Kiwi Chronicles

Emerging pretenders

Being King is okay except that once in charge, lurking around the corner is a pretender, wanting your crown.

Crocetti (Zacinto) is clearly the King of the New Zealand three-year-olds. Unbeaten in six starts including last month’s New Zealand Two Thousand Guineas (Gr 1, 1600m), he has done everything to deserve the title.

Emerging since then is Zabmanzor (Almanzor), impressive winner by four lengths of the Wellington Stakes (Gr. 3, 1600m) at Otaki last Thursday. With a tantalising turn of foot, Zabmanzor put his rivals away pretty easily to take his record to two wins in four starts. He gave a hint of his ability early in November when breaking his maiden at Tauranga, racing away by more than three lengths.

Of the Wellington Stakes victory, co-trainer Robert Wellwood said: “He’s still got to learn to get into a rhythm, but once he got going today he put them away pretty quickly. He’s a very, very good horse and we’ve really liked him from day one.”

Talisker (Embellish) gave Crocetti a decent fight in the Guineas, but a clash in Karaka Million 3YO Classic (RL, 1600m) is not on the cards as Crocetti and Zabmanzor are not eligible. They were never offered for sale.

That’s unfortunate, because the Classic has developed into a New Zealand Championship, of sorts. Certainly, last year’s field was the field of the year and included the star fillies Prowess (Proisir) and Legarto (Proisir).

In researching Zabmanzor’s background it is interesting to note that his dam Zaborei (Savabeel) was purchased at the 2016 NZB Karaka Premier Yearling Sales by Cambridge trainer Roger James, co-trainer with Robert Wellwood of Zabmanzor.

By some coincidence, at the 2013 version of the same sales, James purchased Gracehill (O’Reilly), dam of Crocetti. The trainer has a future in selecting top broodmares.

Due to feet issues, Zaborei, a costly filly ($460,000), never made it to the races. At the time of her sale Zaborei was the first foal of the O’Reilly (Last Tycoon) mare Corsicana, herself a sister to Hera (O’Reilly), a dual Group 2 winner of the Eight Carat Classic (Gr 2, 1600m) and the Sir Tristram Fillies Classic (Gr 2, 2000m).

Zabmanzor’s fourth dam is half-sister to Canterbury Gold Cup (Gr 2, 2000m) winner Reingard (Rapier II) and to the dams of champion 2YO Ballroom Babe (Citidancer) and dual Group 1 winner Dandy Andy (Three Legs), upset winner of the Australian Cup (Gr 1, 2000m), beating Vo Rogue (Ivor Prince) and Bonecrusher (Pag-Asa).

And a second…..

Another pretender is Graeme Rogerson’s Just As Sharp (Swiss Ace), who surged the last 50 metres to score a very good win in Saturday’s Trevor & Corallie Eagle Memorial (Listed, 1500m).

From last of the seven runners starting the bend, he then improved from the 600 metres and was widest into the straight. He passed a couple near the 300 metres, into third at the 200, closer at the 100-metre mark, then surged the last 50 to win well, his third win in four starts.

Rogerson commented that he rates Just As Sharp highly. “I was disappointed the day he got beaten, but it was Crocetti who beat him,” said the co-trainer. The three-year-old was ridden by Rogerson’s granddaughter Bailey. “He settled nicely and when I let him rip on the corner, he has really found the line,” she said.

Because the gelding was sold at the 2022 NZB Karaka Yearling Sales (Book 1) he is eligible for the 3YO Classic, Rogerson outlaying $145,000, commenting: “He will go to the Karaka Million 3YO next and then we will look at the Derby.”

Just As Sharp is the fourth winner from the Sydney 2YO Listed stakes winner Readyor (More Than Ready), herself a half-sister to Eskimo Stakes (Listed, 1200m) winner Agister (Mossman).

Just As Sharp represents a lovely family. His granddam is a Danehill (Danzig) half-sister to Group 1-winning sprinter La Baraka (Euclase) whose daughter Alizes (Rory’s Jester), a Group 2-winner at two years old, is the granddam of triple Group 1 winner Alizee (Sepoy) as well as Golden Rose (Gr 1, 1400m) winner and sire Astern (Medaglia D’Oro).

It gets better. Just As Sharp’s third dam is Triscay (Marscay). She won five Group 1s, was rated the Champion Australian three-year-old of her crop and among her 15 career wins were the Australian Oaks (Gr 1, 2400m), the Flight Stakes (Gr 1, 1600m) and the Australian Guineas (Gr 1, 1600m).

Just As Sharp is a son of Swiss Ace (Secret Savings) and becomes his sire’s 17th stakes winner and whose winners/runners ratio is an impressive 67 per cent. The stallion is in the twilight of his career and, in a nod to the late Brian “Bee Cee” Collins, who passed away suddenly just prior to the New Zealand Bloodstock Ready To Run Sale, Swiss Ace was a favourite of Collins, who was gung-ho about the stallion from day one.

Collins, a past chairman of the Counties Racing Club and past president of the Auckland branch of the NZTBA, was a fixture at the Karaka sales pavilion. You could find him ringside, on his stool, watching every single lot go through the ring. If you needed to know what happened to a particular lot, Brian was your go-to man. Last month’s sale was missing an old friend. Farewell Brian. You will be missed.

What about me?

Rich Hill Stud stallions Proisir (Choisir), Satono Aladdin (Deep Impact) and most recently Ace High (High Chaparral) have each made their own headlines. Proisir sired his 15th stakes winner when Kelly Coe took out Saturday’s Wanganui Cup (Listed, 2040m).

Meanwhile, comparatively overlooked Shocking (Street Cry) has been working away under the radar and on Saturday was finally rewarded with his 22nd stakes winner when El Vencedor bolted away with the Eagle Technology Stakes (Gr 3, 1600m).

The stallion sired a double at Te Rapa with Liquid Fire taking out the last race, his fifth winner in four successive days beginning with The Weapon at Te Aroha last Wednesday, Never Look Back at Otaki on Thursday and Take That at Wingatui on Friday.

El Vencedor was on the verge of his maiden stakes success with a sound second, caught late in the Fulton Family Stakes (Listed, 1500m), at Pukekohe on Melbourne Cup day, his fourth black-type placing.

In Saturday’s feature he was quickly away to co-lead early then dropped into second approaching the 1200 metres. He held a clear second leaving the back straight and around the bend, moving off the rail turning in. He caught the pacemaker at the 300 metres, but once in front cleared out and had more than four lengths up his sleeve at the post, his sixth career win in 27 starts.

“He is a horse that has always shown a lot, but has let himself down a bit,” said trainer Stephen Marsh. “He has always tended to go a bit hard in his races, but the way the programme has worked out has been perfect as he is up to the mile now and he has some good races ahead of him.”

His dam, Strictly Maternal (O’Reilly) is proving to be a broodmare out of the ordinary with El Vencedor her third individual stakes winner and sixth winner from seven to race.

Her first was El Vencedor’s brother Chocante (Shocking), winner of the Brisbane Cup (Gr 2, 2200m), the Counties Cup (Gr 3, 2100m) and who ran third in Randwick’s Metropolitan Handicap (Gr 1, 2600m).

Her second, Sky Darci (Darci Brahma) bagged the rich 2021 Hong Kong Derby (Listed, 2000m) as well as the Lion Rock Trophy (Gr 3, 1600m), two of his seven wins in Hong Kong where he was crowned Champion 4YO.

Golden Darci (Darci Brahma) might be stakes winner number four as he has followed his brother to Hong Kong after placing third on debut in the 2022 El Roca Trophy (Listed, 1200m) at Hastings. He had his first race there last month.

Strictly Maternal’s granddam is Red Chiffon (Sovereign Red). She was a top performer, winning 11 times including the Canterbury Gold Cup (Gr 3, 2000m), plus Listed wins at Ellerslie, Rosehill and Doomben, as well as a third in the New Zealand Oaks (Gr 1, 2400m).

Another top producer

Who wouldn’t like to have owned Crimson (Zabeel), dam of Rosehill’s Christmas Cup (Listed, 2400m) winner Stockman (Tavistock). Owned by Sir Patrick and Lady Justine Hogan, her record is outstanding.

Not only did she land two Group races during her own racing career, she ranked as a half-sister to three stakes winners including Victoria Derby (Gr 1, 2500m) winner Omnicorp (Grosvenor) and to dual Group 2 winner Pharostan (Imposing).

At stud, she produced seven winners from eight to race and, like Strictly Maternal, foaled three individual stakes winners.

Chronologically, her 2001 foal, A Fairy’s Kiss (Stravinsky) was Listed placed and is the dam of Destiny’s Kiss (Power Of Destiny) the winner of ten Listed races out of 19 wins, banking $1.5 million.

Her 2005 foal, also by Stravinsky (Nureyev), named Miss Scarlatti, was a Listed winner at Flemington, where she also ran second in the VRC Oaks (Gr 1, 2500m). Miss Scarlatti’s granddaughter, Star Of Justice (Justify), won the Barneswood Farm Stakes (Gr 3, 1400m) at Ashburton in October.

Her 2009 foal was Abidewithme (Redoute’s Choice), the winner of nine races including the Travis Stakes (Gr 2, 2000m) and the Tauranga Stakes (Gr 2, 1600m). Three of her black-type placings were at Group 1 level including twice in the New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (1600m).

Stockman, her final foal (2016), by Tavistock (Montjeu), has amassed $1.7 million in earnings and has scored nine wins, Saturday’s Christmas Cup his fourth stakes victory.

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