Kiwi Chronicles

One is good, two is better

When breeder Don Goodwin purchased Opulence (Danroad) for $14,000 out of the 2011 New Zealand Bloodstock Broodmare Sale, could he have dreamed that one of her foals would capture 11 Group 1 wins, including a magnificent Melbourne Cup (Gr 1, 3200m) in such devastating fashion? Yes, he could.

Goodwin intentionally put in place an experiment. As the part-owner in the stallion Zed (Zabeel), he decided that if ‘one’ is good, then two must be better. The “one” is that Opulence’s third dam was Cotehele House (My Swanee), herself a daughter and first foal of the incomparable Eight Carat (Pieces Of Eight). The “two” is that Zed’s third dam is also Cotehele House. Expressed another way, Zed’s granddam and Opulence’s granddam are half-sisters.

The experiment took several tries. Opulence was carrying her first foal, Black Lace (Towkay) at the time of the purchase and her first mating with Zed resulted in a dead foal. Opulence missed the next year but in 2014 produced the first of six Zed progeny. His name, Verry Flash, is a Listed stakes winner of 11 races.

Many breeders would be content to breed a Listed winner but the very next year the Zed/Opulence magic came to fruition in the shape of Verry Elleegant and the rest is history.

Part of Goodwin’s dream came to a tragic halt last Saturday when Opulence passed away from extensive internal bleeding. Thankfully, her Zed filly foal, born that morning, is healthy and progressing nicely having been matched with a foster mare.

For Goodwin, his wish that Opulence produce a sister to Verry Elleegant came true but losing the mare will hurt for a while as she was certainly not elderly (17) by broodmare standards. Grangewilliam Stud’s Mark Corcoran commented that Verry Elleegant’s baby sister is a ‘lovely’ foal.

“The filly is fine and we have now got a foster mare for her. She is a lovely filly and we are just rapt it was a filly,” Corcoran said.

“Don Goodwin, the breeder, will be keeping her, that’s for sure.”

News yesterday that Verry Elleegant will contest Europe’s most prestigious race, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Gr 1, 2400m), on October 2, will be a fitting send off for what has been a life-changing mare. 

On Saturday, another descendant of Cotehele House made quite a statement when Boogie Dancer (Sooboog) ran away with the Thousand Guineas Prelude (Gr 2, 1400m) at Caulfield, her fourth win in six starts. Boogie Dancer’s third dam, Wycombe (Imposing), is a sister to Opulence’s granddam, Chalet Girl (Imposing) and half-sister to Zed’s granddam, Theme Song (Sackford).

Toughing it out

Wild weather, including hail and driving rain, which resulted in the MRC Caulfield stewards to delay Saturday’s program, played into the hands of two tough Kiwis.

Downgraded to a Heavy 8 surface retrospective to race four, in which jockeys Jamie Kah and Damien Oliver described conditions as ‘the worst’ they’d ridden in, first, Smokin’ Romans (Ghibellines), then a race later, Callsign Mav (Atlante), called on their tough Kiwi roots to prevail in the Naturalism Stakes (Gr 3, 2000m) and Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes (Gr 1, 1400m) respectively.

After the Caulfield Guineas Prelude (Gr 3, 1400m), the Thousand Guineas Prelude (Gr 2, 1400m) for fillies was pushed back until the weather settled.

The winning time in the Sir Rupert Clarke stakes was 1:26.88. Compare that to the Tarzino Trophy (Gr 1, 1400m), run a week ago at Hastings, in which Dark Destroyer (Proisir) posted a time more than five and half seconds slower, 1:32.88, or, the equivalent of about 100 metres worth of tough.

The state of the Caulfield track may not have mattered to Callsign Mav, whose second Group 1, the 2021 version of the Tarzino Trophy, was run on a Heavy 8 surface. His winning time that day was 1:25.98. The previous year, his maiden Group 1, was won in a smart 1:22.12, with champion mare Avantage (Fastnet Rock), three-quarters of a length in arrears.

Happy anniversary

If the nature of the track makes little difference to Callsign Mav, maybe the timing of his races does. 

The third Saturday of September suits Callsign Mav perfectly. Three of his now four Group 1 wins have taken place this same weekend.

He doesn’t win by big margins but when in the fray gives his best, as shown in the Sir Rupert Clarke. He began smartly then eased to sit sixth, three-out. Fifth at the 600 metres, he went wider rounding into the straight and was a handy fourth starting the run home. His challenge at the 200 metres saw his head in front inside the 100 metres then he clung on gamely by a neck.

Trained in New Zealand by John Bary, who retains a share in the six-year-old, Callsign Mav signed off his New Zealand career last October, after taking out the Windsor Park Plate (Gr 1, 1600m), the second leg of the Hastings Spring Triple Crown.

His Australian debut took place in the Cox Plate (Gr 1, 2040m) won by State Of Rest (Starspangledbanner). He finished seventh of the eight runners. That was a tall order and only the second time he had attempted the distance. He was right there when the field wheeled into the short Moonee Valley straight but compounded, not helped by a solid bumping.

The son of Atlante (Fastnet Rock) is a sprinter-miler and now back in form must be a strong chance in the Toorak Handicap (Gr 1, 1600m), his next target. In 25 starts, this his sixth run in Australia, he has eight victories for combined earnings of $1.4 million, an excellent return on his $3,000 purchase as a weanling by Emily Holmes from the Windsor Park Stud draft. 

He is one of four winners from his dam, Raadisi (Volksraad), a winning sister to the twice Group placed Crimson Lady and half-sister to The Party Stand (Thorn Park), winner of Ellerslie’s New Zealand Stakes (Gr 1, 2000m). His third dam is a half-sister to three Group winners including Verdi (Showdown), the granddam of triple Group 1 winner Mr Murphy (Danehill), and to the Group 1-placed Dancelot (Vain), the dam of top sprinter Kenvain (Kenmare).

His death before completing his second season at stud, Atlante has a super strike rate of 48 per cent winners to starters and four stakes winners, proving to be a sad loss to the New Zealand industry.

Caulfield Cup bound

As if to celebrate his recent award as South Island Stallion of the Year, White Robe Lodge’s Ghibellines (Shamardal) got his first Australian Group winner when Smokin’ Romans stayed on best for a tough win in the Naturalism Stakes (Gr 3, 2000m) and is assured a start in next month’s Caulfield Cup (Gr 1, 2400m).

Starting well, he went forward to share second approaching the 1600 metres then sat second alone from there all the way to the 400 metres. Lodging his challenge, he co-led at the 300m, got his head in front at the 200 metres, fought hard to keep the lead then edged into the lead to be three-quarters in front when it mattered.

“Smokin’ Romans aim was The Bart Cummings (Gr.3, 2500m) for the prep to get him into the Melbourne Cup,” said-co-trainer Ciaron Maher. “But what a great problem to have to switch to the Caulfield Cup. He’s always been a bit of a quirky horse. At the end of last prep, we sent him down to our beach facility. When he went to a different place, a racetrack, he would lose it a little bit.”

“He’s going to get better over further, possibly even when the shades go on, he is going to find more again,” said rider Ethan Brown. “He’s done a terrific job today and whatever he’s done today, he’s going to improve on.”

Quirks aside, Smokin’ Romans has more than $680,000 in the bank, from eight wins and seven placings in 22 starts. The Caulfield Cup distance will not be an issue as three of his wins have been at 2500m; two at Moonee Valley and his Pakenham Cup (Listed, 2500m) last April.

He is bred to stay even though his sire was a Todman Stakes (Gr 2, 1200m) winner at two. His dam, Inferno (Yaminan Vital) won ten up to 2200 metres, her feature performances being the Canterbury Gold Cup (Gr 3, 200m), which she took out in consecutive years. His damsire, Yaminan Vital (Sir Tristram), also a White Robe Lodge stalwart, is best remembered as the sire of the grand stayer Who Shot Thebarman.

Form holding up

Two of our three leading two-year-old fillies from last season, Lickety Split (Turn Me Loose) and Wolverine (Tivaci), have had their second seasons aimed at Australia and on Saturday, they indicated that their connections’ faith may prove fruitful.

Maintaining the “tough” theme, the re-named She’s Licketysplit was caught wide for most of the Thousand Guineas Prelude yet never lay down in the straight for a hardy third.

As expressed previously, this filly has shed loads of determination, her fighting qualities to the fore when looking beaten in the Sistema Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m) at her second start. The same can be said of her Northland Breeders’ Stakes (Gr 3, 1200m) victory, fresh-up at three.

Her connections will be relieved that racing left-handed is within her scope after failing in the Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes (Gr 1, 1400m) in which she was hampered at the start. The big question is whether she will succeed at the 1600 metres of the Thousand Guineas (Gr 1, 1600m).

Turn Me Loose (Iffraaj), her sire, was adept at 1400 metres and 1600 metres. Her dam, the speedy She’s Slinky (Handsome Ransom), won four but not beyond 1200 metres. The same is true for her damsire, Handsome Ransom, a Listed two-year-old stakes winner.

Her granddam was by England’s champion sprinter, Elnadim (Danzig), winner of the July Cup (Gr 1, 6f). All five of his wins were at six furlongs.

Add this up and She’s Lickety Split might be suspect at 1600 metres. The one factor that cannot be measured is her will to win. If she has inherited anything from Turn Me Loose, she may be a chance and that desire might carry her a long way.

Meanwhile, in Sydney, Wolverine was seen putting in some big strides very late in the Tea Rose Stakes (Gr 2, 1400m), running a perhaps unlucky third after settling last and being pocketed soon after straightening. The daughter of Tivaci (High Chaparral) was having her second start in Australia, having finished sixth in the Silver Shadow Stakes (Gr 2, 1200m), in which she also finished strongly.

Based on these two runs, plus the way she ran out her races at two in New Zealand, Wolverine should not have any problem stepping up to 1600 metres.

Considering that Tivaci is by Epsom Derby (Gr 1, 1m 4f) winner High Chaparral (Sadler’s Wells), he was remarkably zippy, winning at Listed level over 1000 metres, a Group 1 winner over 1400 metres, a Group 3 winner and twice Group 1 placed at 1600 metres and had sufficient stamina to record a third placing in Listed company at 1800 metres. He is a true all-rounder.

Wolverine is from an O’Reilly (Last Tycoon) mare and her granddam is by Zabeel (Sir Tristram). Hers is an Oaks pedigree, all day long, but the Thousand Guineas, next month, is a very real possibility. 

Tivaci’s fillies

With champion two-year-old filly Maven Belle (Burgundy) on the sidelines plus Lickety Split and Wolverine in Australia, the New Zealand scene for the second season fillies has opened the way for a few newcomers.

Last month, Sheez Dominant (Vanbrugh) made a big impression in the Wanganui Guineas (Listed, 1340m) and a week ago, Best Seller (Wrote) sent a clear message that she, too, is a strong candidate for November’s New Zealand 1,000 Guineas (Gr 1, 1600m) after a commanding win in the Gold Trail Stakes (Gr 3, 1200m).

Enter, One Kiss. Like Wolverine, she is another daughter of Tivaci, whose three stakes winners are all fillies. One Kiss could not have been more impressive when taking out the Canterbury Belle Stakes (Listed, 1200m).

At just her second start, One Kiss improved markedly from her debut effort (seventh) to win well. From her outside draw, Opie Bosson found cover midfield yet wide approaching the junction. Seventh rounding into the home straight, Bosson moved her out at the top of the straight, accelerated approaching the 200 metres then took over. She was a length clear at the 100 metres and in no danger after, scoring by three-quarters of a length.

“She’s a really progressive sort of filly and that was a good effort to win a stakes race second-up,” said trainer Mark Walker. “It was a lovely ride by Opie and she’s still got improvement to come as we look at a possible tilt at the Group 1 here during Cup Week.”

Not offered for sale, One Kiss is raced by her breeder, Lib Petagna of JML Bloodstock and ranks as a half-sister to Listed winner Santa Catarina (Savabeel), the two winners from their imported dam, Discreet Evening (Discreet Cat).

On behalf of Petagna, Bruce Perry, who manages JML’s racing and bloodstock, stated: “It’s nice to get some black type for a filly so early in her career. We’ve still got Santa Catarina and Discreet Evening, who unfortunately is proving difficult to get in foal.”

One Kiss’s dam is a three-times winner in the US and is a half-sister to eight winners, including Oaklawn Park Listed winner and Group 1 placed Great Notion (Elusive Quality).

Discreet Evening is by Discreet Cat (Forestry) who was undefeated in his first six starts in the UAE and USA, where he bagged the Cigar Mile (Gr 1, 8f) at Aqueduct. He finished down the track in the Dubai World Cup (Gr 1, 2000m) and rounded out his career with a Group 1 third in the Vosburgh Stakes (6f) and the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (Listed, 8f).

Standing in America, Brazil and now Japan, Discreet Cat has an excellent winners-to-runners ratio of 72 per cent (673 winners from 927 to race) and has sired 37 stakes winners and a further 44 black type performers.

By some coincidence, Atlante (Callsign Mav’s sire) is a grandson of Garden Flower (Dayjur). One Kiss’s granddam, Evening Primrose (Dayjur), and Garden Flower are full sisters.