Kiwi Chronicles

New boys are ready

With the new breeding season almost upon us, Kiwi Chronicles takes a look at the four new boys added to the stallion ranks for this year.

Two of the four, Windsor Park Stud’s Circus Maximus (Galileo) and Cambridge Stud’s Hello Youmzain (Kodiac), are about to embark on their initial southern hemisphere duties, having already begun their new careers in Ireland and France respectively.

White Robe Lodge’s Ancient Spirit (Invincible Spirit) and Novara Park’s King Of Comedy (Kingman) are freshmen, this their maiden season, so to speak.

All are connected, either by pedigree, or, in the case of Circus Maximus and King Of Comedy, by their race record.

Hands up those who got up in the middle of the night to watch Hello Youmzain at Royal Ascot during the last lockdown, in June of 2020.

The writer did and I went back to bed with a smile on my face. Seeing local colours to the fore in one of the best sprints all year was worth the sleep interruption but better yet was the knowledge that Cambridge Stud and the Lindsays were able to enjoy some good news for a change, and we all know why.

Cambridge Stud CEO Henry Plumptre reports that Hello Youmzain has not disappointed upon first viewing him in the flesh.

“He is an imposing individual, very strong with great scope and rein. He travelled well and is easy to manage. He looks like he has been at Cambridge all his life!”

“And as for Almanzor, well he is his normal self, composed, laid back and knows exactly where he is,” said Plumptre.

Hello Youmzain’s book was full some months ago and that should come as no surprise, even sight unseen. His race record is superb. A Group 2 winner in France at two, a Group 1 sprint winner in the Haydock Sprint Cup (6f) at three then a triumphant victory in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes (Gr 1, 6f) at Royal Ascot at four.

You had to admire his great fight from the furlong marker where he was giving up a half length but pulled out all the stops to get up. It was courage and tenaciousness at its best.

What more could breeders want, race wise?

His sire, Kodiac (Danehill) is a sensation. From small beginnings he has emerged from nowhere. The half-brother to Invincible Spirit (Green Desert) has become one of Europe’s best sires.

The sires across the bottom line, Shamardal (Giant’s Causeway), Sadler’s Wells (Northern Dancer) and Mill Reef (Never Bend) are formidable and all were champion racehorses that went on to become top class sires.

His dam has foaled three stakes winners and is six for six re winners. Third dam, Sandy Island (Mill Reef), was a Group 3 winner and ranks as a direct three-quarter sister to Epsom Derby (Gr 1, 1m 4f) victor Slip Anchor who is by Shirley Heights, the son of Mill Reef, both also Epsom Derby winners.

Ancient Spirit and King Of Comedy share the same sire line, the latter being a grandson of Ancient Spirit’s sire Invincible Spirit.

The sire line has been particularly strong in Australia over the last few years thanks largely to I Am Invincible (Invincible Spirit) whose son Brazen Beau is off to a flying start with 14 stakes winners in his first three seasons at stud.

A dual Group 2 winner at three in Germany and rated the champion three-year-old of his year, Ancient Spirit remained sound to win twice at five at Listed level in Ireland.

His half-brother, Alson (Areion) is a French Group 1 winner, his dam is by Galileo (Sadler’s Wells) and his Group 1 winning grandam Amarette (Monsun) is a three-quarter sister to Melbourne Cup (Gr 1, 3200m) hero Almandin (Monsun).

White Robe Lodge’s Wayne Stewart reports that Ancient Spirit is ready for his new life.

“He’s an experienced traveller and arrived here in good order. When he stepped off the float he is exactly like his photo. He has settled in well and is a good doer, taking everything in his stride. Our agent in Ireland did a great job for us, forwarding pics and video, so we are very pleased.

“We have a number of stakes winning mares here and he will get his opportunity. He fits the mold of some of our previous stallions and reminds me of Noble Bijou (Vaguely Noble) in particular,” said Stewart. “The response has been good with a recent booking from Australia and also from throughout New Zealand.”

It would not be a stretch to suggest that Kingman, sire of King Of Comedy, is the heir apparent to Invincible Spirit, at least in the northern hemisphere.

The St James’s Palace Stakes (Gr 1, 1m) at Royal Ascot in 2019 saw King Of Comedy take it to Circus Maximus. He was the only runner taking ground off the winner and behind him that day was the very talented Too Darn Hot (Dubawi).

Another fine effort that same season at three was in the Joel Stakes (Gr 2, 1m), finishing second to Benbatl (Dubawi) who, the previous year took out the Caulfield Stakes (Gr 1, 2000m) and ran a gallant second behind the great Winx (Street Cry) in the 2018 Cox Plate (Gr 1, 2040m). 

In third place in the Joel at Newmarket was current Cox Plate favourite Zaaki (Leroidesanimaux), who has made such a big impression since being imported to Australia.

King Of Comedy’s best win took place in the Listed Heron Stakes (1m) at Sandown where he was eased down over the last few strides yet still won easily. 

He is a half-brother to Prix de Diane (Gr 1, 2100m) victress Star Of Seville (Duke Of Marmalade), they being two of three stakes winners from his dam Stage Presence (Selkirk), the latter a half-sister to the dam of four-time Grade 1 winner Winchester (Theatrical).

Novara Park’s Luigi Muollo is still pinching himself that he managed to secure King Of Comedy for his Cambridge located stud. 

“I am really excited about the prospects of King Of Comedy. Kingman continues to excel and King Of Comedy’s value is increasing by the day,” said Muollo.

“He was the only runner that made a race of the St James’s Palace Stakes. The race is an outstanding stallion-maker. Just look at the winners since the turn of the century which include his own sire Kingman as well as Frankel, Shamardal and Shamardal’s sire Giant’s Causeway.

“Kingman has two of the best in the world right now namely Palace Pier in Europe and Domestic Spending in the USA. Palace Pier won the St James’s Palace last year,” added Muollo.

“There were are few hiccups with travel and his trip took longer than desired but he is thriving at his new home,” said Muollo. “My mare, Broodmare of the Year nominee Extra Explosive, dam of Explosive Jack, was one of the first mares added to his book.”

The victor in the stallion-making St James’s Palace Stakes was Windsor Park Stud’s Circus Maximus, one of his three Group 1 successes. A second Group 1 at three, in the Prix du Moulin (1600m), saw Circus Maximus declared Champion French Miler. 

His three-year-old season also included a second to Too Darn Hot in the Sussex Stakes (1m) at Goodwood, then fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (8f), but he was not finished.

He returned to Royal Ascot at four, bagged the Queen Anne Stakes (Gr 1, 1m) and added four Group 1 placings including another tilt at Breeders’ Cup honours, this time finishing second in the Breeders’ Cup Mile.

Circus Maximus is the only foal of his dam, Duntle (Danehill Dancer), a Group 2 Royal Ascot winner of the Duke of Cambridge Stakes (1m), one of her five wins including four stakes. She also recorded three Group 1 placings.

His grandam, Lady Angola, is a three-quarter sister to USA Grade 1 winner Honor In War (Lord At War) who ultimately took his talents to Sydney and scored in the Villiers Handicap (Gr 2, 1400m) at Randwick as a nine-year-old, one of his eleven wins, beating no less than international sprint star Takeover Target (Celtic Swing).

Windsor Park Stud proprietor Rodney Schick reports that Circus Maximus travelled like a soldier and arrived in Cambridge in great order.

“He stepped off the float as if he owned the place, was relaxed and went straight into his feed,” said Schick. 

“He is a cracking type, robust and easily lived up to our expectations, so we are rapt. Coolmore have looked after him very well. There is no better operation than Coolmore. He has a serious book of mares and was full weeks ago and will cover 150 mares,” added Schick.

Three-time Group 1 winners are rare. The industry is fortunate to have access to such quality.

It wasn’t always like this.

The stallion industry has seen a significant change in commercial requirements since the middle of the last century.

When Sir Patrick Hogan imported Sir Tristram (Sir Ivor) in the mid 1970s, he was following a somewhat necessary pattern that had evolved over previous decades. That pattern was standing stallions with Classic bloodlines but without the desired performance. In Sir Tristram’ case, his best black-type efforts resulted in three fourth placings. Such stallions were, largely, all that the New Zealand industry could afford. 

However, the stallions we did import succeeded despite their race records. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s champion sires Count Rendered (Precipitation) and Summertime (Precipitation) were up to winning handicaps. Classic and Group winners were too expensive. 

The following decade saw sire sensation Pakistan II (Palestine) impact the scene. He was also Classically connected but his race form was not too exciting even though his trainer, Alec Head, rated the horse, claiming that had he found a way to get the horse’s back right, his record would have been much better.

During the same decade a similar profile was followed in the form of Copenhagen II (Royal Charger) and the unraced Mellay (Never Say Die).

Two rare exceptions to the above rule are Okawa Stud’s Faux Tirage (Big Game), winner of the St James’s Palace Stakes and Te Parae Stud’s Oncidium (Alcide). Both were high class performers who became champion sires and both would ultimately add strongly to the New Zealand Stud Book’s gene pool.

And so to this season, and, by a new (commercial) necessity, all four of the new boys on the block are well-performed as well as being nicely-bred. Let the season begin.

Kiwis Can’t Be Denied
The winning margin in Saturday’s Cockram Stakes (Gr 3, 1200m) doesn’t tell the race’s story. Probabeel (Savabeel) was thoroughly professional. Her acceleration once she straightened was the real story. She made up five lengths to almost form a line of three at the 100 metres, which was the winning of a race that should have been a little short for the now five-year-old.

The first three were out on their own but the mare knows where the post is and despite the short neck advantage she appeared in control.

Her winning time compared very favourably with that in the Memsie Stakes (Gr 1, 1400m) run an hour and fifteen minutes later. Extrapolating her 1:10.58 for the 1200 metres translates to 1:22.34 for 1400 metres. The Memsie was won by Behemoth (All Too Hard) in 1:23.59. An extra 200 metres? There would be no way that Probabeel would have taken more than 13 seconds.

Aegon is back
Aegon (Sacred Falls) is back. His preferred racing style was never going to be helpful at Caulfield, a tricky layout at the best of times, especially in his first attempt there and against Group 1 company. 

From well back then switching ground several times in the run home, he really pinned his ears back once he saw daylight and will be competitive wherever he lines up next, provided he has a straight long enough to truly wind up.

Co-trainer and part-owner Andrew Forsman is, rightly so, delighted with the run.

Ayrton too
Boom sprinter-miler Ayrton (Iffraaj) continued on his winning way with a decisive victory in the last on the Caulfield card. He had to be kept up to his work but lengthened his stride when asked, to control the race, his fifth win in six starts.

Co-trainer Mick Price’s dirt-bike riding career might be in tatters but his ability to train and oversee the emerging career of such a boom galloper, is very much intact.

Kiwis prominent elsewhere
Morphettville, Kembla Grange and Doomben were each impacted by two Kiwi winners, the stakes victory by the former Kevin Gray-trained Second Slip (Alamosa) being another stand out.

In the central districts of the North Island, Second Slip raced 12 times for two wins and six minor placings, leaving New Zealand on a winning note in March of last year.

Since his arrival in South Australia Second Slip has been on a roll, scoring a treble during January and February, which included a successful Melbourne raid.

Back home (Morphettville), in March he was tried in Listed stakes class for the first time and was a solid three-quarters of a length second behind Night Raid (Vancouver) in the Matrice Stakes (1200m).

His current preparation saw him head back to Melbourne fresh up and a strong win over 1100 metres at Caulfield two weeks ago.

Saturday’s all-the-way stakes success was one of his easiest, slipping clear past the 200 metres and he was under no pressure at the post.

The other Kiwi at Morphettville was Moscow Red (Road to Rock) who may be an eight-year-old mare but in scoring her eighth win appears not quite ready to head to the breeding barn.

She, too, did her early racing in New Zealand, winning her only start under the name of Moscow Mistress at Hastings as a late three-year-old when trained by John Bary.

Her seven further wins from the Ballarat stable of Henry Dwyer have seen the mare bag victories at Sandown (twice) and now at Morphettville.

When Moscow Red is retired there are some worthwhile bloodlines to breed from. Her dam, Miss Faberge (Ustinov) is a winning half-sister to Innovation (Keeper), winner of seven races, including three Listed stakes.

At Kembla Grange, Signora Nera (Sweynesse), also formerly trained in New Zealand by Allan Sharrock, showed that she has strengthened from her three-year-old season.

A storming run from well back then bolting clear by three lengths over the 1500 metres suggests there is lots more in store for the Sweynesse (Lonhro) mare.

Prior to her transfer to Chris Waller’s stable, Signora Nera recorded two wins and three placings, including a strong third in the Eulogy Stakes (Gr 3, 1600m) at Awapuni in December last year.

Her five-start autumn campaign in Sydney and Brisbane were all stakes races, wrapping up with a fighting third behind Duais (Shamus Award) in the Queensland Oaks (Gr 1, 2200m).

Signora Nera is out of a mare by Red Clubs (Red Ransom), a top class sprinter and winner of the Haydock Sprint Cup , whose promising stud career was cut short after just two seasons (one here in New Zealand).

His two northern hemisphere crops included the English 1,000 Guineas (Gr 1, 1m) winner Sky Lantern. Considering there are so few (21 New Zealand foals) by Red Clubs in existence it is interesting that Bonita Aurelia, the Group 3 winner now with Jamie Richards, is also by Sweynesse from the Red Clubs mare Cassie May. Signora Nera’s dam, Madonna Mia, who won nine including the Listed Wanganui Cup (2040m), is the best of them.

Chris Waller also took out the following race with ex-Kiwi Our Intrigue (Showcasing), adding her fourth win in a career of 22 starts by powering home to get up in the last stride.

Formerly with Tony Pike, Our Intrigue won twice in New Zealand as well as in Queensland not long after finishing second in the Championship Stakes (Gr 2, 2100m) at Ellerslie in April of 2019.

At Doomben, yet another formerly Kiwi-trained performer, London Banker (Tavistock), bagged his third successive Brisbane win, his sixth start since transferring from the stable of Roger James and Robert Wellwood, from where he won his first four races.

Smart and good
How good is Weona Smartone (Shamexpress)? A picket fence of six on end says he is, indeed, pretty smart.

Stepped out once as three-year-old, Weona Smartone did not see race action again until September last year and in the interim remains undefeated, including three super wins at Doomben.

In late March over 1110 metres he drew three lengths clear and toyed with them, while in early June over 1200 metres he bolted in by six lengths, leading all the way.

On Saturday he was taken on in front (and was not happy about it either, tossing his head about when headed early) but in the straight ran on very well in a smart 1:08.66 for the 1200 metres.

A true Windsor Park Stud creation, Weona Smartone was a stunning yearling and fetched $160,000 from Book 1 of the 2018 NZB Karaka Yearling Sale, purchased by David Vandyke, the gelding’s trainer.