Kiwi Chronicles

A comprehensive wallop

Winter gloom, cold snaps and wild weather are somewhat expected at this time of year but in Brisbane, the New Zealand-breds heading the attack on Queensland’s racing riches, added some sunshine and brightened proceedings with a day to remember.

Both Group 1s, the Queensland Derby (Gr 1, 2400m) and the Kingsford-Smith Cup (Gr 1, 1300m), fell to the New Zealanders. I Wish I Win (Savabeel) had his revenge over Bella Nipotina (Pride Of Dubai). His victory in the Kingsford-Smith was no real surprise. We already knew how good he was.

However, the real surprise was the enormous run by Warmonger (War Decree) in the Derby. The Mick Price and Michael Kent Jnr-trained three-year-old was one of the favoured contingent but no one predicted such a comprehensive walloping.

During the running it looked like Craig Williams aboard Navy King (U S Navy Flag) was going to steal the race. A lead of eight lengths heading towards the end of the back straight became ten lengths inside the 800 metres. Lurking, much handier than we might have anticipated, Warmonger was given the responsibility of dragging the field forward to close the gap. Given the way the race was run, this should not have been his job.

To begin with, he drew the outside alley [18] and at the post with a lap to run was midfield, stuck four deep starting the first bend. Warmonger sat way further forward than usual but starting the back straight he kept improving to share fifth but was still caught wide.

From the 800 metres, still three deep, Blake Shinn began their chase and was a clear second inside the 600 metres. As soon as the leader straightened, Warmonger pounced and took over. At the 300 metres he was well clear but inside the 200 metres he made it a procession. Instead of being ten lengths in arrears with 600 metres to run he was ten lengths in front at the post, toying with his opponents.


Inglewood boost

“Bloody exciting,” said Gus Wigley of Inglewood Stud who stands Warmonger’s sire War Decree (War Front). “He’s a superstar!” It was certainly a superstar’s performance. An upside-down pattern, a wide run and the main chaser yet he destroyed them and looked like he could go round again.

Pre race, co-trainer Michael Kent Jr did suggest that Warmonger was ready and that the 2400 metres was perfect for him. Staying was his forte and the stable expected a big effort. It is likely that they too never expected such a devastating performance. Post race, Kent Jr stated that he wondered what Shinn was up to: “I’m thinking what are you thinking here Blake, but he just made all the right calls.”

“What a great run. He did it the tough way but he was comfortable. I just wanted to make sure he kept going on his run,” said Shinn.

Warmonger has twice been through the NZB Karaka sales ring, first as a yearling in 2022 when he fetched $75,000 out of the Valachi Downs draft of Book 2. The following spring he was back for the NZB Ready To Run Sale, offered by Prima Park, selling for $165,000 to Riccarton trainer Shane Kennedy.

In April 2023 the gelding breezed through his first trial, winning by four lengths at Ashburton and was sold to OTI Racing and Partners soon after but was held back until last spring, scoring at Mornington in his second start.

That win must have registered with the connections because his next start was in Listed company on Melbourne Cup day at Flemington in the TAB Trophy (Listed, 1800m). His run in the straight looked like he should have won quite easily but he had to fight back when challenged to win narrowly but gamely.

This past autumn his best runs were a good second in the Port Adelaide Guineas (Listed, 1800m) and an even better second in the South Australian Derby (Gr 1, 2500m), finishing strongly both times. The Queensland Derby win takes his record to three wins in nine starts for earnings of $933,300.

For War Decree, his oldest are four-year-olds. Warmonger is from his second crop and is one of 37 winners.

At the 2021 NZB Karaka Yearling Sale, the writer made a point of visiting the Inglewood Stud tent. In a brief chat with Gus Wigley I shared an Americanism with him which is often used in racing there, when describing the chances of a runner that might be flying under the radar. That term is “smokey” which I put forward regarding War Decree’s potential.

Inglewood Stud will be hoping that smoke turns to fire in the shape of support from broodmare owners. War Decree averaged 75 mares in his first four seasons but in year five served 47 with an uptick to 63 last spring. With a fertility rate of 83% there is room plus top value.

Warmonger is one of two winners from the winning Savabeel (Zabeel) mare Princess Sapphire. The other is New Zealand One Thousand Guineas (Gr 1, 1600m) third placed Blue Solitaire (Almanzor). Princess Sapphire was a half-sister to dual Listed winner Merion (O’Reilly) but sadly passed away in 2022 having produced just three foals.

Grandam Sapphire Belle (Danske) was a Listed winner of five races and the great-grandam was a sister to four-time Group 1 winner Alibhai (Noble Bijou). This family is known within the New Zealand breeding industry as the “Flight” family and Warmonger certainly took flight, soared even, at Eagle Farm.

Although the margin was huge, it should be noted that New Zealand provided the quinella when the filly Moonlight Magic (Almanzor) came home well for second.


Savabeel – again and again

Warmonger may have stolen the show but I Wish I Win put up a brave performance in the Kingsford-Smith Cup in conditions that were not his preference. Bella Nipotina led at the 200 metres but was caught at the 100 metres then, as tough as she is, fought back and it took another 50 metres before I Wish I Win had the upper hand. They had the finish to themselves with two and a half lengths back to third.

Apart from the soft track, I Wish I win also drew the inside barrier which has cost him in past races. Luke Nolan allowed the gelding to drift soon after the start but inside the 600 metres there was room to move away from the rail. By the top of the straight they were out in the centre of the track. That’s where he likes to be and from there was able to produce a professional win. “On top of the ground they wouldn’t have seen which way he went,” said Nolan.

Always remembered as the yearling with the twisted foreleg, I Wish I Win’s bank account is closing in on $12 million, this his seventh win in 21 starts. He is to be spelled now, the next target The Everest (1200m) in October.

Another fact to be noted is that I Wish I Win’s sire Savabeel is also Warmonger’s damsire. Will we ever appreciate just how good a sire Savabeel is?

As an aside, we witnessed the Magic Millions sale of Imperatriz (I Am Invincible) for a staggering $6.6 million last week. What a return for her syndicate of owners who also shared in earnings of similar proportions.

In a new twist the mare was sold remotely, via video, and the purchaser has access to the best stallions in Australia, including, presumably, Written Tycoon (Iglesia). Assuming the mare has not yet shipped, why not keep her in New Zealand until the spring then have her covered by Savabeel? It would be a masterstroke apart from recognising what a powerhouse stallion Savabeel is.

Yulong’s Vin Cox has taken the suggestion on board. “Not a bad suggestion as we have a few shares in Savabeel. The partners have not decided yet.”


Price/Kent undeniable

The Cranbourne stable of Mick Price & Michael Kent Jr cashed in big time at Eagle Farm. Warmonger’s huge win was preceded by Hezashocka (Shocking) in the Premier’s Cup (Gr 3, 2400m) who has found top form, having won the Gosford Gold Cup (Listed, 2200m), run at Newcastle, two starts back.

Travelling sweetly into third inside the 600 metres, Hezashocka cruised alongside the leader before the 300 metres and at the 200 metres looked in for the easiest of wins. He was challenged inside the 100 metres but lifted sufficiently to hold on by a half length. Just as he did at Newcastle, Hezashocka enjoyed the soft track, gaining his fifth win and third stakes taking his earnings to $1,375,186.


On the local front

Regular visitors to Kiwi Chronicles will be aware that in last week’s edition, coverage included the recent world-wide deeds of Belardo (Lope De Vega), especially after his Southern Warrior took out the Champagne Stakes (Listed, 1600m) at Pukekohe just over a week ago.

A week on and the Belardo story grows. This time at Wanganui as Belardo sired the winners of the two stakes races held, namely the Castletown Stakes (Listed, 1200m), won by Belardi (Belardo), and the AGC Training Stakes (Listed, 1600m) taken out by Belardo Boy (Belardo). The latter has proven to be a fine wet-tracker and now has three stakes wins to his credit including the 2023 Winter Cup (Gr 3, 1600m) at Riccarton.

Second last before they straightened, Joe Doyle cut the corner then went wider for better ground. Leader Bradman (Pins) had a solid break but Belardo Boy gathered him in past the 50 metres and was too strong for career win nine and earnings of $330,052.

Earlier on the Wanganui program, Belardi, also ridden by Joe Doyle, led all the way with Doyle angling the youngster to the outside rail for the run home. Although chased hard, he had a comfortable length and a half up his sleeve at the line for consecutive wins after impressing at Taupo just ten days prior. Saturday’s win was his third career start and he is Belardo’s 11th stakes winner.

Belardi’s half-sister Moonlight Magic (Almanzor) was successful in the Championship Stakes (Gr 3, 2100m) in late April and second (albeit a distant second) in Saturday’s Queensland Derby. Their dam Japonica (Encosta De Lago) is now five from five runners to winners. Importantly, two are stakes winners within the last few weeks.

Their grandam is a half-sister to the champion Australian Three-Year-Old filly Serenade Rose (Stravinsky), a triple Group 1 winner including the VRC Oaks (Gr 1, 2500m) and Australian Oaks (Gr 1, 2400m). Serenade Rose is the grandam of Trekking (Street Cry) whose ten wins and $5.9 million included the Stradbroke Handicap (Gr 1, 1400m). 

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