Brendan Gaillard: An Instagram post by Jessica Slack’s Mauritzfontein Stud confirms that wonder mare Nother Russia, fourth in Saturday’s Grade 1 Premier’s Champion Challenge, has been retired to stud.
A photo of Nother Russia with her chestnut head and striking white blaze over her stable door was accompanied by a message from her owner: “She has a heart of gold and has brought such happiness to so many of us. She retires a Champion of the highest order and the carrots en masse are waiting for her at Mauritzfontein. So excited to have her at home with us!”
The word “champion” is bandied about in racing, but in the case of Nother Russia it rings true.
Purchased for R550,000 by Mike de Kock Racing Stables, on behalf of Jessica Slack, at the 2014 Emperors Palace National Yearling, Nother Russia was bred at the Wilgerbosdrift Stud of Jessica’s mother, Mary Slack. She is a daughter of Tiger Ridge and the only foal born out of Windrush mare Mother Russia, the Equus Champion Older Filly/Mare of 2010 who amassed 13 wins in her illustrious career including the Grade 1 Empress Club Stakes, the Grade 1 Paddock Stakes, the Grade 1 Majorca Stakes and the Grade 1 Queen’s Plate.
Nother Russia made her track debut in January 2016 and, after back-to-back seconds, shed her maiden tag over 1600m, She followed up over the same distance on handicap debut. She returned from an eight-month layoff to win on her four-year-old bow and notched up two solid placed efforts in competitive handicaps before venturing into feature-race company, the 2017 Grade 3 Acacia Handicap.
She overcame the widest No 14 draw to land the spoils from Bella Sonata, with whom she renewed rivalry next time in the Grade 1 Empress Club Stakes. Nother Russia confirmed her superiority with a 1.40-length victory and a first success at the highest level.
Her first start against the boys was the Grade 1 Premier’s Champion Challenge and she rounded off a hugely successful four-year-old campaign with a terrific close-up third in a thrilling three-way tussle with Deo Juvente and Equus Champion and Horse of the Year Legal Eagle.
After a rest, Nother Russia began her five-year-old season by recording back-to-back wins in a Pinnacle Stakes and the Grade 2 Ipi Tombe Stakes, before embarking on a trip to the Cape for the Summer of Champions Season.
She was a creditable fourth in the Grade 1 Paddock Stakes, finishing best of the rest behind a Trifecta of high-class three-year-old fillies headed by subsequent Grade 1 Sun Met winner Oh Susanna. Nother Russia was beaten just 2.80 lengths conceding 6kg to the winner.
An eight-time winner of 18 starts, with nine-placed efforts to go with it, her unplaced outing came in this year’s Sun Met when she was drawn 16 of 18 runners and never managed to get a blow in.
Nother Russia proved that form wrong when she blew away the cobwebs with a comeback run at the Vaal and then gave Legal Eagle, who is unbeaten over 1600m, a big fright over the distance by getting to within a neck in this year’s renewal of the 1600m Grade 1 Horse Chestnut Stakes.
She got back to winning ways by successfully defending her crown in the Empress Club on Princess Charlene’s Royal race day, confirming her status as a crowd favourite and darling of the turf.
In her swansong, Nother Russia lost nothing in defeat, finishing fourth to Coral Fever over 2000m, under Craig Zackey who rode her in every one of her 18 races.
Mike de Kock once said, “The fact that we’ve had Craig on all the time has been important for her mental state. I know he waxes on, but he really does like the filly. They have a real affinity!”
Mauritzfontein and Jessica Slack’s Instagram caption reads: “Thank you Nother! ❤”