There are some crazy numbers about in Australian racing at present, and a few surround Overpass (Vancouver).

He crossed the continent to win Saturday’s first edition of The Quokka, Perth’s $4 million moneyfest which follows the slot-holder model of The Everest, and which sits among the country’s multitude of new, lucrative and oddly-named races, this one titled for WA’s endemic buck-toothed marsupial. In fact, as far as races named after animals go, it surely has to take the prize, even if The Quokka sounds far less grand than The Golden Eagle. Watch out for The Crocca in Darwin in a couple of years, which would still probably be preferable to The Golden Fannie.

In any case, the $2 million Overpass earned for connections over 1200 metres on Saturday – at $29,000 per second, or $1,666 per metre – took his earnings to $3,692,400.

That’s great – some of us remember being stunned when Kingston Town reached the outrageous $1 million mark – but it would barely put Overpass into the top 70 Australian earners these days.

But there’s another number even more stunning: $25,000. That’s all it took for farmer and breeder Paul Frampton to come away with a colt by Capitalist out of the Exceed And Excel mare Walkway at this month’s Inglis Easter yearling sale.

Of all the 358 lots sold there, he was all alone as the very cheapest.

And he’s a half-brother to Overpass.

Eleven days after his purchase, Frampton, for an amount akin to a decent sized quaddie, owns a half-brother to a $3.6 million winner. After 21 starts, Overpass now averages an earn of neatly seven times that outlay – $175,000 – each time he goes round.

Both were bred by the remarkable George Altomonte, the 87-year-old of Corumbene Stud at Dunedoo. He seemed to have struck very rare gold in breeding Overpass by Vancouver, the Golden Slipper winner who was relocated this year from Coolmore to Victoria’s Woodside Park, with three Australian Group 2 winners to his name from four crops running.

It took Altomonte two Easter sales to sell Overpass, and quite cheaply.

The colt was listed in the initial 2020 Easter auction, held online because of Covid, and was passed in at $140,000. Seven weeks later, when Easter round two became the world’s first in-person sale since someone ate a bat in Wuhan, Overpass was knocked down for far less – $75,000 – to Darby Racing and Will Johnson Bloodstock.

“He was worth more than that, but that’s what we got for it. It was during the pandemic, and everything was all up in the air,” Altomonte said. “I’ll normally keep four or five fillies a year to breed with, but I don’t often keep colts. You can’t keep them all. You’ll finish up with a paddock full of horses.”

And so it was that a half-brother to Overpass – who by then had won the Group 2 Expressway Stakes and the $750,000 VRC Inglis Sprint – was sold to Frampton as this year’s Easter Sale “bottomer”.

“The x-rays weren’t too good on him, unfortunately. I hope it goes alright for Paul Frampton. What I do know is we lost money on it,” said Altomonte. He paid $44,000 for the Capitalist cover that produced the colt. At least he could console himself with the thought that fee rocketed to $99,000 the following season.

Frampton is a colourful cattle farmer from Merriwa, not far from Dunedoo, who races “about a dozen” horses, including a few with Jim Bowman, father of Dunedoo’s most famous son Hugh.

He breeds them as well, and had a most rewarding ten minutes very late on the second and last day of the Easter sale. At 6.22pm he bought his $25,000 colt. At 6.32pm he sold the fifth-last lot of the auction, a filly by Zousain out of White Coolies (Lonhro), in a 50-50 partnership with Widden Stud, for $525,000.

“It was a big few minutes there late on,” Frampton said. “Our Zousain filly sold really well. I was probably only hoping to get half that price.

“I was sat there in the ring and I saw four go through that were passed in, and the filly by The Autumn Sun who topped the sale for $1.8 million, and a few lots after her I got my colt for the lowest price of the sale.

“I just thought he seemed too cheap. I’d seen that he had his injury, but I’m a farmer by trade and we give things time. I thought I’d take the punt at that price. So I’ll give him 12 months in the paddock and assess it later. We won’t break him in for another six months.”

Frampton’s reconnaissance revealed the colt had injured his near-side scapula, (in the shoulder), as a young foal.

“Our vet up here says it’ll be OK, and the horse gets around the paddock alright from what I’ve seen of him,” he said.

Frampton is an expat Englishman who’d never seen a quokka, nor heard of one. About 6.30pm on Saturday he received a call from his main trainer, Scone-based Rod Northam.

“He said did I realise my colt was a half to the horse who’d won the … the Quacka? The Clocka?” Frampton told It’s In The Blood, before a quick lesson in West Australian fauna.

“In any case, I said to Rod, ‘Well, one swallow doesn’t make a spring’.”

In the early 1990s, Frampton bought a cheap yearling by Yallah Prince “whose knees weren’t the best”. Named Princely, he raced until he was nine, won 18 races – including several in Sydney – and was Listed placed for earnings (back then) of $275,000.

“Hopefully you’ll be talking to me in a couple of years’ time about this Capitalist colt,” he laughed. “The proof will be in the pudding, but if we got a Sydney Highway race out of him, that’d be fun.”

Frampton has one property at Dunedoo, near Corumbene, and had a breeding rights share in Altomonte’s poster-boy Sebring (More Than Ready) until his untimely passing.

“He’s a good breeder, George,” he said. “I suppose what really drew me to this colt is that George is a very astute chap, so I thought at 25 grand I hopefully couldn’t go too wrong.”

The Quokka win of the Bjorn Baker-trained Overpass came with exquisite timing for Woodside Park as they welcomed Vancouver (Medaglia D’Oro) last year. Considering the sire’s record, it also counts as a major feather in Altomonte’s cap.

The veteran breeder says he could take us through the process which led him to put the two-time winner Walkway to Vancouver, “but it’ll take a few days.”

“I work with my system,” he said. “It’s fairly complex but I stick to it. We go alright at breeding winners. And someone said to me once – ‘I don’t know what you do George, but don’t change’.”

Altomonte offers that he’s a fan of Tesio’s work, is careful to spot when a certain breed is “going downhill”, if perhaps because of ill-advised matings, and that he’ll go back only “four or five generations” in his planning to divine what might work.

What’s often present in his work is a close-up repetition. In the case of Overpass, putting Walkway to Vancouver brings a 3×3 cross of the great Danehill, in the statistically superior gender-balanced way, via Vancouver’s dam Skates and Walkway’s sire Exceed And Excel.

“I like double Danehill, as long as it’s on opposite sides, so in this case through the sire’s dam, and the dam’s sire,” he said. “I don’t like double Danehill line-breeding. A lot of people do, but I don’t.”

It was most fitting that Overpass should see his grandest day in Perth. His third dam North Bell (Bellwater) was a star broodmare, with her most famous progeny the great West Australian Northerly (Serheed). North Bell also threw North Boy (Rory’s Jester), a multiple stakes winner, thrice Group 1-placed, and joint-top of the 2001-02 Australasian three-year-old sprint classification, and his Group 3-winning sister Northern Song.

What’s also evident in Overpass’ pedigree is that it’s underpinned by British blue hen Plucky Liege (Spearmint). Her influential son Bull Dog (Teddy) is there eight times from generations seven to nine, four on each side, his impact spread through two sons and two daughters. Sir Gallahad – importantly a different type to Bull Dog although his brother – has four daughters and two sons in Vancouver’s pedigree, and a son in Walkway’s. And a third Plucky Liege son, Admiral Drake, has a different daughter on each side.

That’s all too far back to influence Altomonte’s system. He knows what he likes and that when he’s on a good thing, he shouldn’t change it.

That’s why Walkway is back in foal to Vancouver. After the inaugural Quokka, it’s likely this one will fetch a good deal more than Overpass, or his $25,000 half brother.

By Trevor Marshallsea

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