There can be few greater contrasts than the quiet, open plains of Queensland’s Darling Downs and Sydney colorful brothels.
But they are linked together in the incredible backstory of the boom racer Incentivize, who has galloped into furious Caulfield Cup favoritism and is also the best Melbourne Cup fancy.
Quietly speaking Toowoomba breeder, trainer, owner and former agricultural seed supplier Steve Tregea is the man behind Incentivize.
But Incentivize history may never have sprouted without controversial gaming identity and former brothel owner Eddie Hayson.
Hayson drove Incentivise’s mother Miss Argyle, a filly trained by Gai Waterhouse and finished second in the 2006 Gimcrack Stakes in the first of only two career starts.
Tregea had always seen the eyes of Miss Argyle and swooped on her as a breeding prospect in 2008 when Hayson sold his 30-year-old, racehorses and breeding mare for a discount sale.
“I do not know much about Eddie Hayson, but he had a clearing sale and Incentivise’s mother was one of his, I always liked her and had been eager for her for a while,” says Tregea.
She came up with a sales proposal after she got EI (equine flu) and I paid $ 270,000 for her, the same number she made when she was sold as a yearling.
“Every time I went and looked at her, I loved her, I think she had been an early favorite for the Golden Slipper.
“She was just a beautiful mare. Unfortunately, she died last year while having a Pride Of Dubai foal – her foal before it died later after it was born.
“But until then she had 10 foals in a row.”
Controversial identity Eddie Hayson drove Incentivise’s mother Miss Argyle. Image: Image: Craig Greenhill
One of the foals was Incentivize, a product of a pairing with the 2013 Cox Plate winner Shamus Award.
There were no early tips to suggest that the young Incentivize would be a horse that would take Australian racing by storm.
– Racenet (@RacenetTweets) October 9, 2021
For Tregea, who grew up on a dairy farm in Queensland and has been around animals all his life, this was just another foal on his Windermere Stud property 150 km west of Brisbane.
“He was a spider bugger,” Tregea says.
“He was beaten and he was thin, I always thought that if he developed and got fatter, he could feel good.
“But he just stayed thin, he grew up, but not out. I just thought he would be a good stayer, he had very little early speed, he would never be a sprinter.
“I kept waiting until he grew up.
“One day he won a 900 m jump, but it was only a virgin jump, and you do not know what is in them. Many horses win jumpouts.
“The first time he looked really good was when he won his maidenhood on the Sunshine Coast (with more than three lengths over 1600m in April), but I certainly wasn’t thinking of Group 1 races at the time.”
Steve Tregea looks out over the foal garden where Incentivize was born on his Darling Down property. Photo: Ben Dorries
Incentivize has not lost since the maiden victory in April – rose through the ranks in Queensland and won two Group 1s on bounce in Melbourne to take its winning streak to eight.
When Incentivize destroyed his opposition in Sunshine State and won so far that he could barely see his opposition, a call came that would change everything.
Prominent owner Brae Sokolski, who breeds horses like Verry Elleegant, and who claimed Everest 2019 with Yes Yes Yes, was on the fan.
His consortium wanted to buy Incentivize, and the deal reached would make the Toowoomba gallop go against Peter Moody and target the Caulfield Cup as his No. 1 spring goal.
Tregea does not love selling his horses, but says this one was a no-brainer.
“The deal was that I got $ 600,000 for half, and I stayed in half and kept the lead,” Tregea said.
Incentivize beats his opposition in the Tattersall’s Cup at Eagle Farm in June. Photo: Trackside Photography
“I am often not keen on selling them as at first it feels like you are putting a lot of work into a horse and blocking with unlimited money, just swimming in and just wanting to spend their money.
“But I have to be sensible as I have other horses to worry about and service fees to pay for my breeding horses.
Incentive was supposed to go south anyway when it came into the spring carnival, and that was where he was supposed to be. It probably only took half an hour for me to accept the sale.
“To be honest, it has not surprised me that he has gone to Melbourne and has already won two Group 1s.
“Based on what all the experts said and his time and his assessments, he would always be good enough.
“You can not be surprised if they tell you something, and then it happens.
“I tell Peter (Moody) a few things about the horse, but not really much.
“You can’t give one horse to another to train and then tell them what to do.”
Apart from everything else, the Incentivize story reinforces to Tregea that he made the right decision when he switched from breeding commercially to breeding to breed.
Steve Tregea, former trainer, breeder and CEO of Incentivize on his Darling Downs property. Photo: Ben Dorries
Tregea, a once “terrible jockey”, is like everyone else and reckons his horse will be hard to beat as the odds-on favorite in Saturday’s Caulfield Cup.
Incentivize has won Melbourne Group 1s at 1600m and 2000m its last two starts, but Tregea has always thought that 2400m or longer would be his sweet spot.
“The bet says he’s over the line and I have to say I’ve always had in mind that he’s going to get better as the distances increase, the only thing I’m guessing is that he has to deal with Caulfield. , “said Tregea.
“The great thing is that he has established his own race pattern now, the only thing I really taught him to do was to relax during the run.
“The other day when Mount Poppa was outside him, many people said it annoyed him, but it did not bother him because he did not care.
“He knows how to relax in a race.
“You never know how far a horse is going to go, they can keep lifting the bar, but they don’t most of the time.
“But when you beat them as easily as in Queensland, it was clear he was a good horse.”