Fireburn’s Slipper win features in BloodHorse

The question as to where Rebel Dane will cover his next book of mares undoubtedly intensified as the sire’s career in the breeding barn reached fever pitch when his talented daughter Fireburn produced a mind-blowing performance to win the March 19 Longines Golden Slipper Stakes (G1) at Rosehill Gardens, handing the often overlooked stallion his first group 1 winner.

Like her dual group 1-winning sire Rebel Dane, Fireburn carries the silks of Louis Mihalyka’s Laurel Oak Bloodstock and is also, like her father, trained by Gary Portelli.

The Warwick Farm handler was understandably ecstatic to add a second win in the showpiece group 1 to his resume, having saddled She Will Reign to victory in similar conditions in 2017.

“Rebel Dane, who’d have thought he would throw a Golden Slipper winner?” Portelli said.

“She is the best 2-year-old in Australia right now and I’ve got no doubt she will be the best 3-year-old next year.”

The chance of victory in the AU$5 million juvenile feature looked slim when Fireburn was dramatically bumped at the halfway stage, nearly dislodging jockey Brenton Avdulla and causing her to be shuffled to the back of the pack.

Portelli, who also had ninth-placed Sejarda in the race, admitted he had prematurely conceded defeat until he noticed her steaming home in between runners.

“I thought, ‘We are out of play, this is not our year,'” Portelli said.

“Then I saw her colors starting to sneak through and when she decides she is going to get you, she gets you. She has such a big motor.”

The filly, unlike many of her rivals, relished heavy conditions and was able to weave through rivals in the final 300 meters, eventually bursting from the pack to claim victory by a comfortable two and a half lengths, handing recent Fujitsu General Silver Slipper Stakes (G2) winner Best Of Bordeaux his first defeat as the Kacy Fogden-trained colt finished second.

Coolangatta, who was sent off the favorite, also surrendered her unbeaten record, finishing another neck away in third and she was a length ahead of last month’s Neds Blue Diamond Stakes (G1) winner Daumier in fourth.

Image courtesy of Bronwen Healy

“Congratulations to (managing owner) Louis Mihalyka and the team, I am forever thankful to them for giving me Rebel Dane to start with and then a daughter of his and it just continued the great story,” said the trainer.

“She has been the biggest improver in the stable that I’ve ever seen. I said this week she has peaked so well.

“This morning, I had to go and work with her. I was going to give her an easy day, but she was too fresh, so I had to go and give her some work and she turned up here and smashed them.”

As with Portelli, Fireburn also gave jockey Brenton Avdulla his second Golden Slipper after his success on Estijaab four years ago and capped a remarkable rise back to the top.

The jockey missed the entire spring carnival, spending six months on the sidelines with a neck injury, and has been working hard to regain a footing in the competitive Sydney jockey ranks.

“I said to the Missus, I wouldn’t cry after the first week (back) but it’s very special obviously,” said Avdulla, who added an 11th career elite-level win to his tally, and second this season, having steered Hinged to victory in the Feb. 26 Drinkwise Surround Stakes (G1).

“There was a massive shuffle up when we got out of the chute and we all but sold out and I thought ‘Well, there’s our race over.’

“So I just tried to balance her up, try and get her sorted so she could earn a bit of prize-money for connections.

“Then I got to 300 (meters) out, I said: ‘This thing is still going to win.’

“I just had to duck and weave a bit and when she came off Best Of Bordeaux’s heels it was race over.”

After being beaten into fourth at Warwick Farm on debut over 1100 meters, the juvenile landed her next two starts, before securing her spot in the Slipper with a victory in the ballot-exempt Feb. 26 Furphy Sweet Embrace Stakes (G2) at Randwick. Fireburn became only the fourth filly to complete the Sweet Embrace-Golden Slipper double and the first since Crystal Lily in 2010.

Bred by Laurel Oak Bloodstock, Fireburn is the first winner out of winning So You Think mare Mull Over, who is herself out of dual listed winner Galizani.

Mull Over has a yearling colt by Hallowed Crown and she was covered by Pierata last spring.

The victory also handed Coolmore Stud-based stallion So You Think his first group 1 winner as a broodmare sire, with Fireburn his only stakes winner. For a relatively young stallion, So You Think’s broodmare statistics are high-class, with the daughters of So You Think having produced six winners from 14 runners.

Rebel Dane’s stud career has been far from straightforward. Starting in 2017, Rebel Dane stood his first two seasons at Victoria’s Swettenham Stud and lured books of 36 and 31 mares, at service fees of AU$12,500 (including GST) and AU$9,900 (including GST), respectively.

Rebel Dane at Silverdale Farm

In 2019, his principal owners Steve Grant and Ken Lowe moved him to Glen Eden Stud, starting at AU$6,600 (including GST). There, he served books of just 11 in 2019, 14 in 2020 at a fee of AU$5,000 (including GST) and 49 in 2021, when the promise of his group 3-winning 2-year-old Subterranean triggered higher patronage and a service fee bump to AU$8,800 (including GST).

However, last month there was a further twist in the tale for Rebel Dane when Grant and Lowe informed Glen Eden Stud co-owner Rory O’Brien they would be moving the rising 13-year-old stallion north to New South Wales in order to further his career and there is no greater endorsement for his growing reputation as a brilliant stallion than adding a Golden Slipper winner to his CV.

Despite his limited opportunities, Rebel Dane’s numbers make for impressive reading. The stallion has sired six winners from 14 starters at a strike rate of 42.9%. Meanwhile, with two stakes winners to his name, Rebel Dane’s stakes-winners-to-runners ratio sits at an astonishing 14.3%

A decision on where Rebel Dane continues his career as a stallion is yet to be made, but after Saturday’s win for Fireburn, there is no doubt the well-known, powerhouse farms will be throwing their hats into the ring for the right to stand the son of California Dane at their farms.

Written by Lydia Symonds, originally published in BloodHorse

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