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Pussy Willow has the Heart of a Lion

Auckland branch NZTBA member Peter Walker is no stranger to winning group races, but the exciting two-year-old filly Pussy Willow (O'Reilly- Octapussy [AUS]) is the first group winner he has bred.

Pussy Willow achieved group two status when she won the Little Avondale Stud Wakefield Challenge Stakes at Trentham at only her second start. "The way she won that race she is certainly causing a stir, it was incredible, she just jumped out of the ground and buried them, two-year-olds just don't do that. It was a huge thrill especially when you consider that we are lucky to still own her," said Walker as he explained how the filly he bred and races with Sir Patrick and Lady Hogan was rejected at the Sydney sales last autumn. "We knew she had a few issues when she went to the sales but the vets here said it was only minor stuff and pretty low risk and she would be fine, but they rubbished her over there and we never got a bid. "Vets these days stop so many sales, in the past horses with slight physical issues still came out and won races, you have to be careful of what they say, but they can't tell how big a horse's heart is or whether they have the will to win." However Walker has no such worries for the filly's half brother by Pentire when he goes through the ring at the Premier Sale at Karaka on Monday. "Hopefully by then he will have two half sisters with black type, as Pussy O'Reilly is racing in the group three Desert Gold Stakes this Saturday and I will be very disappointed if she doesn't run a place." As mentioned earlier Peter Walker is no stranger to winning big races, as an owner he has tasted Group One victory many times, having raced the Champion three-year-old filly Tycoon Lil, Champion two-year-old colt Fully Fledged and a year later the Champion two-year-old colt of his year The Heckler to name but a few. However that luck hasn't always flowed into his breeding ventures. "I would rather go and buy yearlings, when you breed them you get what nature dictates. When you buy them, you can see what you are getting. I still breed a few mares and most of them have gone to Fully Fledged as I still own a third of him. I also have a couple with Patrick including Octapussy, and we are lucky to have her. Walker went on to explain that he had raced Octapussy to win five races here in New Zealand and when it came time for her to retire he was a little reticent about heading back into the breeding game. Octapussy did have a reasonable pedigree she was a daughter of the stakes winning mare Dopff(Tights [USA] –On The Rise), herself a half sister to the stakes winners Rizon and Ready to Lift. The family has also left the stakes winners Sir Clive, Ascending, Currigee and Valpolicella. On The Rise (Crested Wave USA-Lavender Hill) is a half sister to two stakes winners Kharmacruz and Snow Chief, and her dam is a half sister to Rosie's Girl, they are descendants of one of Haunui Farm's great foundation broodmares in Foxona. "I was approached by Ron Chitty from Haunui Farm and he said he would buy a half share in the horse, which he did and we sent her to Australia to be mated with Exceed and Excel. Well she missed, so Ron said let's put her back in work over there. Which we did and she won a race at Rosehill and ran second, beaten a lip in the Group One Doomben Cup and third in the Group Two Emancipation Handicap. With black type she became a very valuable broodmare. "She got in foal to Exceed and Excel and came home, produced a colt and went to O'Reilly. At that stage Ron was offered half a million for the package, and so he asked me what I wanted to do, and I approached Patrick and the rest as they say is history." The O'Reilly foal Octapussy was carrying was Pussy O'Reilly, a winner at two who has been placed four times at three and races this weekend. Octapussy returned to O'Reilly and produced Pussy Willow, her next foal is the Pentire yearling and she has a colt foal at foot by Keeper, and is in foal to Commands. Pussy Willow is currently in the paddock at Walker's Clevedon property where she will enjoy a 10 day spell. "When we gave her to Stephen (McKee) we told him to take it easy with her we were never pushing her, we said we would avoid hard tracks and turning tracks and take her quietly and we might end up with a nice three-year-old filly. Well he has never cranked her up she has just won both her starts on sheer ability. We will wait until after the sales are over before we make any firm plans, but we will probably have a crack at the Group One Diamond Stakes at Ellerslie in March. "Until then I'll be concentrating on buying myself a few more Fully Fledged yearlings to add to the few that I already own. They are really good looking horses, and I think he can make it as a stallion. "I plan to buy four or five of them and place them in some top stables to help give him a go, and no doubt I will end up with shares in a couple of other yearlings, that seems to happen every year," said the man who admits to having shares in around 12 to 14 horses in work at any one time.

- Michelle Saba