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Big week for Cambridge Breeders

The result of the Group II Hollandale Stakes at the Gold Coast last weekend was a tremendous achievement for Cambridge based Windsor Park Stud with the first three horses home, Fulmonti (Montjeu), Izonit (Volksraad) and Sir Slick (Volksraad) all being by their sires.

But more importantly is was just a catalyst to kick off a big week for Monovale Farm and Cambridge breeders Paul and Cushla Smithies, who bred both Fulmonti (Montjeu-Grosvenor's Pride) and Sir Slick (Volksraad-Miss Opera), that in itself a remarkable achievement.

"Obviously Sir Slick is a special horse to us and if he had to be beaten, it was good to be by Fulmonti. It was a thrill watching the race and nearly getting a group two quinella," Paul Smithies said when we caught up with him at the sales this week, as he set about selling some lovely weanlings and securing another mare for the Monovale broodmare band.

Monovale Farm sold the highest priced weanling filly at the sale, a daughter of Holy Roman Emperor and Elusive Quarry (Zabeel – Katchmekate) for $82,500. They also purchased Grovana a stakes placed Grosvenor mare out of the champion filly of her year Impasada. She is in foal to Perfectly Ready, and was knocked down for $46,000.

A NZTBA Councillor, Paul Smithies and his wife Cushla run Monovale Farm, nestled above Lake Karapiro, just south of Cambridge. They run about 30 mares on the main property, which they purchased ten years ago to run their own mares and then five years ago they purchased the adjoining 50 acres to set up a yearling block. Prior to that, their yearlings were sold through Windsor Park.

Paul Smithies grew up on a dairy farm in Wanganui and horses have been a part of his life since he was a child, where he rode for fun. His grandfather Bill Connors was a well known Wanganui racing identity and it was through him that Paul's interest in racing was sparked. His cousin Mark Connors owns the outstanding jumper Hypnotize who his trained by his son Raymond.

On leaving school he obtained an accountancy degree and combined that practice with farming. He and Cushla had a beef property in Te Kuiti before making the decision to move to Cambridge.

Grosvenor's Pride was one of the first mares that the Smithies purchased when they made the move to Cambridge to establish Monovale Farm.

"She was a great mare for us, she was a really stylish looking mare, and has left three stakes winners, unfortunately she died foaling a High Chaparral colt, that is now a two year old in training with Frank Ritchie.

"Grosvenor's Pride was in foal to Senor Pete when we bought her, and we retained the filly 'Perabo' to breed from. We then sent Grosvenor's Pride to Volksraad and she produced Pride of the Class and then to Montjeu the first three seasons he stood here. From those matings, she produced Fulmonti and Majestical, with the third one being sold to Coolmore and taken to Ireland.

"Pride of the Class won the WRC Desert Gold Stakes, Majestical has won six races including the Listed Cranbourne Cup last October and Fulmonti has won eight races including the Group Two Hollandale Stakes, and the Group Three Chairman's Handicap.

Perabo now has a Fantastic Light yearling colt, a weanling filly by Perfectly Ready, and she is back in foal to that stallion.

"Sir Slick's dam, Miss Opera, was purchased straight off the racetrack and sent to College Chapel. The result was Gaumont, a winner of three races in South Australia. Her next two matings to Volksraad produced Sir Slick and the stakes placed Mr Jinky," added Paul.

The deeds of Sir Slick are well documented with six Group One victories amongst his 20 wins. And Graeme Nicholson the part owner and trainer of Sir Slick also trained her next foal Shortblackmini (Black Minaloushe) who won two and ran third in the Group II Taranaki Classic as a two year old. Miss Opera has also left Swiper (Golan), a recent winner in Australia.

"We have a two-year-old filly by Kaapstad from Miss Opera that we are going to race, and earlier in the year we sold a Zabeel colt out of the mare at Karaka for $250,000. He was purchased by Douglas Duncan and Chris Grace and will be trained by MacO'Reilly's trainer David Howarth. Unfortunately we lost her Zabeel weanling colt to colic a couple of weeks ago, and the mare is not in foal.

"Of the other mares we have, one we have very high hopes for is Classy Choice (Redoute's Choice – Classy Babe by Masterclass). She is a winning half sister to Devil Moon and we bought her in foal to General Nediym. We sold that filly to Bart Cummings last year for $180,000, and this year sold her Lion Heart colt to Mark Kavanagh for $130,000. Classy Choice has a Zabeel colt for next year's sale and is in foal to Pins.

"Mark Kavanagh trained Devil Moon to win 8 races including the Group One VRC Turnbull Stakes, and on the subject of that trainer we also have a half sister to Cox Plate winner Maldivian called Stray (Tale of the Cat-Shynzi) and she's got a Savabeel weanling colt and is in foal to Zabeel.

On the subject of stallions and matings, Paul is more inclined to follow the physical philosophy than the line breeding philosophy. Perhaps it his farming background which influences his decisions.

"While I do look for compatible pedigrees and nicks, most of my matings are attempting to match physical attributes in an effort to breed the perfect specimen."

We have shares in a number of stallions including Zabeel, Lucky Unicorn, Savabeel, Perfectly Ready, Any Suggestion, and Alamosa. We use all of these and number of other stallions. I am concerned about the strength of the New Zealand stallion ranks but I do appreciate the predicament that stud masters are in. If they cannot get the support of the breeders it's difficult to bring stallions in, and it's hard to compete with the big players for the top prospects. On the shuttle horses, I think it's wonderful that we can get access to horses like Montjeu, even if sometimes there are difficulties in retaining them once they are proven. They still leave fillies that eventually contribute to our gene pool.

"It's pleasing to see that some of the more high profile studs are retaining and racing some of their better colts as stallion prospects. However standing stallions is not a game we want to get into. We prefer to be able to spread the mares around" he concluded.

Over the past few years Monovale has sent some mares to Australia to be served and also bought mares from there in foal to Australian based stallions. His experiences have mainly been worthwhile, even if he did end up having 13 mares stuck there due to EI. All his weanlings sold at Karaka this week were by Australian stallions and the fifth stakes winner produced by Monovale Farm, Likefatherlikeson (ex Classical Star by Star Way) was by the Australian based sire Reset.

"I believe that they add interest and variety to our yearling draft. In our Karaka draft this year we had a mixture of Australian and New Zealand based sires. While it was a tough sale and we passed in a few, we averaged around $72,000 for what we sold."

Paul's involvement and commitment to the industry doesn't stop at the stud farm. He is an active member of the Waikato branch of the NZTBA and has been a councillor for four years. He will not be seeking re-election this year.

"I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as a councillor but I believe that you shouldn't stay on too long. I feel that it is time someone else had a go. The NZTBA does great job representing the interests of breeders and is a very successful lobby group for the good of the industry.

"One thing I would like to see more of, is better opportunities and incentives to race fillies and mares. We could learn a lot from the Victorians where there are regular fillies and mares races programmed. We need to encourage people to race their fillies to ensure the health of our breeding industry.

As part of his role as an NZTBA councillor, Paul is also on the board of New Zealand Thoroughbred Marketing (NZTM).

"I have really enjoyed that role as well. We have robust board meetings where we influence the direction of our thoroughbred marketing. We were very fortunate to have secured the services of Adrian Clark at NZTM and I think he is doing a fantastic job in that role."

- Michelle Saba