Raffles legacy lives on through Imperatriz

By Richard Edmunds

1 Sep 2022

Raffles legacy lives on through ImperatrizImperatriz (Opie Bosson) shows her dominance with an easy Foxbridge Plate win

Although Dato Yap Kim San has brought the curtain down on his extensive and highly successful Australasian operation, the Raffles name is continuing to make its presence felt in our part of the world – including through New Zealand’s latest pin-up racehorse.
Since Raffles Farm was established in Cambridge in 2008 and placed under the management of Bruce Sherwin, Dato Yap has celebrated a string of notable racetrack successes on both sides of the Tasman.
The Malaysian-based businessman shared in the ownership of the 2011 Australian Guineas and Australian Derby heroine Shamrocker, and the distinctive chequered Raffles colours were later carried to Group One wins by the likes of Sacred Falls (New Zealand 2000 Guineas, two Doncasters and a George Main Stakes), Sacred Star (Waikato Sprint, Telegraph), Sacred Elixir (JJ Atkins) and Rock Diva (Auckland Cup).
However, economic pressures stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic forced Dato Yap to sacrifice his ‘hobby’ thoroughbred breeding operation to secure his core businesses throughout Asia. Raffles Farm on the outskirts of Cambridge was sold earlier this year, along with almost the entirety of Dato Yap’s Australasian bloodstock portfolio.
In a cruel twist that seems to happen so often in this industry, the end of Raffles’ Australasian involvement has coincided with a flurry of racetrack successes for its graduates.
The number of Group One winners bred under the Raffles banner has doubled in the last six months alone, with Imperatriz scoring highly impressive back-to-back wins in the Levin Classic and New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes in March and April, while Glint Of Hope captured the Australasian Oaks in Adelaide on April 30 for expat Kiwi trainers Trent Busuttin and Natalie Young.
These successes have been bittersweet for Sherwin, but he can be justifiably proud of what Raffles achieved over the last decade and a half.
“Imperatriz is doing a wonderful job of keeping the ‘RF’ brand in lights,” he told RaceForm. “Winning an Oaks with Glint Of Hope as well, it’s been a very successful year and a great note to end the project on.
“We’ve now bred four individual Group One winners, and we seem to have saved the best to last in the form of Imperatriz.”
Te Akau Racing’s Imperatriz has now won nine of her 12 starts, having built on those autumn triumphs with a spectacular start to her four-year-old season. A first-up winner at Ruakaka in early August, Imperatriz headed to Te Rapa for last Saturday’s Gr. 2 Foxbridge Plate and outclassed a quality field in a breath-taking performance.
Imperatriz is by exceptional Australian sire I Am Invincible out of Berimbau, a Group Two-placed Shamardal mare who was bought by Raffles for A$180,000 at a Gold Coast sale in 2016.
Residing since then at Bhima Thoroughbreds in New South Wales, Berimbau produced an I Am Invincible filly two years later who was offered at the 2020 Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale. She caught the eye of Te Akau’s David Ellis, who secured her for A$360,000 – and the rest is history.
The earlier elite winners bred by Raffles were their New Zealand Oaks-winning homebred More Than Sacred (by super-shuttler More Than Ready out of the Danehill mare Danalaga) and top-flight Australian filly First Seal (by Fastnet Rock out of the Scenic mare Episode). Glint Of Hope, meanwhile, is a Japanese-bred daughter of the mighty Deep Impact, out of a Fastnet Rock mare.
“Danalaga was one of our early broodmare purchases, carrying More Than Sacred,” Sherwin recalled. “She was a scopey filly but angular, so we elected to keep her. She was a terrific stayer, winning the New Zealand Oaks and very unlucky in the Auckland Cup the following year before being sold to Japan.
“Until Imperatriz came along, First Seal was the most talented racehorse we bred. She was a superb thoroughbred specimen, fetching $700,000 at Karaka in 2013. She had the measure of Winx as an early-season three-year-old, but was plagued by niggling setbacks and injuries thereafter. It was that all-too-familiar racing line – what might have been?
“Glint Of Hope was the result of the network established through the sales of Shamrocker and More Than Sacred to Japan. We bred a mare to Deep Impact on Southern Hemisphere timing for two years. The first result was a smashing colt, Nowitzki, which realised A$950,000 at Inglis Easter, and then a so-so type of filly which was sold for A$250,000. The colt under-performed, and the filly went on to win an Oaks.
“As for Imperatriz, we were fans of Shamardal stock, and Berimbau looked a quality mare on performance also. I Am Invincible was arriving on the big stage as a sire and it looked a perfect physical cross. The resulting filly was quality from day one, and while happy with the A$360,000 price she achieved at Magic Millions, we did think she was a chance of making more.
“Her racing career has been great to watch, and she appears to be getting better with each preparation. I never thought we would produce one as good as First Seal, but I am happy to be proven wrong. Her turn of foot stands her apart. She is an extraordinary talent.
“Dato Yap now has only one mare left in New Zealand (the Dalghar mare Dee Day). She is due to foal to Ocean Park, having bred an Almanzor colt last year. Dato Yap may also breed from a retiring filly this spring, so he is not entirely lost to New Zealand breeding.”
With the conclusion of the Raffles Farm venture, Sherwin has been joined by close friends Robert and Kim DeCourcy and Lawrence Wadey to invest in a smaller property (Frontier Farm) in Tauwhare, near Cambridge.
“It will likely never match Raffles for success due to size and scale, but it is a quality property, and the prefect environment for raising thoroughbreds,” he said.