That age old question is unavoidable: Are you breeding to race or sell?
The recent sales to major Australian breeding operations of Melody Belle (Commands) and Avantage (Fastnet Rock) via the Gavelhouse Plus platform are examples of a trend, at least in New Zealand, of one-off auctions of highly attractive ex-track mares. Melody Belle’s half-sister, Exaltation (Not A Single Doubt), is headed in the same direction after her sale last week.
All three are former Te Akau racemares and will be joined next week by another, Festivity (I Am Invincible), a Listed winner of six races including Ellerslie’s Hall Mark Stakes (1200m), who also finished second in the Concorde Stakes (Gr 3, 1200m) as recently as January.
Festivity was purchased out of the Windsor Park Stud draft of the 2018 NZB Karaka Yearling Sale (Book 1) for $410,000 and ranks as a three-quarter blood sister to Invincible Star (I Am Invincible), a dual Group 3 winner who was also Group 1 placed in Melbourne.
Te Akau buy to race and are not large scale breeders, although principals David and Karen Ellis are enjoying great success in that department as the breeders of New Zealand Oaks (Gr 1, 2400m) winner Belle En Rouge (Burgundy) and of prominent two-year-old, dual Group winner Maven Belle (Burgundy).
The major Australian-based breeding operations have the capital, backed with the stallion power, to invest in such mares. Their resources allow for the production of at least three or four highly desirable foals, the sales from which sometimes cover the cost of the stakes winning mare with the first offering.
Profit is not a dirty word. Breeding at the top level is definitely a business.
Melody Belle and Avantage had race records to salivate over. Exaltation, on the other hand, was a five-time winner, her relationship to Melody Belle being the major attraction, not forgetting that she was offered in foal to reigning and multiple champion sire Savabeel (Zabeel).
In Exaltation’s case, her owners did not make a profit as her Gavelhouse sale price, although substantial, was about 40 per cent lower than her original sale price as a yearling.
Festivity may well make more than her yearling purchase price. She is by one of Australia’s hottest sires and her catalogue page reads well.
What is clear is that because the money is so strong, this trend is further depleting New Zealand’s broodmare ranks. Gone are the days when a quality mare was retired by her owners and a few years down the road we could admire her foals at our annual yearling sales.
With very few exceptions, their foals are now by Australian-based sires and they are to be found at one of the big three Australian yearling sales on the Gold Coast, at Melbourne or at the Sydney Easter sale.
Two recent exceptions exist, thankfully. In 2019 Waikato Stud invested heavily in Bonneval (Makfi), the dual Oaks-winning three-time Group 1 winner. It would be very interesting if Bonneval were to be offered under this emerging trend. Chances are, Waikato Stud might be outbid.
Under any other ownership, Probabeel (Savabeel) would never have returned home from her wonderful Australian career. The Cambridge Stud Lindsays are to be congratulated for keeping her here. Breeding to race fits their case, especially regarding fillies.
Although both Waikato Stud and Cambridge Stud are businesses, underpinning that is that they race horses as well as breed horses. Sir Patrick Hogan was in the same boat.
Waikato Stud has adopted the policy of keeping at least two fillies from their young mares to maintain the family. Bonneval has had three successive fillies (her first three foals) so we might be lucky enough to see one for sale next year.
At the heart of the above trend however is cold hard cash. Our breeding industry is living in the shadow of the Australian version, as is our racing industry.
The enormous number of stallions in Australia, combined with the big boys shuttling their well-performed European stars, has created a huge demand for quality mares, whether they be stakes winners or siblings to stakes winners.
The top end of the market is where everyone wants to be and the only way to stay there is to own the best. That takes big money and to a large degree the poor relations to Australia’s east are not on the same footing.
Trainers have to eat
Further evidence of the shortage of cash can be found in the sales of local trial winners and maiden winners. Apart from winter, hardly a week goes by when a promising youngster attracts the attention of the burgeoning training establishments in the three eastern states of Australia.
Trainers have to eat and offers in the hundreds of thousands are difficult to refuse when the chances of earning such sums in New Zealand are out of reach, while all the time Australian stakes monies and racing opportunities are rapidly increasing.
Another trend is that New Zealand-based owners, those who, first and foremost, love racing, are sending their more promising performers to be trained in Australia, for the same reasons. Trends are difficult to slow once in full flight. What the answer is to stem this flow is not going to be easy to implement or ultimately solve.
In both scenarios the Kiwi-breds are performing proportionately very well at the highest level, especially across the Tasman, and especially this season. Long may that continue.
The merger of Ellerslie and Pukekohe, plus the sale of valuable central Auckland suburban land, could be a game-changer but is years away before we see its possible full impact. Their much awaited business plan is designed to increase stake-money to levels that the industry has previously only dreamed about.
Meanwhile, our top blood and promising racehorses are being exported. Our foal crop continues to diminish as are our race fields. If the Ellerslie-Pukekohe plan succeeds, we might be in the ironic situation of having to buy more racing stock from Australia.
Sydney is again suffering ‘the big wet’ and their tracks are being deluged and waterlogged which, for the normally superb autumn racing, is so sad to see.
Rosehill’s carnival, to be followed by The Championships at Randwick, should bring the best of the season together to compete. For the second year in succession, heavy tracks have caused fields to drop away.
One mare that departed Sydney in search of firmer tracks is Shout The Bar (Not A Single Doubt). Continuing the trend, she too is scheduled for a date at June’s Chairman’s Sale. Tofane (Ocean Park), whose date last year at the Magic Millions Broodmare Sale was postponed, will arrive there this time around with three further Group 1s to her name.
In the Sunline Stakes (Gr 2, 1600m), at Moonee Valley on Friday night, Shout The Bar gave her opponents a front-running galloping lesson, racing well clear in the straight for the dual Group 1 winner’s fifth career win. She shot straight to the front then steadied the pace to be a length in front past the 1200m. The lead was the same at the 800 metres, as well as at the 400 metres, before she slipped further in front rounding into the straight. Inside the 200 metres the margin was two lengths then at the 100 metres she cruised clear and was simply too good by an easy four lengths.
The 2019 Vinery Stud Stakes (Gr 1, 2000m) winner, Shout The Bar mostly likes being in front, a tactic she used well to defeat Probabeel (Savabeel) by a long neck in a fighting finish.
She added her second Group 1 in the Empire Rose Stakes (1600m) the following October, lifting late but never laying down in the fight. In the right conditions she gives her all and Friday night’s win took her earnings beyond $1.3 million. She may well fetch that much at the upcoming auction.
The mare has two New Zealand champion sires close up in her pedigree, namely O’Reilly (Last Tycoon), sire of her dam Drinks All Round, and Centaine (Century), sire of her grandam Tattinger. However, like many good ones, she descends from a mare by Foxbridge (Foxlaw) who was not only Champion New Zealand Sire for eleven straight seasons, he repeated the dose by claiming eleven successive New Zealand Broodmare Sire titles as well.
Many well established families were propelled by his initial presence including the famous ‘Belle’ family, the ‘Heights’ family and the ‘Foxona’ family.
Revered in Australasia, Foxbridge stood at Trelawney Stud, Cambridge, owned by Seaton Otway. A number of breeders owe huge thanks to both the stallion and Otway for their decades-long successes.
A Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott Racing purchase for $200,000, Shout The Bar was found at the 2018 Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale from the Newhaven Park draft. Her female family might not be quite as prolific as those mentioned above however hers is not without its stars.
Te March (Foxbridge) was a wonderful producer and is from the ‘March’ branch of the colonial Yatterina family. She foaled three stakes winners, namely Straight Lead (Underwood), Straight Irish (Pride Of Kildare) and Straight Time (Summertime). Te March’s granddaughter Gretel (Golovine) produced the Iron Horse, March Legend (Idomeneo).
Trained originally by the great Bill Sanders, March Legend was as tough as old boots and raced 20 times as a two-year-old. You read that correctly – 20 races as a two-year-old. The writer had the pleasure of attending a seminar at which Sanders was the guest speaker. In answer as to why he raced his horses so often, his answer was: “They’re racehorses, so I race them.”
In 1974 March Legend lined up in, and won, the very first two-year-old race of the season, the Kindergarten Stakes (800m) at Avondale on August 31. He added the Wellesley Stakes (Listed, 1000m) at Trentham and further wins at Wanganui and Ellerslie. In the autumn, at start 19, he had the audacity to show up at Awapuni to take out the Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes (Gr 1, 1400m), one of his six wins as a juvenile.
One week after the Sires’, Sanders stepped him out against the older horses over a mile and came away with a third placing in the All Aged Stakes (Listed, 1600m) at Te Aroha behind Battle Eve (Battle-Waggon) and the original Melody Belle (Taipan II). The modern day Melody Belle (Commands) stems from a different branch of the Belle family.
At three, March Legend added five more wins including the Harcourt Stakes (Gr 3, 2000m), Canterbury Gold Cup (Gr 3, 2000m) and Waikato Guineas (Gr 3, 2000m) plus finished second to champion Balmerino (Trictrac) in the New Zealand Two Thousand Guineas (Gr 1, 1600m).
March Legend raced on, scoring in the Marlboro Mile (Gr 2, 1600m) at Trentham in his five-year-old season, the Lion Brown Sprint (Gr 1, 1400m) at Te Rapa the following year and at seven, Ellerslie’s George Adams (Tatt’s) Handicap (Gr 2, 1600m).
In all he raced 104 times and won 20. He scored at Group 3 level in Brisbane and ran second in the Queen Elizabeth Randwick Stakes (Gr 1, 2000m) behind Shivaree (Sharivari).
Winning as a seven-year-old entire is almost unheard of these days but the feat was also achieved by last week’s Golden Slipper-winning sire Rebel Dane (California Dane). At stud March Legend sired the Group 3 winner (Our) Seadreamer from limited opportunities.
Shout The Bar’s connection to March Legend is via Gretel’s Australian-bred half-sister Kaitaia (Power House) who produced Caulfield Listed winner Guerilla (Mussorgsky). Kaitaia is the fifth dam of Shout The Bar and fourth dam of Doncaster Handicap (Gr.1, 1600m) victor Rangirangdoo (Pentire).
Drinks All Round, Shout The Bar’s dam was a winner in Sydney while her grandam Tattinger was a half-sister to three-time Group 2 winner Satinka (Stravinsky), as well as three-time stakes placed She Wishes (Kenfair), dam of Rangirangdoo.
The chocolates for El Roca
Westbury Stud’s El Roca (Fastnet Rock), whose oldest are five-year-olds, increased his individual stakes winners tally to six after a solid win by Irish Girl in Riccarton’s South Island Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (Gr 3, 1600m).
Visiting from the far north, she kept the leaders in view from the 800 metres and held fourth rounding into the straight. At the top of the straight she had the drop on the three in front, challenged to be second at the 200 metres and then took over. To the line she was always in command and had them covered by a length for her sixth career victory.
Her dam is a winning half-sister to Group 3 winner Aimee’s Jewel (Proisir), the 2020 Canterbury Breeders’ Stakes (1400m) winner. Second to Aimee’s Jewel that day was none other than Irish Girl herself. Grandam Aimee’s Idol (Colombia) was a Listed winner of six races.
These three make up half of the six stakes winners descending from the imported (to Australia) Major Bargain (Major Portion) whose daughter, Kingston Star (Star Of Heaven) won two Listed races at Flemington as a two-year-old.
Kingston Star would eventually find her way to New Zealand but the best of the family is Heavenly Knight (Celestial Dancer), the winner of 23 races including the Group 2 QTC Cup at Eagle Farm. His dam is a half-sister to Kingston Star, the fifth dam of Irish Girl.
Formerly with Tony Pike, Not An Option (Not A Single Doubt) can now focus his efforts on being a racehorse, having been gelded. As a two and three-year-old which included a Group 2 at Trentham, his ownership had thoughts of his becoming a future sire, that same ownership being a representation of major players within the New Zealand breeding industry.
The four-year-old, a son of quality racemare Chintz (Savabeel), returned to winning form when taking out the Listed Hareeba Stakes (1200m) at Mornington on Saturday.
Now with Mike Moroney, the gelding caused something of a surprise at odds of better than 50-1 but there are plenty of worthwhile sprints and miles for him in Victoria. Moroney is not averse to sending his charges back to New Zealand either and we might see Not An Option taking on some of our better sprints and miles next season.