Karasi is of course famous for winning the Nakayama Grand Jump three years running in 2005, 2006 and 2007. What is often overlooked in regards to Karasi’s career is the amount of prize money he banked for his connections. The great jumper banked about $3.75 million dollars for his connections and he did it in a most unique fashion. There are six races run in Australia every year that carry more than $3,000,000 in prize money; they are the Queen Elizabeth at Randwick, the Golden Slipper at Rosehill, the Doncaster at Randwick, the Melbourne Cup, the Cox Plate and the Caulfield Cup. Karasi’s $3.75 million in prize money ranks him about 30th on the all-time list of highest earners in Australian racing history. Not only is Karasi the only horse on this list to have never won a Group 1 flat race, but less sprinters Black Caviar, Apache Cat, Falvelon and Takeover Target, Karasi is the only horse in the top 30 to never place in or win one of Australia’s richest six races.
Take away the sprinters that make the list and you are left with 26 middle distance horses or stayers. All 26 of these less Karasi won or placed in one of the abovementioned six races that are currently worth $3 million or more. Through being a star international jumper, Karasi earned more than any other horse ever that never won a Group 1 race on the flat!
Yes, yes, yes most of Karasi’s money was made in Japan. But was it? Well yes. Around $2.8 million of the gelding’s $3.75 million was made in Japan. More than anything, this says that Eric Musgrove is the greatest performed Australian trainer abroad in the history of Australian racing. No other Australian horse, not even Takeover Target has made $2.8 million dollars abroad.
So what was the secret? Had anyone not entrenched in the jumping industry even heard of the Nakayama Grand Jump before Karasi conquered the race? The years following Makybe Diva were the era when the Japanese asserted themselves as the best producers of stayers in the world. They won the Melbourne Cup in 2006, and most of their horses that have travelled overseas since have either won or ran really well, and this is not just in Australia, but worldwide. So how did Eric get Karasi to win a race three years running that is worth more money than three lower-level Group 1’s in Australia combined? And how did Karasi managed to beat the world’s best jumpers in a place that was producing most of the world’s best stayers? Karasi did run 4th in a Melbourne Cup, but apart from that, the gelding never even ran in one of the six richest races in Australia. He did place in an Adelaide Cup and a Brisbane Cup, but he never really threatened the winners in these races. His biggest flat win was in the Geelong Cup, and after he finally broke through in Japan in 2005, he never won another race that was not run in Japan. So how did Eric get him to win the richest jumps race in the world three years running? From the outside looking in it appears that Eric acknowledged that Karasi had reached his level both over the jumps in Australia and on the flat, and the gelding was consistent and professional enough to handle the travel and be brought to his peak quickly. If you are going to train a horse specifically to win just one race a year, you may as well make it the richest jumps race in the world!
But Eric has had dozens of great jumpers. Karasi was invited to fly the Aussie flag. It takes great foresight, confidence and indeed the right horse to leave Australian shores with a fragile animal like a 430kg thoroughbred. Karasi’s, and the connection’s achievements have yet to be matched, and considering that Bashboy won just over $1,000,000 on Australian shores, it is unlikely we will ever see a jumper again get close to breaking the $4,000,000 mark as Karasi almost did. That is of course unless a jumper, any jumper, can travel to Japan three years in a row and come home every year with the world’s richest jumps race under their belt
KARASI SLAYS THE DRAGON TO JUMP TO TITLE DEFENCE
Victorian owned horses have long been competitive on the international scene. But now we can lay claim to having the best jumper in the world after Karasi defended his title in the Nakayama Grand Jump on Easter Saturday 2006..
It's an incredible story the Karasi story.
Born in Ireland in 1995; sold to Australia in 1998 to win a Melbourne Cup; running fourth in the 2001 Melbourne Cup; sold as a jumper in 2003; tops $1 million in prize money when winning the 2005 Nakayama Grand Jump in Japan as a 10 year old; breaks $2 million when winning the 2006 Nakayama Grand Jump as an 11 year old.
It is certainly not a typical racing story. Quite the opposite. But that does not stop Karasi's part owner, Pearse Morgan, from retelling a story that will go down in racing folklore.
As he says "I love telling the story to anyone who will listen." And with the new, gigantic proportions the tale has taken on in the last year, who can blame him?
The Karasi Story.....
Morgan and champion jumps trainer, Eric Musgrove, were at a football match in 2003 when trainer David Hall rang to say he was selling a horse who would make a jumper. Morgan, who has been an Owners' Gold Card holder since 1 January, remembers writing the name ‘Karasi' on his record.
The only other jumper Hall had sold to Musgrove was Hibernian Prince, the dual Grand Annual winner at Warrnambool, so his record was impeccable. Musgrove and Morgan had to be interested.
"Eric rode him the next day Morgan recalls." "And brought him home".
It was a long road to Nakayama though.
Karasi had his first run over the hurdles (the old fashion type) at Mornington in August 2003 and finished a modest third.
"He struggled with jumping and lost two lengths at every hurdle," laments Morgan. "When he was bought as a jumper, all I could think was 'how will I get my money back out of him?'"
Who better to reassure Morgan than Musgrove.
Eric said "I'll teach him to jump."
True to his word, Musgrove had Karasi winning his next two hurdle starts, both in Adelaide.
It was now time to start making bigger plans. After finishing third in the Lavazza Long Black, the Melbourne Cup consolation race on Cup Day 2003, it was time to target the 2004 jumps season. In addition to an unlucky seventh in an Adelaide Cup, his season yielded four wins from seven starts over the hurdles. But is was his close up third in the Hiskens Steeplechase, his first start over the fences, that defined his destiny.
"He wins in another 20 metres," Morgan remembers. "But I looked at handicapper (who, at the time, was part of the selection panel for Australia's representative in the 2005 Nakayama Grand Jump) and knew he'd earned his ticket to Japan."
Fast forward 20 months and the plans of winning the Nakayama Grand Jump had come to fruition. Not once, but twice.
In his last run in Australia before heading to Japan, Karasi ran fifth, beaten less than a length, in a 2400m flat race at Sandown. Morgan recalls how confident jockey Peter Mertens was after riding him that day.
Pete said "I can't believe how good this horse feels at 11. He'll win again."
Morgan, however, was not as confident. He knew his horse could jump. He knew his horse could stay. But what he didn't know was whether his horse could beat the Japanese champion, TM Dragon. In his lead up race, Karasi ran second, beaten three lengths in the Pegasus (a race he ran third in last year). While this augured well for his preparation, Morgan was skeptical.
"The horse that beat him by three lengths was beaten 11 lengths by TM Dragon on Christmas Eve," he surmised. "So TM Dragon had 14 lengths on us."
As owners and punters know, form like that is not always so logical. The tempo of the race is also a major factor, and in this race they do tend to go at the speed of an Oakleigh Plate. But as Morgan explained, this would only play in to Karasi's hands.
"The faster they go, the better he likes it."
And so it happened that Karasi staved off the TM Dragon challenge in the home straight of Nakayama to win his second consecutive Grand Jump by about a neck.
"He must have been 10 lengths better than last year to beat TM Dragon – he is a superstar," Morgan gloats. "We slayed the dragon!"
"So much credit needs to go to Eric Musgrove and Brett Scott," Morgan explains. "Not only with getting the horse to Japan, but to win it. They developed a strategy, implemented it, and did it."
He was also quick to point out the dedication from Belinda Simpson, Karasi's strapper and travel companion.
The Karasi story is nothing short of amazing. His achievements are nothing short of incredible..
"It's just an extraordinary journey; being in the right place at the right time.;"
So, can he make it three in a row?
"Who knows?" Morgan said, "if TM Dragon is in the race, he'll be very hard to beat".
It may sound pessimistic but 12 months ago Morgan didn't expect to have two Grand Jump trophies in his cabinet. Even the week before the race this year he thought they would struggle to beat TM Dragon. But who would be foolish enough to write off the would be 12 year old.