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Spalato's Patron's Bowl win a high point for Trish

Spalato (inner) takes out the Singapore Group 1 Patron's Bowl - Picture NZTM website
Spalato (inner) takes out the Singapore Group 1 Patron's Bowl

Picture NZTM website

In August 2011 on a water-logged heavy track at Waipa, Divine Miss Em beat Roverto in a $5,000 mid-week maiden race, but the remarkable thing is that these two horses were brother and sister.

Divine Miss Em is the 2007 filly by Traditionally (USA) out of Delph (Blue Razor [USA] –Miss Forty Niner [USA]), and Roverto is her 2006 colt. Both horses were bred and are raced by New Zealand's leading equine photographer Trish Dunell.

At the time in a story on this website, Dunell was quoted as saying "It's a family that I guess I have kept for sentimental reasons, and I am having lots of fun with it now, It will be interesting to see where it goes from here,"

Well almost three years down the track, Dunell is celebrating breeding her first Group winner from this family after Spalato (Elusive City[USA]- Ellington), a grandson of Delph, took out the Singapore Group One Patron's Bowl.

"I am a bit potty about this family. I am fairly loyal to Delph's family - you just know that some good has to come from it. Whether they are difficult or no,t they are all honest and they all try, and that's what you like to see," said a delighted Dunell who was in Singapore to witness the win.

When reminded of her quote from 2011 Dunell said "well it's proved to be and it helped that he didn't race until he was four. I feel guilty about racing horses at two and Aftershock didn't even get broken in until he was three.

Spalato is raced in Singapore by Dunell's partner Graham Mackie and went up to Singapore about a year ago to join Mackie's portfolio of gallopers up there. He was placed in the care of Singaporean John O'Hara, a protégé of legendary trainer Ivan Allen. Just after he arrived there he had a small bone chip in his fetlock operated on, then it was just a matter of time to get him fit and find a suitable race for him to start in.

He debuted in early May with a win over 1000 metres and later in the month won again over 1400 metres before stepping up to 1600 metres in the Patron's Bowl. He now has the Group One Singapore Derby in his sites.

"Because he was by a speed stallion he shouldn't be able to run the derby distance, but he is a nice mannered horse who just relaxes. He is an absolute professional race horse," enthused Trish.

Spalato was the twelfth winner for Mackie in Singapore this year and he is currently the leading owner. He has been racing horses there for about six years now and has them spread amongst five trainers; John O'Hara, Bruce Marsh, Michael Clements, Brian Dean and Sonny Yeoh.

"Graham decided to race horses there as he believed there is more of a chance of getting a return up there. As a breeder it just kills you to race in New Zealand. There is a big difference in racing for $7,000 and $35,000 for the same sort of costs.

"It was always our intention to sell Spalato, and some of the others we have up in Singapore, but it's not that easy. I only send up the ones I think that will handle the situation up there.
"I also have Sarong up there. She has got good bloodlines and I will bring her home and breed from her. She is by Exceed and Excel(AUS) out of the Bletchingly(AUS) Group One winner of nine Wrap Around. She has left the stakes performers Intuit and Twist My Heart and her daughter Attire is the dam of Fashion's A Field, the Group One winning champion two-year-old filly of her year in Australia."

Spalato is the second foal from Ellington. Her first foal, Princeton by Royal Gem (USA), has also been placed in Singapore for Mackie. Following that she produced a colt to Strategic Image (AUS) who is also destined for Singapore after being broken-in by Greg and Jo Griffin from Limestone Thoroughbreds, who were also responsible for breaking Spalato in. He has also been trial-placed.

She has a yearling filly by Strategic Image as well and she could well be the last foal in New Zealand by that sire as well as a weanling by Per Incanto(USA). She is in foal to Limestone Thoroughbred's Niagara (AUS), the Encosta de Lago stallion that Dunell and Mackie have a substantial shareholding in.

Trish and her partner Graham Mackie purchased Delph as a weanling along with her mother Miss Forty Niner (USA) (Mr Prospector – Bend Not) from an Ashford Park Stud dispersal sale in the mid-nineties.

"Miss Forty Niner was an old mare when we bought her but she was a sister to Straight Strike, and as it happened Delph was her last foal. She was a little weak weanling and as she got older it became obvious that she wasn't going to be strong enough to race so we sent her to stud quite early.

"At that stage we owned Tabasco (AUS) (Sir Tristram [IRE]- Hot Princess [GB]) so that was where she went. Her first foal was Sally Greensticker who won one race and the second was Aftershock who despite problems with soundness won four races and ran second in the Avondale Cup.

"She then went to Express Duke and produced two foals, one of which is Ellington, before going to Traditionally(USA) to produce Roverto and the Divine Miss Em."

Unfortunately Roverto broke down and was destroyed and Divine Miss Em has gone to stud along with her Spartacus half-sister Guipere. Delph has a three-year-old gelding by Bachelor Duke named Bastion who is due to race any time soon for Dunell and her last foal was a colt by Roc de Cambes.

Guipere and Divine Miss Em are both in foal to Niagara and the latter mare has a weanling colt by Sahkee's Secret(GB).

Dunell doesn't really have a specific breeding philosophy but admits to having to like a stallion on type, and in her role as an equine photographer she certainly knows what a good type is and what's not.

"I've got to like the stallion as a type and conformation and temperament are both important to me. Elusive City leaves horses with a good temperament, in fact when I knew this one was going to Singapore I bought another one," she added.

Dunell has quite a few mares and sent at least 10 to Niagara last season. She has also bought a couple of new mares to go to that stallion this season including Laced Up (Keenisky – Cizero), a half-sister to Jimmy Choux, and will send another 10 again this year.

"I am in this game for the long haul, for better or worse," she concluded. "This industry is all about high points and low points and the Patron's Bowl was certainly the highest of high points."


- Michelle Saba