More than a consolation prize
What potentially might have been a dream day still turned out to be hugely satisfying for Sam and Catriona Williams’ of Little Avondale Stud and their stallion, Per Incanto (Street Cry).
The Williamses were represented by Roch ‘N’ Horse (Per Incanto) in the Oakleigh Plate (Gr 1, 1100m) and, fresh up, the mare was doing her best work late. As a four-year-old, she won on debut, but her fresh up record since then suggests that Saturday’s run can only benefit her. In other words, she’ll keep.
The Australian calendar provides five Group 1 opportunities for the two-year-olds per season but only two, the Golden Slipper Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m) and the Blue Diamond Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m), are run over the sprint distance of 1200 metres. Consequently, such races are made for the earlier-maturing Aussie-breds; difficult to win at any time, but for New Zealand-breds they are a rarity.
In the case of the Blue Diamond Stakes, the first elite race for the youngsters each season, there have been 53 held (since 1971) and, prior to Saturday, just one, Courtza (Pompeii Court), can claim the New Zealand suffix. That was back in 1989, which makes the win by Little Brose (Per Incanto) all the more significant. At this point, it is important to note that Little Brose was conceived in New Zealand but foaled in Australia.
New Zealand-breds have a similar record (two) in the 66 runnings of the Golden Slipper Stakes. Courtza is the most recent (1989) preceded two years earlier by Marauding (Sir Tristram).
The AJC/ATC Sires’ Produce Stakes (Gr 1,1400m), was last won by a Kiwi-bred in 1995, courtesy of Octagonal (Zabeel), who also finished second to Flying Spur (Danehill) in the ’95 Golden Slipper.
Attendees at the annual NZB Karaka Yearling Sales will be only too familiar with Sam Williams’ indelible belief in his Per Incanto. His enthusiasm has been wholly consistent throughout the stallion’s career. PI (as he is known at home), gets winners every week, has made a huge impression in Hong Kong, made Australian buyers sit up last year and has now achieved something that very few New Zealand-based sires have achieved, siring an Australian Group 1 two-year-old winner.
The son of Street Cry (Machiavellian) now has six Group 1 winners from his 27 stakes winners and among them is Dal Cielo, winner of the Diamond Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m) at Ellerslie. Dal Cielo represented his first crop, Little Brose his ninth.
Heading the list is, of course, Little Avondale’s pride and joy, Roch ‘N’ Horse. This is likely her last season on the track, but the dual Group 1 sprinter has been a star for our New Zealand industry and the best part is that when she is retired, she will remain in New Zealand. Over recent years our broodmare stocks, especially of elite mares, have been plundered by the Australians.
Little Brose had the measure of a very good field assembled for the Sandown feature. He emerged from the pack inside the 300-metres, but with 200 remaining still had two lengths to bridge. Travelling too well he caught the leaders at the 100-metres, then ran clear. The swoopers left their run too late and he was three-quarters of a length in front when it mattered.
On debut, in Flemington’s Maribyrnong Plate (Gr 3, 1000m) last November, he chased hard to run second and followed that up at Caulfield with a convincing victory in the Merson Cooper Stakes (Listed, 1000m).
A short spell saw him return in the Blue Diamond Prelude (Gr 3, 1100m) at Sandown, two weeks back, where he hit a flat spot when mounting his challenge at the 150-metres before finding more over the final 50 metres for another a good second.
A Golden Slipper campaign is next, and in the hustle-bustle of the Slipper his ability to sit off them then run home strongly will be an asset at Rosehill.
Little Brose is the ninth foal and fourth winner from six to race from the imported (from USA) mare, Mohegan Sky (Straight Man), the latter having quite a history, beginning with her race record of five wins including a Listed win at Belmont Park in New York. She also put together a Group 3 third (again at Belmont Park) and five Listed placings so was no slouch on the track.
Her sire, Straight Man (Saint Ballado) is not a familiar name in these parts. He was a Group 2 winner at Churchill Downs and sired eight stakes winners. His best performer was probably Get Funky, the Del Mar Derby (Gr 2, 9f) winner who earned more than $780,000 in his career. His grandsire, Saint Ballado (Halo) sired 68 stakes winners including four-times Group 1 winner and 2005 US Horse of the Year, Saint Liam, the Breeders’ Classic (Gr 1, 10f) champion who tragically died after just one season at stud.
Mohegan Sky’s half-sister is Vous (Wild Rush), a Listed winner and dam of Chile’s Champion Turf Filly of 2017, Ruby Love (Scat Daddy).
The next dam, stakes-placed Seattle Moon (Seattle Dancer), has a connection with Australia being a half-sister to Her Mink Coat (Affirmed), the dam of Furious Stakes (Gr 2, 1400m) winner and Group 1 placed Moonflute (Danehill). Tatt’s Winter Stakes (Gr 1, 1400m) winner Absolut Glam (Snowland) is from a half-sister to Moonflute.
Mohegan Sky began her stud career in Australia where she had two foals. In New Zealand, she had six more (two had to be euthanised) and in 2019 she was exported to Australia in foal to Per Incanto, the result being Little Brose who was sold at the 2022 Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale for $200,000.
Her 2021 foal, a filly by Russian Revolution (Snitzel), is catalogued for sale at the Magic Millions Adelaide Sale next month. The yearling filly’s value just went through the roof.
And, talking of value, Little Brose is a colt. Should he continue on this path and add the Golden Slipper, his stud value could be anything. As enthusiastic as Sam Williams is about Per Incanto, even he would be gobsmacked if a Per Incanto son was to find his way to a major stud. Little Brose at Little Avondale has a nice ring to it.
NZ-bred mares to the fore
Of the nineteen stakes races run in Australia on Saturday just one, Highland Jakk (Jakkalberry) was bred here in New Zealand despite the Blue Diamond winner being conceived here.
Highland Jakk stayed on best in the Lord Reims Stakes (Gr 3, 2600m) and is now likely headed for next month’s Adelaide Cup (Gr 2, 3200m). He was given the run of the race, was never further back than third and after taking the lead at the 100-metres was in control to the line.
The 3200 metres should be no problem: Jakkalberry has won up to 2700 metres and ran third in the Melbourne Cup (Gr 1, 3200m). His dam, Alessandra is by Golan (Spectrum), a Group 1 winner over 12 furlongs at Royal Ascot. His grandam won up to 2200 metres and this third dam won over 3500m in France.
New Zealand-bred mares had a good day however. Sunshine In Paris, winner of the Surround Stakes (Gr 1, 1400m), is a half-sister to dual stakes winner Macroura (Snitzel), they from the Zabeel (Sir Tristram) mare Zenaida, herself a half-sister to three-times Group 1 winner and 2010 NZ Horse of the Year, Vosne Romanee (Electronic Zone).
Headed for the Golden Slipper Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m), after a sustained finish from well back in the Sweet Embrace Stakes (Gr 2, 1200m), is Lazzago (Capitalist) whose dam, Lake Como is a seven-times winning daughter of Pins (Snippets). Lake Como is a half-sister to the dual stakes winner and very good producer Taameer (General Nediym).
The Angus Armanasco Stakes (Gr 2, 1400m) winner, Shuffle Dancer (I Am Invincible), is also out of a New Zealand-bred Street Cry (Machiavellian) mare, Palace Talk who is also proving to be a top producer.
Shuffle Dancer is her third Group performer from three to race. Palace Talk is a half–sister to Di Lusso (Lonhro), dam of the Group 2 winner and New Zealand Oaks (Gr 1, 2400m) second, Contessa Vanessa (Bullbars).
At one time a boom filly, Mannerism Stakes (Gr 3, 1400m) winner Espiona (Extreme Choice) has now won three stakes (two at Group level). She is from a winning sister or half-sister to two Listed winners and descends from Waikato Stud’s famed foundation mare, Georgina Belle (Pakistan II).
The local scene
Racking up Group 1 win number four was Levante (Proisir), solid winner of the Otaki Weight-for-Age Stakes (Gr 1, 1600m).
The extra 200 metres beyond her last start in the BCD Sprint (Gr 1, 1400m) saw her much handier to the pace, settling fourth, one out and one back. Rounding into the straight Ryan Elliot sent her four deep starting the run home. She shared second at the 300-metres, went up to the leader at the 200-metres and was in command to the line, even though the margin was only three-quarters of a length. Levante now heads to Sydney in search of an Australian Group 1.
“She surprised me how well she jumped, but it was good to see her put it all together and do everything right, ” said Elliot. “She actually pricked her ears halfway down the straight so I had to give her a little reminder as La Crique was putting up a real fight.”
As mentioned two weeks ago, after the running of the Herbie Dyke Stakes (Gr 1, 2000m), Wild Night (Vanbrugh) has been up for quite some time and on Saturday raced as if he has had enough. He has had a long preparation. Let’s hope he gets a rest now. Expect a big four-year-old season as he is a proper racehorse.
The winning stake of $172,500 has pushed Proisir (Choisir) out to a lead of $647,000 for the NZ Sire Premiership. Savoir Faire (Savabeel) will represent Savabeel (Zabeel) in the upcoming New Zealand Derby (Gr 1, 2400m) and is the only hope that Savabeel might have to get within striking distance of Proisir for the premiership.
A strong finish for third in the Avondale Guineas (Gr 2, 2100m) looks promising but he will have to get past the two stars, Sharp ‘N’ Smart (Redwood) and Prowess (Proisir). Those odds do not look so flash.
Small fields for the two feature races for two-year-olds at Matamata were disappointing, not to mention that in February, the meeting was held on a Heavy 9 track.
The winning times were, however, were not so bad and both Tokyo Tycoon (Satono Aladdin), the Matamata Slipper (Gr 3, 1200m) victor and Zourion (Zoustar), the Matamata Breeders’ Stakes (Gr 2, 1200m) victress, were impressive on the day.
It was a dominant win from Zourion to make it two from two and her maiden stakes success. She was last early, second last of the seven runners leaving the back straight and kept improving around the bend to be fifth inside the 600-metres. Opie Bosson kept her on the inner when the field fanned, got a lovely run through and co-led soon after straightening. She kicked from the 150 and ran to the line a comfortable winner.
“She really is a high-class filly and she has it all ahead of her,” said trainer Mark Walker. “You do have a think about whether you are doing the right thing by tackling a race like this so early in her career, but she is just so tough and thoroughly professional that it seemed well worth it.”
Zourion is from Irion, a Melbourne winner and twice Group placed. She is a daughter of Danroad (Danehill), who is also the damsire of Verry Elleegant (Zed). Irion’s Super Seth (Dundeel) filly fetched $260,000 at the recent NZB Karaka Yearling Sale (Book 1). Another Super Seth filly, from Valpolicella (Red Ransom), made $625,000. Valpolicella is from a half–sister to Irion.
She represents a family established by Haunui Farm, descending from Foxona (Foxbridge). The Chitty family have bred eight generations of high–class winners from Foxona and her various branches, Zourion being the 45th individual stakes winner to trace directly to their foundation mare.
For Tokyo Tycoon it was tantamount to a training gallop. He remains unbeaten in four starts, the last two being stakes. He dropped out to a clear last of the five runners early, but tacked onto the field leaving the back straight. From the 600-metres he bided his time, went widest on straightening and levelled up to the leader at the 200. Travelling far too well, he took over and was untroubled, clear by two and three–quarter lengths at the post.
“He did what we expected, but it was still a very nice win,” said trainer Mark Walker, confirming that the Sistema Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m) is the next target.
The two Group 1s for the two-year-olds, the Sistema-Diamond Stakes (1200m) and the Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m), look to be at Tokyo Tycoon’s mercy.
The manner in which arrogantly strolled away with the Karaka Millions (RL, 1200m), after trailing the field at the top of the straight at Pukekohe would suggest that there is nothing to get in his way. He could, quite feasibly, go undefeated for the season.
If he were to take out the Sistema Stakes very easily, perhaps a trip to Sydney for their Sires Produce Stakes (Gr 1, 1400m) might be contemplated? His style of racing would suit the extra 200 metres.