Romancing The Moon adds to McQuades’ special dynasty

By Richard Edmunds

22 Mar 2023

Romancing The Moon adds to McQuades’ special dynastyRomancing The Moon adds another chapter to a compelling story with victory in the Gr. 1 Levin Classi

Romancing The Moon’s tenacious win in last Saturday’s Gr. 1 Levin Classic added another chapter to an extraordinary family success story for Matamata couple Hamish and Karyn McQuade.
The Trentham showpiece was the fourth and most significant win of an 11-start career for the El Roca filly, who has also finished second on another four occasions – including splitting Legarto and Prowess in the Gr. 3 Soliloquy Stakes. She has earned almost $330,000 for her owners, the Te Akau Moonstruck Racing Partnership.
Romancing The Moon was bred by the McQuades and is the first foal out of Underthemoonlight, who they bred, owned and trained.
Underthemoonlight herself had 31 starts for six wins, 13 placings and $318,175 in stakes. She won the Gr. 2 Foxbridge Plate, Gr. 3 Taranaki Breeders’ Stakes and Listed Tauranga Classic, and her five additional placings at black-type level included a third in the Gr. 1 Tarzino Trophy at Hastings.
The McQuades have watched with interest and pride as the story moved into the next generation with Romancing The Moon’s emergence as a standout three-year-old filly among the powerful stable of fellow Matamata horseman Mark Walker.
“For Underthemoonlight’s first foal to be a Group One winner is an absolute dream come true,” Hamish McQuade told RaceForm earlier this week.
Success with this family is nothing new for the McQuades, whose involvement dates back to the Groom Dancer mare Midnight Kiss – a half-sister to Underthemoonlight’s dam, Midnight Dip.
Karyn McQuade trained Midnight Kiss through a four-start career in New Zealand, winning twice and placing in the Gr. 1 New Zealand Oaks in 2004. She was later sold to the United States, where she produced Gr. 1 Santa Anita Derby winner Midnight Interlude and Listed winner Midnight Crooner.
That success prompted the couple to go to Karaka for the Winter Mixed Bloodstock Sale in 2009, where they paid $4,500 to buy Midnight Dip.
“It’s been such a good family for us,” Hamish McQuade said. “After we’d sold Midnight Kiss, we decided to buy back into the family again with her half-sister, Midnight Dip.
“Coincidentally, when Midnight Dip herself had a few starts as a two-year-old, she was actually trained by Mark Walker, so it’s interesting that it’s come back around again with him training Romancing The Moon.”
Underthemoonlight was the second foal the McQuades bred from Midnight Dip, and the daughter of unheralded sire El Hermano, an unraced brother to Cox Plate winner El Segundo, took them on an unforgettable ride through a racing career that spanned five seasons.
She was retired from the racetrack in the spring of 2018, and her first mating was to Westbury Stud stallion El Roca. The resulting foal was Romancing The Moon, who would go on to become both El Roca’s second Group One winner and his second Levin Classic winner – following on from Travelling Light in 2020.
Romancing The Moon was offered in Westbury’s draft at Karaka in 2021, where Te Akau Racing’s David Ellis bought her for $50,000.
“When we pick the matings for our mares, the thing we’re most interested in is how the crosses match up,” Hamish McQuade explained. “El Roca gave us a cross of Fastnet Rock and Pins, which had produced Avantage and a couple of other Group One winners, so that was what we decided on for her first mating.
“Like all of Underthemoonlight’s foals, I remember Romancing The Moon as being bloody tough as a young horse. Underthemoonlight herself was always very quiet, very easy to handle and do things with, but very strong at the same time.
“Her foals seem to be nothing much to look at when they’re young, but they really grow into themselves and improve as they get older.
“Romancing The Moon was always a nice filly, but nothing flash. Being the mare’s first foal, that probably explains why she didn’t bring very much money in the sale ring. She was actually passed in originally, and then Te Akau came and talked to us and bought her afterwards.”
Underthemoonlight’s second foal is a colt by young Waikato Stud stallion Ardrossan, who has already left a stakes winner in his first crop. Offered by Kilgravin Lodge in Book 2 at Karaka earlier this year, he was bought by Peter and Dawn Williams for $90,000.
In the two subsequent breeding seasons, Underthemoonlight has been served by another two members of the Waikato Stud stallion roster.
“She has an Ocean Park foal at foot now, and she’s in foal to Noverre at the moment,” McQuade said. “For next season, we’re tossing up between Darci Brahma, Proisir and Ribchester.
“I’m not usually a fan of going back to the same stallions we’ve used before, but after what Romancing The Moon has done, we’ll have to think about going back to El Roca as well.”