Kiwi Chronicles

A year of cheer for New Zealand and much optimism for 2023

“We’re back!”, says the marketing catch phrase of New Zealand Bloodstock, surrounding the upcoming Karaka yearling sales series.

It’s true. Our industry is back, not only from the obvious but also from the standpoint of this year’s, and especially this spring’s, race results.

Consequently, last month’s Ready to Run Sale saw the international buyers return in strength. The atmosphere was vibrant and it felt very much like old times.

The results continue. Not only are the established sires maintaining their standing, there are several young guns making an impression, all very timely for the annual Karaka yearling showcase. The dates are back to normal too; late January and early February.

The smiles on Ready to Run vendors’ faces were impossible to miss and the yearling vendors can look forward to similar results. The last two years have been a challenge, summed up nicely by Waikato Bloodstock’s Bryce Tankard, when Kiwi Chronicles caught up with Bryce and his dad, Ginger, prior to the Ready to Run Sale.

“Over the last couple of years, the vendors have been amazing, hugely accommodating and everyone went out their way to make a sale. Nothing was too much trouble. That period was tough, so now that things are back to normal, being rewarded is deserved’, said Tankard.

Never went away

While “we’re back” applies to the industry at large, the country’s leading establishment, Waikato Stud, never went away. Instead, Savabeel (Zabeel), almost single-handedly, held the industry together. His son, I Wish I Win provides The Kiwi Chronicles’ ‘Story of the Year’ (wrapping up 2022 later in the column).

Appropriately, Waikato Stud provided yet another timely result when their Ocean Park (Thorn Park) sired the budding star Kovalica, winner of the Grand Prix Stakes (Gr 3, 2100m) at Eagle Farm on Saturday.

The three-year-old sent a strong message to his fellow 2019 crop of Derby aspirants when taking his record to four successive wins in five starts, drawing clear by a length and three-quarters. According to ANZ Bloodstock News’ race analyst, Ken Boman, the gelding was impressive. From last, he rounded them up upon straightening, took the lead at the 200-metre mark easily and went on to win comfortably.

His Warwick Farm win over 1600 metres on November 23 was claimed narrowly by wearing down his opponent, but since thenover more ground he appears to have bags of staying talent and the ability to accelerate when asked.

In the shadow of Savabeel, Ocean Park took a little while to make his mark but when he did, he crashed the party with the likes of four-time Group 1 winner Tofane, three-time Group 1 winner Kolding, Ocean Billy, Oceanex, Fabric and Our Hail Mary, all of which are from Ocean Park’s second crop of 2015.

As usual, the “wait and see” effect impacted Ocean Park, his fifth season attracted 101 mares and his sixth, 83. After the 2015 crop went on a rampage, Ocean Park’s numbers rebounded, averaging 157 the next three seasons. In other words, he’s back. Individual stakes winner number 18, Kovalica won’t be his last.

Serious update

Kovalica was purchased for $110,000 by Guy Mulcaster from Gordon Cunningham’s Curraghmore Stud at the 2021 NZB Karaka Yearling Sale. His Group 3 success took place just two weeks after close relative Sacred Satono (Satono Aladdin) took out the Bonecrusher Stakes (Gr 3, 1400m), thus providing a serious family update.

Kovalica’s dam, Vitesse (Makfi), is a half-sister to triple Group 1 winner, The Bostonian (Jimmy Choux). His grandam, Keepa Cheval (Keeper), is a half-sister to twice NZ Horse of the Year and ten-times Group 1 champion, Mufhasa (Pentire), both halfrelations to Sacred Satono’s dam, Belle Joie (Mellifont).

Kovalica’s older half-sister has trialled, but is yet to race, making Kovalica the only foal from Vitesse to see raceday action. Vitesse’s third living foal, a filly by Super Seth (Dundeel), will be offered via Kilgravin Lodge’s Book 1 draft at next month’s NZB Karaka Yearling Sale.

Movie star

That was Mark Chittick’s description of O’Reilly (Last Tycoon), who has been gone eight years yet reminded us of his sire deeds once again when Sagunto led all the way in Saturday’s Manawatu Cup (Gr 3, 2300m).

A December 2014 tribute to the stallion by journalist Barry Lichter included a great Chittick comment: “The year we retired him to stud, in 1997, when he was four, we had seven stallions here, but if we showed him first, people didn’t want to see anything else. And if we showed him last, they didn’t remember any of the others”.

Sagunto is from O’Reilly’s final crop and, as it was the seven-year-old’s maiden stakes success, takes O’Reilly’s total to 96 individual stakes winners. Perhaps an overlooked statistic of O’Reilly’s is his ability to get a winner. From 1405 runners he has sired 996 winners, or a superb 70.88%.

Sagunto’s win is mostly thanks to a heady ride by Lisa Allpress, who took the early initiative, led comfortably down the back then added some pressure leaving the back straight, away by four lengths. She gave him a breather rounding into the straight then shot him clear again. Moving out for better running he was twoclear at the 200 metres and up to the line was too good for the competition.

Listed placed at three, Sagunto has gone on to score seven times and is from Queen Sabeel (Savabeel), also a Listed winner who has foaled four winners from four to race.

Queen Sabeel’s grandam, Voguessa (Almurtajaz), won at Listed level in Adelaide. The latter is a half-sister to Brisbane Group 2 winner Gypsy Rogue (Gypsy Kingdom) while their dam, Roguessa (Namnan) is a half-sister to Vow (Dignitas), dam of champion and weight-for-age star, Vo Rogue (Ivor Prince), the winner of 26 races including six at the elite level.

All 14 hands

Another worthwhile comment was from winning rider Jonathan Riddell, after Darci La Bella (Darci Brahma) showed her class in the Challenge Stakes (Gr 2, 1400m) at Trentham: “She got stuck in a pocket and I had to use all 14 hands of her to push out, but she scoots away and just did it all by herself”, said Riddell. “She is a genuine racehorse and I wish they were all like that”.

She sat two out in fifth past the 800 metres, holding there to the top of the straight. Pocketed at the 400 metres, she tried to push out but was denied, found space at the 300 metres, drove up to challenge at the 200, then took over. Once in front she was never going to be beaten.

The Group 2 was her eleventh career victory in 17 starts, the last four in succession, prompting trainer Allan Sharrock to state: “She can go in the paddock now, but I think she could be a Group One winner in the spring next year with some more maturity”.

Having raced throughout the winter, the mare was originally going to be spelled in early October. “I was going to put her away after she won the Taranaki Breeders’ Stakes at Hawera, but we kept her going to Pukekohe where she gave them a hiding and now, she has come out and done this”, said Sharrock.

Darci La Bella is five and Sharrock sees even better things ahead. “The Darci Brahmas tend to get better with age and if all goes to plan, she will be very competitive on what she has achieved so far in her career”.

Gold and black

After Brendan and Jo Lindsay purchased Cambridge Stud, Polyantha (Encosta De Lago) was one of the mares included in the sale. At that point, the mare had produced one foal, That’s Incranibull (Cape Blanco), now a five-times winner in New Zealand and Australia.

Her next three seasons, the mare either missed or slipped, but the Lindsays persevered, sending her to then resident stallion, Highly Recommended (Fastnet Rock). The latter is now standing at Berkely Stud, his original home in Canterbury, after serving one season at Cambridge Stud in 2018.

Saturday’s re-scheduled Eulogy Stakes (Gr 3, 1600m) saw the Lindsays’ gold and black chequers in front when the Highly Recommended daughter Polygon took control from the 100 metres for her second win and maiden stakes success at start seven.

Fifth (two out) leaving the back straight, she crept closer from the 600-metre post and shared fourth starting the run home. With a steady run she kept improving to share second at the 200, levelled up then took over at the 100 metres.

The Te Rapa feature was not part of the filly’s original plan. “When they transferred the race to Te Rapa we decided to take a serious look, as we thought the field looked within her scope,” said trainer Lance Noble.

The original plan was to tackle the Eight Carat Classic (Gr 2, 1600m) at Pukekohe on Boxing Day, with Noble adding: “There was no Legarto there (at Te Rapa), as there is likely to be in the Eight Carat”.

Another change of plan has been hatched. “I am keen to see how she goes over even further, so the right race might be the Royal Stakes (on New Year’s Day). If they are going to get a distance like that then they are likely to do it in their age group and with an economical trip like she got today, I don’t see any reason why she wouldn’t be strong at the end of 2000 metres,” said Noble.

Polygon is the third stakes winner for Highly Recommended, his first two, Group 2 winner Sumstreetsumwhere and dual Listed winner Waldorf, represent his first crop. The stallion has also sired a further ten black-type performers.

Polygon’s dam, Polyantha, scored five wins and ranks as a half-sister to Moonee Valley Group 2 winner Pure Harmony (Stravinsky). Another half-sister is Auckland Cup (Gr 1, 3200m) second Galway Lass (Rhythm), the third dam of Annavisto (Reliable Man), winner of the Frances Tressady Stakes (Gr 2, 1400m).

Sir Patrick Hogan bred Polyantha and her dam, Ballycairn (Zabeel), she a half-sister to New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (Gr 2, 1600m) winner Deianira (Taufan) who was imported as a foal at foot of Cailin Oir (Sallust).

Story of the Year

In wrapping up the final Kiwi Chronicles of 2022, the story of the year has to be that of the wonky leg belonging to I Wish I Win (Savabeel). With help from Trevor Marshallsea’s “It’s In The Blood” column, the story is one of heartwarming improbability.

I Wish I Win started life with a wonky leg, his near fore, which was so badly bent and rotated it looked like it might break under the slightest of pressure.

Waikato stud’s Mark Chittick takes up the story: “When we laid eyes on him we didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. His brother was a beautiful horse and was going to be at the top end no matter which sale he was going to. Then we got this bloke. He was a shocker.” The brother fetched $1.4 million, a few months after I Wish I Win came into the world.

As for attempting to sell the colt, there was not a chance. However, nature is a wonder and Chittick is not a fan of surgery or screws to correct faults, preferring to keep things natural. 

“We tried applying glue to alter the balance of his foot, but after a short time it was merely deforming the hoof. The main treatment was to put him in a small paddock, behind a hedge, so that no one could see him.”

Another factor was gelding at an earlier age than usual, in his case, 12 months, reducing the stress on his joints, allowing time and nature to do their job. I Wish I Win was eventually sent to Jamie Beatson’s Ohukia Lodge for breaking in and early education, with Chittick, backing him off the float upon arrival, saying to Beatson: “Now, you’re not allowed to laugh at this horse”.

Kiwi Chronicles spoke with Beatson at the recent Ready to Run Sale.

“When he was moving you could hardly tell. Everything straightened out when he got going,” he said.

Into training with Jamie Richards, I Wish I Win won twice at the trials before trekking to Awapuni to win on debut followed by a highly creditable second to On The Bubbles (Brazen Beau) in the Manawatu Sires Produce Stakes (Gr 1, 1400m).

Seven starts at three brought a Trentham win and five Group or Listed placings, before he was sent off to the Pakenham stables of Peter Moody. I Wish I Win scored impressively at Caulfield and backed up with a brilliant finish in the Testa Rossa Stakes (Listed, 1300m).

A close fifth in the Toorak Handicap (Gr 1, 1600m) preceded his huge payday in the Golden Eagle (1500m). 

I Wish I Win’s tale of triumph over adversity just goes to show that every horse can have his day. 

Closing out 2022, Kiwi Chronicles wishes you a great Christmas and New Year.