Don’s Breeder Awards double caps a year like no other

By Dennis Ryan

15 Dec 2021

Don’s Breeder Awards double caps a year like no otherDon and Christina Goodwin with their superb collection of 2021 trophies

“What she’s done is beyond anyone’s wildest dreams; it’s been the most incredible experience that in some ways I still can’t believe.”
A bundle of trophies recognising the achievements of his champion racemare Verry Elleegant are the perfect 2021 finale for Auckland owner-breeder Don Goodwin.
Last week Goodwin took delivery of what would rate as just about every racehorse owner’s most treasured possession, the Melbourne Cup. He was also the recipient of the inaugural New Zealand Small Breeder of the Year award, and it can now be confirmed that Verry Elleegant’s dam Opulence is the 2021 New Zealand Broodmare of the Year.
“Put them all together and you really can’t quantify it,” Goodwin told RaceForm as he reflected on a year like no other. “You’ve got to get your brain around it.
“When anyone asks me what I put it down to, sure I went out and bought the mare that I really thought would click with Zed and that’s how I ended up with Verry Elleegant, but there’s always that element of luck. You’ve got to have a lot of luck.”
The competition for both NZTBA-sanctioned breeder awards was stiff. The Small Breeder Award, sponsored by Wellingtonian Luigi Muollo, a successful breeder in his own right, was competed for by an illustrious short list. Besides Goodwin, that comprised Southlanders Willie and Karen Calder, the breeders of nine-time Group One winner Avantage, Joan Egan (Concert Hall and Beauden) and Marie Leicester (Melody Belle and Tutukaka).
The Eight Carat New Zealand Broodmare of the Year award, sponsored by Arion Pedigrees, was contested by an equally illustrious group comprising Extra Explosive, the dam of triple Derby winner Explosive Jack, Far Fetched (Probabeel), Meleka Belle (Melody Belle and Tutukaka), and Verry Elleegant’s dam Opulence.
Goodwin has bred and raced horses for longer than he might care to remember, making him well aware of the challenges and pitfalls that are an inevitable element in the quest of the ultimate result.
“You potter around with your broodmares and racehorses, you get the odd punt home and in my case I came up with a horse like Verry Flash. He’s won nearly $200,000, eight races, one of them the Taumarunui Cup, and he’s finished third in the Winter Cup.
“Anyone would be happy to breed and own a horse like him, but then along comes his full-sister Verry Elleegant. Never would you expect one like her!
“What she’s done is beyond anyone’s wildest dreams; it’s been the most incredible experience that in some ways I still can’t believe.”
Goodwin’s dream still has more to play out. Verry Elleegant has returned to training and Chris Waller has set an autumn plan culminating in the Randwick feature missing from her 10-Group One CV, the Queen Elizabeth Stakes. Beyond that is the possibility of a European venture with the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe an ambitious end-goal.
“That’s all up to Chris, but reading between the lines I get the impression he’s warming to the idea. She might be one of three horses in his team that could make the trip, but as I said, it will be Chris’s call, just as it always has been.”
The home front presents Goodwin and his wife Christina with more immediate excitement now that the Auckland border has come down, namely a trip to the lower North Island with two prime targets, a stopover at Grangewilliam Stud on the way to spending Christmas with family in Levin. Opulence is a permanent boarder at Grangewilliam, where the Broodmare of the Year has a brother to Verry Elleegant at foot and is back in foal to resident sire Zed.
“I’ve seen lots of photos of the new boy and he looks the part, but I can’t wait to see him in the flesh,” says Goodwin. “I’ll also be doing my best to convince Opulence that the foal she’s carrying is the filly I’m desperate for her to have.”
Opulence makes up one half of Goodwin’s broodmare band, the other being Klairevoyant who this year produced a filly by Zed. Klairevoyant traces to Klairessa, the dam of broodmare icon Eight Carat, who features so strongly in Verry Elleegant’s pedigree.
As well as Verry Flash, Goodwin has a two-year-old filly by Zed with Kevin Myers. He bought her from the Grangewilliam draft at the National Yearling Sale in January, admitting to an element of superstition in the process.
“I went back and sat in the very same seat as when I bought Opulence at Karaka 10 years ago. You never know, it might just bring me some more luck!”