Kiwi Chronicles

Class of 2017

Last week’s Kiwi Chronicles featured the New Zealand dominance of Savabeel (Zabeel) within the local industry, so this week, a gaze into the crystal ball might be appropriate.

Savabeel is also the country’s most prominent sire in Australia and since we are largely dependent on the Australian buying bench, making an impression there is paramount.

First, the not so good news: The number of new stallions arriving in New Zealand for stud duty has fallen away over the last few years.

On a much brighter note, however: the class of 2017 are showing promising results. Following Savabeel’s deeds is an enormous task as he is exceptional. Stallions of his calibre are rare and to expect any of the younger brigade to reach even half of Savabeel’s achievements is very unlikely.

When looking at both the New Zealand and Australian sire stats, our leading sires have been in service for a while now, starting with Savabeel, who currently sits tenth on the Australian premiership. Savabeel went to stud in 2005. He will very soon turn 21.

Perennially successful Darci Brahma (Danehill) followed Savabeel to stud two years later. He is about to turn 20.

Per Incanto (Street Cry) raced until he was five and therefore did not begin his stud career until 2011. He is 18 to northern hemisphere time.

Shocking (Street Cry) also raced until he was five and didn’t begin stud duties until 2011, the same year as Per Incanto. He will soon be 17.

Needless to say, time waits for no man (or stallion) and there is no known cure for ageing. Inevitably, there must be a succession which begs the age-old question: Who are the next prominent sires?

Of the next batch, perhaps Proisir (Choisir) is destined to top the New Zealand earnings list? This current season has easily been his best. From four crops he has 18 stakes performers and 108 winners to his name and there is no reason why he cannot build on the success he has enjoyed so far.

The quality of his mares will have improved greatly on the back of some topclass results, headed by the country’s top sprinter, Levante.

Ocean Park (Thorn Park), El Roca (Fastnet Rock), Ghibellines (Shamardal) and Reliable Man (Dalakhani) have each sired at least 30 individual winners this season in New Zealand. The latter has sired 55 winners in Australia this season, second to Savabeel’s 75.

Primed and ready

With two crops to the races is the class of 2017, which includes (alphabetically) Belardo (Lope De Vega), Tarzino (Tavistock), Tivaci (High Chaparral), Turn Me Loose (Iffraaj) and Vadamos (Monsun). They look like giving the Australian buying bench renewed reason to return to our shores next January to scoop up the best of them.

These five have positioned themselves as the next generation but the upcoming season is critical. Their second crops will be three, plus their first crops will now have to compete against all age groups. Anything can happen, and usually does.

Haunui Farm’s Belardo is working away quietly. He jumped out of the blocks quickly when Avonallo took out the Welcome Stakes (Listed, 1000m) early in the 2020-21 season which gives the impression that the stallion has been around longer.

He shuttles to the northern hemisphere where his stock have performed rather well, making up five of his seven stakes winners so far. More impressive is that he has 16 stakes performers and 99 individual winners to his name, and in a short time.

Belardo is in the perfect position to launch. He has been well supported and, under the radar, could well pull off a few surprises this coming season.

Westbury Stud’s Tarzino has had an Australian autumn that even Australian stud masters would be shouting about.

The stallion’s trainer, Mick Price, is his biggest supporter and has snapped up more than a few of his progeny during the selling season. Additionally, Price and training partner Michael Kent Jnr have proven their judgement by training Jungle Magnate to bag the South Australian Derby (Gr 1, 2500m).

Gypsy Goddess is Tarzino’s second Group 1 winner and the filly’s form at three, culminating with the Queensland Oaks (2400m), suggests that she is just the sort of mare that might land a Caulfield Cup (Gr 1, 2400m) this coming spring.

Meanwhile, Russell Warwick, Westbury Stud’s general manager, remains calm. Thirty years at the helm are thirty reasons why Warwick is not getting too far ahead of things. With experience comes wisdom. A great beginning, yes, but it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

From the New Zealand industry’s standpoint, Tarzino’s early success could not be better timed. If they are showing Classic form at three, at four they could be anything.

Tarzino’s early promise may even take some of the sting out of our losing his sire Tavistock (Montjeu) and this past autumn, combined with the fact that the last of the Tavistocks have been through the ring, may be the catalyst for the Australians to plunder Karaka next year.

Waikato Stud’s Tivaci is similarly primed to launch. His first stakes winner was also an Australian Group 1 winner, Never Been Kissed, snaring the Spring Champion Stakes (2000m) earlier in the season.

Curiously, Tivaci did not sire a two-year-old winner in his first crop but more than made up for that with his second. His Wolverine is a very talented filly and ranks among the top tier of New Zealand two-year-olds this season. In five starts she won three, including two Group 2s, and was second, at Group 1 level and at Listed level, in the other two.

If Wolverine does not head to Australia in the spring, there is every reason to believe that she will feature prominently in the 2022-23 NZB Filly of the Year series.

The Aussies saw Tivaci on their home soil and his sire, High Chaparral (Sadler’s Wells) is revered there. Karaka beckons.

Another stallion that the Aussies were exposed to is Windsor Park’s Turn Me Loose. A tough sprinter-miler, Turn Me Loose exhibited his courage among the best that could be assembled in Melbourne. Taking on the Aussies in that department can be a mission but he was well up to the task.

When his first crop was offered for sale he was in the shadow of both Vadamos and Tivaci, but with five stakes winners and a further three stakes performers, is now setting them a target.

His Licketysplit had to be good in holding out Dynastic (Almanzor) in the Sistema Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m) while in Melbourne, Prix De Turn’s Moonee Valley Group 2 win, plus Ancient Girl’s Listed win at Morphettville, sends a message that the Aussies can appreciate. Turn Me Loose could run and is the real deal as a sire.

Rich Hill Stud’s Vadamos also has an exciting filly to represent him, one of the stallion’s four stakes winners and two stakes performers to date. That figure is sure to grow.

His La Crique is absolutely top notch. She is headed to Melbourne this spring and has justified that faith with several topclass performances as a three-year-old.

In eight starts, all this season, La Crique landed five wins and was placed in the other three. Her last three starts were top quality, beginning with the easiest of wins in the Desert Gold Stakes (Gr 3, 1600m) at Trentham in January.

In the Avondale Guineas (Gr 2, 2100m) she bolted away from the 150 metres for another easy victory. She didn’t get the best of runs in the New Zealand Derby (Gr 1, 2400m) yet rattled home when clear to run a super second to Asterix (Tavistock). Another Caulfield Cup candidate?

These five stallions have made more than promising starts to their careers but more importantly, our industry needs them to perform. The stalwarts are in their late teens and early twenties. Time is marching on.

Weekend wrap up

Just the two stakes races last Saturday, both won by Australian-breds, however, Morphettville’s Oaklands Plate (Listed, 1400m) winner, He’s Heaven (Zoustar) is from a Zabeel (Sir Tristram) mare and from a well known family.

The Peter Moodytrained runner was having his second start and although challenged late, rallied well to go clear again near the line.

His dam is the very talented Lights Of Heaven, a Group 1 winner at the same track as her son’s stakes success, in the Australasian Oaks (2000m). That was one her eight wins, with a further five Group victories in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. Her three Group placings included a third in the Caulfield Cup, so she was a topclass racemare in every way.

Her dam, I’m In Heaven (Volksraad) won six in Melbourne and Brisbane and is a sister to the good two-year-old stakes winner Eloa, herself a half-sister to Diamond Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m) winner Dal Cielo (Per Incanto).

The next dam, Cent From Heaven (Centaine), is a sister to Group 2 winner Perfect World as well as to the dam of Thorndon Mile (Gr 1, 1600m) winner, and sire, Alamosa (O’Reilly).

This is the direct-line family of champion Chicquita (Blank), the winner of 16 races including the VRC Oaks (Gr 1, 12f) and The Thousand Guineas (Gr 1, 8f) from whom 58 stakes winners descend. Of these, 12 are Group 1 winners including New Zealand Derby (Gr 1, 2400m) winner Mansingh (Wilkes) and Golden Slipper Stakes (Gr 1, 6f) winner Eskimo Prince (Todman).

He’s Heaven is blessed with a mouth-watering list of sires in his background. His sire Zoustar (Northern Meteor) is one the most sought-after sires in Australia and his respective dams’ sires are Zabeel, Volksraad, Centaine (Century), Sound Reason (Bold Reason), Oncidium (Alcide) and Star Kingdom (Stardust) – all champion sires.

Metro matters

Saturday’s Rosehill and Flemington meetings proved happy hunting grounds for the Kiwis. They provided three winners at Rosehill, namely So Country (Shamexpress), Lord Ardmore (Reliable man) and Bold Mac (The Bold One) plus Jaguary (Niagara) at Morphettville.

Rich Hill Stud’s Shocking (Street Cry) sired a notable double at Flemington, initiated when formerly Group 3placed Horrifying, under a clever ride from Craig Williams, sprinted clear in the straight for his fourth career win (all at Flemington or Sandown) when scoring the Flemington Cup (2800m), taking his earnings beyond $400,000.

Later on the card, Hezashocka showed great spirit to get the nod in the Members’ Handicap (2000m) after getting back in the field to be second last rounding into the straight. He made the front with a strong run past the 100 metres, yet had to find plenty when challenged hard on his inner, before sticking on well for his second Australian win (both at Flemington). The winner of the Championship Stakes (Gr 2, 2100m) at Ellerslie last season, Hezashocka  has now had 11 starts for three wins and three placings.

Reflection

News coverage that Verry Elleegant (Zed) is two weeks away from returning to the racetrack is just the tonic we need to brighten up our winter, especially since her new trainer, Francis Graffard, is really pleased with her progress leading up to a start in the Prix Rothschild (Gr 1, 1600m), to be staged at Deauville on August 2.

Will you be setting the alarm to watch her run? As one who tuned in to Peter Kelly’s call from Longchamp in 1977, when Balmerino (Trictrac) ran second to champion Alleged (Hoist The Flag) in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Gr 1, 2400m), you can bet that the writer won’t miss this for anything.

With our southern hemisphere season winding down, this might be a good time to reflect on the race of the year and the writer’s vote would go Verry Elleegant’s brilliant performance in the 2021 Melbourne Cup (Gr 1, 3200m).

When she strode to the front at the 300 metres, my first thought was James McDonald had gone too soon, but the mare was cruising and a hundred metres later there was no catching her. It was a stunning victory and will remain as one of the strongest Melbourne Cup wins in my memory.

Considering she was three wide at the 600 metres and five wide starting the run home, she gave her opponents no excuses whatsoever. She cruised the last 100 metres, McDonald merely waving his right hand at her. Just brilliant.

She could have retired then and there with her fabulous record protected but protected from what? If Nature Strip (Nicconi), as an older horse, can show the northern hemisphere racing fans what we have, why not Verry Elleegant?

What might we expect from Verry Elleegant fresh up?

As a five-year-old mare she won over 1400 metres first up in the Winx Stakes (Gr 1). That was late August, preceding her win in the Caulfield Cup and seventh in the 2020 Melbourne Cup. A threemonth spell saw her return in February of 2021 to run third in the Apollo Stakes (Gr 2, 1400m) then bag her first Chipping Norton Stakes (Gr 1, 1600m), second up.

Her six-year-old career began in the same race as the previous season, the Winx Stakes but on this occasion she finished second. Next was victory in the George Main Stakes (Gr 1, 1600m) before three starts in Melbourne culminating with her memorable Cup win.

She was back in February, winning second up, her eleventh Group 1 over the 1600 metres of the Chipping Norton Stakes at her favourite track, Randwick.

Verry Elleegant comes to hand quickly. Early in her preparations she runs well over 1600 metres, the distance that she will attempt at Deauville.

If Graffard is wise, he will have consulted with her former trainer Chris Waller regarding her idiosyncrasies, but the mare always tries her best, even in the bog that she had to contend with in April. Those who thought she only performed with the cut in the ground were silenced after the Melbourne Cup.

Looking beyond her French debut and towards the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Graffard might also consider a call to McDonald. The trainer was unlikely to have missed McDonald’s great Royal Ascot rides last month.

If she doesn’t win at Deauville, her great determination will surely see her run well, although the 1600-metre track is a straight course, something that Verry Elleegant has not faced in her career.

Go on! Set your alarm. She is worth it.