Hobby trainers Keith and Lisa Hellmuth have made a habit of bucking the trend that feature races – and in particular Group 1s – are the domain of the biggest names and highest profiles.
The Pearcedale-based husband and wife team celebrated their third Group 1 success, and second in NSW, on Saturday night when home-bred Start A Riot stormed to victory in the inaugural running of the Ladbrokes Peter Mosman Opal (520m) at Wentworth Park.
NSW has very happy memories for the Hellmuths, with their first Group 1 celebration coming courtesy of Peter Rocket in the 2013 Dapto Megastar.
Rockoon, a son of Peter Rocket and a half-brother to Start A Riot’s dam, Flash Riot, provided their second success at racing’s ultimate level in the 2017 Hume Cup.
“It’s so hard for any hobby trainer to win a Group race,” said an excited Lisa on Sunday.
“We’ve won three Group 1s and a Group 2 (Peter Rocket, 2013 Horsham Cup) now, so we must be doing something right!
“It’s very rewarding for us to win a race like this with a dog that we bred, reared, broke-in and pre-trained.
“We bred Start A Riot and Rockoon ourselves and we bought Peter Rocket as a pup from a neighbour and then we reared him, broke him in and pre-trained him.”
After winning Cranbourne’s Winter Cup in late June, Start A Riot, a daughter of Magic Sprite and Flash Riot, ran second in her Peter Mosman heat to local Miley Nismo in the fastest qualifying time of 29.67s.
Start A Riot drew box three for Saturday’s $75,000 to-the-winner final and started at $9, with her heat conqueror Miley Nismo the $2.60 favourite from box one.
Victorian Flossing ($9.50), one of Jeff Britton’s two finalists, led Miley Nismo and Start A Riot around the first turn before Start A Riot unleashed a powerful finishing burst in the centre of the track to defeat the favourite by 1.75 lengths in 29.78s.
“I was a little bit worried about the four (Flossing) cutting across, which it did, but it didn’t crash,” Lisa said.
“She’s got race smarts, which allowed her to keep herself out of trouble on the first turn.
“Down the back I thought she was a chance of running a place. Miley Nismo had run away from her in the heat, which surprised us a bit. Start A Riot has been regarded as a front-runner but we knew how strong she was and she showed it.
“She’ll probably go in the heats of the Maturity at The Meadows on Saturday. It will be the next level up but we’ve got to give it a crack.”
It was Start A Riot’s 13th win from 27 starts and fourth from her last five.
In a remarkable twist to Start A Riot’s meteoric rise to stardom, the Hellmuths twice tried to give away her mother, Flash Riot, but she was fatefully returned to sender on both occasions.
“We tried giving her away twice as a broodbitch,” Lisa laughed.
“When they both gave her back we thought nobody wants her so we might as well try breeding a litter.
“She was quite nasty but after she had her first litter she’s totally different. You wouldn’t know it’s the same dog.
“Flash Riot had a second litter to Fernando Bale. She had 11 pups and we wanted to sell most of them but we couldn’t. But things have changed since Start A Riot won the Winter Cup; we’ve just about sold them all now!”
Wentworth Park staged a Group 1 double-header on Saturday, with the Vic Peters Classic (520m) taken out by NSW cult hero Feral Franky in 29.80s, while fourth-placed Western Envoy, trained by Angela Langton, was the first Victorian home.