Mile-to-middle-distance Group 1 form in the pedigree goes a long way – just ask the Kiwis
First, just 12 days ago, it was the might of the Japanese thoroughbred on show at the Dubai World Cup meeting and then, last Saturday, it was New Zealand–bred horses who won each of the four Group 1 races on day one of The Championships at Randwick.
Japan, of course, won the UAE Derby, World Cup and the Sheema Classic with the breathtaking Equinox, while New Zealand breds claimed the Australian Derby and Doncaster Mile – for the the fifth time since 2008 – and also the ATC Sires’ Produce Stakes and TJ Smith Stakes which is considerably more unusual.
Major Beel (Savabeel) led home an NZ Derby quinella, with Virtuous Circle (Almanzor) in second to add to the Group 1 honour roll (on Australian soil) of this excellent three-year-old crop – following the success of Prowess and Legarto, both by Proisir whose stocks have soared incredibly this season, and Sharp ’N’ Smart (Redwood).
This is a New Zealand three-year-old crop which also includes the recent Group 2 winners Osipenko (Pierro) and Tapildoodledo (Proisir). It all adds up to an incredible output from a production of less than 3,000 foals (compared to around 13,000 in Australia and 7,500-8,000 in Japan).
Prowess (NZ$230,000), Legarto ($90,000) and Sharp ’N’ Smart ($55,000) interestingly stayed at home with New Zealand trainers after their sale at the Covid–impacted 2021 Karaka sales. In any other year they may well have sold for more and/or found other homes abroad.
More interesting, however, for me is that every one of these major Japanese and New Zealand winners – from opposite hemispheres – have one thing in common. They are by well tested on the track stallions who were Group 1 winners, or Group 1 placed at 1600 metres and/or 2000 metres or beyond.
The New Zealand spread is from the Cox Plate winner Savabeel who, aside from Major Beel, had the breathtaking TJ Smith Stakes winner I Wish I Win; to fellow 2000–metres Group 1 winner Dundeel (father of the Sires’ Produce Stakes winner Militarize), who defeated Proisir in the Spring Champion Stakes and Randwick Guineas; to the dynamic Pierro (incidentally foaled in the same year as Dundeel and Proisir) who may have been brilliant but he stretched to a Cox Plate placing; to imports Almanzor and Redwood, who were Group 1 winners at 2000 metres and 2400 metres respectively.
As to the Japanese, Equinox is by the 3200-metres Group 1 winner Kitasan Black; while the World Cup winner Ushba Tesoro is by the outstanding Orfevre – who was denied an Arc and a Japan Cup in photo finishes and was a Group 1 winner at 3000 metres as a three-year-old. UAE Derby winner Derma Sotogake’s sire Mind Your Biscuit was Group 1 placed at 1600 metres.
Back home and even the somewhat less feted Bullbars, sire of Doncaster winner Mr Brightside, boasted a 1600-metres Group 1 second on his resume.
Mr Brightside beat the northern hemisphere imports My Oberon and Nugget to complete an All-Star Mile-Doncaster double which has yielded connections circa $4.7 million in a fortnight.
The placegetters had also contested the All-Star Mile, which mirrored the 2021 running when Mr Brightside beat fellow NZ–breds I’m Thunderstruck and Icebath in the Doncaster mile after each had contested the All-Star Mile. Mr Brightside is one of 13 individual New Zealand–bred Group 1 winners in Australia this season. Last season, it was 13 individual winners of 16 Group 1 races.
Our neighbours have also produced, in essence, three other Group 1 winners this season but each was foaled in Australia. Manzoice (by Cambridge Stud stallion Almanzor, out of a New Zealand mare and bred by New Zealand breeder Stephanie Hole); Little Brose (by Little Avondale Stud stallion Per Incanto and bred by Kiwi breeder David Wallace); and Imperatriz (bred by Cambride-based Raffles Farm).
Imperatriz is, of course, by Yarraman Park’s champion Australian stallion I Am Invincible, who leads the general sires table again (from Savabeel) with In Secret and Imperatriz leading the way for him.
None of this, of course, is to suggest that Australia is incapable of breeding high–class horses, although one might argue perhaps not enough that perform in the range of 1600 metres and beyond.
Our penchant for parcelling off ‘sexy’ young sprinters may be based on sound economic modelling, but perhaps plays into the hands of the Kiwis. Maybe that is the right ecosystem.
What it does say is that the New Zealanders do a remarkable job on a pro-rata basis: from yearlings to the likes of recent tried horses, including the ruling Melbourne Cup favourite Goldman (Verdi).
Anamoe aside, our lack of middle–distance depth will be likely exposed again in Saturday’s showpiece $5 million Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m). Early markets have it write your own ticket, bar Anamoe and the Irish–bred visitors Dubai Honour (trained in England) and Unicorn Lion (trained in Japan).
That trio look to dominate the race and, yes, I’ll concede the ultimate irony that Dubai Honour is by Australian sprinter Pride Of Dubai, while US speedster No Nay Never has produced the front-running 2000–metres specialist Unicorn Lion, who’s prepared by Yoshito Yahagi whose international travel success is well documented.
Winx aside, eight of the past ten Queen Elizabeth Stakes winners have been northern hemisphere or New Zealand bred. I might have to pin my faith in the NZ–bred outsider Hezashocka (by the Melbourne Cup winner Shocking). I fancy he’ll outrun his odds.