Kiwi Chronicles

Just like old times

The stars aligned for vendors and New Zealand Bloodstock at last Friday’s National Weanling Sale.

Masks were discarded and the Aussies returned to make the sale a huge success, providing a much needed boost to the industry. It felt like old times.

Online auctions are now part of, even central to, the auction scene but the vibes of a physical sale cannot be beaten and that was evident for the small, but rather select, sale which was given a massive shot in the arm when Valachi Downs added 20 lots to the beginning of the auction.

Brighthill Farm’s Nick King summed it up best.

“All credit to NZB for staging the Valachi Dispersal ahead of the regular sale. That move set the scene for the day, providing momentum for the remainder of the sale,” he said.

“Gavelhouse has taken care of one segment of the market and the quality of the offerings in the regular sale benefitted accordingly. Buyers didn’t have to wait through 15 weanlings to start bidding again.”


Naturally, a high proportion of the purchases will be back at Karaka in January. That is the beauty of such a sale. The buying bench is not just owners and trainers. Studs and pinhooking traders effectively double the interest and the competition.

However, one lot which will not be among those to be resold in January is the sale-topper, a colt by champion sire Savabeel (Zabeel) from Bohemian Lily (O’Reilly), offered as Lot 1005 from the Valachi Downs Dispersal.

Knocked down to Te Akau Racing’s David Ellis for $360,000, the colt will not be seen until race day.

“We have a great history with Savabeel colts. Embellish, Noverre and Cool Aza Beel have all ended up at major studs and I see this colt as a potential Group 1 two-year-old,” said Ellis. “We won the Karaka Million with Cool Aza Beel and it would be nice to think that this fellow might follow in his footsteps. He will be trained by Mark Walker for one of my owners so he won’t be syndicated.

“He will go home and we will put him with our other weanlings. If we had waited until January he could have made $600,000 or more so we have really bought him at a good discount. It’s the magic cross, isn’t it? The Savabeel-O’Reilly cross is the one that works so well.”

Family founder

Breeders with a small band of mares and a limited budget need to be very creative with their matings in order to maintain their interest in thoroughbred breeding. One such breeder is John Richardson, who, with his recently departed wife Christine, bred Bohemian Blues (Blues Traveller), the granddam of the sales topper.

Bohemian Blues is also the grandam of Lot 1013, a filly by U S Navy Flag (War Front) from Honfleur, the Fastnet Rock (Danehill) a half-sister to Bohemian Lily. The filly’s $160,000 was the second top price of the sale.

Bohemian Blues was purchased as a broodmare by Mr & Mrs Vern Trillo in 2003 and they took on partner Kevin Hickman a decade later, breeding the current brave Group 1 performer, the appropriately named Vernanme (O’Reilly).

Vernanme came along after his sister, Australian Derby (Gr 1, 2400m) winner Shamrocker, and another sister, Brisbane Group 2 winner Bohemian Lily, without forgetting Auckland Cup (Gr 1, 3200m) winner Rock Diva (Lucky Unicorn). Four Group winners puts Bohemian Blues in rare company as a producer.

The Richardsons not only bred Bohemian Blues, they also bred the next two dams, Winter’s Tale (Icelandic) and Gay Sonnet (Solaboy), the story beginning in 1981 with the purchase of Silver Plume (Silver Dream) out of a paddock in Waiuku.

Silver Plume’s dam, Gay Plume (Golden Plume) was a half-sister to Listed winner Gay Sovereign (Sovereign Edition), herself the dam of dual Group 2 winner Gay Sharon (Taipan II).

One of the attractions surrounding Silver Plume’s purchase was that her third dam, Fair Rosette (Fair’s Fair), ranked as a three-quarter blood sister to Somerset Fair (Fair’s Fair), a champion of his time and the winner of 28 races both in New Zealand and Australia including the Great Northern Derby (Gr, 12f) plus a host of semi-classics and weight-for-age events. His dam, Diversion (Peach Brandy), was 22 when she foaled him.

Outstanding seven-time Group 1-winning sprinter Mr Tiz (Bletchingly), his dam, Ellerslie Sires’ Produce Stakes (Gr 1, 1400m) winner Yir Tiz (Bismark II), and Group 1 miler Rapido (Gold Nib) make up the six elite performers to descend from Diversion. Fifty individual stakes winners can claim a direct line to her.

A good-sized filly at 16.2 hands, Silver Plume had won a trial when trained by Royce Dowling but was bought as a broodmare.

Kiwi Chronicles contacted John Richardson for some background on the family. 

“Royce pleaded with me to keep her with him but I sent her to Icelandic instead,” he said of Silver Plume. “I sat with Royce a couple of years back at Ron Taylor’s 80th and I asked him if I should have done so. He’d done well with this funny old family that has a few quirks and he intimated that he thought she had the potential to be tops.

“Her daughter Gay Sonnet was unraced until the end of her three-year-old season, easily landing a Te Rapa maiden in what must have been the very worst wet track ever raced there – the winning time was 1.21.5 for the 1200 metres.

“At stud, Gay Sonnet’s first foal was Winter’s Tale, an attractive, quality mare. She had ability, running Popsy and Mess to four lengths on two occasions including at Group 1 level before plumbing the heights and the depths, with four foals surviving for racing. Her first, Bohemian Blues, was bred to stay, but had immense brilliance and won five sprints.”

Winter’s Tale would later produce Macau champion Rock ‘N’ Roll Kid (Justice Prevails) and Singapore Listed winner Fairy Tale (Shinko King), but her half-sister, Besty Coup (Justice Prevails), was South Island Filly of the Year, winning seven times for two Listed wins and six stakes placings.

“Ours is a story that illustrates well the helter-skelter of fortunes in breeding, a progression from second to third tier sales and the bounce back to premier sale status,” said Richardson.

We’ll claim him

Nature Strip (Nicconi) did Australia proud, pulverising a quality group of sprinters in Tuesday’s King’s Stand Stakes (Gr 1, 5f) at Royal Ascot. 

One remark from the weanling sale was that Chris Waller, Nature Strip’s champion trainer, is proving to be a wonderful ambassador for New Zealand. His black top hat and tails suited him. Not at all bad for the boy from Himatangi!

Certainly, Nature Strip was bred in Australia, as were his first two dams, they being the accomplished mares Strikeline (Desert Sun) and Strike High (Pre Emptive Strike). The former won three stakes races including a Moonee Valley Group 3 while the latter was a Listed winner at Flemington.

Nature Strip’s third dam, Flight Hostess, was conceived in New Zealand. She was a winner at Moonee Valley and was the third foal from Robin’s Flight (Round Robin), herself a sister to Avondale two-year-old stakes winner Right Royal (Round Robin).

Being by Zamazaan (Exbury) makes Flight Hostess a three-quarter sister to Newcastle Gold Cup (Gr 3, 2400m) winner The Brotherhood (Zamazaan). My Duke (Deputy Governor), a VRC Sires’ Produce Stakes (Gr 1, 1400m) winner, is from Zamoon, also a three-quarter sister to The Brotherhood.

The next dam is the imported Tiflis (Wilwyn) who arrived in New Zealand in 1963 in foal to Alcastus (Alycidon). The resultant foal was Sandown, a six-time stakes placed winner in the USA. This is the family of The Aga Khan’s unbeaten champion and Triple Crown winner Bahram (Blandford).

Meeting place

A physical sale has many advantages, not just for selling but also for doing business. As the sole bloodstock auctioneer in the country, New Zealand Bloodstock and the Karaka complex is, by default, the great meeting place for the industry.

On Thursday afternoon, prior to the weanling sale, they held a meeting for vendors and a variety of topics were up for discussion. Attendance was excellent and from the South Island included Gus Wigley from Inglewood Stud in Kaiapoi, Canterbury, plus Wayne and Karen Stewart from White Robe Lodge in Mosgiel, Otago. Neither operations were selling.

NZTBA president John Thompson got the meeting underway with an open agenda, calling for subjects to be addressed, the first being vetting and especially x-rays and scoping, an issue raised by Westbury Stud’s Russell Warwick, who was not alone in his observations.

Regarding scoping, there appears to be a wide variety of interpretation and judgments regarding scope results. In fact there are two different types of scoping. So combine that with individual conclusions, there exists inconsistencies within the industry.

Haunui Farm’s Mark Chitty, a highly respected vet in his own right, indicated that he is to attend a conference this week and will report his findings back to the NZTBA.

The other main topics were yearling sales dates and format, such as Book 1 and Book 2 numbers, logistics (getting day one’s purchases off the complex in greater numbers to make way for the remainder of the sales lots), plus selling days and daily start times.

A number of suggestions and ideas were covered but perhaps the most pleasing aspect of the entire meeting was the fabulous cooperation and camaraderie that exists within our industry. New Zealand studs are great at sharing ideas and solving problems.

Waikato Stud’s Mark Chittick, Windsor Park Stud’s Rodney Schick, Little Avondale Stud’s Sam Williams, Curraghmore’s Gordon Cunningham, Phoenix Park’s Janine Dunlop, Hallmark Stud’s Mark Baker, Cambridge Stud’s Marc Devcich, Landsdowne Park’s Dave Duley and NZ Thoroughbred Marketing’s Andrew Birch all made comments and suggestions to improve the sale.

New Zealand Bloodstock’s managing director Andrew Seabrook took questions and he and operations manager James Jennings were able to explain what challenges the auctioneers face in attempting to satisfy all levels of vendors’ wants and needs.

A major staffing announcement, which will affect upcoming yearling inspections, is that former bloodstock sales manager Danny Rolston is headed for a new post in Hong Kong, covered in today’s ANZ Bloodstock News lead article. This will result in Mike Kneebone transferring from Sydney back to New Zealand, at least for the short term, to assist with on-farm inspections of weanlings ahead of the 2023 Karaka Yearling Sale.

The meeting ended with the singing of Happy Birthday to John Thompson who has reached the ripe old age of 60. Just five more to go, John (get some of those tax dollars back).


Mapperley Stud’s Simms Davison was a busy man last week, busy promoting an exciting new stallion arriving soon in the shape of Armory (Galileo). With a satchel full of brochures Davison was out and about talking to stud masters and breeders about the son of Galileo (Sadler’s Wells).

Armory was seen in Melbourne as recently as 2020 when finishing a great second to Sir Dragonet (Camelot) in Australia’s most respected weight-for-age championship, the WS Cox Plate (Gr 1, 2040m), heading Russian Camelot (Camelot), Arcadia Queen (Pierro), Kolding (Ocean Park) and Probabeel (Savabeel).

A Group 2 and Group 3 winner at two, Armory also put together three Group 1 placings as a juvenile. At three he added the Royal Whip Stakes (Gr 3, 2000m), was third in the Irish Champion Stakes (Gr 1, 2000m) and, as mentioned above, made the long journey to Moonee Valley where he led at the 100 metres then bravely held on for a highly meritorious second.

The Chester Huxley Stakes (Gr 2, 1m 2.5f) went his way at four to which he added a third placing at Royal Ascot in the Prince of Wales’s Stakes (Gr 1, 1m 2f).

His five wins and seven placings from 16 starts grossed the equivalent of AU$1.7 million, achieving a Timeform rating of 122 for both his three and four-year-old seasons.

At the risk of plagiarism, the best description of his sire, Galileo, this writer has seen is as follows: ‘Galileo is, well, Galileo. There’s not much to add, is there?’. He has done it all and continues to do it all. Many thought that Danehill’s (Danzig) total number of stakes winners (347) was impassable yet Galileo has Danehill in the rear-view mirror with an ever-growing total of 354.

Armory’s dam, After (Danehill Dancer), won at two and was three times Group placed. Her owners thought sufficient of her to accept for the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches (Gr 1, 1600m) at Longchamp and she finished fourth. Her half-brother, Temps Au Temps (Invincible Spirit), was a Longchamp Listed winner.

There is loads of black type in the family. His third dam, Abstraction (Rainbow Quest), is a sister or half-sister to four stakes winners including triple Group 1 winner and Champion USA Turf Female Wandesta (Nashwan) and a blood-sister to two more. His fourth dam, De Stael (Nijinsky) is a sister to Coronation Cup (Gr 1, 12f) winner Quiet Fling (Nijinsky).

Moves like a panther

Those are the words of Cambridge Stud general manager Marc Devcich, describing his first impressions when seeing the stud’s newest stallion, Sword Of State (Snitzel).

The Champion New Zealand Two-Year-Old last season, Sword Of State’s win in Ellerslie’s Diamond Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m), on reflection, looks huge now as second and third that day were two runners who subsequently franked that form.

Three and a half lengths second was On The Bubbles (Brazen Beau), who had taken out the rich Karaka Million (RL, 1200m), a race for which Sword Of State was ineligible, he having been purchased at the Magic Millions yearling sale (for $600,000).

Third was the very good filly Bonny Lass (Super Easy) who lined up at Ellerslie with the Matamata Breeders’ Stakes (Gr 2, 1200m) scalp to her name.

Sword Of State also heavily defeated On The Bubbles by more than six lengths in the Matamata Slipper (Gr 3, 1200m). After the Diamond Stakes, the latter then headed to Awapuni to land the Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m) by three lengths.

Winning top races is one thing but the quality of the competition is also important and Sword Of State continued winning against the best at three.

In Ellerslie’s Almanzor Trophy (Gr 3, 1200m) he saw off the super filly Imperatriz (I Am Invincible) who immediately scored back-to-back Group 1s in the Levin Classic (Gr 1, 1600m) and against the older mares with an impressive victory in the New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (Gr 1, 1600m) at Te Rapa.

Before coming down with a virus in Brisbane, the son of Snitzel (Redoute’s Choice) showed a glimpse of his form on a track he disliked when losing in the closest of photos, running second in the Gold Coast Guineas (Gr 3, 1200m).

He is by four-times Champion Australian Sire Snitzel, now the sire of 122 stakes winners and who can boast an excellent winners-to-runners ratio of 76 per cent.

His dam, In The Vanguard (Encosta De Lago), is a Group 2 placed Sydney winner while his granddam, Sharp (Danzero), won five times including the Light Fingers Stakes (Gr 2, 1200m) in a very sharp 1:08.72.

His third dam is a half-sister to the fabulous filly Angst (Kala Dancer) who was tragically lost at three having raced just ten times for seven wins including the Flight Stakes (Gr 1, 1600m).