Pignan’s Sires Produce a fantastic first-crop result for Staphanos

By Dennis Ryan

5 Apr 2023

Pignan’s Sires Produce a fantastic first-crop result for StaphanosPignan (Joe Doyle) claims a huge result for her young sire Staphanos with victory in the Gr. 1 Manaw

Luigi Muollo’s global view took on a whole new meaning around the momentous victory by Pignan in the Gr. 1 Courtesy Ford Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes at Awapuni on Saturday.
While the Staphanos filly was making short work of her rivals in the second leg of the big autumn juvenile double, Muollo was at a football tournament in Dallas, Texas, supporting his teenaged son Antonio.
That’s a quite different slant on what has become a big part of the Wellington businessman’s involvement in thoroughbred breeding and racing. His deep interest in international bloodlines is almost unrivalled in his drive to acquire a range of stallions at his Cambridge nursery Novara Park, and just lately the rewards have been immense.
Sweynesse, a product of Godolphin’s international breeding programme, has been making headlines as the sire of dual Hong Kong Group One winner Lucky Sweynesse, and now younger associate Staphanos, a son of iconic Japanese stallion Deep Impact, has sired a Group One winner from his first crop.
The Lisa Latta-trained Pignan has been a real scene-setter for her sire, as his first winner back in December, first black-type performer with placings in the Listed Wellesley Stakes and Gr. 2 Matamata Breeders’ Stakes, and now his first Group One winner.
“We really couldn’t have wished for a better result so early in his career,” Muollo told RaceForm from afar. “The Staphanos progeny won’t be at their best until they’re three-year-olds racing over longer distances, so we’re thrilled to see Pignan do this.
“In 2016 when I started Novara Park I chose the telephone number 0800 2 DERBY. In 2018 (home-bred) Vin De Dance won the New Zealand Derby and in 2021 Explosive Jack (by Novara foundation sire Jakkalberry) won the Australian Derby, South Australian Derby and Tasmanian Derby.
“Sweynesse is the leading New Zealand sire in Hong Kong and his champion son Lucky Sweynesse is currently the top ranked New Zealand horse in the world, and now Staphanos is the leading first-season sire. Those are great results but I am focused on improving things all the time.
“I am a businessman who has a passion for pedigrees, however I do place just as much importance on nurturing our foals, weanlings, yearlings and older horses. Fortunately I leave that to my farm team headed by stud manager Tony Mudgway, who has got a huge amount of experience and knowledge.
“All my team play a part – Matt Smith, Bill Davis, and Tane O’Riain are all great guys. Don Edwards takes care of the bookings and contracts, running our office and does a fantastic job. The team celebrate our wins just as much as I do.”
Securing Staphanos was no easy task, but as Muollo explained, the fact that his race record across six seasons was highly respectable but did not include a Group One win made him accessible.
“Staphanos was a top-10 rated Japanese horse as a three, four, five and six-year-old. I was lucky that he came up against the Winx of their generation, Kitasan Black, the two-time Japanese Horse of the Year, otherwise had he won a Group One I wouldn’t have been able to have bought him.
“Purchasing a stallion out of Japan is very difficult. It is not like Australia where they retire them so lightly raced. They keep on racing them as the prize-money is huge and you have to wait for a horse to retire to purchase a stallion prospect.”
There’s an intriguing back-story to Pignan concerning her breeders, Rotorua couple Andrew Burton and Linda Hunt. Former Racing Rotorua committeeman Burton secured a nomination to Staphanos that was part of Novara Park’s sponsorship of Rotorua’s Gr. 3 Sweynesse Stakes and Listed Staphanos Classic.
Burton and Hunt sent their Sepoy mare Hirondelle, who they had purchased off the Gavelhouse online auction site, and the resulting filly was offered at the following year’s New Zealand Bloodstock National Weanling Sale, where she was knocked down at $15,000 to Adrian Clark Bloodstock.
“She was a striking first foal, everything about her was really forward and balanced and with a fabulous temperament,” recalled Linda Hunt. “We watched the race on Saturday and nearly had a heart attack – how often do you get to breed a Group One winner, and a two-year-old one at that?”
Shortly after foaling Pignan, who was raised by Burton and Hunt on their Rotorua lifestyle block, they were approached with a good offer for Hirondelle, back in foal to Staphanos, and she was on-sold to Australia. She has since produced another filly and is in foal to fellow Deep Impact stallion in Fierce Impact.
Luigi Muollo appreciates the role that non stud-based breeders still have to play in the wider industry. “I place a huge amount of importance on the small breeders, so I came up with the idea of the Small Breeder Of The Year award that I sponsor,” he said.
“It is not easy being a small breeder in New Zealand and that is why I like to provide value for money in my stallions. Karaka’s Yearling and Ready to Run Sale results were a clear example of what value is available.
“Sweynesse’s Book 1 and 2 sale average was 10.5 times his service fee, while at the Ready To Run he averaged 13.2 times his service fee. It is very satisfying to have clients making great money from my stallions and that certainly will continue.
“I have nice bunch of two-year-olds by Staphanos in my racing team. I have two colts and four fillies plus I have retained shares in three others. The feedback has me thinking that we are in for a great three-year-old season as they will excel at 1600m to 2400m.”