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Antonio Lombardo an impressive winner

Last season's leading two-year-old colt Antonio Lombardo (Pins[AUS] – Petit Verdot) was an impressive winner of the newly established listed Westbury Stud Classic – a 1200 metre set weights event for three-year-olds at Ruakaka – sending an early warning to his three-year-old rivals that he is back and ready for group one glory this season.

At the suggestion of the Graded Stakes Committee the Whangarei Racing Club created this event to replace their listed two-year-old 1200metre event, the Westbury Stud Northland Breeders Stakes, usually held in July.

According to former Whangarei Racing Club President and Ruakaka-based trainer Dean Logan, the race had been under a warning for a couple of years and was not attracting the fields or calibre of horse it had in the past.

"The Graded Stakes Committee recommended we programme a set weights three-year-old event that would attract the three-year-olds looking for a nice lead up race to the likes of the Hawkes Bay Guineas, and the Soliloquy and Bonecrusher Stakes, and I think the race did just that," he said.

"We had the best two-year-old colt from last season line up, what more could you ask? In the past the Northland Breeders Stakes has been won by some great racehorses like Sunline, and not only that but horses that have been placed in it have also gone on to be good horses.

"Vapour Trail could only run third in it for our stable yet she went on to be the Champion three-year-old filly. It will be interesting to see what the runners in this year's event achieve further down the track."

If you take a quick look back at the history of the race, you will see that Logan is quite right in what he says. The race was first run as a listed event in 1991 and was won by Lodore Lady. At her next start after her win, she won the listed Wanganui Guineas and later that spring won the group two Lindauer Guineas and beat the older mares in the group two Auckland Thoroughbred Breeders' Stakes. As an older horse she won the group three Radio Pacific Stakes and the listed Foxbridge Plate.

The next year the event was won by Bundy Lad who also went on to win the listed Wanganui Guineas, before running second in the Cambridge Breeders' Stakes. Following that he crossed the Tasman and won the group two Bill Stutt Stakes at Moonee Valley. The following spring he won the group two Liston Stakes and the year after that he won the listed Foxbridge Plate before going to Melbourne to claim the group two Memsie Stakes. He won 10 races in all.

The next winner was Awesome Ways who went on to win 11 races in all including a group three, followed a couple years later by Furama Nights. She was group placed six times before winning the group three Dermody Stakes.

Sunline won the race in 1998 before she swept the world before her and three years later Leica Guv scored on his way to winning the New Zealand Derby and group two Avondale and Lindauer Guineas. That was the year Vapour Trail ran third just ahead of the subsequent group one winner Egyptian Raine.

In more recent years it has produced Pin Up Boy, and Martini Red, but nothing like the good performers of the earlier days, hence the decision by the Graded Stakes Committee and the establishment of the new race.

According to Peter McKay, the trainer of Antonio Lombardo, there is no way he would have considered racing that horse in the two-year-old event held in July.

"My two-year-olds are in the paddock at that stage of the season, but this new race is the perfect platform to launch a three-year-old career from. When I had Alamosa racing for the first start of his three-year-old career I had to run him in a rating 90 at Taupo where he carried 58 kilos, this is a much better way to start a campaign.

"We will head next to the Hawke's Bay Guineas, then on to the Wellington Guineas followed by the Levin Classic."

Antonio Lombardo won four races as a two-year-old including the group two Waikato Stud Two-Year-Old Classic and the listed Wellesley Stakes. In a head bobbing finish with Anabandana, the Champion two-year-old of last season, he finished second in the group one Manawatu Sires Produce Stakes, and was narrowly beaten in the Karaka Million earlier in the season.

This win takes his total to five with earnings a little under $320,000 in stakes. Antonio Lombardo was a $120,000 yearling at the 2010 New Zealand Bloodstock Premier Yearling sale, offered on behalf of Trelawney Stud, and McKay remembers him as a really nuggety type.

"He was the type of yearling I like to buy, nuggety and not too big. He was from the same family as Joey Massino and Vincent Mangano and fitted all my criteria. I like to buy pedigrees that I know and have had success with."

Antonio Lombardo is out of the Carnegie (IRE) mare Petit Verdot who in turn is out of Rationaine (Centaine[AUS] – Rationale). Rationaine is a half sister to Rationable the dam of Vincent Mangano (No Excuse Needed [GB]) and Joey Massino (O'Reilly) and like his close relations, he was named after a member of the mafia.

Joey Massino was a leading two and three-year-old winning five races including group two Avondale Guineas, the group three Wellington Stakes and the listed Champagne Stakes. He is also a brother to Vigor, a group two winner of eight races in Victoria. Vincent Mangano won the Karaka Million for the McKay's and last season added the Pegasus Stakes to his tally of eight wins.

"I didn't know if Antonio Lombardo would be an early horse but he was and he just kept on improving. He still is improving and he is such a competitive horse," he concluded.

His competitiveness is something that his breeders admire about him as well, especially part owner of Petit Verdot Cherry Taylor.

"He is a great little racehorse and I am sure he will get his group one win this season. He was so unlucky not to win the Sires Produce Stakes - it was such a fantastic finish.
His mother has already been served by Pins again this season and I hope we get a filly," Taylor enthused.

Cherry owns Petit Verdot with Trelawney Thoroughbreds Limited and Australian friends Robert and Deborah Anderson. This spring before visiting Pins, the mare produced a strapping jet black colt to Mastercraftsman(IRE).

"The Mastercraftsman colt is just gorgeous. We are really pleased with him, and we also have a lovely yearling filly by O'Reilly. The problem is I want to keep her and Brent wants to sell her and I'm not sure who is going to win that argument.

"We are delighted the mare is doing so well. She didn't amount to much as a racehorse and we did pay $A175,000 for her at the Sydney Easter sales. She is a sister to the VRC Derby winner Amalfi, and I guess she is like a lot of Carnegie mares - she didn't make it on the race track but they are certainly looking like making super broodmares.

"The Andersons were at the sales that day and decided to come in to partnership with us. Hopefully she will be able to give Robert and Deborah, who have extensive bloodstock interests both here and in Australia, their first group one winner as a breeder. So far Antonio Lombardo, although not the most expensive yearling they have sold, is the best performer they have produced."


- Michelle Saba