Coventina Bay the Herbie Dyke heroine for Shamexpress

By Richard Edmunds

16 Feb 2022

Coventina Bay the Herbie Dyke heroine for ShamexpressCoventina Bay (Craig Grylls) lands a breakthrough win for her sire Shamexpress with victory in the G

Shamexpress made his name with blistering performances down the ‘straight six’ at Flemington, but it has been over longer distances that the former gun sprinter’s progeny have played starring roles this season.
Coventina Bay has been a headline act for her sire throughout a career that has spanned 10 wins, 21 starts and the best part of four seasons. On Saturday she credited Shamexpress with a prized first Group One success as a sire in the Herbie Dyke Stakes at Te Rapa.
The Taranaki mare had earlier given Shamexpress a first Group Two win in the Manawatu Challenge Stakes in December, along with previous successes in the Gr. 3 Cuddle Stakes and J Swap Sprint. She had also performed with credit at the elite level with placings in the New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes and Thorndon Mile.
But on Saturday she took that to a new level, stepping up to 2000 metres for the first time and charging past Vernanme, a son of Shamexpress’s sire O’Reilly, for an emphatic win.
Meanwhile, three-year-old Shamexpress gelding Shamus has also risen to prominence with a superb victory in the Gr. 2 Wellington Guineas in January, followed by a creditable performance over 2000 metres in the Gr. 2 Waikato Guineas.
Shamexpress, the winner of the Gr. 1 Newmarket Handicap at Flemington and placegetter at the same venue in the Coolmore Stud Stakes, Lightning Stakes and VRC Sprint Classic, is now the sire of 86 winners from 155 runners – seven of them at black-type level.
“It was great to see Shamexpress get his first Group One winner, and Coventina Bay is a mare who was very deserving of that accolade,” Windsor Park Stud general manager Steve Till told RaceForm. “She’s been top-class for a number of seasons now and was a multiple placegetter at the highest level. Now she’s finally nailed one, and she was pretty dominant.
“Shamexpress has had a good season. He’s got a smart three-year-old in Shamus, while Zola Express won the Listed Wanganui Cup and also placed in the Gr. 3 Taranaki Cup last week.
“It’s been well-documented that Shamexpress lacks numbers through the challenges he’s had with his fertility, but if you’re patient, you can get rewarded. He’s a reliable stallion for leaving a good type of horse, like he is himself, with natural strength. Now we’re looking forward to taking some nice Shamexpress yearlings to Karaka next month.
“All credit to Robbie Patterson (trainer) and Coventina Bay’s connections. It’s great for Wayne Darling, who bred her and races her with a syndicate.
“Coventina Bay comes from an old Windsor Park family, with her third dam being Nimue, who was a champion three-year-old filly and one of the best racehorses we’ve had the fortune to breed and race over the years. It’s great to see that line continuing to produce quality performers.
“A lot of the horses in this family have been only small to medium-sized, and generally not very big or mature as yearlings, but they certainly make up for it with their hearts and will to win.”
In Darling’s case, a chance meeting with Windsor Park’s marketing manager Michael Moran paved the way to his once-in-a-lifetime experience as an owner-breeder.
“It started out when I ran into Mike Moran at Awapuni,” he recalled this week. “I had seen some videos of High Chaparral, who they were marketing as a shuttle stallion at the time, and I was pretty impressed with the turn of foot he’d had as a racehorse.
“I’d been in the racing game for a long time at that stage but not so much on the breeding side. I was keen to try breeding a horse, but didn’t have any broodmares to breed from. I decided to lease one from Windsor Park, and that was Coventina Bay’s granddam, Niniane. We sent her to High Chaparral and produced Coventina, who won three races.
“Another of Niniane’s foals that we bred, the Falkirk mare Kirkinini, has a colt by Contributer in Book 2 at Karaka next month.
“Meanwhile, Shamexpress was another Windsor Park sire I liked the look of, and what drew me to him was the fact that he’d won the Newmarket at Flemington. It’s not easy for a New Zealand-bred horse to win a big Aussie sprint like that. He looked the part as well, being quite an impressive stallion, and I decided to send Coventina to him one year.
“That produced Coventina Bay, who we offered at Karaka with a $20,000 reserve, but she was passed in and we decided to hold on to her – probably just as well!
“Buyers at yearling sales sometimes don’t seem to like horses that are on the small side. That’s the only reason I can think of that she didn’t sell. But I think she’s proven them all wrong.
“It was a great win on Saturday, and I was lucky enough to be there on course. We’d been hoping that she could crack a Group One, although we probably hadn’t considered that it might be a 2000-metre race at weight-for-age. But she did it on her ear.
“I think she’s been a little bit under-estimated by a few people through her career. There’s starting to be a bit of pressure around us now from people trying to buy her and things like that – I guess that’s always going to happen when you start winning these sorts of races with mares. But that’s a position we’re very lucky to be in.
“We’re racing her in a lease agreement, basically with a lot of jokers that I know around town in New Plymouth. I leased her out to them, and I’ve kept a 20 per cent racing share as well. They’re all very happy. A lot of them are first-time owners, so they’re pretty lucky to get a horse like this as their first taste of it.”