Kiwi Chronicles

Balance restored

From a Kiwi perspective, the late Tavistock (Montjeu) has done much to invigorate the success of New Zealand breds among the staying three-year-olds in Australasia, with the stallion playing a major part in the bloodlines belonging to the final two Australian state Derby winners, in South Australia and Queensland, while New Zealand’s only Derby fell to his son Asterix.

Tavistock’s grandson, Jungle Magnate (Tarzino), was convincing when taking out the South Australian Derby (Gr 1, 2500m) two weeks ago and on Saturday, his son, Pinarello, held on tenaciously to bag Queensland’s three-year-old Classic staying test.

Unusually, the Kiwis were shut out of the first four state Derbies with the big two, the Victoria Derby (Gr 1, 2500m) and the Australian Derby (Gr 1, 2400m) both falling to the top class Hitotsu (Maurice), who is out for the foreseeable future due to injury.

The Western Australian Derby (Gr 2, 2400m) went to Alaskan God whose sire, Playing God (Blackfriars), is making quite a name for himself in the state. Alaskan God has tasted defeat just once in six starts and whose return at four will be much anticipated.

In a turn up for the breeding industry, a grandson of Testa Rossa (Perugino), The Nephew (Wordsmith) scored in the Tasmanian Derby (Listed), run over the slightly shorter 2200 metres.

The SA and Queensland Derbies are unlikely to be the last in which Tavistock has a say. There remains a full crop of rising three-year-olds then a smaller, last crop, of rising two-year-olds, which are still to make their mark. Tavistock may not be with us but there are many potential stars ahead. Maybe even a stallion or two?

So far, Westbury Stud’s Tarzino (Tavistock), himself a Victoria Derby winner, is off to a very promising start. Let’s hope he’s not the only one.

Pinarello caught the public’s attention on Avondale Guineas (Gr 2, 2100m) day (February 19) when landing the final race on the card run over the same distance as the Guineas, won by the very good filly, La Crique (Vadamos).

La Crique was most impressive, racing away by three and three-quarter lengths but forty minutes later Pinarello was just as impressive, and by a bigger margin.

That was just his fourth start. He broke his maiden at start two, also by a wide margin. Pinarello and La Crique then met in the New Zealand Derby (Gr 1, 2400m). He finished a fair fifth to the filly’s second, the winner being yet another son of Tavistock, Asterix, who has not been seen since.

Change of plans

If not for a shortage of floats, Pinarello might have been spelling instead of racing. The rescheduled NZB Karaka Yearling Sales created pressure on the float companies which kept Pinarello at the stables for longer than expected. His recovery from the NZ Derby caught co-trainer, Roger James, by surprise. “Holy hell, this horse has come through it well,” he said, prompting James to keep him in work.

A trip to Awapuni for the Manawatu Classic (Gr 3, 2000m) came unstuck due to a bleeding tooth. He had to be scratched just before loading into the starting stalls.

That meant a sevenweek break between the NZ Derby and stepping out in the Championship Stakes (Gr 2, 2100m) at Pukekohe. It had no effect and he gave his rivals a galloping lesson, easing down late, yet still two and half lengths in front. When he returned to scale, a plate was missing.

Another enforced break ensued when Queensland’s shocking weather set up an unsuitable track for the running of the Rough Habit Plate (Gr 3, 2143m), the desired lead-up for the Queensland Derby.

“I thought it was of benefit, to be honest, to have missed the Rough Habit Plate, where I thought we were going to run on an inevitably bad track,” said James. No doubt the Manawatu experience gave James the confidence to proceed despite missing the run.

In his final ride (although we were not to learn of his retirement until after the race), Leith Innes rode Pinarello to perfection. Drawn 17 in the 18-runner field, Innes somehow found a lane two out as they reached the winning post with a circuit to run, settling midfield.

“I got in with a round to go,” said Innes. “I had to make my run a little bit earlier than I wanted as there were a couple of slow ones in front of me and he was a sitting duck for a long time.”

Three wide and sharing the lead at the top of the straight, Pinarello took over inside the 400 metres and was a length clear at the 200 metres. The lead shrunk at the 100 metres and he was under serious pressure at the 50 metres, but gamely kept his head in front.

Kiwi-breds were the next four home with Paternal (Savabeel) grinding away late, only to come up short, with a half length back to Caboche (Vadamos), who was gaining on the leaders but too late. Right there in the fray was Dark Destroyer (Proisir), another head back in fourth. Southern Stock (Tavistock) finished fifth.

Let’s keep him

Pinarello could have been purchased for $300,000 but was retained by Brendan and Jo Lindsay after failing to reach his reserve at the 2020 NZB Karaka Yearling Sale. Their judgement, along with Cambridge Stud CEO Henry Plumptre, has been spot on. They deserved their after-race celebration.

Zonza (Zabeel), Pinarello’s dam was a Caulfield Group 3 winner and at stud has produced three stakes winners from four to race.

Her 2017 filly foal, Vernazza (More Than Ready), succeeded in the Matamata Breeders’ Stakes (Gr 2, 1200m) and was a length second in Ellerslie’s Diamond Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m) behind Cool Aza Beel (Savabeel). She was retired in February.

Zonza’s 2016 filly foal, Bavella (Snitzel) won at Listed level and recorded four Group placings. There is a year younger sister to Pinarello, followed by an Almanzor (Wootton Bassett) filly in 2020. She missed in 2021 and visited Bivouac (Exceed And Excel) last spring.

Timely

Sam Williams of Little Avondale Stud won’t mind that he didn’t sell the top Time Test (Dubawi) lot at the NZB 2021 Karaka Yearling Sale. That honour went to Simms Davison of Mapperley Stud who sold Lot 272 for $220,000 to Bruce Perry on behalf JML Bloodstock (Lib Petagna).

Named Leedox, he took out the Auckland Futurity (Listed, 1400m) at his second start and is Time Test’s fifth stakes winner, having sired four stakes winning two-year-olds in the northern hemisphere from his initial crop. Third home was the filly Timeless, also by Time Test, a result which left Williams unsurprisingly excited.

“He has had a fantastic start here and to have three runners in the Karaka Million, and to also get a stakes winner from his first crop, is a massive feather in his cap and the best is still to come,” said Williams. “He is just finishing covering his biggest book ever up in England, and he has been very well supported with full books down here in his last two seasons, and I would expect that to happen again this year. He is a good-looking son of Dubawi, who is just flying.”

Behind the leaders starting the run home, Ryan Elliot squeezed Leedox through a gap inside the 400 metres. His mount shared the lead at the 200 metres before leading alone at the 100 metres. Challenged near the line, he then lifted late to hold on by a long neck.

Prior to Time Test’s first offerings the writer compiled an in-depth preview of the stallion, contacting several vendors. Davison’s pre-sale comment was: ”We just have the one (Lot 272) but he’s a really good one, a good looking boy. Athletic, a nice type.”

Sound

Time Test remained sound through four preparations, winning at two from three starts and setting a track record at Royal Ascot in the Tercentenary Stakes (Gr 3, 1m 2f) at three, one of his three wins in his second season from five starts.

In both the York Stakes (Gr 2, 1m 2.5f) and Sandown’s Brigadier Gerard Stakes (Gr 3, 1m 2f) as a four-year-old, his race pattern was to gather in his opponents then outlast them. Once he found the lead he was tenacious. In his only other start at four he finished third in the Eclipse Stakes (Gr 1, 1m 2f).

Kept in work as a five-year-old, Time Test was sent to the US and finished second in all three starts there, the last two at Grade 1 level. Had he succeeded in either of those he might not be available to New Zealand breeders, summed up by Tim Lane, former stud director of Britain’s National Stud, Time Test’s northern home.

“It’s sad that he didn’t win a Group 1 but if he did he wouldn’t be at the National Stud, I’m sure he’d be standing at Juddmonte Farms’ Banstead Manor,” said Lane.

Combining his blood with the slower maturing New Zealand broodmare blood, Williams’ comment that the best is yet to come is probably accurate. Siring a stakes-winning two-year-old is a bonus, as is the fact that the stallion remained sound.

Leedox is the second stakes winner from his dam, Trentham winner Bella Carolina (O’Reilly). Her first was Wellesley Stakes (Listed, 1000m) winner Tennessee (Per Incanto), one of her two wins at two, who also finished fourth in the Sistema Diamond Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m) behind Heroic Valour (Fastnet Rock).

His grandam is a Centaine (Century), half-sister to AJC Metropolitan Handicap (Gr 1, 2400m) victor Dress Circle (Zabeel), while his third dam is Flight Queen (Noble Bijou), a Listed winner of eight races.

Interestingly, his fourth and fifth dams are by Agricola (Precipitation) and Sabaean (Blue Peter) who both stood at the Williams family’s Te Parae Stud.

Prejudged

Martin Stevens, whose Good Morning Bloodstock blog via racingpost.com is always a good read, raises the subject of pre-judgement regarding the grand stayer Stradivarius (Sea The Stars).

Stevens’ reason for focussing on Stradivarius is one that we in Australasia are often faced with and that is “extreme staying ability” and how that affects a potential stud career. In other words, winning such races is great, but the same races are considered a negative in the sales ring.

A key point is that Stradivarius is an eight-year-old who is still racing at the highest level. If his incredible Group 1 race record included shorter races, he would have been whisked away to stud three or four years ago and we would have been denied experiencing his talent.

That talent includes seven Group 1s comprising four Goodwood Cups (2 miles) and three Royal Ascot Gold Cups (2.5 miles). In 33 starts Stradivarius has amassed 20 victories of which 18 are Group races.

At two he won his third start over a mile but at three began his assault on the major staying races, bagging the first of his four Goodwood Cups at just his seventh start. Since then, he has continued to dominate over distance.

His twenty wins total 39.5 miles for an average of a shade less than 2 miles per win. He is simply a sound, glorious stayer who may well add a fourth Gold Cup in a few weeks.

As good as he is, his particular ability may count against him and that is because of the widespread belief that stoutness doesn’t sell in the sales ring.

Worse, is that some stallions are automatically categorised as jumps sires before they start. This is the point that Stevens was making. It is really such a shame. Of course, in Australia and New Zealand we do not specifically breed jumpers. We ‘find’ them after they race on the Flat.

Having said that, there are many who would be proud to own a piece of the remarkable hurdling mare Honeysuckle (Sulamani), also an eight-year-old who is unbeaten in 16 starts and has banked more than €1.5 million.

Yes, commercial realities are foremost in commercial breeding. Selling is an industry of its own within the overall bloodstock world. At some stage, however, the product needs to head to the racetrack which is where the proving is done.

It’s that old question isn’t it? Are you breeding to race or sell?

Instant but expensive

The staying races, especially in Australia, have, for some years now, been dominated by European imports. Rather than breed stayers, Australian owners take the short cut and purchase ready-made previous winners from Europe, therefore avoiding the long wait involved in breeding a stayer.

Prizemoney in Australia is very attractive, but buying a potential stayer out of the ring runs into its own problem. For the most part, breeders are not that interested. It’s quite the conundrum, hence the one-way, proven or semi-proven racehorse traffic between the northern hemisphere and Australia.

The traffic for proven runners between New Zealand and Australia has increased too, however, the reasons are not breeding-based but racing-based, a subject for another day.

The New Zealand Stud Book has strong roots and connections to classic staying lines which were the preference from the 1950s. That blood can still be found in back generations.

The races everyone wanted to win were the Auckland Cup (Gr 1) and the Wellington Cup (Gr 1), both over two miles. Sadly, the former has lost its great standing and is now run as a Group 2 race while the once grand Wellington Cup has fallen further, to Group 3. The New Zealand Cup (16f), once a Group 1, has been rated at Group 3 for even longer.

The Tommy Smiths and the Bart Cummings knew where to buy their cups horses and they were hugely successful.

The desire for early speed and maturity, while not quite at the level it is in Australia, has permeated the New Zealand industry as well. We see it in the number of yearlings sourced from Australia as weanlings then pinhooked as yearlings or for the Ready To Run Sale.

A number of Australian trainers understand that, as long as you have the patience, New Zealand is still a great source of staying blood. Buying here is not the ‘instant racehorse’ variety that can be found in Europe but ‘instant’ has a price and the Kiwi-bred yearling offers great value by comparison.

Which leads back to Stradivarius whose sire Sea The Stars (Cape Cross) has sired eight stakes winners this month alone including the unbeaten star Baaeed, one of more than 90 stakes winners.

Stradivarius’s dam has produced two stakes winners and she is a stakes placed half-sister to the grandam of Melbourne Cup (Gr 1, 3200m) winner Protectionist (Monsun). His third dam is the outstanding Pawneese (Carvin), the Champion Three-Year-Old and British Horse of the Year.

There is so much speed in the Australian Stud Book, why wouldn’t a Stradivarius-type find favour with breeders? Indeed, why not Stradivarius himself?