Daring to dream leads to ultimate victory

By Dennis Ryan

3 Nov 2021

Daring to dream leads to ultimate victoryDon Goodwin, breeder and part-owner of Melbourne Cup winner Verry Elleegant

Breeding and part-owning Melbourne Cup winner Verry Elleegant has for 83-year-old Don Goodwin been all about keeping the faith – and dreaming.
From the time he became involved in the ownership of the impeccably-bred colt Zed, Goodwin has followed his instincts and at times, he has dared to dream. On Tuesday afternoon, watching the Trackside TV feed from Flemington with his wife Christina in their Takapuna home, all of Goodwin’s theories, planning and dreams came together for the ultimate victory.
Any dreams that Goodwin had for Zed, the son of champion stallion Zabeel and Group One-winning Danehill mare Emerald Dream he owned in partnership with siblings John, Mark and Rachel Carter, were dashed when injury cut short his racing career. That led to a stud career that was to become one of thoroughbred breeding’s extraordinary stories.
Taking up duties in 2007 at the minimal fee of $500 at Little Avondale Stud, Zed covered 130 mares in his debut season, but when those numbers had fallen to 30 in 2011, he was consigned to Erewhon Station in the South Canterbury high country for a life of covering mainly Clydesdale mares.
But then what has become known as the Zed factor kicked in. Early crop members such as Survived, Ambitious Champion, Jimmy Mac, Anniesstar and Usainity began to kick big goals, to the point that Zed was retrieved from the wilderness for a return to thoroughbred duties at Grangewilliam Stud.
In 2013, his first season at the Corcoran family’s nursery north of Whanganui, Zed covered 168 mares at a fee of $4,000. His numbers have not matched that since, but at age 19, he is well on the way to covering one of his bigger books.
One constant through Zed’s time at Grangewilliam has been Don Goodwin. After studying various bloodlines, he paid $10,000 for a mare by Danroad with the express intention of doubling up on the blood of what he considered two of the greatest influences in thoroughbred breeding, the great stallion Danehill and iconic broodmare Eight Carat.
Goodwin’s mare Opulence and Zed shared Danehill as their grandsire and Eight Carat as their fourth dam. From her first mating with Zed, Opulence produced a colt that became known as Verry Flash, to date the winner of eight races and Group placed. However it’s her 2015 filly that has become the dream-maker.
Verry Elleegant began her career with South Auckland horseman Nick Bishara, who soon learnt that despite her rakish, immature physique, therein sat a big motor. A first-up second as a late two-year-old was followed by two spring wins, by which time the talent scouts were knocking and a deal was done with clients of Victorian trainer Darren Weir.
Goodwin, Bishara and their original partners sold down their share-holding and as well as the Australian newcomers, also included Aucklanders John and Mark Carter and Tim Barry in the group that has had one hell of a ride since.
Amidst all the uncertainty leading into the Melbourne Cup, Goodwin maintained the same stance that has been key to his participation: whatever Chris Waller decides, he’s happy to run with it.
“He’s a bloody genius, so why the hell would someone like me try and second-guess him?” was Goodwin’s rationale. “Besides, having a runner in the Melbourne Cup is everyone’s dream, and if it’s good by Chris, it’s good by me.”
Goodwin’s praise was even more fulsome when RaceForm caught up with him after Verry Elleegant’s Melbourne Cup demolition job. “Between Chris and James McDonald, they got it just right, they’re both champions!
“Christina and I were just sitting there watching it all unfold, although I think we started yelling a bit when she hit the front. Did you see her cruise past Incentivise? We didn’t just beat the favourite, we donkey-licked him!”
Garbed up in the black tie and dinner suit he bought for $600 in August to attend a Thoroughbred Breeders’ awards function that Covid then scuttled, Goodwin admitted to having “a bit of a bet” on his pride and joy. “I took the tote odds ($16.50), but what I couldn’t believe was the quinella with the favourite ($21.80). We got a bit of that too.”
Unlike locked-down Auckland, Grangewilliam Stud was party central on Tuesday afternoon through to the small hours as a group of 100 celebrated.
“We put up the Waverley Racing Club’s marquee and sold tickets for $20 each,” a recovering Mark Corcoran said on Wednesday morning. “The money from the tickets will go towards the statute of Kiwi that’s going up in the main street of Waverley, and we ran a punters’ club that made $7,000, so that will be donated as well.
“That’s two Melbourne Cup winners and three Caulfield Cup winners bred and raised here. Doriemus doing the double back in 1995 is one of the things that got me hooked for life and now to see Verry Elleegant and what she’s done, it’s fantastic.
“You couldn’t get a better bloke than Don Goodwin, he’s a true believer and has stuck with us from the time Zed came here. Opulence has been to Zed ever since and she produced a colt this year. She’s back in foal and Don has his hopes pinned on a filly.
“I love it when he and Christina come down here for a visit. When he did the deal with Verry Elleegant, one condition was that he got all the trophies, so I can’t wait to hold that Melbourne Cup when they bring it down.”