Southland’s Favourite Passes Away

Southland’s Favourite Passes Away

Bruce Stewart

19th November 2020

Franco Legend was one of Southland’s favourite horses in his racing days.

Sadly he died on Sunday at Macca Lodge,  where he has been a resident on farm stallion for the past few years.

During the Hannon Memorial in September 2016, he suffered a leg fracture and subsequently he had to be retired.  

From 98 starts he won 25 races, and was second and third 11 times. He won two thirds of his stakes in New Zealand and the remainder in Australia where he was trained by Geoff Webster.

For a horse that was primarily trained in Southland he achieved a remarkable record.

Fifty nine of his ninety eight starts were Group races.

“All the way through his racing career he raced against the top level and was 100% sound. It’s been a terrific ride really. He raced from a two year old to nine and won all that money. He’s seen a lot of Cup horses come and go,” trainer and part owner Hamish Hunter commented after said after Franco Legend retired.

As a two year old the Falcon Seelster colt had just four starts.

“I would regard him as a B grade two year old. At his last race at two he ran in the Kindergarten Stakes. He was three wide for the first half and parked after, and they went 1-54 and he was still there at the top of the straight. That gave me an idea of his future.”

His best season was as a three year old when he won seven races from twelve starts.

“He just grew another leg once he got another year on him which is typical of the Falcon Seelsters. He developed this real high speed and on his day he was very very good.”

His biggest win was at Menangle in Australia in the Group One Bohemia Crystal.

Franco Ledger winning the Bohemia Crystal at Menangle

He also won the Group Two Shepparton Cup, beating Philadelphia Man and Lennytheshark.

He was placed second behind Arden Rooney in the 2015 Group One Hunter Cup.

On the national front Franco Ledger became the fourth horse to win back to back Hannon Memorials (2012 and 2013). The others were Palestine (1976-1977), Idolmite (1980-1981) and Iraklis (1997-1997).

“Winning two Hannon’s was special.”

Franco Ledger winning the 2012 Hannon with Hamish Hunter beating Franco Emirate

Throughout his racing career he was a bit of a Cups king, winning the Central Otago Cup (2012), Wyndham Cup (2012 and 2014), Wairio Cup (2013), Invercargill Cup (2013), Southern Country’s Cups Final (2012), Methven Cup (2014) and Waikouaiti Cup (2012 and 2014).

“He won two Waikouaiti Cups and a Methven Cup and was never beaten on the grass.”

His win in the 2014 Waikouaiti Cup was one of the highlights for Hunter in the horse’s career.

“It’s probably a World record on grass because they don’t have too many two mile races on grass.”

He held two 3200 metres all-weather track records – one at Invercargill (3-58.7) and one at Wyndham (3-57.0), which still stands.

“He beat the New Zealand Cup winner (Arden Rooney) in the Wyndham Cup (2014). It was a terrific run.”

Franco Ledger coming back after his Wyndham Cup win – Photo Bruce Stewart

He was twice named Southland Horse of the Year (2012 and 2013).

Hunter remembers him having his little quirks. “If you were standing next to him in a stall and everyone was relaxed and he wasn’t getting the attention he’d kick the back wall and you’d swear the building was going to fall apart.”

His biggest stakes winning season was in 2015 when he won four races – three in Australia and one in New Zealand. He banked $233,781 that season.

Trainer Hamish Hunter drove him to win 15 races while others who were successful on him were; Peter Hunter (3), Geoff Webster (3), Anthony Butt (2) and Colin De Filippi (2).

Hunter is rightly full of admiration for the Falcon Seelster stallion which he part owned with the much travelled and boysterish What Ever Syndicate.

“You’d run out of tape if you talked to them (laughter).”

As a stallion Franco Ledger has 16 two year olds on the ground and 11 yearlings.

“We should see the first of his progeny on the track this season. My brother (Peter) has got a nice two year old running round and you’ll see him later on.”

His name is Justalittlesip and is out of the three win Bettor’s Delight mare Justasip.

The What Ever Syndicate and mates after Franco Ledger’s Invercargill Cup win – Photo Bruce Stewart

For the record:

Group Wins:

  • Group One Bohemia Crystal
  • Group Two Shepparton Cup
  • Group Three Hannon Memorial (twice)
  • Group Three Invercargill Cup
  • Group Three Central Otago Cup

Group and Listed Seconds:

  • Group One Hunter Cup
  • Group One Easter Cup
  • Group Two Kaikoura Cup
  • Group Two Ashburton Flying Stakes
  • Group Three Rangiora Classic
  • Group Three Central Otago Cup
  • Group Three Invercargill Cup
  • Listed Five Year Old Emerald

“In the Harness Jewels when they had a race for five year olds he came from the rear. Terror To Love won the race but Franco Ledgers sectionals were unbelievable. A galloping trainer told me after the race that he had gallopers that couldn’t come home as quick as he did that day. So that gave you an idea of the spear speed he had.”

Group Thirds:

  • Group Two Interdominion Heat
  • Group Two Interdominion Consolation
  • Group Two Superstars
  • Group Three Canterbury Classic
  • Group Three New Brighton Cup
  • Group Three Forbury Park Four and Five Year Old Championship
  • Group Three Northern Southland Cup
  • Group Three Casey Classic
  • Group Three Bendigo Cup