Famous colours to the fore with star filly

By Dennis Ryan

3 Aug 2022

Famous colours to the fore with star fillyCapping his premiership-winning season, Michael McNab wears the famous Swettenham Stud colours to vi

“That was a decent performance, she did it tough but never looked like being headed.”
Racing colours that dominated the bloodstock world nearly half a century ago have been in full display on the local scene this season through the talented filly Pacific Dragon.
Swettenham Stud’s famous green and blue and jacket was a ubiquitous fixture through the late 1970s and 1980s when football pools magnate Robert Sangster joined forces with legendary Irishmen Vincent O’Brien and John Magnier to make Coolmore one of the greatest forces in world racing and breeding.
Coolmore’s influence continues to this day, but without the Sangster factor, which is now the domain of the late influencer’s son Adam through his Victorian operation Swettenham Stud. With Ballarat trainer Henry Dwyer he purchased a Charm Spirit from Windsor Parks Karaka 2020 yearling draft and went to the same source to secure a full-sister two years later.
The first of those fillies from the Encosta de Lago mare Daring showed early promise leading to three wins under the name Paper Dragon, but it’s the second purchase – $20,000 cheaper at $70,000 – that is now making the headlines.
Pacific Dragon’s connections opted to leave her in New Zealand with Cambridge trainer Tony Pike and target the Karaka Million. The plan came together well with a pre-Christmas win followed by a second placing, relegated behind Wolverine after crossing the line first, in the Gr. 2 Eclipse Stakes at Ellerslie.
That was compelling form for the main target, but she had to settle for fifth in the Karaka Million after a less than lucky run in transit. Pacific Dragon filled the same placing in the Gr. 2 Matamata Breeders’ Stakes ahead of a break and her all-the-way win in Saturday’s Listed Ryder Stakes was fitting reward for a filly who belongs in the top bracket of last season’s juvenile crop.
“That was a decent performance, she did it tough but never looked like being headed,” Adam Sangster told RaceForm earlier this week. “Full credit to Tony Pike and his team at Cambridge, they’ve done a fantastic job with her right through the season and to sign off with a stakes win is a fantastic result.”
Pacific Dragon is by no means a stand-alone example of the Sangster involvement in New Zealand racing. In the early 1980s Robert secured a share in the Paddy Payne Snr-owned and trained (Our) Paddy Boy after he had won the Gr. 1 Ellerslie Sires’ Produce Stakes and added a string of races in Australia, including the AJC Derby and Sydney Cup. By then the Blarney Kiss colt was owned outright by Sangster and trained by one of his closest associates in Australian training ranks, Colin Hayes.
Other Kiwi-breds to carry the Sangster colours through that era included the Sir Tristram filly Riverina Charm, who he had bred in partnership with Philip and Peter Vela and was trained by Laurie Laxon for Group One wins on both sides of the Tasman.
Another that came close to winning a Group One race was the Sangster-bred and owned Glorious Way, who Hayes sent to New Zealand in the autumn of 1987 to target the Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes, which at the time was sponsored by Swettenham Stud. The Godswalk filly had good form – an early stakes win in Adelaide and summer black-type placings in Melbourne – but after a rocky early run under Noel Harris she narrowly failed to overhaul the tough Wanganui colt Satisfy, who was to win the following season’s New Zealand Derby.
Glorious Way’s hit-and-run raid forced a quick rewrite of a New Zealand Racing Rule as, contrary to local regulations, she raced in blinkers and connections were adamant that she would not make the transtasman trip if not permitted to wear a hood. In a parallel that could be drawn from a decade earlier when Canadian jockey Joan Phipps’s win against the males at Te Awamutu opened the floodgates for female jockeys to be licensed in this country, Glorious Way opened the door for two-year-olds being permitted to wear blinkers.
Adam Sangster, who has lived in Australia since 1991, has his own fond memories of New Zealand. “My first experience of your country was doing a season with Patrick Hogan at Cambridge Stud in 1984,” he recalled. “Working alongside guys like Russell Warwick, Marcus Corban, Gary Mudgway and Mark Baker was a fantastic learning period.
“I was back over there just recently actually, and it was marvellous to see what the Lindsays have achieved, that heritage centre is something else.
“I really enjoy engaging with New Zealand and we remain big supporters. You guys have always punched above your weight and that doesn’t look like changing any time soon.”