Kiwi Chronicles

Finally, the big stage

“It’s going to be a big day tomorrow.”

Those were the words of Little Avondale Stud’s Sam Williams last Friday afternoon, winding down with a lemonade after day five of the Karaka sale.

The previous Friday, March 4, Roch ‘N’ Horse (Per Incanto) headed Lost And Running (Per Incanto) in an 800metre jumpout, at Flemington.

During pre-sale yearling parades the following day (Saturday, 5), Kiwi Chronicles caught up with Williams and there was glint in his eye about the prospect of a great Per Incanto (Street Cry) result. Maybe a quinella in Flemington’s $1.5 million Newmarket Handicap (Gr 1, 1200m)?

Ever positive about his stallion, Sam believed that at the weights his mare was a chance and in a stunning upset, she prevailed.

The lightly raced mare had shown speed since day one but an injury meant that she didn’t make it to the racetrack until September 2020, winning a Te Aroha 800metre trial, as a four-year-old.

She returned to Te Aroha the following month for her race debut. Slow away, she recovered to share the lead, then waltzed clear by two and a quarter lengths in a brisk 57.91 seconds for the 1000 metres, the last 600 metres in 33.31 seconds.

Two starts later, on New Year’s Day 2021 and with Williams on track, she powered home over 1200 metres at Ellerslie in another sharp time of 1:09.38, the last 600 metres in 33.74 seconds.

Shortly after Ellerslie the writer visited Little Avondale Stud, researching a feature about their shuttle stallion Time Test (Dubawi) whose first crop of yearlings were due to sell at Karaka.

Our chat turned to Roch ‘N’ Horse, her winning times and sectional times and had Williams dreaming of bigger things. The Newmarket Handicap is big, but that was 14 months in the future.

A tough run, caught three wide, at Pukekohe before a second on a soft Ellerslie track in March preceded a strong finish for second in the Listed Lightning Handicap over 1200 metres in which the winning time was a scorching 1:07.93. She was beaten by a nose.

A slow track at Manawatu over 1400 metres caused her rider to comment to the stewards that she wasn’t happy but on a dead Hastings track and back to 1200 metres, she was too strong in the Power Turf Sprint (Listed, 1200m).

This season, she finished fourth fresh up in Listed company at Te Rapa before a fighting second to Levante (Proisir) in the Counties Bowl (Listed, 1100m).

January 1 it was on to Ellerslie’s Railway Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m) where she never got a run, the stewards reporting that she was badly held up the length of the straight.

At Trentham, in the Weight-for-Age Telegraph Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m), she again ran into Levante and just missed in a thrilling finish to again lose by a nose in a slashing 1:06.18.

And so to Flemington. Roch ‘N’ Horse was one of six that elected to race next to the inner rail after the field split. She sat fifth of her group at the 800 metres, took over fourth near the crossing and shared third at the 400 metres. A half length back sharing second at the 200 metres, she accelerated to take over at the 100 metres, had a half length on them at the 50 metres then held on really well.

Rider Patrick Moloney was celebrating several strides before the post. “I said to Mike (Moroney) early that I thought we’d go down to the fence and follow the fence. It is as good as anywhere and we got a beautiful cart on the back of September Run and I peeled her to the outside early enough and she just went bang for me,” said Moloney.

It’s easy to be wise after the event but Roch ‘N’ Horse’s performances on straight courses may have been a clue to her potential at Flemington’s ‘straight six’.

Williams’ remarkable wife Catriona was on hand to witness their huge day. “Sam, we’ve got a runner in a Group 1 at Flemington, one of us has got to go,” she said to her husband after acceptances.

Wheelchair-bound Catriona almost didn’t make the trip and was stopped at Wellington customs. 

“She had a hell of a trip to get there, she got stopped at customs in Wellington and they weren’t going to let her on the plane due to some documentation. She was the last one on the plane. But she is unbelievable. She is in a wheelchair and had three bags with her,” said Williams.

Such faith and effort was well rewarded. Resplendent in red, the trainer’s wife had both fists punching the sky in triumph as the mare came back to scale.


Look at me

For Per Incanto, it has been quite a season, especially in Australia where the stallion has been overlooked to some degree while achieving great results in Hong Kong and here at home.

A week ago, Belluci Babe (Per Incanto) broke through after several stakes placings to land a Group 3 at Randwick. Last spring, Lost And Running (Per Incanto) was a highly meritorious fourth in The Everest (1200m) before claiming $1 million The Hunter (1300m) at Newcastle.

He has since added the Southern Cross Stakes (Gr 3, 1200m) under 61 kilograms and is Per Incanto’s biggest stakes earner with more than $2.3 million.

Eight-year-old warrior Justacanta (Per Incanto) scored in the Linlithgow Stakes (Gr 2, 1400m) last spring.

Roch ‘N’ Horse, Lost And Running and Belluci Babe are from the same 2016 crop, proving that the Per Incantos carry their form beyond two and three years. Roch ‘N’ Horse became the stallion’s fifth Group 1 winner and her earnings from Saturday have pushed him into the top 25 on the current sires’ list in Australia from only 52 runners.

Among the top 25, only New Zealand-based Zed (Zabeel) and Shocking (Street Cry), have fewer runners. Twenty-fourth placed Dundeel (High Chaparral) has had 195 runners whereas current leader Snitzel (Redoute’s Choice) has had 308.

“He is going to get a big feed when I get home,” said Williams, who stopped in Turangi on his way back from the Karaka sales to Masterton to watch the race.


Established family

Roch ‘N’ Horse is the only winner from her unraced dam Rochfort (Cecconi), she herself a half-sister to Group 3 winner Weissmuller (Handsome Ransom) and dual Listed winner Travolta (Handsome Ransom).

Their grandam, Celebrity Status is a Centaine (Century) sister to Centaine’s Gift whose grandson New Predator (New Approach) is a Group 2 winner in South Africa. A granddaughter is Serena Miss (Iffraaj), a dual Group 2 winner in New Zealand.

Roch ‘N’ Horse’s third dam, Forever And Ever (Authentic Heir) is a half-sister to stakes winner Writ ‘N’ Wonder (Habeas Corpus), grandam of South Australian Derby (Gr 1, 2500m) winner Testafiable (Testa Rossa) and third dam of Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes (Gr 1, 1400m) winner Marky Mark (Makfi).

Kiwi-bred Newmarket Handicap winners are few and far between. Eight years ago, Windsor Park Stud’s resident stallion Shamexpress (O’Reilly) was successful. That’s two New Zealanders this century.

Red Tempo (Mussorgsky) and Elounda Bay (Zephyr Bay) managed the feat during the eighties and speedster Ripa (Pride Of Kildare) took out the 1965 running before her export to the USA.


Sale tales

New Zealand Bloodstock deserve a huge round of applause for their efforts this past week. Sir Peter Vela, Andrew Seabrook and crew must have had nightmares trying to keep up with the ever-changing policies of the New Zealand government in staging the yearling sales.

Clearly, they realise their importance to the breeding industry, which is centred on the annual sales. For many, the sale is their only source of revenue and income.

While a host of businesses struggled and some folded in the preceding months, NZB somehow worked around the major obstacles and policy inconsistencies thrown their way, the biggest being attendance by agents and buyers.

The last gasp relaxation of quarantine and isolation rules meant that New Zealand-born trainers and agents were allowed back into their own country, just in time to be able to attend. Their presence was a welcome bit of news which permeated throughout the sale grounds immediately prior to the start of the sale.

The sale was closed to the public and the atmosphere was dead, compared to the life that crowds add.

Leading up to the sale, the mood, generally, was that vendors and the industry are well over the hysterics of coronavirus. Many attendees commented that the rest of the world is getting on with their lives and so should New Zealand.

Cambridge Stud CEO, Henry Plumptre echoed the above.Our industry has been handcuffed these last two years and our government seems not to appreciate what the industry means to the country, which is very disappointing,” he said.

“To the auctioneers’ credit, they leaned over backwards to make the sale happen and Kiwis, being Kiwis, somehow find a way to overcome major hurdles.”

Agent Phill Cataldo added: “The mood is flat without the Aussie or Hong Kong agents.”

Sam Williams of Little Avondale Stud chimed in with: “It is disappointing that the Aussies couldn’t be here again in person this year. It makes a big difference to be able to eye-ball our established buyers.”

Waikato Stud’s Mark Chittick declared that the sale was strange. “No Karaka Millions races, no crowds, no buzz when the big lots go through. It is just strange.”


Sales to the track

Windsor Park Stud’s Turn Me Loose (Iffraaj) signed off his week in great style on Sunday when his daughter Lickety Split rallied, after looking beaten, to fight back and score Ellerslie’s Sistema Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m) for the two-year-olds.

Having only her second start, she provided her sire with his third stakes winner and second within a couple of weeks. A son of Iffraaj (Zafonic), Turn Me Loose also enjoyed some worthwhile exposure at the Karaka sale when highly respected agent and top judge Paul Moroney was in raptures over a filly he purchased from the Windsor Park Draft on day two of Book 2 last Friday.

Moroney stated that Lot 954, from Nightofpassion (Don Eduardo) was the best filly he saw in either Book 1 or Book 2 and was the equal of any filly he had seen so far this year.

Iffraaj is also the grandsire of Almanzor (Wootton Bassett), sire of the Karaka Million (RL, 1200m) winner Dynastic, who looked the winner of the Sistema until the 100 metres.

Windsor Park Stud’s super Sunday was capped when their Shamexpress (O’Reilly) sired Coventina Bay to score back-to-back Group 1s, adding the prestigious Bonecrusher New Zealand Stakes (2000m) to her well deserved Herbie Dyke Stakes (2000m) success last month.

Shamexpress was the last Kiwi-bred winner of the Newmarket Handicap prior to Roch ‘N’ Horse.

The first three home at Te Rapa, Coventina Bay, Vernanme (O’Reilly) and The Chosen One (Savabeel), were also the first three home in the Ellerslie feature.


Unforgotten

Bookending the six days of sales was the late Tavistock (Montjeu) who sired the exciting New Zealand Derby (Gr 1, 2400m) winner Asterix immediately prior to the sale and then scored a Saturday treble in Australia, with two stakes winners at Flemington and one at Rosehill.

The loss of Tavistock will be felt for some time, or as his breeder Henrietta, Duchess of Bedford said: My goodness, it just gets sadder and sadder. He’s dead.”


Delayed value

A bold move from the 1200 metres proved to be a winning move by Wiremu Pinn aboard Uareastar (Jakkalberry) in a gritty Auckland Cup (Gr 2, 3200m) victory on Sunday.

Caught wide down the back, the five-year-old mare went forward to sit second at the 1200 metres, levelled up to the leader at the 800 metres, then took over inside the 600 metres. She booted clear by three at the 300 metres, wobbled away from the fence soon after to lead by a length and then kept going determinedly to hold on for her sixth career win in 15 starts.

Uareastar never went through a sale ring. Her dam, Enchanteress (Danehill), however, was a major player at the 2005 Karaka Premier sale when offered by Pencarrow Stud, topping the sale, making $1.3 million, purchased by the BBA (Ireland).

Enchanteress won a maiden race and at stud has had mixed success with Uareastar clearly the best performer of her four winners.

The reason behind her huge sale rice was that her dam was a half-sister to three stakes winners including champion sire Scenic (Sadler’s Wells) while her grandam was a half-sister to six stakes winners including the dam of champion Rainbow Quest (Blushing Groom), the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Gr 1, 2400m) winner.


Great day

Owned and operated by Olly Tuthill and his wife Annabel, North Canterbury stud Beaufort Downs enjoyed a spectacular day on day two of Book 1, the stud only in its fifth year.

Polo player Olly and NZ Eventing representative Annabel, daughter of John Wigley, bought their first property in 2018 to go about their breeding operation which actually started in England when they purchased two mares at the Tattersalls sales.

One of the mares is Highly Valued (High Chaparral), dam of their No Nay Never (Scat Daddy) colt that fetched $280,000.

An even better result took place later that afternoon when their So You Think (High Chaparral) filly made $380,000, capping an outstanding day for the young establishment.

Annabel was born and bred to be in the bloodstock industry as her father John isa full brother to Nick Wigley, whose son Gus runs Inglewood Stud, the home of up and coming sire War Decree (War Front).

“We are breeders rather than pinhookers and currently have a dozen mares. Our aim is to breed our own, buying younger, in foal mares which we send to New Zealand as well as Australian sires.

“Our expectations were low. It is quite demanding to prepare them in Rangiora but the draft handled the trip and the ferry ride really well. They improved from when they arrived so we couldn’t be more pleased.

“It’s a huge effort by the staff but the pay off has been way more than we could have imagined.”