Kiwi Chronicles

And the winner is…

After an enforced break, the annual NZTBA Awards event returned to the social calendar with outstanding support. Some 350 attended a great night which saw 28 trophies awarded to the breeders of Group 1 winners, followed by several prestigious annual awards plus a number of charity auctions.

Auctioneer Steve Davis and Trackside presenter Emily Bosson acted as dual MCs with Davis’s talents proving more than useful for the auctions.

Bosson, heavily “in foal”, was assured that there were a number of vets in the audience who could provide their services in the event of an emergency!

Organised by the Waikato branch of the NZTBA, they could not have chosen a better venue. Waikato branch president Dave Duley opened the function. It lasted well into the evening, closing with music and dancing.

Too close to call

For only the second time in NZTBA history, two mares share the time-honoured New Zealand Eight Carat Broodmare of the Year Award (sponsored by Arion Pedigrees).

For breeders, owning the Broodmare of the Year is the equivalent of a gold medal at the breeders’ Olympics. Once decided, that tag is forever memorialised on a catalogue page, adjacent to a mare’s race record.

Australia’s breeding industry has no equivalent.

The first such award was made in 1953 and comparing the deeds of the 69 previous winners, it is quite apparent that a mare’s produce for that year must be exceptional, either due to one outstanding individual, or to multiple top-line performers.

Less common is the latter, the mare who produces multiple group or stakes performers within the same season. Surely, that is a sign that a mare is more than doing her job. To foal a champion is one thing, but to foal more than one top-class galloper in successive years, or span of years, might be more impressive.

Such is the case for 2021-22, but this year the NZTBA was faced with several outstanding mares, the final nominees all having produced multiple stakes winners.

The upshot is that due to the strength of the nominees, and two in particular, even a coin toss was bypassed in favour of declaring a dead-heat. The last time that happened was in 1981.

Defending her title from last year, Opulence (Danroad) could not be denied. Her daughter, Verry Elleegant (Zed), again stole the limelight. One has only to view a replay of the 2021 Melbourne Cup (Gr 1, 3200m) to understand why Opulence had to be included as a nominee. The last 300 metres of that race says it all.

Opulence outdid herself this time around due to also having foaled Verry Elleegant’s older brother, Verry Flash (Zed), a Listed winner of the 2022 Rangitikei Gold Cup (1600m).

In any other year, dual stakes winners including a champion’s performance, would be sufficient to clinch the award, however, the mare that shares the award this year, similarly, could not be overlooked.

Baggy Green (Galileo) has the distinction of foaling three Group performers during the season just ended, a rare occurrence.

In the history of the award there have been just two previous award-winning mares, The Pixie (Mellay) and Parfore (Gold Brose), that can claim three separate black-type representatives during the season.

By some coincidence, The Pixie also had to share the award with Taiona (Sovereign Edition) in 1981.

That year, The Pixie was represented by Group 1 winner The Twinkle (Gate Keeper) and Listed winners, The Dimple (Noble Bijou) and The Fantasy (Noble Bijou). The latter won her own Broodmare of the Year title in style in 1993, represented by two Group 1 winners, The Phantom Chance (Noble Bijou) and The Phantom (Noble Bijou), in the same season.

Taiona’s top-class son Sovereign Red (Sir Tristram) won five Group 1 races that season.

Baggy Green’s claims rested with CF Orr Stakes (Gr 1, 1400m) winner, and four-times Group 1 placed, Tofane (Ocean Park); Sydney Group 3 winner No Compromise (Pins) and Australian Derby (Gr 1, 2400m) second, Benaud (Reliable Man). Such a trio of quality could also not be denied, causing this year’s award to be shared.

Finalist Shez Sinsational (Ekraar) could be considered unlucky that her two Group 3 winners, Sinarahma (Darci Brahma) and House Of Cartier (Alamosa) chose to record their combined five black-type wins in the same year as Opulence’s and Baggy Green’s foals. An honourable mention is the least she deserves.

The recent Valachi Downs dispersal sale serves as reminder of Baggy Green’s deeds when she fetched $1.7 million, the only downside, as far as the New Zealand industry is concerned, is that, along with a number of our better mares, she will continue her great work in Australia and not here.

As for Opulence, she joins a formidable list of six former dual award winners, the outstanding producers Sunbride (Tai-Yang), Taiona, Imitation (Oakville), Benediction (Day Is Done), Triassic (Tights) and Bagalollies (Zabeel).

Verry Elleegant’s French debut has been pushed back. Instead of the Deauville Prix Rothschild (Gr 1, 1600m) the mare will start in Deauville’s Prix Jean Romanet (Gr 1, 2000m) and should she race well, the Prix Vermeille (Gr 1, 2400m) over the same course and distance as the Prix de l’Arc Triomphe (Gr 1, 2400m), is her ultimate aim. The Opulence story may have a yet-to-be-written chapter.

As for Baggy Green, all three of her stakes performers could well enhance the mare’s record including her star filly, four-times Group 1-winner Tofane. Although a seven-year-old, she remains in training and is being set for the Memsie Stakes (Gr 1, 1400m).

Breeder of the year

Breeder of the Year, the annual award sponsored by Sir Patrick and Justine Lady Hogan, went, for the third successive year and ninth time overall, to Waikato Stud, Garry Chittick and Chittick Investments (and partners).

The previous year, the stud bred four Group 1 winners and this year bettered that with five: Mo’unga (Savabeel), Never Been Kissed (Tivaci), Noverre (Savabeel), Probabeel (Savabeel) and Tiptronic (O’Reilly).

Added to the five elite winners were a further two Group 2 winners, three Group 3 winners and three Listed race winners, an overwhelming effort from the country’s leading breeding establishment.

Three further breeders were nominated including David Ellis & Karyn Fenton-Ellis (and partners) who had an outstanding year, breeding two Group 1 winners from a handful of nine mares.

Their Belle En Rouge (Burgundy) not only scored the New Zealand Oaks (Gr 1, 2400m), the filly is the current co-holder of NZB Filly of the Year Award, another prestigious title, shared with Self Obsession (Shocking).

The Ellis’s also bred Maven Belle (Burgundy), beaten only once in five starts and winner of the Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes (Gr 1, 1400m). The Two-Year-Old of the Year has not been decided yet, but Maven Belle deserves to be odds-on favourite.

That will be some compensation to the breeders as competing against the might and power of Waikato Stud is a daunting task at any time. Two separate Group 1 winners is a staggering ratio from just nine mares.

The Dennis Brothers (and partners) also bred two Group 1 winners, The Perfect Pink (Savabeel) and The Chosen One (Savabeel) from their fabulous line. Their nomination was thoroughly deserved, as was the Little Avondale Trust, breeders of the Newmarket Handicap (Gr 1, 1200m) winner Roch ‘N’ Horse (Per Incanto).

The Newmarket result was quite a coup for the stud. Taking on and beating the best sprinters in Australia, is no mean feat and a rare one at that.

In an exceptional year, Trelawney Stud didn’t make the final batch of nominees. They also had a phenomenal season, breeding Group 1 winner Two Illicit (Jimmy Choux), Group 2 winners Zayydani (Savabeel) and the tragically-lost Pareanui Bay (Lonhro) plus Group 3 winner Cheaperthandivorce (Savabeel).

The same could be said of Gerry Harvey and Russell Warwick of Westbury Stud as they were responsible for South Australian Derby (Gr 1, 2500m) winner Jungle Magnate (Tarzino) and Otaki-Maori WFA Stakes (Gr 1, 1600m) winner Mascarpone (Shooting To Win).

Warwick made one the better quips of the night when asked by Steve Davis about a booking to Tarzino (Tavistock): “There is a waiting list, Steve. This time last year, no one wanted to know me, but now I am the most unpopular stud master in the industry.”

Small breeder

For the second year, Novara Park’s Luigi Muollo sponsored the Small Breeder of the Year Award. The trophy, for breeders who breed from five or fewer mares, returns to its first recipient because the winner is the same as last year, Don Goodwin, breeder of Verry Elleegant, the only difference being that Goodwin also bred Verry Flash.

Another difference is that Goodwin has, since last year, doubled his broodmare brand – from one to two.

The remaining nominees were R.I & the estate of M.A.G Johnson, as breeders of Doncaster Handicap (Gr 1, 1600m) victor Mr Brightside (Bullbars) and L (Scott) Williams, breeder of New Zealand’s top sprinter Levante (Proisir).

Personality of the Year

Enormously multi-talented Mark Chitty, of Haunui Farm, was named Personality of the Year due to his heavy involvement in the merger between the Auckland Racing Club and Counties Racing Club, now known as Auckland Thoroughbred Racing. Chitty is Vice President.

The merger, plus sale of valuable land formerly owned by Ellerslie, may be the catalyst for creating a financial base from which a serious increase in stakes monies will now be possible.

How Chitty had the time to devote to a heavy racing administrative workload is a wonder. He is already a very busy man, running Haunui Farm and, being a veterinary surgeon, must wear at least two hats while overseeing a highly commercial stud.

Chitty’s answer to that question was simple: “The industry needs to change and someone needed to step up and get involved in that change. We don’t have many options.”.

Chitty has become the face of the merger and hopefully, most of the really hard work is now behind him. The breeding industry will be one of the beneficiaries and therefore is fully justified in naming Chitty as their most deserved recipient.

Horse of the Year

Breeder Don Goodwin was a frequent visitor to the stage for, not only did he receive a Group One trophy, he also added trophies for Broodmare of the Year, Small Breeder of the Year and humbly accepted the trophy for NZTBA Horse of Year. His Verry Elleegant received huge applause from the attendees when video of her fabulous Melbourne Cup victory was shown. She was the crowd favourite, for obvious reasons.

Kiwi Chronicles spoke with Don Goodwin during the event, particularly about Verry Elleegant’s Melbourne Cup performance: “I was very confident before the race,” said Goodwin. “When she ran seventh the previous year she ran the fastest closing sectionals so I knew the 3200 metres was never going to be an issue. She only had to get a clear run and she would be very hard to beat. She didn’t just win, she bolted in.”

Goodwin finally had the opportunity to wear attire purchased for such an event, but with two cancellations decided to wear it for Verry Elleegant’s start in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Gr 1, 2400m). “Well, she ran second, so I thought maybe that wasn’t a good idea. When it came to the Melbourne Cup last year, I thought I’d put the gear on again and we’ll open the champagne before the race because I was pretty confident and you all saw what happened.”

Savabeel sweep

The three stallion trophies, the Grosvenor Award (New Zealand earnings), the Dewar Award (combined Australian/New Zealand earnings) and the Centaine Award (world-wide earnings), resulted in champion sire Savabeel’s (Zabeel) success in all three, thus a clean sweep and not for the first time.

“He’s a legend,” said Waikato Stud’s Mark Chittick. “He’s healthy, looks great and last year he served 130-odd mares and got 120 in foal. He turns 21 on September 23rd and we will certainly be honouring that. He is very important to us and very important to New Zealand.”

Although not the subject of an award, the stud also celebrated the late O’Reilly (Last Tycoon) as Champion Broodmare Sire for the season just ended, his third such title.

The complete dominance by Savabeel was matched by his stud, Waikato Stud, who not only received five separate Group 1 trophies but also gained the Breeder of The Year title.

Additionally, the stud was represented by Jaimee Gowler who was named the Mary Lynne Ryan Young Achiever of the Year. Gowler is Waikato Stud’s bloodstock manager and has progressed to her current role after succeeding in a variety of important positions within the stud’s operation.

The writer can attest to Gowler’s devotion to her work. Last year, when putting copy together regarding first season sires, Kiwi Chronicles witnessed Gowler’s incredible patience with the youngsters when she was the yearling manager.

Principal Mark Chittick acknowledged Gowler’s skill and dedication to her work. Chittick also took time to point out the considerable efforts from office manager Glenda Knight and to the Waikato Stud “family” of staff who make the running of the stud so successful, describing their results as a true team effort.

“It’s what we do and it’s all we do. This has been an incredible year and the efforts of so many people go into getting an award like this and we are very thankful,” said Chittick.

Racing wrap

Here at home, Pacific Dragon (Charm Spirit) fought off a determined challenge from Sophmaze (Derryn) to bag her third success and maiden stakes win, the Ryder Stakes (LR, 1200m), which had to be transferred from Otaki to Te Rapa due to Otaki’s track being waterlogged.

A versatile filly, Pacific Dragon lost Ellerslie’s Eclipse Stakes (Gr 2, 1200m) in the protest room back in January, so her reward was due. She is one of three winners from three to race from her dam Daring (Encosta De Lago), herself a daughter of Matamata Breeders’ Stakes (Gr 2, 1200m) second Liatris (Rock Of Gibraltar).

Liatris is a three-quarter sister to quadruple Group winner Shania Dane (Danehill), one of a host of stakes winners close up in this family, including Diamond Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m) winner Summer Passage (Snitzel).

There is no getting away from Waikato Stud as the season ended, but not in the way one might expect. One of the three stakes races run on Saturday went to Cross Talk, a son of Keano (Pins), who broke through at stakes level when taking out the Winter Challenge (Listed, 1500m) at Rosehill.

Cross Talk took over the lead at the 1000 metres and when straightened for the run home went clear and was never in danger for his fifth win in just seven starts.

His sire, Keano, was bred by Waikato Stud, another string to their bow.

Kiwi Chronicles discussed Cross Talk and Keano at length in the July 12th issue of ANZ Bloodstock News.