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NZTBA member Kevin Hickman kicks off the new season with a bang

Vespa takes out the Listed Westbury Stud Challenge Stakes at Ruakaka - Photo NZ Racing Desk
Vespa takes out the Listed Westbury Stud Challenge Stakes at Ruakaka

Photo NZ Racing Desk

The reigning breeder of the year Kevin Hickman has had an unbelievable start to the new season, with four of the stakes winners who helped him win that title all performing at the top level again.

Last Saturday two of those last season's champion two-year-old Vespa (Elusive City[USA]- Miss Avalon[IRE]) and Merion (O'Reilly- Sapphire Belle) both won at listed level and it looks like they may now clash in the Group One Caulfield Guineas on October 11.

"That will be interesting, it's nice to see them come back as three-year-olds you never know whether they will or not. They both look very promising, a quinella would be nice," enthused a delighted Hickman when discussing the pair recently.

Vespa was impressive in winning the Listed Westbury Stud Challenge Stakes over 1200 metres at Ruakaka and pleased his trainer Johno Benner in the manner in which he won. It was the Elusive City(USA) colt's first race since winning the Group One Haunui Farm Diamond Stakes in March. He has now won five times from seven starts and was placed second and third in the other two.

Merion was having his second start for the season and the fourth of his career, when he downed the boom colt Chilvary in the listed Living Legend Stakes at Flemington. At two he won on debut then took out the listed Anzac Day Stakes over 1410 metres. Fresh up this season over 1200 metres he finished fourth to Rich Enuff in the listed Mitchell McKenzie stakes at Moonee Valley, and after a three-week gap improved to win the Living Legend Stakes.

The Mike Moroney trained colt will now have a similar gap before he meets his former paddock mate Vespa in the Caulfield Guineas, and the likes of Rich Enuff and Chilvary. Both Vespa and Merion were purchased from Hickman's Valachi Downs 2013 yearling draft.
Vespa was a $30,000 purchase by Chris Rutten and John Norwood, from the Select Sale, and went on to win the New Zealand Bloodstock Karaka Millions, the bonus race associated with that sale. Merion on the other hand was a $200,000 purchase by Paul Moroney Bloodstock from the Premier sale.

Vespa is the second foal of the Fantastic Light(USA) mare Miss Avalon who is out of the stakes winning mare Mythical Girl who has left a stakes winner in Taruk Macto. The third dam is Yousefia (Danzig [USA]) and she is a sister to Green Desert (USA) and a three-quarter sister to Bertolini (USA). There are a few stallions in this pedigree and that augurs well for a colt heading to the Caulfield Guineas, a known stallion making race.

Miss Avalon has since left a filly by Mastercraftsman(IRE) who has been retained by the Hickmans, and a colt by Zacinto (GB) a stallion they have a significant shareholding in. She is currently in foal to that stallion again and will visit Sepoy (AUS) at Darley to get that Elusive Quality bloodline that was successful with Vespa.

Merion is the first foal of Sapphire Belle, a stakes winning Danske mare from the Anderton's famous Flight family. She won five races including the listed Timaru Cup. She has a Savabeel(AUS) yearling and is currently in foal to that stallion, and will not surprisingly visit O'Reilly again this season.

"This young fellow is doing well so I have decided I may as well send the mare back there," said Hickman a member of the Canterbury branch of the NZTBA. "It's a bit of a no brainer really, but they are all going back to O'Reilly."

The other mares he was referring to visit O'Reilly are the dams of Silent Achiever and Emerald Queen.
"Emerald Queen has really strengthened up and she seems to be improving all the time, we are after a nice Group race with her, and will head towards the Couplands Mile in November and see what happens on the way.

"Mares don't often get going as fourĀ¬-year-olds, and get better at five and six. They don't have the testosterone that the boys have to make them strong and perform at four. We saw it with Silent Achiever and deliberately gave Emerald Queen a light four-year-old season, and she has definitely come back stronger."

Emerald Queen's dam Scarlet Queen has yet to foal this season after being covered by Rip Van Winkle(IRE) and she has a Redwood (IRE) yearling colt which will head to the sales.

"Silent Achiever has settled in well, and we are waiting to see how the field for the Underwood shapes up, there is a lot of ducking and diving around the place with horses planning to go on to races like the Caulfield Cup and Cox Plate," according to Hickman.
"She will probably head to the Turnbull Stakes on October 4th then the Cox Plate."

The Hickmans are eagerly awaiting the arrival of a half sibling to Silent Achiever by Fastnet Rock(AUS) and are hoping that it will be a filly.
"We have already got a Fastnet Rock filly this season so that is exciting, she is out of Bohemian Blues and Vern (Trillo) and I have gone halves in her."

Bohemian Blues is owned by Auckland branch members Vern and Margaret Trillo, and has been resident at Hickman's Valachi Downs property in Matamata for a number of years. She is the dam of the champion Australian filly and derby winner Shamrocker, who was the first Group One winning graduate that Valachi Downs had sold. Shamrocker was in the second draft of yearlings that the farm had presented at Karaka in 2009, and sold for $65,000 to Danny O'Brien.

Bohemian Blues has also left the Group Three Sunline Vase winner Rock Diva (by Lucky Unicorn[AUS]) who also ran third in the New Zealand Oaks. She was a $200,000 purchase by Raffles Farm in 2012 from Valachi Downs.


- Michelle Saba