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Bargain buy ignites yearling sales fairytale

An intrepid move to buy a $3000 weanling filly, race her and then mate her with a stallion standing for $7000 brought about one of the best feel-good stories at Karaka this week.

A group of Mid Canterbury rugby and harness racing mates agreed to race Pyrus filly Shamrox from the Ashburton stable of Danny Champion, who bought the horse as a weanling out of the paddock from breeders Edwina Morris and Alan Jones.

Shamrox showed immediate ability and the quintet of brothers Neville and Phil Prendergast, Simon Adlam, the harness trainer of Gr.1 Noel Taylor Mile winner Second Wind, Willie Murney and Jock Cockburn plunged heavily on her to win her debut at Riccarton.

The massive filly prevailed at better than $9 and then went on to win at each of her next three starts, leading to an audacious start in the Gr.2 Coupland's Bakeries Mile at just her fifth start.

Shamrox ran a gallant fifth and while she would go on to place three further times in her career, niggling issues led to an early retirement.

The group decided they'd like to breed from her and sent her first to Captain Rio, then on the advice of Sir Patrick Hogan to Tavistock.

"Simon was reading through a Cambridge Stud brochure and rang up about Keeper. Sir Patrick said 'listen, I think Tavistock is the next big thing' so we took his advice and bred to him," Neville Prendergast says.

While they were primarily breeding to race, they decided that when Shamrox produced a Tavistock colt after leaving a filly from her first mating to the him, that they might like to have a go at the yearling sales.

As it turned out, their timing couldn't have been any better and Tavistock, just as Sir Patrick had predicted, had become the next big thing and the Shamrox colt, consigned to Adrian Stanley and Hannah Kettlely's Woburn Farm, was selected for the premier session of the New Zealand Bloodstock Yearling Sales Series.

Having got over the false start of mistakenly booking the flights north in time for the standardbred yearling sales, the group made a weekend of it, heading to Ellerslie for Karaka Million night and then on to the sales, albeit with reservations.

"I was absolutely crapping myself - we all were," Prendergast said.

"We could see that if you had a quality horse, they were selling well but below that it was pretty hard work. We knew he wasn't that strong on pedigree but he was a really good type and he was by Tavistock."

The colt quickly hit the $120,000 reserve and then kept going up in $10,000 bids as Waikato bloodstock agent Bryce Tankard and Singapore trainer Cliff Brown went head to head, with the gavel finally falling at $200,000 in Tankard's favour.

"We were pretty much in shock and awe," Prendergast said.

"At standardbred sales, we're used to bids going up in $1000 lots, not $10,000. It felt real when we got to the reserve but when he reached the level he did ... well, we're still having a hard time coming to grips with it.

"We're just pleased he's gone to a good home and he'll get his best opportunity. It was Danny [Champion] who put us on to Adrian and Hannah s and we're rapt with the job they did for us."

Prendergast, who between him and his brother Phil played more than 130 games for the Mid Canterbury rugby team, said the experience had whet their appetite to get more involved in breeding and selling.

"It's a real buzz and we all said we'd love to do that again. We might just be on the lookout now for another filly to race with a view to becoming a broodmare." - NZ Racing Desk