Stablemates’ Filly of the Year dead-heat the first in half a century

By Dennis Ryan

23 Mar 2022

Stablemates’ Filly of the Year dead-heat the first in half a centuryThe NZ Bloodstock Filly of the Year series goes down to the wire as Belle En Rouge (Jason Laking) do

This season marked 50 years of competition for one New Zealand racing’s most coveted trophies, the Filly of the Year title, and as if to underline that point in history, it was decided in unique circumstances.
The inaugural winner of what began in 1972-73 as the Philip Morris Filly of the Year series was the Bill Winder-trained Swell Time, a lovely chestnut by champion White Robe Lodge sire Mellay. On top of her Great Northern Oaks and Ladies Mile (Eight Carat Classic) wins at Ellerslie, she also accounted for older opposition in the third edition of what is now the country’s only distaff Group One race, the New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes.
The following spring Swell Time competed at the Melbourne carnival, where she won the Caulfield Cup and a week later failed by inches to add the Cox Plate, cementing a pattern of elite fillies establishing their credentials in the keen competition for the annual trophy.
There have, however, been occasions when the honours have had to be shared at the top of the points table. The first such time was when Kate’s Myth and Olga’s Pal dead-heated in 1990-91, followed just two years later by locked combatants Lady Agnes and Nimue. It was all of 26 years before the next series ended in a draw, between Imelda Mary and Queen Of Diamonds in the 2018-19 season, and then last Saturday a double-down on the dead-heat theme when the Jamie Richards-trained stablemates Belle En Rouge and Self Obsession shared the honours on 31 points apiece.
With a hat-trick of Group Two middle-distance series wins going into the final leg, Self Obsession’s 24 points gave her a handy lead on the table as well as hot favouritism for the last of 11 series races, the Gr. 1 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai New Zealand Oaks. Various permutations existed that could deny the daughter of Shocking filly series honours. One of those was if Belle En Rouge – lurking on 19 points – was to win and Self Obsession finish out of the top two placings, the 12 points on offer to the winner would enable her to leapfrog her stablemate.
As we all saw on Saturday afternoon, that just about happened – but not quite by mere inches. At odds of $26, Belle En Rouge beat Self Obsession by half a length, with just a nose to the unluckiest Oaks runner, series newcomer Aspen Colorado. Thus Belle En Rouge went to 31 points and the fine line between second and third meant the seven points picked up by Self Obsession enabled her to retain her place at the top of the series table, but one she had to share.
This was the second consecutive series win for Richards after Amarelinha had sealed the New Zealand Bloodstock Filly of the Year title by winning the New Zealand Oaks 12 months ago, and the eighth series win with a Te Akau Racing association. The latter operation is intrinsically linked to Belle En Rouge, whose sire Burgundy, a three-quarter-brother to early 2000s Te Akau star Darci Brahma, is still rated by Te Akau founder David Ellis as the most brilliant galloper in his experience.
Ellis and his wife Karyn Fenton-Ellis bred Belle En Rouge through the mating of Burgundy with their unraced Thorn Park mare Cavendish Belle, who was bred, as was Burgundy, at NZ Bloodstock principal Sir Peter Vela’s Pencarrow Stud.
For all the speed he showed in his seven-win racing career, Burgundy has established a remarkably diverse stud career. Earlier this season his son Mondorani won the 3200m New Zealand Cup, while Belle En Rouge, his first Group One winner amongst eight stakes winners, is another obvious example of Burgundy’s versatility.
Gr. 2 Matamata Breeders’ Stakes winner Maven Belle, who added a third placing in the Gr. 1 Sistema Stakes, is another Te Akau home-bred by Burgundy, while he is also the sire of 2017-18 NZB Filly of the Year Dijon Bleu, who won up to 2000m, and Sydney galloper Brandenburg, the winner of the Gr. 2 Hobartville Stakes at 1400m and placed at 1600m in the Gr. 1 Doncaster and Randwick Guineas. Burgundy’s full emergence this season as a source of class gallopers emphasises his loss to laminitis three years ago.
Joint NZB Filly of the Year Self Obsession is also a home-bred, but one with a difference. She was bred by her Hong Kong-based owner David Price, whose local bloodstock interests are based at Hallmark Stud in north Waikato.
Self Obsession was orphaned at birth and her successful fostering is a success story in itself. Her sire Shocking is another to have enjoyed a superb season, albeit having to settle for second placings last weekend not only in the New Zealand Oaks, but also in the All-Stars Mile at Flemington with his Group One-winning son I’m Thunderstruck.