A Cool Passion for Success

Greg Tobin - Thursday September 2

A city double and a cracking foal from your prized stakes winning mare might be just about the best way we know how to kick off spring.

The McDonnell family – John and Anne, plus kids and grandkids – were all celebrating on Wednesday night after their part-owned mare, Ruby Tuesday (managed by Louis Mihalyka of Laurel Oak and trained by Gary Portelli, with 10% of her winnings going to Breast Cancer research), won convincingly at Randwick while home-bred Frankie Pinot (trained by Tony and Calvin McEvoy) put in a blinder to score at Sandown: and, just to top it all off, 3-time Group winner, Cool Passion produced her second foal to Widden Stud’s super sire, Zoustar.

Your Song gelding Frankie Pinot raced to victory at Sandown on Wednesday - image Pat Scala/ Racing Photos

“Yes, it was a memorable few hours on so many counts,” John McDonnell agrees. “The run of Frankie Pinot, in particular, was quite special and via the miracles of technology, we actually got to watch the foaling ‘live’.

“Matt Comerford (Client Relations and Nominations) at Widden Face Timed the birth and, while not only Anne and I tuned in, so did our sons and daughters-in-law, along with grandkids, in Sydney and Chicago. Day time foalings are usually pretty rare and it was just such a lovely day up at Widden as well.

“We have all our breeding stock at Widden and share in several mares in partnership with Widden. The service and care for all our stock is without a doubt to the next level and this Is a perfect example of the service Matt and the team provide for us all.

“She (Cool Passion) certainly means a lot to us and so does Frankie Pinot … all our horses for that matter.”

Cool Passion produced this lovely Zoustar filly at Widden Stud.



Cool Passion, a Not a Single Doubt half sister to stakes winner Havana Wind, was sold to the McDonnells as a broodmare prospect but had something of a ‘detour’ before getting to the Hunter Valley.


“We purchased her from Western Australia, on the recommendation of Jane Henning of Pedigree Dynamics, and Anne didn’t like the idea of her having such a long trip without a break so the mare was dropped off at Tony McEvoy’s stables at Angaston, in the Barossa,” McDonnell points out.


“Tony was convinced she had quite a bit of racing left in her and, while she was with Tony, the mare won the Hong Kong Jockey Club, Kevin Heffernan and Northwood Plume (all at Group level) and finished with 11 wins overall and $800,000 plus in stakes.

“Her first foal, by Lonhro, is going to next year’s sales and the good folk at Widden are confident that the Zoustar filly will turn out really well too.

“As for Frankie Pinot there’s quite a story behind that one too … we were in Paris with the family a few years back and standing outside a wine bar called Au Franc Pinot. The grandkids were having a bit of fun with the name and told me that I’d have to name a horse Frankie Pinot.

“Shortly after we had this Your Song colt which we named Frankie Pinot and, once we’d given him that name, there’s no way we were going to sell him. That was his fourth win on Wednesday but he’s also had five placings from just 11 starts.

“It’s fairly safe to say that we had a couple of Pinots on Wednesday night.”



Frankie Pinot was born at Widden in 2016.

McDonnell is the first to point out that he’s had a lot of success in racing and breeding but takes nothing for granted.

“The first horse we ever bought into, with Denise Martin of Star Thoroughbreds, was (2008 Golden Slipper winner) Sebring,” McDonnell recalls. “It’s really quite amazing when your first five races as an owner result in a win each time. Even then he was only beaten a lip at his sixth and final start when second to Samantha Miss in the (Group 1) Champagne Stakes.

“I remember telling Gai Waterhouse (Sebring’s trainer) that before the horse had had his first race we’d be really happy if he could win one at Mudgee or somewhere in the bush!

“Absolutely smitten with the industry by then, we decided to keep our 20% share in Sebring when he went to stud and of course he went on to be a very good sire at Widden (70 stakes winners including Group 1 stars Dissident, Criterion, Egg Tart, Nettoyer, Amphitrite and Lucky Bubbles).

“We also had a share in Fiorente when he won his Melbourne Cup (Fiorente now stands at Widden Victoria) and then there’s horses like Cool Passion.

“We’d currently have about 40 horses – a mix of racehorses and breeding stock – and probably had a couple of hundred horses since we started.

“I’m the first to say that we are probably among the luckiest owners ever but as you can imagine, not every horse is a winner – a lot of slow ones! – and everything we’ve gained from the industry has been poured back in.

“I sincerely wish every owner started with a winner like us: there’s so much bad news out there in the world at the moment and it’s really disappointing when you see owners get disillusioned and leave the industry. We’ve clearly got a large stake in racing and breeding, but it doesn’t matter what level you’re at – it’s all about having fun.

“Really … can someone tell me a better way to beat the lockdown blues than sharing a couple of winners and a foaling with the rest of the family?”


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