Kiwi Chronicles

Covid Curve Ball

From New Zealand midweek, to Australia on Saturday, then up to Hong Kong on Sunday, the spotlight on the local industry hardly dimmed. 

New Zealand Bloodstock’s Ready to Run Sale proved a great success and, as if to put an exclamation point on things, the big money in Victoria the Saturday following went the way of Trelawney Stud’s Zayydani (Savabeel). Over in Perth, a new star, Western Empire (Iffraaj) emerged, while in Hong Kong, NZB Ready to Run Sale graduate Golden Sixty (Medaglia D’Oro) took his winning streak to 15. 

After three sales, beginning with the 2020 Ready to Run through to the January yearling sales and a May weanling sale, the industry quickly adapted to a closed international border and no overseas participation, overcoming that hurdle with technology and innovation. 

Shortly after the release of the 2021 Ready to Run Sale catalogue, New Zealand Bloodstock was thrown a Covid curve-ball in the form of an Auckland-region lockdown, meaning that the best sales complex in the world was out of play.

Necessity being the mother of invention, the number-eight-wire Kiwi ingenuity kicked in. The auctioneers, vendors (not forgetting their highly valuable stable staff), bloodstock agents and, ultimately, buyers, rallied strongly to stage a highly successful sale. 

A temporary venue at Te Rapa racecourse, live-streaming plus the newly-learned online bidding system, all combined for $20 million in turnover while setting new average and median statistics in the process – and not a horse in sight. Strange times indeed! 

NZB’s managing director Andrew Seabrook’s summation of the sale aptly captures its success.

“This is a culmination of a huge effort from all industry participants. The consignors provided an exceptional level of service this year, not only with the standard of preparation but also the quality of their marketing via social media and other channels,” he said in the aftermath of the sale.

“The Kiwi agents also made their presence felt by going above and beyond to assist clients both domestically and from afar. I am immensely proud of our team at NZB, with all the work they have put in behind the scenes to make the sale happen. I think what we have achieved with no international buyers on the grounds, and no horses physically present is phenomenal. I couldn’t be more pleased by what has been accomplished over the last two days.” 

Savabeel timing 

No one was surprised that Savabeel (Zabeel) again dominated proceedings. During the two Saturdays prior to the sale, two of his progeny became Group 1 winners, numbers 24 and 25, for the multiple champion sire. 

Two days after the sale, Savabeel racked up individual stakes winner number 120 with Angelic Miss landing the Jungle Mist Classic (Listed, 1200m) over in Perth. 

Noverre and The Perfect Pink landed the first New Zealand three-year-old Classics and both are worthy winners to add to history, not to mention their perfect timing for Savabeel. 

His average of $286,429 for seven lots featured the sale-topper, Lot 107, purchased by Te Akau Racing’s David Ellis for $640,000. 

Three of the top eight were also by Savabeel, and two of those were knocked down to Ellis, whose love affair with the stallion is also no surprise given that he was responsible for the purchase of the two recent Group 1 Guineas winners. 

“I just love the Savabeels,” Ellis said. “He’s just an incredible sire and it’s fantastic for New Zealand to have a stallion of his quality – we just can’t get enough of them in the stable.” 

Te Akau was again the leading buyer with 11 purchases, claiming ten per cent of the sale aggregate with their outlay of more than $2 million. 

Demand for the progeny of Australian-based Deep Field (Northern Meteor) was strong, averaging $262,857 for seven lots sold. Three of the top six lots were by the sire, who seemingly throws winners each and every day. 

His stock are particularly successful and popular in Hong Kong and his top three lots were purchased for that market. Two of the three were offered by the leading vendor, Sam Beatson’s Riversley Park. 

Sam’s cousin, Jamie Beatson of Ohukia Lodge, kept the Beatson name well to the fore. Their 41 sales totalled $8.64 million, or 42 per cent of the sale aggregate. 

The third Deep Field lot among the top six was offered by Shane Crawford of Regal Farm. Crawford topped the averages (three or more lots sold) among the vendors, averaging $213,333, nosing out the Beatson boys. 

Third on the sire averages, and assisted by the $600,000 sale of the half-brother to recent Flight Stakes (Gr 1, 1600m) winner Never Been Kissed (Tivaci), Sacred Falls (O’Reilly) averaged $255,714 for seven sold lots. 

Lots that fetched $200,000 or more totalled 37 compared to 25 last year. Australian foaled and subsequently pinhooked lots accounted for 15, or 40 per cent of the 37. 

Lost and found 

Underlining that timing is everything, Per Incanto (Street Cry) found new respect from the Australian buying bench, helped by the deeds of his Lost And Running. Like the Deep Fields, they win everywhere. Instead of lost and running the Aussies have found them performing. 

He finished fourth on average ahead of first season sires Almanzor (Wootton Bassett), Satono Aladdin (Deep Impact) and War Decree (War Front). 

The only blip on the sale stats was the clearance rate. However, the overall nature of the sale has formed a historical pattern. That pattern starts with the high withdrawal rate. As the babies show their early talent, vendors naturally start thinking that they have a big-time race winner. 

Should said future world-beater remain in the sale, vendors up the ante, hence several very high reserves and subsequent pass ins. 

Vendors are fully entitled to assess and reach these values. For all involved, one can only hope that they don’t have any regrets. The market is the market and this one was tops. 

Marching on to March 

Looking ahead, New Zealand Bloodstock have again been forced into change caused by the ongoing pandemic, having to push their annual yearling sale series back six weeks to early March.

Finding a gap in the calendar may be a blessing. The auctioneer’s record of adaptation to recent hurdles has been rewarded. An extra six weeks for the yearlings can only be good for their preparation and development. The extra six weeks also eases pressure on the often inconvenient holiday season. 

Staging the sale in March means that the industry can put family festivities behind them and recharge the batteries at the same time. Could this be permanent? We will all be wiser in March and, if successful, why not consider a permanent move? 

Alive and missing 

We are going to miss Iffraaj (Zafonic). It’s OK, he is still alive, enjoying the twilight of his super career. It’s just that he is no longer making his annual jaunt to Haunui Farm. 

Western Australian Bob Peters’ judgment is hugely successful and he recognised the class of Iffraaj by leaving his Perth Cup- (Gr 2, 2400m) winning mare Western Jewel (Jeune) at Haunui Farm for three consecutive seasons, the first of those visits resulted in the new and exciting star Western Empire. 

The best of last season’s Perth three-year-olds, Western Empire has emerged at four as a galloper of enormous ability. His fresh-up win in the Asian Beau Stakes (Gr 3, 1400m) in late October was stunning. He cantered to the line for the easiest of wins, the only knock being that his opponents were not close to his class. 

Saturday’s devastating four-length Railway Stakes (Gr 1 1600m) victory has reduced the number of earlier doubters, yet the race was a handicap and he was carrying just 53 kilograms. Bob Peters himself was at pains to explain that the race is a difficult race to win, even though his stable had taken home the previous three trophies. 

Pre-race, Peters was dismayed at the short price on offer for his new star but the gelding was totally unaware of those pressures and booted clear to add to a picket fence of six consecutive stakes. 

Peters knows what it takes to head east to Victoria and New South Wales to tackle the best but Western Empire may end up being the best of them all. According to jockey William Pike the four-year-old is now “scary good.” 

His next test, at weight-for-age, might be the Kingston Town Stakes (Gr 1, 1800m) in another couple of weeks. A win there, satisfying Peters’ mild concern about the jump from handicap to Group 1 WFA, could well be the launching pad for a trip east. Races like the Al- Star Mile (1600m), Australian Cup (Gr 1, 2000m) and the Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Gr 1, 2000m) are doable targets. 

His immediate family, going back three generations, is Australian, however his fourth dam, Timeless Effort (Balkan Knight), twice a winner, was bred in New Zealand and sold for $16,000 at the 1980 Trentham Yearling Sale.

Timeless Effort’s brother Timber Tycoon (Balkan Knight) would score the Singapore Derby (Listed, 2400m). Timeless effort’s dam, Tavern Time (Tip The Bottle), is a half-sister to three stakes winners including Auckland Cup (Gr 1, 16f) winner Senor (Le Filou). 

At stud, Timeless Effort produced a remarkable 16 foals including Western Empire’s third dam, Group 3 winner and thrice Listed winner Timeless Action (Serheed), while her granddaughter, Our Millster (Marooned), produced two stakes winners, her best being Western Empire’s dam Western Jewel, in turn the dam of two stakes winners. 

Bob Peters’ Group 1 success was preceded by a nice win from Treasured Star (Toronado), the filly taking on the boys in the Western Australian Guineas (Gr 2, 1600m). 

Although distant, Treasured Star descends from the immortal Georgina Belle (Pakistan II), making six individual stakes winners this spring that belong to this line. Perhaps Peters was thinking of Georgina Belle when he named this filly? 

I miss, I miss, I miss, I make 

These famous words can be attributed to champion golfer Seve Ballesteros. He was playing the annual Masters tournament in Augusta, Georgia and, after one round, the media asked him how he made a double bogey five on the par three 16th hole. 

His tee shot made the green but he proceeded to take four putts to get the ball into the hole. Stating the order of his putts, he answered: “I miss, I miss, I miss, I make.” 

Brent Taylor of Trelawney Stud, might be thinking the same thing. He and wife Cherry had four runners on Saturday, three at Te Rapa and one at Ballarat. 

Vamos Bebe (I Am Invincible), Cheaperthandivorce (Savabeel) and Two Illicit (Jimmy Choux), were all favoured runners at Te Rapa, each with last-start winning form, the latter two in Group company. 

All three ran very well. Vamos Bebe finished a solid fourth in the Counties Bowl (Listed, 1100m) – a miss. In the Counties Cup (Gr 3, 2100m), Cheaperthandivorce stormed to the front at the 200 metres and looked a big chance but was run down for a tough third – another miss. 

In the Auckland Breeders’ Stakes (Gr 2, 1400m), Two Illicit got well back, went wide starting the run home but took an age to wind up yet was doing her best work late and was not too far away for third – yet another miss. 

However, in the Ballarat Cup (Listed, 2000m) Zayydani (Savabeel) broke the spell for the Taylors, claiming back-to-back stakes wins and her third in total with a tenacious win, Luke Nolen’s patient ride making the difference. 

When the field fanned rounding into the straight, Nolen had clear air needing only to keep to the rail. The mare ground her way to co-lead but, short of the line, was very determined. For Trelawney, the $300,000 winner’s share of the stake would very likely have made up for, and more, the earlier three misses. 

Interesting lines 

Zayydani is by a son of Zabeel (Sir Tristram). Her granddam is by Zabeel, thus an unusually close 2X3 cross to the great champion sire. 

In a similar category is Blue Blue Sky (Lonhro), the dam of young sensation Bright Blue Sky (Fastnet Rock), who was so impressive on debut in the Fasttrack Insurance Stakes (Listed, 1100m) at Te Rapa on Saturday. 

Blue Blue Sky is by Lonhro (Octagonal) a grandson of Zabeel. Blue Blue Sky’s granddam, Tricia Ann, is by Zabeel. Even more interesting is that Tricia Ann is herself a half-sister to Concia (First Consul), the granddam of Lonhro. 

Bright Blue Sky made a huge impression, eased down by Opie Bosson yet still two and a quarter lengths clear at the line. Some are already comparing her to Avantage (Fastnet Rock) but there is much water to pass under the bridge before that comparison is valid. 

Te Akau Racing’s Jamie Richards is hopeful that she might be the one to take to the Gold Coast for the Magic Millions 2YO Classic (RL, 1200m). As a graduate of that sale, and therefore not eligible for the Karaka Million (RL, 1200m), that is definitely something to look forward to. 

Although purchased in Australia, her family is all Kiwi as she is from the Gay Poss (Le Filou) family that has also given us Grosvenor (Sir Tristram), Lonhro (Octagonal), Lankan Rupee (Redoute’s Choice) and Catalyst (Darci Brahma). 

Westbury dominates 

Of the three Group 2s at Sha Tin on Sunday, Westbury Stud knocked off two of them in the shape of Lucky Patch (El Roca) and Reliable Team (Reliable Man). 

The Sprint (Gr 2, 1200m) is Lucky Patch’s second Group 2 success and took his career record in Brisbane (unbeaten in two starts) and Hong Kong to seven wins in 17 starts. His winning time was a slashing 1:07.98 seconds. 

For Reliable Team, the Jockey Club Cup (Gr 2, 2000m) was his first black-type success and seventh career victory. 

The third Group 2, the Jockey Club Mile (1600m), saw Riversley Park’s Ready to Run Sale graduate Golden Sixty (Medaglia D’Oro) take his winning streak to 15. Three lengths last at the 600 metres, he gathered them up inside the 150 metres and cruised to the line a length clear, crushing his opponents with a final 400 metres in 21.51 seconds.

The local scene 

The two Group races on the card at Te Rapa were the Counties Cup (Gr 3, 2100m) and the Auckland Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (Gr 2, 1400m). In normal times, these races, plus the Counties Bowl (Listed, 1100m) would have taken place at Pukekohe which is within the Auckland lockdown region. 

Justamaiz (Guillotine) first got the better of a likely Cheaperthandivorce (Savabeel) then, within the shadows of the post, wore down his stablemate Judy’s Song (Niagara) to bag his second Group 3, having won the 2019 version of the Waikato Gold Cup (2400m). 

In the Breeders’ Stakes, Showoroses (Showcasing) showed her customary determination by not laying down, even when headed at the 200 metres. Her winning time broke 1.22 for the 1400 metres. She is one tough and feisty mare, adding her third Group 2 victory and her fifth overall in 16 starts. 

The Counties Bowl saw Levante (Proisir) return to defend her 2020 title and take her record to eight from 12. She, too, is an exciting mare with great acceleration and won with plenty in reserve. The Railway Handicap (Gr 1, 1200m) is her target and it is good to see her back as good as ever.