Steve Moran

The New Zealand Bloodstock Premier Yearling Sale

We all love that bit of friendly rivalry between the Aussies and the Kiwis. We might pretend we don’t like each other but it’s funny how we’re almost instantly drawn together when standing in a bar in some other corner of the globe.

You have to love the irony that, on Australia day – tomorrow – the vast majority of Australia’s key racing fraternity will be in New Zealand inspecting yearlings. And it’s likely, a good percentage of those at home will be putting some New Zealand lamb on the barbie. Doh!

We, Australians that is, don’t mind George Simon interrupting a race call to take the ‘piss’ out of the Wallabies.

George, that’s because if you divide the number of people living in New Zealand, Queensland and New South Wales into the number of people on the planet you’ll realise that less than a quarter of one per cent of the world’s population would give a toss about the Bledisloe Cup (is that what it’s called?). Ah, statistics.

Of course, I’m not sure we’ve entirely hit the mark either in having a ‘dig’ at the kiwis. You’ll have seen, I’m sure, the Arrowfield Stud videos with the ‘talking’ stallions. If not, google them, as otherwise you’ll think I’m stark raving mad as you read on.

Very cleverly written, well delivered, good PR. But I’m not sure it quite works to have Snitzel taunt Dundeel (High Chaparral) with ‘kiwis…shameless self promoters’ given that the Australian stud is promoting their resident New Zealand-bred stallion. But it’s funny.

To that end, the kiwis just might have something to brag about and have touched a nerve. To wit, four of the past five Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Gr 1, 2000m) winners including the aforementioned Dundeel. The other – Reliable Man (Dalakhani) stands at stud in New Zealand.

And we, Australians that is, are likely to pop over and spend $30 odd million – or more – as we did last year. Cos we love you, I think. The relationship, like it or not, is symbiotic.

Last season in Australia, New Zealand thoroughbreds won 25 per cent of the Group One races, from just 5.4 per cent of the racehorse population. Mind you, we might have won a few in New Zealand had Winx (Street Cry) and co campaigned there.

Karaka graduates won 23 Group One races last season and won the most Group One races at The Championships of any sales company. Ah, statistics. Still those couple aren’t bad from an NZ perspective.

There’s obvious quality of pedigree and performance at the top end of this year’s sale and recent history suggests there’s considerable opportunity, as well, to buy a good horse for something less than the median house price in the Sydney beachside suburbs.

Thirteen of the 15 Group One winners, last season, who’d graduated from NZB Sales sold for no more than the average plus 25 per cent. In that price range, was every one of the top nine performing graduates from Karaka last year and all but two of the top 20 graduates from 2015.

Similarly, it must be noted, not one of the top 15 publicly sold top 20 Australian bred prize money winners in 2015-2016, made more than $300,000 but the kiwis can still well claim to be the most regular, recent source of Classic winners and perhaps, even still, a Melbourne Cup (Gr 1, 3200m) winner.

Those damn stats again. NZ horses have won seven of the past eight Rosehill Guineas’ (Gr 1, 2000m); won eight of the past ten ATC Australian Derby (Gr 1, 2400m) winners; won seven of the last eleven Victoria Derbies (Gr 1, 2500m) and NZ fillies have won five of the past seven Queensland Oaks (Gr 1, 2400m) and the last three Australian Oaks (Gr 1, 2400m).

Of more interest to me, as an old fogey and a traditionalist, is the Melbourne Cup.

New Zealand-bred horses won 33 of the 55 Cups contested between 1947 and 2001. There’s been only two since – Efficient (Zabeel) and Prince Of Penzance (Pentire) but four others have finished top three since 2010 – So You Think (High Chaparral), Maluckyday (Zabeel), Who Shot Thebarman (Yamanin Vital) and Criterion (Sebring) and, in that time, there’s been no other suffix bar European.

I remain convinced we can breed Cup winners in Australian and certainly in New Zealand. It’s just a matter of will – the will to be patient.

Perhaps there’s another one there from Trelawney Stud which boasts seven Melbourne Cup winners – Hiraji (Nizami) (1947), Foxzami (Nizami) (1949), Macdougal (Marco Polo) (1959), Hi Jinx (Pride Of Kildare) (1960), Polo Prince (Marco Polo) (1964), Galilee (Alcimedes) (1966) and Silver Knight (Alcimedes) (1971)….or elsewhere.

 

DARREN GAUCI
Gauci has announced his impending retirement to join Matt Pumpa as an apprentice jockey coach with Racing Victoria.

The affable jockey is the closest thing to a racing ‘rock star’ I’ve seen in my time covering the sport. It’s easy to forget just how ’big’ he was during his time as an apprentice.

He rode his first Group One winner – Taj Eclipse (Taj Rossi) in the 1983 VRC Oaks – as a 17 year-old. He won three metropolitan jockey’s premierships as an apprentice, from the 1982-83 season, and was appointed number one rider for the powerful Colin Hayes stable when just 19.

In January 1984, the legendary trainer Tommy Smith was quoted, in various newspapers, describing Gauci as ‘probably the equal of George Moore.’

Flemington trainer Ray Lawson, on the same day, said: “Both Darren and Geoff Lane could do things all the time that other jockeys rarely do,” Lawson said. Gauci’s four apprentice’s premierships was only bettered by Lane’s five in the 1950’s.

However, for all that, my most vivid memory is Gauci’s amazing run of riding at least one winner at 18 consecutive city meetings in 1983 which dominated the media.

Gauci’s winning run began on March 26 when he rode smart filly Pleach (Star Of Heaven) to victory at Flemington. At the next 17 straight meetings in Melbourne, he rode 27 winners and moved into second place on the Victorian jockey’s premiership (which he went on to win). When the run came to an end, it led most news bulletins.

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