George Tsohalis set out on a mission back in 2003 to start breeding his own successful line from a bitch he’d raced called Hot Storm. It has been one hell of a ride for Tsohalis with plenty of ups and downs along the way.
This Saturday night, another chapter unfolds in that story when Set To Shine, trained by George’s uncle, Bob Mumford, lines up in the final of the $25,000 Group 3 Summer Cup at Wentworth Park.
“I can’t believe it to be honest, it’s something that I set out to do ten years ago.”
Tsohalis’ father Angelo passed away a little under three years ago and Set To Shine was among the last litter the pair bred together. If George could change one thing, he would love nothing more than for Angelo to see this litter race.
“It’s been a real journey. It’s just a shame Dad’s not around to see it. I said to him twelve years ago that we have to breed our own, he said he wasn’t interested in breeding but he actually put this litter together and little Set To Shine, she’s just been a marvel.”
Tsohalis is the first to admit that Saturday night’s race will be tough to win.
“This is a Group 3 race but all these big staying races are bloody hard to win. I mean look at Dyna Willow, 41.9 first look is a pretty big effort. I think the race depends on what Dyna Willow does, if she comes out in front and runs 41.9 it doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing, that’s the facts of it.”
Tsohalis thinks that Set To Shine’s best hopes will be if she can land somewhere near the lead.
“There’s going to be one of us up front and I’m hoping that I’m it, because I know I can’t run down Smart Valentino or Lucy Wires if they’re in front of me, that’s pure mathematics.”
Tsohalis tasted early success in the breeding game before a cruel twist of fate saw his plans take a major setback, losing his foundation bitch as she was having her second litter.
“We were living on a farm and bred Set To Shine’s mother (Princess Tayah) from a bitch we owned called Hot Storm. They were Stately Birds. We planned to breed more from her. The next litter was to Hallucinate just as he was starting out at stud, but unfortunately she died having the pups, it’s taken me this long to recover. We packed up the farm after that because everything was tied up in her. I gave Princess Tayah to Don McMillan who won three in town with her, but then she broke down so I retired her.”
Tsohalis took a step back from breeding, yet was never keen to part ways with Princess Tayah. But it took a few stern words from his father Angelo to form the catalyst for Set To Shine’s litter to come about.
“I forced my father to keep Princess Tayah. We initially let her out to people to breed with and there were a few in her first litter to Big Daddy Cool that were ok. Someone asked me to sign her over to them and I said no way. My Dad sort of got the shits and said if you’re going to keep her, you better breed with her.”
So George and Angelo set about looking for a key to breeding success.
“I looked for a reason why the Big Daddy Cool litter went so well. I did my research and came up with a bit of a formula that linked him and Mandagery Man, it’s a formula I’m going to try and stick to. Unfortunately it won’t be with Princess Tayah, I won’t breed with her again, she’s ten now.”
The Mandagery Man x Princess Tayah litter has proven great for Tsohalis and will form the cornerstone of his future breeding ventures. Unfortunately, in another twist of bad luck, Tsohalis lost one of his other good bitches from the litter, Luck’s Changed, when she passed away earlier this year. Luck’s Changed had finished third in the Bob Payne Spring Sprint final behind Gold Town and Xylia Allen. Fortunately for Tsohalis, he still has three other bitches from the litter to breed with, including Set To Shine.
“I’m hoping to set myself up breeding from this litter. I thought I was going to have four bitches but now I have three. I’ll breed three litters a year, keep a couple and sell the rest and just see what happens.”
Tsohalis has also already began working on the next generation.
“I’ve already bred with one of Set To Shine’s sisters called Heftress, but unfortunately she only had the one pup to Smooth Fancy. She was actually the fastest in the litter and beat Exclusive One at Richmond. The other bitch in the litter La Host, she was the blistering one with early speed. She ran 29.6 at Gosford and The Gardens and a quick time over 600 before she broke down. I’ll breed with her too.”
But it is Set To Shine who is left to fly the flag for Tsohalis on the track for now, and he has always had an opinion of her.
“I think we underestimated how good this litter was. You’ve only gotta go through Set To Shines form. When we first got her back she ran 30.90 at Richmond and then 30.08 at Wenty. I said to my uncle, if she runs 700 she’s gonna be a sensation, to us anyway.”
But Tsohalis didn’t exactly have his door knocked down with offers from people wanting to train Set To Shine, which is how Bob Mumford came to have her in his kennel.
“I kept saying that she’d make a good stayer but no one listened to me. Nobody wanted her and that’s how my Uncle Robert got her, I said to him you better train her. They all want to train her now but it’s too late.”
Tsohalis is clearly appreciative of having a dog like Set To Shine, despite having had his share of bad luck in the last decade.
“It’s just really nice to be competing at this level with dogs that we have bred and it’s a bit eerie to have our best dogs just after Dad left us. But it’s been fun and we will have a little bit more before it all ends I suppose.”
When Tsohalis talks about what Set To Shine means to them, you can sense the satisfaction and pride. He manages to encapsulate it all with one short summation of his 27 kilogram white and black chaser.
“I’m not gonna say she’s a champion or anything, but she’s our little champion.”