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Champagne win for Elusive Catch

Photo: NZTM website
Photo: NZTM website

Te Awamutu accountant Keith Pennell admits to being more of a racing man than a breeding man, but that didn't take away the huge thrill he got when Elusive Catch (Elusive City [USA] – Milord A Lady) won the Listed Berkley Stud Champagne Stakes at Riccarton recently.

"That is the first stakes winner I have bred. I went close with Miss Puzzle, and she is in the same family as this one. They share the same third dam, and Te Toro Lass, she won eight races for me sand she should have won black print but didn't, so it's a huge thrill.

"She is pretty smart this filly, and I think she could go to race in the three-year-old fillies' races in the spring in the South Island and end up in a race like the 1000 Guineas," he enthused.

"I actually have Milord A Lady in the sale next week, along with her Iffraaj(IRE) weanling colt. On the strength of that win I will keep the mare, and wait and see what I am offered for the colt."

Elusive Catch failed to meet her reserve at the 2013 Ready to Run sale and was leased to Invercargill fisherman come trainer Sabin Kirkland, who gave a share to his mates Grant McKenzie and All Black's Coach Steve Hansen.

She has had two starts for them resulting in the win in the Champagne Stakes and a second placing on debut at Riverton over Easter.
Pennell bred Elusive Catch in partnership with his Uncle Craig who is based at Glenbrook in South Auckland. She is out of the Lord Ballina (AUS) mare Milord A Lady that Pennell raced to win a race. She in turn is a daughter of Alohilani (Hula Town(AUS)- Banda Bird) the dam of four winners including Miss Kiwitea, the dam of the champion three-year-old Tit For Taat and the stakes-placed Miss Tree (Oregon [USA]).

It's a family I have been in for years. I owned Miss Tree - she raced the same time as Ballroom Babe, and was a listed winner. I thought she would be a good mare to breed from so I sold a half share to Gael Sanders and we bred Miss Puzzle (Citidancer [IRE]).

"She won three and was placed second in the Listed Soliloquy Stakes, then we sold her to the United States and she went on to leave two stakes winners over there; Fashion Plate (Old Fashioned [USA]) a Group One winner and the Santa Rosa Derby winner Mr. Candy Bar (Candy Ride [USA]). Not often a Kiwi mare goes over there and does that.

"About a week after we sold Miss Tree, Tit For Taat had her first start and you know what a good horse she was. It's a family that doesn't produce a lot of fillies, so we were quite fortunate to have one, and subsequently there is not a lot of breeding going on from this family. The colts all go on and race, and you will generally find they are good horses.

"Milord A Lady has already left a good horse in Singapore called First Scoop (Faltaat[USA]). He was a very fast horse, and Wattle Bay (Castledale [IRE]) which I am racing with Uncle Craig and another partner and I think he will be a Cups horse this year.

"Her three-year-old by Bachelor Duke (USA) is in work with Lance Noble and now she is in foal to Ekraar (USA). She is by Lord Ballina and they are tough mares. I was very confident Elusive Catch would handle the heavy track as his mother did and so does Wattle Bay.

"I look for strong tough families and stallions, like Lord Ballina and Ekraar[USA], strong horses will come through. I like to see some pace in my mares and in the stallions too, you have a chance of getting something that can run then."
Pennell is also breeding this year from the well performed Ekraar mare Te Toro Lass, which is also part-owned by his Uncle Craig. She won eight races and is a half-sister to Lord Greg who won eight in Singapore as well. They are out of the winning Dance Floor mare Daulomani, who is a half-sister to the two-time Singapore Horse of The Year Ouzo, both being out of Halloween, a full sister to the Champion stayer Drum.

As well, Pennell is breeding from Daulomani's unraced Don Eduardo daughter Ivy Rose, and she has left the dual winning Mr Nancho (ARG) gelding Waipipi Lad which the Pennells race from the Sanders stable.

"It's hard for small breeders to keep going, especially when you can't get a horse in the top end of a sale. With these bloodlines that I have got, there should be more of them being bred. They are tough horses and it's tough horses that you need along the way to make good race horses. Unfortunately they don't seem to be the type of horses that are wanted in the sales though," he added.

Pennell is an accountant in Te Awamutu and it was through this profession that he drifted into racehorse ownership and then breeding.

"One of my first clients was Graeme Sanders. He persuaded me to get a horse and the first one I got was Ballroom Babe, a multiple Group One winner who went on to be the dam of the successful stallion Hidden Dragon (AUS). She was followed by Party Queen and now she has left the dual stakes winner Shezhardtocatchmore, and more recently Pasta Post. He was a top horse and I wouldn't mind another one like him. I have had plenty of fast ones and plenty of slow ones and a lot of fun.

"I grew up overlooking the Paeroa racecourse. I would have a punt there on a Saturday and on Sunday would go back and get paid to tap back the track," he mused like a true accountant. "My grandfather and a few other relatives had an interest in racing but then most people did back in those days."


- Michelle Saba