Love at first sight, the rest; history…

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Mark Jones knew the first time he laid eyes on Stylish Memphis she was something special.

Standing in a paddock as a yearling at the property of owner and breeder, Wayne Higgs – Jones, who isn’t known for getting too caught up in the moment – was immediately taken by the daughter of Bettor’s Delight.

He isn’t claiming to be some sort of Nostradamus either; but as he reflects on the career of one of the best horses he’s trained, he can help but be reflective. A fifth placing in last Saturday night’s Queen’s Elizabeth II Mile at Menangle was the final swansong with the six-year-old mare in foal to boom sire, Captaintreacherous.

She ends her career as the winner of 15 of her 48 career starts, with a further 19 placings and more than $770,000 in stake earnings by far and beyond where anyone involved with her thought she’d get too.

“I fell in love with her as a yearling in Wayne’s paddock, she was a standout,” Mark said this week.

“She was very typical of her family early on, lovely gaited but was fast at anything she did, but at the same time only did what she had to do which made things easy.”

Incidentally, the the Stylish Memphis story could have been much different.

Mike Reed was initially interested in purchasing her early on in proceedings, but passed up the opportunity which Jones said now, was fortunate.

“We were a bit lucky there that we go to keep her.”

After showing promise in trials and at home, Jones kicked off Stylish Memphis’ career at the Northern Southland meeting in the Caduceus Club of Southland Fillies Classic where she finished second to Spellbound.

It would be one of just three starts she’d have as a two-year-old, winning her second start at Winton with Ricky May in the bike before finishing fifth behind Sweet One Me in the 2YO Diamond at the Harness Jewels at Addington.

“She was a natural early on, but did always have a few issues along the way with her feet, but she kept improving for us and developed nicely.”

It was at three where the best was seen for the first time and had it not been for a talented filly by the name of Amazing Dream, things might have been even better.

She won her first two starts before two Group One seconds at Auckland behind the All Stars filly and her dominance influenced a decision that would lead to golden future endeavours.

Ricky May and Stylish Memphis proved a formidable combination, winning four times.

Jones and Higgs decided to send Stylish Memphis to Australia. And they tasked the master Mark Purdon with training and driving her through an extensive campaign which culminated in the New South Wales Oaks. Three wins, including the Group One, and two seconds came from that venture over the Tasman, but it was only the tip of the iceberg when it came to the future.

She came back to New Zealand and would win a rescheduled Southland Oaks which was delayed thanks to Covid and that would be her only black type victory in New Zealand during her career.

Australia beckoned again with Jones and Higgs both dismayed at the treatment of quality mares in New Zealand and her first campaign as a four-year-old proved stunning as she joined the Jack Trainor stable and won the Laydyship Mile in a five-start campaign that included appearances in the Chariots of Fire and the Miracle Mile where she finished sixth.

“I think that first Ladyship Mile was her best win, she was at her peak then. I don’t think people back here in New Zealand ever fully realised just how good she was. All her runs here before those trips to Australia were to get her ready and she was always peaking for those big races.”

A return trip to Australia the following year netted another Ladyship Mile which was enough to tip her toward being the best mare Jones has trained.

“She would rate up there as my best mare I’ve trained. She won a New South Wales Oaks, two Laydship Miles and placed in numerous Group Ones and took on races like the Miracle Mile and The Race.

“I think she had a bit more x-factor than Delightful Memphis and the decision to race her in Australia was an easy one as it meant better returns for Wayne who pumps a lot of money into the industry.”

Mark Purdon and Stylish Memphis on their way to her final NZ victory.

Jones said he couldn’t have asked for a better owner than Higgs.

“Wayne could not be better to train for, he leaves it entirely to me but was always discuss things and he is supportive and most importantly always puts the horse first.”

Although the last trip to Australia wasn’t as fruitful as previous adventures over there, Stylish Memphis was far from disgracing herself and Jones said those fighting qualities were what made her a great horse.

“She was a great horse, one who had high speed but also an unreal staying ability. I think she will always been underestimated but she raced at the elite level all her lie and performed super.”

Hard to argue with that.

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