More Candles At Karaka?

Like the rest of her owners, I was thrilled with Candle In The Wind’s close second in yesterday’s $200,000 City of Auckland Cup. It was her first Group placing and a tribute to the training skills of Donna Logan and Chris Gibbs and the horsemanship of Cameron Lammas. She has now won over $200,000 – not a bad return for the little filly costing a mere $2500 at the Select Sale of her year.

Values have moved ahead in the last five years, with this year’s Weanling Sale being a case in point, but having just completed my annual analysis of all three catalogues, I seriously doubt whether this year’s Karaka event will continue the trend.

I would go so far as to say that this is the weakest Premier catalogue that I can recall reading. It is clear that many breeders are either retaining their stock or selling them somewhere offshore. This is bad news for NZ Bloodstock and bad news for many vendors as it is hard to imagine high levels of enthusiasm on the buying benches. K1 colts not meeting the expectations of their vendors can be recycled into Ready to Run 2YOs but fillies tend to sell poorly in November so I am anticipating some comparative bargains amongst this year’s K1 fillies.

The Select catalogue is big, very big. Many lots clearly deserve their place but when you read some pedigree pages you have to say, “Really?” Accordingly, I am predicting some more “Candle” opportunities for astute buyers. Buying yearlings is very much akin to long-distance running; the longer the race the harder it is to concentrate and there are times in any sale with a hefty catalogue when buyers long for a cool drink rather than check out that yearling in a faraway box. This is especially true when sale hits a flat patch and it seems likely that there will be several of these in the 2017 Select Sale.

And, once again, the Festival is where the bargains are. I had more trouble ranking the lots in this sale than in the other two. There are some very clever matings in the slim Festival catalogue but I seriously doubt whether this sale will maintain its upward trend – especially as far as fillies are concerned. I suspect that this catalogue is where the physically backward yearlings have found their place. As we all know, time equates to money and so these yearlings need a special type of buyer – people with experience, patience and a significant level of disposable income. From a breeders’ point of view, let’s hope I’m wrong.

La Diosa Dominant In 1000 Guineas

Group 1 contests are supposed to be closely contested affairs with high-class thoroughbreds stretching every sinew and finding the will to win when they are running on empty.

Today’s 44th New Zealand 1000 Guineas at Riccarton didn’t follow this script at all. So You Think filly La Diosa settled well back in the capacity field, was near last on the turn and then unleashed a devastating sprint to cruise past her rivals to record a facile victory that was much easier than the one and a half length margin suggested.

Her name is the Spanish equivalent of “goddess” and it’s fair to say that La Diosa is certainly a stunning filly, but it’s equally true that her ability also marks her as something very special. To cover the amount of ground that she did and to accelerate so effortlessly suggests that she may develop into a stellar performer.

From a pedigree point of view, her ability is no surprise. Her dam is the Star Way mare (A) Star Affair, a Group 2 winner over 2000 metres. A daughter of The Grin (Grosvenor), Star Affair was a little on the one-paced side and some of her progeny have also had this chink in their armour. However, the physical strength and ability to accelerate transmitted by La Diosa’s sireline have clearly been responsible for the creation of a superior equine athlete.

Today’s win is Cloughmore’s seventh Group 1 success but is also the most satisfying. Top class three year-old events are extraordinarily hard to win and it’s also a great thrill that this filly is the daughter of a filly purchased by long-term client Terry Archer on my recommendation.

As we all know, there are no certainties in racing but it is tempting to look forward to this outstanding filly’s career unfolding.

La Diosa And Maybe Miami Stake Riccarton Feature Race Claims

It’s been quite a week for Cloughmore Pedigrees. The promising Jimmy Choux filly Chambon won at Whangarei on Wednesday and the durable All In Luck was too strong for his Woodville opponents the following day. Two winners in a week has to be good news but for two exciting horses to win strong races just two days later really makes this a week to remember.

Today’s Ashburton meeting was very much a trial outing for many horses targeting the significant stakemoney offered at the forthcoming NZ Cup carnival. The Ashburton Cup featured southern sensation Stoker’s Rock and a number of other handy milers, including the progressive Iffraaj gelding Maybe Miami – the latter carrying topweight of 6Okg. Stoker’s Rock set the pace but could not hold out the finishing burst of the Kevin Hughes trained Maybe Miami, expertly ridden by Chris Johnson. Provided that the track is not rock hard, Maybe Miami seems to have a real chance of taking out the Couplands Mile.

However, the star of today’s show was undoubtedly the brilliant La Diosa. The imposing daughter of So You Think and the Group 2 winning Star Way mare Star Affair was just too good for an impressive lineup of 1000 and 2000 Guineas hopefuls. La Diosa jumped well but was restrained early as the leaders set a strong pace. Ashburton is a track which has historically favoured on-pace runners but La Diosa made a nonsense of this by coming from last to mow down the classy Heroic Valour and win easing down. It’s no surprise that she is now favourite for the 1000 Guineas and let’s hope she gets reasonable luck on the day to show what she can do over the 1600 trip.

Cloughmore client Terry Archer has an outstanding filly on his hands. He’s also shared our stellar week by breeding Chambon out of his Galileo mare Glam Girl. You have to wonder what the odds are of both fillies making the field for the New Zealand Oaks later in the season.

Hugely Impressive First Winner for Highly Recommended

In this business selecting successful stallions before their progeny are even conceived is a process that is fraught with danger. You have no idea whether the stallion is going to pass on his desirable genes and even if the first crop foals look just fine there’s no guarantee that they’ll have the temperaments to turn natural ability into results.

Readers of this website will be well aware that I’ve always rated Highly Recommended as an outstanding stallion prospect and today’s events at Tauherenikau, whilst not being in any way conclusive, gives me some hope that I’ve got it right. Highly Recommended’s strapping son, Waldorf, cruised to a facile victory in a 2YO event and will hopefully end up qualifying for the Karaka Million field.

Waldorf jumped on terms with the field, was positioned three-wide on the tight Waiarapa track and soon after straightening was urged to the lead by apprentice Tim Johnson. Under a hands and heels ride Waldorf lengthened stride smoothly for a comprehensive win.

I was especially pleased to note that today’s winner is out of a Pins mare. I had suggested to Berkley Stud that mares by the son of Snippets could well prove to offer an excellent genetic mix as well as being suitable physical types.

As an aside, I should also mention that I bred two mares to Highly Recommended in his first season: Malissimo (Howbaddouwantit) and Tuscany Rose (Tuscany Flyer). Both mares produced colts and although both have thrown to their dams in terms of physical type, they are both outstanding in terms of conformation and temperament. Another of my mares, Pronking, is currently in foal to the son of Fastnet Rock. On a good day Pronking can best be described as an evil-tempered baggage so it will be especially interesting to see how her foal develops.

Finally, wouldn’t it be exciting, if Highly Recommended does succeed, to have another South Island based stallion being keenly sought after? Last season Zacinto hit the headlines and let’s hope Highly Recommended follows in his hoofprints.

La Diosa Brilliant At Riccarton

Today’s clear winner of the CJC Canterbury Belle Stakes at Riccarton stamped herself very much as a future star. The daughter of So You Think and Group 2 winning mare Star Affair defeated a strong field, finishing off the 1200 metre event as though longer distances would pose no problems.

From a pedigree point of view this was no surprise. Star Affair (a Cloughmore recommended purchase at the 2000 yearling sales) has validated her own pedigree as both a racemare and a producer. Prior to today’s win she had left two stakeswinners, Solid Billing (Rock of Gibraltar) and the more brilliant Thy (O’Reilly), but as pedigree consultant to Star Affair’s owner Terry Archer I must confess that it has been a real challenge to find a stallion to provide size and strength in her progeny. In addition, some of her early foals had been distinctly one-paced – a problem which is always difficult to overcome.

High Chaparral appeared to be worthwhile prospect to achieve this latter goal, especially if Terry were fortunate enough to breed a colt out of the mare, but after one filly by High Chaparral, Coolmore informed Terry that the stallion had a full book. However, they offered him a service to his multiple Group 1 winning son So You Think instead. Keen to access the High Chaparral blood, Terry accepted the offer.

La Diosa will now be aimed at the Group 1 1000 Guineas in November but one would not be at all surprised if she becomes competitive at distances well in excess of 1600 metres. In the shorter term, she appears to be an excellent prospect for the Riccarton classic.

The Best Value For Money Stallions Of 2016

I’ve written articles on this theme before and they always get a strong reaction, mainly from the owners of stallions which don’t make the list. So I’d better start of by emphasising the fact that not making the list doesn’t mean that I think that your stallion has no chance of success; all I’m giving is one person’s opinion as to which stallions offer good value for breeders as at July 2016.

Let’s deal with the proven horses to start with. DARCI BRAHMA is currently second on the sires table and at $15,000 constitutes amazing value. He hasn’t set Australia on fire but he’s done very well in Singapore and he has the priceless asset of leaving horses which have that magic extra gear. On a personal note, I own a small share in the courageous mare Candle in the Wind who typifies her sire’s virtues and the Cloughmore Racing Partnership also has a holding in the 2YO Darci filly ex Gabana.

Last night’s Singapore Derby was a triumph for FALKIRK – if you didn’t see it live, do check a replay of Well Done’s freakish victory. The son of Tale of the Cat has a winners to starters ratio of 60% and just about all his best progeny have similar influences in their pedigrees. His sons have outperformed his daughters, but at $4000 he’s a steal.

On the subject of yesterday’s Asian racing, a son of SHOCKING was hugely impressive in winning a Class 3 1200 event in very quick time at Sha Tin. I have little doubt that this Melbourne Cup winning son of Street Cry is the next big thing. At $8500 he has to be huge value.

SHOWCASING and SWISS ACE have both made strong starts to their careers, and readers of this page will already be aware of the respect I have for SUPER EASY, PURE CHAMPION and KEANO. Of the newbies, IL CAVALLO offers very strong value as well.

To conclude, I’m going to give another mention to two stallions I have a significant regard for. Many breeders like to gamble on stallions with rising 2YOs as the stud fee can appear great value two and a half years later when the yearling sales come around.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED and HE’S REMARKABLE both stand at $4000 and both continue to appeal very strongly indeed. HE’S REMARKABLE had superior ability and his pedigree has been franked by the deeds of his top class brother Xtravagant. His progeny may well not make 2YOs but you’d have to be very confident that he will be a star on the rise in 18 months’ time.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED is quite simply my number one stallion prospect amongst those sires with progeny which have yet to race. Very unusually for me, I’ve spent the hard-earned on sending three mares to him to date and will be fronting up with another this season. In the front paddock are two of the nicest yearlings I’ve ever bred: strong, sensible and well conformed. I’ve been wrong before, but I’m going to be very surprised if I’m wrong about this horse.

Karaka May Sale Produces Sensational Results

Who would have thought it? The May sale has traditionally been an event used by breeders to unload stock deemed to be unworthy of the expense of being taken through the winter. Now we have a sale in which the median price has increased by 188% and the average price over all lots sold doubled compared to last year’s figures.

Do these prices indicate a new dawn for the breeding industry or are there factors which make these stellar results a mere flash in the pan? There seem to have been three factors which boosted the prices of weanlings. Many had strong pedigrees, a significant proportion were well conformed and well presented and there was a strong Chinese and Australian interest in the catalogue.

However, what was of more significance, in my opinion, was that the prices of broodmares also improved dramatically. The average rose from $6148 to $17,507, the median from $2000 to $4500 and the clearance rate was a stunning 91%. You can understand people wanting to invest in great looking weanlings with strong pedigrees, but with broodmares it’s all about what you can’t see in front of you. If a mare has already left unsuccessful progeny, are they slow-maturing, the victims of poor handling or accidents, or are they just plain slow? If the mare is in foal to an average sire, is her pedigree going to dominate that of the stallion? If she’s in foal to a successful sire, is he going to be able to produce a foal which is an improvement on the mare’s previous produce?

My view is that the broodmare results are very encouraging indeed. The clearance rate was unparalleled in my memory. Buyers, several of whom appear to be new to the industry, seemed to be determined to buy a mare in spite of the fact that she cost them twice what they would have expected to pay 12 months ago. Moreover, unlike the weanling portion of the catalogue, the broodmare section didn’t seem overly strong on paper: it wasn’t difficult to figure out why most mares were being put up for sale.

Let’s hope that this positive trend continues.

Food For Thought As The Breeding Season Edges Closer

I part-own a one-win Chinese Dragon mare named Oriental Bronze and have recently been struggling with a problem which many of you will be familiar with. Do I put her back into work? Do I breed from her? Do I move her on?

As I always advise my students, I thought I’d better start by doing my homework. To my surprise I discovered that Chinese Dragon has a 50% winners to starters ratio. As he’s only had one SW, he’s certainly not a good stallion but I’d thought that he was entirely useless. I’d also thought that he’d ended up somewhere like New Caledonia or Thailand, but no, he’s in Oz and standing at $3300.

The information about where he was standing comes from the article referenced below, which is quite fascinating from at least two points of view. Firstly, the Lucky Country has a huge range of stallions standing at very reasonable fees. Here in New Zealand we breeders have a very restricted choice. There are sound economic reasons for this but the fact remains that if we own a mare which lacks commercial appeal, just what do we do? Over-mating her in terms of service fee is just plain daft; we are often left with the choice of going to stallion X or leaving her in the paddock or getting rid of her. Whilst Option C is no doubt the most fiscally sensible solution, there’s always that nagging thought that just maybe she could leave a Bonecrusher or a Grey Way or an All In Fun…

The second thought produced by the article was how crucial opportunity is in a stallion’s career. Whilst Chinese Dragon was lucky enough to end up at Fairdale, he doesn’t seem to have been overly-well patronised by outside breeders with an avalanche of top-class mares. It’s true that assessing opportunity is quite a challenge because we’ve got to factor in the question of genetic suitability of mares for a particular stallion, not just how much black type they have close up in their pedigrees. If you’d like some proof of this, the enduring success of White Robe Lodge is a case in point.

Anyway, here’s the article.
Click Here To Read

Nashville Wins Trentham Stakes

I strongly suspect that Nashville is significantly responsible for the blood pressure medication I have to take every morning and every evening. He is the sort of horse that every pedigree advisor dreams about and when he won the Haunui Classic for the first time I envisaged a glittering career of Group 1 victories over a range of distances. He did win the Haunui again but his career has been notable for an impressive range of near misses, the Livamol Classic and the Waikato International being the highlights – if that’s the right word.

When he lined up for the Trentham Stakes and I turned on my trusty TV, I was fully prepared for another disappointment. Sure, he was thrown in at the weights but I expected him to find another way of losing a race he really ought to have won.

It’s now history that he surprised not just me but the small army of racegoers who appreciate how good a horse he is when he’s got his mind on the job. His trainers have done brilliantly to outwit him and let’s hope the magic lasts until next week. He’ll find 59kg a challenge but I’m sure that he’ll stay the distance. Rosie Myers has never had much success with Cloughmore runners but today she managed Nashville expertly, keeping him balanced around the turn and then riding him energetically all the way down the Trentham straight. If you look at the replay, you’ll see that he accelerated twice in the last 400, something that only top class thoroughbreds can do.

All In Fun won the Trentham Stakes back in 1994 but since then the race has not been kind to Cloughmore Pedigrees. Nor has the Wellington Cup, with our best results being third placings recorded by both All In Fun and our homebred The Jungle Boy.

Let’s hope that Nashville sets the record straight next weekend.

Karaka Sales Analyses Now Available

I’ve just completed writing this year’s analyses of all three Karaka sales and, apart from my initial reaction expressed in my previous article, this year’s offering has another surprise.

My reading of the industry as a whole is that, by and large, times are tough. It’s not easy for trainers to make a dollar and we can all remember the disaster for breeders that last year’s Festival Sale was. It was virtually impossible for fillies to produce an acceptable return and, in extreme cases, females with perfectly acceptable pedigrees were given away rather than being taken home after failing to attract a bid. As a result of the carnage, I would have expected this year’s Festival Sale to be distinctly short of fillies with any quality at all on the pedigree page. If you had bred a nice animal, not quite fashionably enough bred to make the Select, surely you’d just keep it or lease it rather than going to the expense of a yearling prep.

Well, I was wrong. This year’s Festival Sale has five fillies I’ve rated as A+, whereas in some years the total has been zero. There are 13 rated as A’s, and 15 more as B+. In fact, the standard of filly pedigrees appears to comfortably exceed that of the colts. Whether the strength of the filly catalogue reflects breeders’ natural optimism and confidence in the market or a desperation to dump unwanted yearlings, time will tell, but I have a strong suspicion that buyers will be going home very happy indeed.

It is also worth saying that this year’s catalogues contain the progeny of some very impressive first-season stallions. Ocean Park must have a huge chance of making it as a stallion and it’s also hard to see the brilliant Super Easy being a flop. Reliable Man has had every opportunity and my two favourites, He’s Remarkable and Highly Recommended, provide lots which appeal very strongly indeed. Power was an impressive racehorse with the benefit of the Cambridge Stud broodmare band behind him, Rock ‘n’ Pop ticks every box there is and Niagara has left some stunning weanlings.

All in all, it’s going to be a very interesting few days.

As always, please get in touch if you’d like an opinion on any of the 1378 lots catalogued.