Kiwi pride in NZ-bred achievements across The Ditch

By Dennis Ryan

23 Sep 2021

Kiwi pride in NZ-bred achievements across The DitchVerry Elleegant makes it Group One win number nine with victory over fellow NZ-bred Riodini in the G

John Thompson is one of many members of the intertwined thoroughbred industry wearing more than one hat.
The most engrossing is his oversight as general manager of Rich Hill Stud, home to a potent stallion roster comprising Ace High, Proisir, Satono Aladdin, Shocking and Vadamos. His other hat is in some respects just as demanding, as President of the New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association.
After another feature racing weekend in Australia headlined by Group One wins to the NZ-bred duo of Verry Elleegant and Sierra Sue, Thompson is entitled to blow his own trumpet, however he speaks for the whole New Zealand breeding industry in praising the merits of our racing product.
Group One win number nine by Zed mare Verry Elleegant in the George Main Stakes at Randwick and a career-first elite victory to Darci Brahma five-year-old Sierra Sue in the Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes at Caulfield took the Kiwi-breds’ spring tally across The Ditch to three from the five Group Ones contested in the opening weeks of the Australian season.
Savabeel four-year-old Mo’unga was first to strike when he narrowly defeated Verry Elleegant in the Winx Stakes at Randwick, and it was another Kiwi quinella in last Saturday’s George Main as Verry Elleegant wore down the brave Proisir gelding Riodini. For good measure the lightly raced Shocking four-year-old I’m Thunderstruck finished third in the Rupert Clarke, his first start at that level.
“To see our horses add another two Group One races in Sydney and Melbourne along with everything else they’ve been doing this spring says so much for the type of horses we produce,” said Thompson. “It’s very competitive when it comes to sourcing stallions, and New Zealand studs are up against an Australian stallion market that has had multiple millions poured into it.
“While that can tend to limit our stallion owners to what they can afford to offer breeders, the fact is that the horses we breed are still more than holding their own in the very best Australian races.
“In the case of stallions like Darci Brahma and Zed, the proof is there that we can still produce genuine racehorses, and that after all is the whole aim of what every breeder sets out to achieve.”
The Oaks Stud stallion Darci Brahma, himself the winner of five Group One races, now has a tally of 11 individual Group One winners, and while Verry Elleegant is the stand-out performer for Zed, the Grangewilliam Stud stallion also has an impressive overall record, added to by his second-crop Group One winner Survived, Wellington Cup and NZ St Leger winner Waisake, New Zealand Cup winner Jimmy Mac, Group Two winners Robusto and Jacksstar, and Australian stakes winners Irish Flame and Usainity.
And there’s that fairy-tale element to the backstories of both Verry Elleegant and Sierra Sue. The latter was snipped by Te Aroha horseman Peter Lock for just $2,000 from a Karaka Mixed Bloodstock catalogue before catching the eye of Cambridge bloodstock agent Phill Cataldo. He secured her as a trial winner for a partnership that includes high-profile owners Ozzie Kheir and Brae Sokolski. Over the past few years the entrepreneurial Melbournians have been massive investors in quality bloodstock and have a strike-rate that must be the envy of many.
Kheir and Sokolski also happen to be members of the partnership that races Verry Elleegant, having bought into her after Sydney-based Kiwi agent Andrew Williams brokered a deal with Auckland breeder Don Goodwin when Verry Elleegant was a spring three-year-old with two wins from starts.
The other Kiwi participants in these two great stories are Chris Waller and James McDonald, respective trainer and rider of Verry Elleegant, and in Sierra Sue’s case, Victorian training duo/life partners Trent Busuttin and Natalie Young.
Waller also struck for Kiwi connections at Randwick on Saturday with recent acquisition Atishu, last season’s NZ Bloodstock Southern Filly of the Year who has taken her New Zealand form to Sydney to now be the winner of the Gr. 3 Bill Ritchie Handicap. The Savabeel mare races in the blue and white Go Racing colours, principal Albert Bosma having established a relationship with Waller that dates all the way back to Silky Red Boxer, a minor cult hero with stakes wins on both sides of the Tasman.