’s Australian Oaks is Yulong’s third group 1 victory Down Under—two of them provided by Hungry Heart and the other being 2020 Kennedy Cantala Stakes (G1) winner Yulong Prince—since Zhang bought his first racehorse in 2014.

In the seven years since, Zhang has invested tens of millions of dollars in racehorses, broodmares, a growing number of stallions, and pristine properties at Nagambie in Victoria to house them.

The quality and the sheer quantity of Yulong’s Australian Thoroughbred portfolio suggests that the rise of Hungry Heart, a result of Zhang’s willingness to source bloodstock from around the world, suggests that his bottle green and white check colors will be a force to be reckoned with in the years to come.

Grunt, Alabama Express, Tagaloa, Yulong Prince, and shuttler Lucky Vega  will be on the 2021 Yulong stallion roster and, given Zhang’s vision, the line-up may not end there.

Hungry Heart, meanwhile, has won four of her 12 starts, which includes a Drinkwise Sweet Embrace Stakes (G2) at 2.

The homebred filly, who went through the Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale in 2019 for AU$300,000 (US$215,550) and is raced by April Zhang, is a daughter of the Pivotal  mare Harlech who was sourced by agent Sheamus Mills on behalf of Zhang at the 2016 Tattersalls July Sale before being covered by Juddmonte’s champion Frankel to Southern Hemisphere time.

Harlech is a half sister to group 3 winner Maamora  while Hungry Heart’s second dam is the listed winner Zoowraa  (Azamour ) and her third dam, Beraysim (Lion Cavern), was also successful at stakes level.

Hungry Heart’s Snitzel  yearling half-sister was passed on at the recent Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale by Yulong with a reserve of AU$650,000. She was not covered in 2019 but she visited Yulong’s first season sire Alabama Express last year.

“(Hungry Heart) is a very special filly with an international pedigree and we’re very proud of her,” Waller said.

“She’s matured with age, which you’d expect. She was a little on her toes as a 2-year-old, just a baby learning what it is all about.

“The Zhangs are great investors and it’s fantastic to win an Oaks for them.”