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Aussie Max Whitby enjoys Stella success in New Zealand

Charismatic Aussie Max Whitby was not in New Zealand to witness his latest stakes winner Stella di Paco (Paco Boy[IRE]-Savabeel Star) win the listed Castletown Stakes, but he was pretty happy with the performance.

The distinctive emerald green jacket, with red and white chequered epaulettes, emerald green cap with red and white chequered strips are fairly familiar in Australia and New Zealand. In recent seasons they have been seen here on the stakes winning fillies Scarlett Lady and A Touch of Ruby, but unlike those two fillies Whitby actually bred Stella di Paco.

Stella di Paco was in the care of Whitby's long term friend Stephen Autridge when she had her first start and finished sixth of eight. By the time she raced a second time Autridge and former NZTBA Sunline Scholarship winner Jamie Richards had formed a partnership and become the trainers for Te Akau Stables, and so when start number three came around with win number one she credited the pair with their first stakes winning training success for Te Akau.

The win also credited the former shuttle stallion Paco Boy with his first Southern Hemisphere stakes winner, and his sixth individual stakes winner. Paco Boy only stood at Waikato Stud for one season and his oldest Southern Hemisphere progeny are two.

"I am delighted that I was able to get the first Southern Hemisphere stakes winner for Paco Boy," said Whitby an overseas member of the NZTBA.

"It's funny I have an interest in a stallion prospect here by Lope de Vega(IRE), he won a maiden at Seymour and we turned down $1.5 million for him. He is out of the stakes winning mare Oomph, and is a half-brother to Thumps. I also own a mare out of that family.

"I like European bloodlines, and I see breeding to shuttle stallions as an opportunity to get some good European blood to breed through with, without going to Europe and spending thousands of pounds or Euros over there. I own him with Neil Werrett of Black Caviar fame, we breed a few together, anyway he named him, and I take no responsibility for calling a potential stallion Snoopy!" said Whitby digressing slightly from the subject at hand.

"Paco Boy only came down for the one season so I am delighted I got a filly by him. I own the mare, because of my association with Savabeel(AUS), and because of that association I became involved with Waikato Stud."

Stella di Paco is the first foal of the Savabeel mare Savabeel Star, a winner of one race and a half-sister to Stardane who won the guineas at Hawkes Bay and Wanganui. Whitby also bred Savabeel Star from the Danehill (USA) mare Astradane, a winner of six races and a sister to Genevra a dual stakes winner in Europe.

Since Paco Boy, Savabeel Star has been to O'Reilly three times. She has a yearling colt, a weanling filly and is carrying a service to him. She is just one of four mares that Whitby has here in New Zealand mainly based at Trelawney Stud.

Stella di Paco is not the only New Zealand bred stakes winner that Whitby has bred this season he also bred the very talented Savabeel filly Saavoya. She is out of the Prized(USA) mare Royal Prize, a winning daughter of the Avondale Cup winner Eva Grace, who has also left three other winners. Saavoya won three races this season including the group two Royal Stakes, and the Cambridge Stud Eight Carat Classic, and was second in the group two Cambridge Stud Sir Tristram Fillies Classic and the group three Sunline Vase.

"We sold a full-sister to Saavoya out of Royal Prize at the Easter sales this year for $380,000. When we were nominating the yearlings last winter Brent Taylor thought she would only make the Festival sale and fetch about $5,000, so we were going to keep her and maybe go to the ready to run sale or race her then the Saavoya popped up and we ended up taking her to Sydney. I have also got another full sister Duchess Kate who is going to stud this year.

Royal Prize is in foal to Reliable Man (GB) along with another of Whitby's mares Pin Oak (SAF)(Fort Wood[USA]-Make A Million[AUS]). She has been to Savabeel nine times and produced three winners including Mighty Warrior who has won three from six starts in Singapore.

Whitby has been buying horses from New Zealand for over thirty years, but has only been breeding horses here for the last 10.

"I love you guys I have been coming to New Zealand for 30 years to buy horses, I could almost be classed as an honorary citizen, and it's like my second home. I always bought horses from New Zealand, and Savabeel put me on the map. I had a pretty good year that year I also raced Econsul by Pins(AUS) and he won the Caulfield Guineas.

"I have two shares in Savabeel and I have taken two shares in Sacred Falls. I raced Savabeel and I am so proud of him he is just like one of my kids. What he is doing at stud is just great, long may we keep him healthy and on top of his game. When Sir Patrick didn't buy Savabeel, and the Chitticks bought him, well after that I have supported them and their stallions, you couldn't go wrong with a an O'Reilly or two.

"I like your animal husbandry, I like the weather, I like the way you always have grass, and I really like the way that after a horse has raced you can take him home throw a cover on him and put him in a paddock for a while. I don't like to see horses permanently living in stables. I have a huge amount of respect for your horsemen and women. They are genuinely good and sincere people."

"The Aussies knock you guys for your bloodlines, but you have a great history of producing good stallions and staying horses. Being based in Sydney, in a couple of hours I can be over in New Zealand and I can feel them touch them feed them it's got a lot of logic for me. I am over quite regularly.

"You obviously lack the stallion roster that is in Australia, we shuttle better here, you guys are pretty parochial when it comes to stallions. This year we have some lovely stallions coming on stream like Brazen Beau(AUS), and Adelaide(IRE). Unfortunately you guys are a bit slow on the pick-up."

Whitby grew up in Bangalow in rural northern New South Wales and headed to Sydney in the late 60's where not surprisingly given his infectious personality he ventured into hospitality. Shortly thereafter he moved into the financial sector where he worked for a rural commodities firm. In the early 90's he established a futures trading firm, and today is involved in Propex Derivatives a member of the ASX.

He describes himself as a meat and potato type of bloke. A typical self-made Aussie from the country who naturally became involved in racing and his enthusiasm for the industry is infectious. His passion for racing, breeding and gambling is obvious by the way he loves to talk about it, but he's not just all talk having served on various boards and as the chairman of the New South Wales Racing Owners Association.

"It's very disappointing that the New Zealand industry is not going forward faster, you seem to take two steps forward and three back. When Winston Peters was the Racing Minister, he seemed to create a lot of interest in the industry, and it looked to be improving. One thing you need to do is to get your betting sorted you need betting variety and if that means offshore betting then get it sorted. Strong attention needs to be paid to that subject," sound words of advice from Whitby a mad keen punter from way back who served on the Sydney Turf Club and Australian Turf Club boards in Sydney.

"If I have a horse running in New Zealand, and I want to watch it from Sydney, with the two hour time delay it means I am sometimes watching as early as 9 o'clock in the morning. There is no money in the pools, you are probably competing with dogs or trots and the pools have about $1300 in them, no one in their right mind is going to bet into those punting pools. Having said that I will be at Ascot in a couple of weeks and it's the same there, it's all about the social event and not the punting, but you can't have a healthy racing industry without wagering," stressed the man who despite being a 'meat and potato' kind of bloke will look quite at home in top hat and tails at Royal Ascot admiring the bloodstock with a careful eye on potential breeding stock.

Whitby has a portfolio of around 83 horses consisting of racehorses and breeding stock, he has four mares and a number of racehorses here in New Zealand spread amongst a number of trainers.

His old mate Stephen Autridge has about four or five, and he also has horses with Debbie and Graeme Rogerson, Keith Hawtin who was Savabeel's strapper, Royden Bergerson and Graham Richardson, he likes to spread them around.


- Michelle Saba