Kiwi Chronicles

‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade’

‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,’ is the old adage which encourages a positive outlook on a potentially negative situation. That scenario may be in play regarding New Zealand Bloodstock’s annual sales series which were pushed back to the second week of March due to government restrictions over the coronavirus pandemic.

Immediately after NZB’s announcement, reactions fell into two camps. The first was that the yearlings themselves would likely benefit from the extra six weeks of preparation, late October and November foaling dates would be less of a factor plus our more naturally raised stock are slower to mature. Six extra weeks is a positive.

The second was that Christmas and New Year holidays, which are traditionally family oriented, could be enjoyed fully. Industry people would have a chance to recharge the batteries before getting down to the serious long hours of work preparing for the yearling showcase.

All well and good but now a third factor has presented itself. That factor turns out to be, perhaps, the most obvious. Yes, the extra few weeks means more horse racing and Saturday’s Group racing in both countries is the best advertising of all, especially given the great results achieved by the Kiwi-breds in our biggest market.

A fourth factor is playing out too; the incredible aggregates and averages surrounding the two sales so far sees the market on a huge high, demand is super strong, so strong that some regular buyers are missing out.

“It has been very difficult – it’s been great for the vendors,” said experienced agent Paul Moroney in Tim Rowe’s revealing lead article in Friday’s ANZ Bloodstock News.

The truth will be known in another three weeks but all the signs are encouraging. Karaka may well enjoy greater success than might have been expected at a time when the country was in virtual lockdown.

Whether New Zealand Bloodstock returns to their late January dates or make March permanent is too early to tell. Nevertheless, the lemons may well be sweeter when they make that decision.

Getting louder

One thing that will almost certainly remain unchanged is that powerhouse Waikato Stud is in for a huge sale at Karaka. In the space of one hour on Saturday their two stallions, Savabeel (Zabeel) and Ocean Park (Thorn Park) sent a loud message. That message will be centred at Barn F at Karaka and Waikato Stud has control of the microphone.

On Saturday, Australia’s first Group 1 of 2022, the CF Orr Stakes (Gr 1, 1400m), fell to New Zealand-bred mare Tofane (Ocean Park). Last autumn, the mare was kept in training when her owners decided to postpone her breeding career and add to her race record. She would have been offered as a Group 1 winner but has since added three more top-flight triumphs to her record, making that decision one of genius.

Tofane will head back to the Gold Coast in June and her value since last year has increased massively. Her catalogue page is impressive, with four-time Group 1s, two Group 3s and three Group 1 placings to her name, which have resulted in her banking $3.4 million.

Her dam, Baggy Green, is a daughter of the great Galileo (Sadler’s Wells), and she is a three-quarter sister to Flight Stakes (Gr 1, 1600m) winner Funstar (Adelaide), while she counts Queensland Oaks (Gr 1, 2400m) winner Youngstar (High Chaparral) among her half-siblings. All three Group 1 winners are recent, all since 2018, making the family one of the hottest and most active in the stud book.

Who’s to say that she won’t continue to add to her win tally? Before she keeps her delayed appointment with Magic Millions there are at least two Group 1 opportunities to target, according to trainer Mike Moroney, who said: “We’ll go to the Futurity and then we’ll either stay here or head up to Sydney. Sydney would be her swansong I would say and then she will go through the sale ring at Magic Millions.”

Moroney was referring to the All Aged Stakes (Gr 1, 1400m), a race Tofane landed two years ago. Either or both races make perfect sense, she likes Caulfield plus three of her four elite wins have been right-handed.

Between Savabeel and Ocean Park, more than 70 yearlings from a variety of vendors will be available at Karaka’s Book 1 sale. The demand for the Savabeel progeny, in particular, could be unprecedented if the Australian buying bench is anything to go by, with three Savabeels averaging $517,000 at the Magic Millions sale last month, headed by the $950,000 brother to 2021 New Zealand 2,000 Guineas (Gr 1, 1600m) winner Noverre.

Expect the Australians to plunder the sale of the Savabeels, not literally, of course, but their buying power will be significant. The stallion can do no wrong and one his best advertisements, Probabeel, maintained that status on Saturday when she returned to Caulfield and successfully defended her Geoffrey Bellmaine Stakes (Gr 3, 1200m) crown.

Her record fresh up is super but she had to dig deep to get up this time. She too, like Tofane, will head to the Futurity Stakes, with both mares bidding to add a fifth elite-level race to their record. Probabeel’s main mission is the All Star Mile (1600m) which this year will be staged at Flemington where the long straight better suits her racing style.

New respect

Another stallion that will also enjoy new found respect from Australian buyers is Little Avondale Stud’s Per Incanto (Street Cry) whose son Lost And Running sent a message of his own with a dominant victory in the Southern Cross Stakes (Gr 3, 1200m) at Randwick.

Under top weight of 61 kilograms, Lost And Running took over at the 200 metres then drew clear impressively for his eighth win at start 13. His short term target is the Canterbury Stakes (Gr 1, 1300m), scheduled to be run two days before Karaka gets underway. An Australian Group 1 for Per Incanto would be the perfect springboard into the sales where Book 1 features 26 lots by the stallion.

Lost And Running’s trainer John O’Shea made a telling observation post race: “He is just doing everything so much better now as he’s got older. His wither really only popped up this spell. He had still been running downhill up until this time, so he has finally matured now.”

The trainer’s comments were bolstered by jockey Hugh Bowman, who said: “I was in complete control and I knew what he was going to give me up the straight. He certainly didn’t disappoint.”

The long term plan for the gelding is The Everest (1200m) in October, a race he finished fourth in last year. O’Shea’s and Bowman’s glowing statements combined with the fact that their charge ran a solid race in last year’s edition, are a signal to sprint stars Nature Strip (Nicconi) and Home Affairs (I Am Invincible).

Per Incanto’s record in Hong Kong is excellent so the new-found respect from the Australian buying bench will have plenty of competition.

Home Affairs

Group and stakes form in Australia is the recipe for sales success so Saturday’s, as well as those in the upcoming weeks, will no doubt have an impact at Karaka. The extra weeks of racing at home, however, has provided other stallions with appreciable promotional material and Te Rapa’s two Group 1s from Saturday are timely.

Levante (Proisir) assumed the mantle of New Zealand’s premier sprinter with a superb victory in the BCD Sprint (Gr 1, 1400m). Caught wide throughout, she found the lead much earlier than her co-trainer, Ken Kelso, had anticipated: “I didn’t quite know what was going on with her out wide like that, but she did have some cover,” said Kelso. “I thought he had pressed the button too early, but she has held them out and in her career, nothing has ever passed her in the straight when she has been in front.”

Levante’s jockey, Ryan Elliot explained: “She jumped really well and I could see that Opie (Entriviere) was in a pocket. I just had to hold my ground and let him sit in that pocket for as long as I could. I knew Entriviere would come shooting through the middle like she did, so I had to get going early enough without doing too much and she has hit the line really well.”

In the three biggest sprints on the New Zealand calendar, Levante finished second to her rival Entriviere (Tavistock) in the Railway Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m) on New Year’s Day, won the Telegraph Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m) two weeks later and made it back-to-back Group 1s on Saturday. The 2021-22 Champion NZ Sprinter award is done and dusted.

Levante’s family had another boost earlier in the day when Maven Belle (Burgundy) landed the Taranaki 2YO Classic (Gr 3, 1200m). Maven Belle is from Levante’s half-sister, stakes placed, six times winner and Doyenne (Kilimanjaro).

Proisir (Choisir) stands at Rich Hill Stud and will be represented by eight yearlings in Book 1 at Karaka. However, Levante’s win was not the stud’s only highlight. Another of the residents, Shocking (Street Cry), also sired the tough, front-running staying filly Self Obsession, whose four starts now include back-to-back Group 2s.

The filly showed her staying talent in the Royal Stakes (Gr 2, 2000m) at Ellerslie on New Year’s Day, taking over the lead a long way from home. Even when briefly headed she never flinched and kept finding the length of the straight to get the victory. Her win in the David and Karyn Ellis Classic (Gr 2, 2000m) was achieved in similar fashion only this time she took up the pace with a lap to run.

Past the 600 metres she was challenged but was first into the home straight. From the 300 metres she lowered her head, held a narrow lead at the 200 metres, was hounded on her inner by Glory Bound (Tavistock) but again refused to lie down, tenacious to the line by a head.

Trainer Jamie Richards said he has a lot of time for the big filly: “She is a big imposing sort of filly who is a genuine stayer that can roll along in front and sustain that speed. She hasn’t got a turn of foot, but she just keeps going.”

Jockey Michael McNab echoed Richards’ sentiments: “She was sharp out of the gates and put herself right there. She isn’t a sprinter, but she winds to such a really good speed where they just can’t get to her. She is an absolute darling.”

Her dam, Mawaakib (O’Reilly), was a Melbourne winner at two, while her grandam, My Hangover (My Halo), won five and was twice Group placed. Her third dam is a half-sister to Electrique (Zephyr Zip), a dual Group 1 winner.

Breakthrough

New Zealand’s richest Group 1, the Herbie Dyke Stakes (Gr 1, 2000m), provided an exciting race and deserved success by Coventina Bay (Shamexpress), who achieved a breakthrough at the elite level.

She has been in great form this season and in 21 career starts has ten wins including three at Te Rapa. The mare registered a Group 3 win and a dead-heat for second in last April’s New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (Gr 1, 1600m) at the track.

She started the run home in fourth and from the 300 metres, going after the pacemaker Vernanme (O’Reilly), who was travelling like a winner at the 200 metres. She kept chasing, had a half length to bridge at the 100 metres then grabbed the lead at the 50 metres. Vernanme finished a brave second, with favourite The Chosen One (Savabeel) doing his best work late for a stayer’s third.

Coventina Bay’s sire Shamexpress (O’Reilly) is going about his business without fanfare. The Newmarket Handicap (Gr 1, 1200m) winner was retired to Windsor Park Stud in 2014, one year earlier than Proisir but has sired the same number of stakes winners in seven.

There are three yearlings by him at Karaka in Book 1 and all are in Windsor Park’s draft and Coventina Bay’s Group 1 should make buyers pay attention.

Family affair

Home bred Maven Belle (Burgundy) ran out a comfortable winner of Saturday’s Taranaki Two-Year-Old Classic (Gr 3, 1200m) which was re-scheduled from last week’s abandoned New Plymouth meeting.

Under Opie Bosson, the filly, having her second start, remained unbeaten and held on nicely. Bosson had her handy to the top of the straight, challenged from the 300 metres and took over near the 100 metres but was under no real pressure to the line.

She will now head to the Sistema Stakes (Gr 1, 1200m) at Ellerslie next month. The seven day delay meant a change in plans for the daughter of Burgundy (Redoute’s Choice), having been originally pencilled in for a tilt at the Matamata Breeders’ Stakes (Gr 2, 1200m) on February 26.

In winning the Group 3, she became the eighth individual stakes winner for the late Cambridge Stud sire Burgundy and is from a winning half-sister to current sprint star Levante (Proisir), winner of the BCD Sprint (Gr 1, 1400m) later the same day.

Her New Zealand-bred dam Doyenne (Kilimanjaro) won six including at Te Rapa and Riccarton where she also achieved lower case black-type in the Spring Classic (Listed, 2000m). Maven Belle’s grandam and third dam were imported, Levante being the last foal of her grandam Island Doy (Doyenne), twice a winner in Ireland.

Really?

It’s hard to believe that former Champion New Zealand Filly Princess Coup (Encosta De Lago) is 18. The 2007 NZ Bloodstock Filly of the Year won 12 times including four at Group 1 level and at stud has visited some of the best stallions anywhere, none more-so than the great Frankel (Galileo).

Sent to Juddmonte Farms’ Banstead Manor base in Newmarket in 2017, Princess Coup was covered to southern hemisphere time and in August the following year foaled Argentia, winner of Saturday’s Kevin Hayes Stakes (Gr 3, 1200m), her second win in three starts. Argentia fetched $670,000 at the 2020 Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale.

Princess Coup’s 2011 foal, Thewizardofoz (Redoute’s Choice) won at Group 3 level in Hong Kong, they being two of her six winners.