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'My Astron' a shining light for the Sturt family

"He's a wonderful little horse, it's so exciting to watch him win and I was so excited especially for Anne and Peter Evans who have been so patient with him," gushed an obviously delighted Charles Sturt the breeder of the Group Two First Sovereign Japan/New Zealand Trophy winner My Astron (My Halo-Salute).

With an enthusiasm rarely seen in the breeding industry these days, Charles went on to describe how My Astron was like a member of his family and how the whole Sturt family gained so much pleasure from seeing one of "our horses" win. Especially My Astron who has a special place in their hearts since his difficult arrival at Stonehaven Lodge, the farm owned by the Sturt's when "Milky" was born.

"I bought Salute in foal to My Halo and when My Astron presented for foaling only one hoof appeared. With my son Cameron on the phone to the vet getting the instructions and me with my arm in a plastic sleeve thankfully – fishing around trying to find the other foot, I think he was very lucky to actually make it into this world.

"He eventually made it but would always have a crooked front leg, turning out from the knee and it's a credit to Peter Evans' patience that he is a race horse today. Peter didn't rush the horse and waited for him to be strong enough to race, and now his patience has been rewarded.
"Besides the crooked leg he had that big splash of white on his nose and face, and three white feet so Cameron called him Milky."

The young foaling assistant is now 15 and although he still follows Milky's career and enjoys racing he is a talented musician with a possible future in big bands.

At the time of foaling My Astron, Charles was proprietor of Stonehaven Lodge in Kaharoa which lies between Ngongotaha and Tauranga, where he kept a small band of broodmares, raised their progeny and prepared horses for sale.

Charles had had an interest in thoroughbred for well over 20 years when he ventured into Stonehaven Lodge and soon after establishing the farm, one of the first weanlings he pin hooked was a filly by Desert Sun out of the Star Way mare Who's That Lady. As La Bella Dama she went on to win seven races all of them black type including the Group One VRC L K McKinnon Stakes.

"La Bella Dama gave us so much pleasure, we followed her career and even saw her win the McKinnon in Melbourne," he enthused.

"We produced a number of winners from the farm, Bernard Rex was a listed winner of six races, and his half sister Goldie Light won a few, Skandel is another who came off the farm and Conqueror is a good winner in Hong Kong.

"In fact one of my proudest moments was receiving the monthly breeder's award from the Waikato Branch of the NZTBA when I was a member, for the deeds of Bernard Rex it still holds pride of place on my mantelpiece. And now we have a Group Two winner in My Astron to add to the list.

My Astron is the third winning foal from Salute (Mistral Dancer – Salutation) a winning sister to (Mr) Domingo a winner of 12 races including a CJC Canterbury Gold Cup and Great Easter Classic both Group Three, and half sister to Westbourne (Grosvenor) who won the listed Timaru Cup.

Their dam Salutation was by Amyntor from the Pakistan II mare Milo who won four races.

"We became very dejected and not long after My Astron was born we sold the farm and reduced our horse numbers, although I still love this industry it's so much fun, expensive but so much fun."

"At the moment we don't have any broodmares but we have a share in a Gold Mine three-year-old filly out of Shirley Harris (Pompeii Court) a winning half sister to Our Umaga with a great bunch of people and we are looking forward to her racing soon and a Traditionally two-year-old filly out of Noneighnever who is an outstanding individual. And I am sure there will be plenty more excitement watching My Astron run," he concluded.

Footnote: Like a number of mares in the last few years following her sale from the Sturts Salute was not bred from for two years and in the last two seasons has had foals that are ineligible for registration in the Stud Book. The new owner was in touch with Charles about 12 months ago and hopefully is now breeding the mare to a registered thoroughbred stallion.

Vintage Class the dam of the recent stakes winner Mill Duckie and her stakes placed winning sister Mill Vinnie, has also been to a non stud book stallion for the past three years, hopefully she too will be mated to a registered thoroughbred stallion this season.



- Michelle Saba