Kiwi Chronicles

Turning point

On Saturday, in just under 70 seconds, Cambridge Stud achieved a notable and decisive turning point from the old guard to the new.

Two knights, Sir Patrick and Sir Tristram (Sir Ivor), laid the foundation for Cambridge Stud’s enormous success, their influence still undeniably present, yet initiated as far back as the mid1970s.

The distaff influence was provided by Eight Carat (Pieces Of Eight), Gay Poss (Le Filou) and Taiona (Sovereign Edition). The nineties and into the new century saw Sir Tristram’s son Zabeel break all records, while his grandson, Savabeel (Zabeel), is the current shining star among New Zealand’s stallions.

Seventy seconds goes by in a flash but the change of course by the stud’s new owners, Brendan and Jo Lindsay, along with their highly respected CEO Henry Plumptre, has taken years, overcoming some major hurdles in the process.

The new guard changed the stud’s colours from clover-leaf Irish green to the current black and gold. At the Karaka sales complex, the original hospitality centre, west of the auditorium, was replaced with a swish facility including its own barista.

On the stallion front, new blood was introduced in the shape of Roaring Lion (Kitten’s Joy) but his demise was the start of their “annus horribilis”, a term most famously used by Her Majesty The Queen after the Royal Family experienced one disaster after another in 1992.

Much space has been devoted to the stud’s misfortunes during the latter half of 2019, also losing Tavistock (Montjeu) and Burgundy (Redoute’s Choice). However, in a time of celebration it is not necessary to dwell on the negatives. Yes they are significant, but they are also in the rearview mirror.

Kiwi Chronicles spoke with Cambridge Stud CEO Henry Plumptre, who is stuck in Australia due to the current New Zealand government travel restrictions. From Byron Bay, north of Sydney, he commented: “The transition from Sir Patrick to the Lindsays is more that the brand is still there but that the brand is something else. Cambridge Stud could never lose its appeal yet the new team was faced with deciding which direction to take.

“The night was fantastic for the stud and fantastic for Almanzor. The stallion has had great support since day one. 

“The sales results for his first crop of yearlings was outstanding but similar results have held over to his second crop. Breeders and vendors were rewarded in the ring and now it appears that buyers will be rewarded on the racetrack, keeping in mind that Dynastic is just one horse and the Karaka Million is just one race.”

Plumptre continued: “Huge credit must be given to the Te Akau team as well. Their buying decisions have the Karaka Million in the forefront, although if you’d suggested that Dynastic would be on the shortlist to win the Karaka Million, I would have laughed. As is often said, horses can make complete fools of us sometimes. However, he was a beautiful yearling, one of the top three Almanzors at the sale.”

Concluding, Plumptre added: “The Te Akau system has the enormous advantage of having Opie Bosson, a phenomenal judge of a horse. To identify Dynastic at a trial says much. Well done to all of them.”

Seventy seconds and a new direction, revitalised by a horse named Dynastic (Almanzor). There could not be a more appropriate name for such a turning point and, what’s more, Hollywood could not script a better story.

Big strides

For Almanzor (Wootton Bassett) to sire a very rich Listed winner, who was a maiden going into the million-dollar feature, with just his fifth southern hemisphere runner, is exactly the tonic the stud deserves.

However, the sub-heading “big strides” actually applies to a comment made by champion rider Opie Bosson. “In his trial at Rotorua he really put in some big strides and when I rode him first up (second to Grace ‘N’ Grey (Spirit Of Boom) on Boxing Day) he just gave me the gut feel he was the horse to be on. There were so many trying to change my mind on who to ride so I’m glad I stuck true to him,” he said.

“I probably wasn’t in the right spot early on, but then I saw Wolverine outside me and I managed to get on her back. Once the big boy balanced up, he sure has got a stride on him.”

That stride will be something to look forward to when he steps out at three and over ground. Almanzor, a Listed winner over 1600 metres at two, was especially effective over a middle distance at three, taking out the Prix du Jockey Club (Gr 1, 2100m) and defeating the impeccably bred Zarak (Dubawi), a son of outstanding racemare Zarkava (Zamindar).

Almanzor’s best performance was in Ireland when he took on older horses for the first time in the Irish Champion Stakes (Gr 1, 1m 2f). Against him was an array of champions including Found (Galileo), who would bag the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Gr 1, 2400m) at her next start.

Also, there was fellow three-year-old Harzand (Sea The Stars), winner of the Derby (Gr 1, 1m 4f) and the Irish Derby (Gr 1, 1m 4f). World traveller and multiple Group 1 winner Highland Reel (Galileo) showed up as did Europe’s Champion Three-Year-Old Filly Minding (Galileo), winner of the 1,000 Guineas (Gr 1, 1m) and the Oaks (Gr 1, 1m 4f) earlier that year. She would brilliantly score the Queen Elizabeth Stakes (Gr 1, 1m) at Ascot at her next start.

After Almanzor’s triumph, rider Christophe Soumillon said: “It was a great feeling. It was a very high-rated race with a lot of champions. We know how good he is but you never know when you go overseas for the first time. He was very relaxed today and when I asked him to quicken he gave me a great turn of foot and won like a champion.”

Opie Bosson’s comment regarding Dynastic is eerily similar.

Patience pays

The Lindsays’ patience is more than matched by Dynastic’s co-breeder, Rodney Schick of Windsor Park Stud, who is all too aware of the patience needed when breeding thoroughbreds. Dynastic is the result of more than 20 years of attempting to validate one of his first overseas broodmare buying decisions.

Schick’s breeding adventure surrounding Dynastic started with his purchase of Guinevere (Fairy King), the first foal of Masskana (Darshaan). Guinevere went into training but did not race and, to Schick’s credit, with some assistance from (then) Lady Tavistock, Henrietta, Duchess of Bedford, he was on the money regarding the filly’s pedigree. Guinevere was from one of the Aga Khan’s famous families.

Masskana’s subsequent foals included three Group 1 winners. They are: Hong Kong Cup (Gr 1, 2000m) winner Eagle Mountain (Rock Of Gibraltar), Champion US Turf Mare Dank (Dansili) and Champion French Two-Year-Old Filly Sulk (Selkirk).

Guinevere’s first foal was Mia Le Fay (Zabeel), who managed a Brisbane win and at stud produced the Listed winner Lady Le Fay (Thorn Park), a half-sister to Dynastic’s dam Meir (Volksraad).

Dynastic’s yearling half-brother, by the stud’s Mongolian Khan (Holy Roman Emperor), will no doubt get some extra attention. He is Lot 929 in Book 2 of the March Karaka Yearling Sales.

Future path

Brendan and Jo Lindsay are to be applauded for their huge investment in Cambridge Stud. Acquiring a stallion with the performance and looks of Almanzor may well be a turning point for the New Zealand industry as well as the stud. The country’s stallion ranks have been diminishing by the decade and a revitalisation has been overdue, but is somewhat difficult when the Australian scene is going gangbusters.

Their black and gold checks were successful at Royal Ascot in 2020 when Hello Youmzain (Kodiac) snared the Diamond Jubilee Stakes (Gr 1, 6f). The brilliant sprinter is another part of the stud’s realignment story, covering his first southern hemisphere book of mares this past spring.

Further evidence of the new path was on display with the return to form by Sword Of State (Snitzel). His dominant victory in the Almanzor Trophy (Gr 3, 1200m), the race prior to Dynastic’s, was a hint that the night would belong to the Lindsays and “their” Cambridge Stud.

No doubt Sword Of State will retire to stand there, too, and why not? The Champion Two-Year-Old from last season has everything to suggest that he should be given his opportunities as a stallion.

Trainer Jamie Richards is realistic about the colt’s Australian spring campaign.

“You’re going over there trying to beat them at what they are best at doing, which is producing quality sprinting horses,” he said. “No disrespect to our racing, but it is slightly easier here than Melbourne or Sydney in the spring and there was nothing like Home Affairs here tonight.”

There is still time to add some much-desired Australian Group 1 form. The colt is only three.

Bosson was highly complimentary about the colt’s return. “He raced beautifully and wanted to be on the pace and was keen,” he said. “He towed me into the race, pinned his ears back and ran to the line, which is what you want out of a colt. I hadn’t gone for him until the 150 metres and although I didn’t know what was coming after him, he ran the race right out.”

Turning the corner presents one with some questions: do you use the tried and true of the past? Or, do you change course and go big and go bold? It looks like Cambridge Stud has decided upon the latter and our industry is the beneficiary. The writer says, good luck to them.

More tangerine

Te Akau Racing was not finished after Dynastic’s big win as the other million-dollar feature on the night, the Karaka 3YO Classic (RL, 1600m), went to 24-1 shot Pin Me Up (Pins).

The stable’s On The Bubbles (Brazen Beau) was looking to repeat Probabeel’s Millions double (2019 and 2020) but being caught three-wide in the lead was never going to turn out well, or as trainer Jamie Richards stated: “It was an ugly watch.”

At start five and a maiden win to her name, Pin Me Up booted clear then held on well for her big win. She was widest at the top of the straight but travelling well to be three lengths off the lead inside the 300 metres, formed a line of four across the track at the 200 metres then soared into the lead. At the 100 metres she was clear and, although challenged late by Tutukaka (Tavistock), she was able to hold on by a neck.

Representing the last crop by Waikato Stud’s underrated sire Pins (Snippets), Pin Me Up becomes her sire’s 86th stakes winner. Her dam is by O’Reilly (Last Tycoon) and the filly is a three-quarter sister to Travis Stakes (Gr 2, 2000m) winner Pimms Time (Pins).

Grandam Brampton Legs is a Zabeel (Sir Tristram) sister to Caulfield Cup (Gr 1, 2400m) winner Railings while Brampton Legs’ grandam is the champion Emancipation (Bletchingly), a fabulous mare and the winner of 19 races.

Emancipation did not race at two, but in two seasons and 28 starts she accumulated six Group 1s including the time-honoured Doncaster Handicap (Gr 1, 1600m), All Aged Stakes (Gr 1, 1400m) and George Ryder Stakes (Gr 1, 1500m).

Patience rewarded

A starter in the 2020 Karaka Million as well as in the 2021 Karaka Classic , Dragon Queen (Sweynesse) showed up on Millions Night for the third successive year and was duly rewarded with a nice pay day when taking out the Westbury Classic (Gr 2, 1400m).

Bred by Henrietta, Duchess of Bedford, Dragon Queen threw out a hint that she was close to a win when a tidy third in the Rich Hill Mile (Gr 2, 1600m) at Ellerslie on New Year’s Day.

Back from 1600 metres to 1400 metres, she sat a handy fifth past the 800 metres then moved a lane wider from the 600 metres and was in behind the leading four starting the run home. She took over third near the 200 metres, challenged the leader at the 100 metres, levelled up short of the post then dived to the line to get there by a nose.

Dragon Queen becomes the fourth stakes winner for Sweynesse (Lonhro) and Henrietta Bedford can claim full responsibility for Dragon Queen’s existence. Not only did she breed Dragon Queen, she also bred both her dam (Happy Endings) and her dam’s sire Tavistock (Montjeu).

Kiwi Chronicles caught up with Henrietta and she said: “Happy Endings was no accident. I brought Snap (Dragon Queen’s grandam) out of retirement. She had not had a foal for three years and I was desperate to mate my Tavistock with Snap and then prayed for a filly and Happy Endings, her last foal, was the result. The good news is that Happy Endings is in foal to Savabeel.”

Happy Endings did not race and is the daughter of Snap (Kingdom Bay), a wonderfully versatile racemare who scored 11 wins from 950 metres to 2400 metres. Snap raced in the Bloomsbury/Bedford colours.

A very smart two and three-year-old, Snap was New Zealand Filly of the Year, a Group 1 winner of the Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m) at two then followed up the next season with wins in two Classics, the New Zealand One Thousands Guineas (Gr 1, 1600m) and the New Zealand Oaks (Gr 1, 2400m).

At four she added the Waikato Draught Sprint (Gr 1, 1400m) and at five ran third in the Telegraph Handicap (Gr 1, 1200m).

Dragon Queen’s yearling half-sister by Per Incanto (Street Cry) is catalogued as Lot 290 in Book 1 of the upcoming Karaka Yearling Sales.

‘Shorter, better’

That was the comment by Ben Foote, trainer of the speedster Babylon Berlin (All Too Hard), prior to the running of the Concorde Handicap (Gr 3, 1200m) at Ellerslie on Saturday.

Foote wished that the race was 1100 metres instead of 1200 metres, as the mare’s front-running tactics had shown her to be vulnerable late. Against her own age group at three, 1200 metres was no issue, but against the older horses it is a different story.

Back in November Babylon Berlin was too speedy over the 1000 metres of the Pegasus Stakes (Listed). Later that month she led at the 300 metres in the Counties Bowl (Listed, 1100m) but Levante (Proisir) had too many guns late.

In the Railway Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m) she led at the 200 metres but had to watch Entiviere (Tavistock) and Levante both rush past.

Neither of her recent rivals accepted for the feature sprint which made it easier but even then she had only a neck to spare. 

“I wanted to lead and when I got out so well and crossed them I was really happy,” said jockey Michael McNab. “Normally the last 150 metres is her weakness and today she was really strong.”

Babylon Berlin cut out the 1200 metres in a sharp 1.08.82, faster than Dynastic (Almanzor) and Sword Of State (Snitzel) in earlier races on the card. The mare is very honest with six wins and has finished further back than third just once in 14 starts.