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Katy Keen a Miracle and a Fantasy

Star mare Katy Keen (Zorro's Lad x Tangelo by Exploding Prospect) was named after comic book heroine Katy Keene of the 1950's, a fantasy of part-owner and breeder Kaye Durrant. The precocious four-year-old mare has endeared herself to Kaye, gifting her the glamour, femininity, and excitement she dreamt of as a child when she read the Katy Keene "the pin up queen" stories.

Katy Keen is led back to scale by part-owner/breeder Kaye Durrant after her Group 2 victory at Te Rapa on Saturday.
Photo: NZPA
In winning the Waikato Racing Club's Travis Stakes Group 2 at Te Rapa on Saturday, Katy Keen added her sixth stripe to the pattern of her recent formline. It was her eighth win in 17 starts and rocketed her earnings to over $300,000.

The only thing, perhaps, more interesting than her immense talent and ears-pricked winning is the story of how she came to be.

Rewind 15 years to trainer Stuart Manning selling tangelos off his orchard. "He stopped in to give Bill Brown, a friend from way back, some tangelos and Bill said his wife was quite ill and he had this filly that he'd like to sell a half share in," says Durrant.

"We took her on and named her Tangelo. Ralph Manning, Stuart's nephew, trained her for 2 starts then she broke down. The syndicate dissolved after that and Stuart and I ended up with Tangelo as a broodmare," says Durrant.

Ralph Manning owned Rainbow Myth, who was standing at Frank Drummond's Cheval Stud, at the time. The choice for Tangelo was obvious to Stuart and Kaye. Kaye says, " We sent her there and she didn't get in foal to him the first season so we tried again the next season and got the same result.

"Zorro's Lad was also at Frank's stud at the time and a friend of ours ran a breeding analysis through with her and Zorro's Lad, and he thought it was a good match."

Even so, Zorro's Lad was experiencing fertility troubles of his own at the time. As Frank Drummond puts it, "he had served 53 mares in his first round here at the stud and got none of them in foal. I knew what his problem was - every time he saw a horse he would get so excited in the paddock - by the time he got to mares he was pretty well spent.

Frank Drummond continued, "I could see it happening, so I talked the owners into letting us run mares with him to see if it would help him get over his behaviour. One of the mares that was in season at this time was Tangelo.

"I wanted to put only in-season mares with him. I rang Stuart and Kaye to see if it was alright to put them in together and Stuart's response was 'no, he's infertile'. So I said, 'well, so is your bloody mare!'

"So they eventually agreed to put her in with Zorro and half a dozen other mares and he got them all in foal. The resultant foal was Katy Keen."

Katy Keen is not the only Stakes-winning mare produced from a "natural" mating. Fellow four-year-old Brianna (Sudurka x Lightning Tree) is the result of a similar situation. Her sire Sudurka also experienced fertility problems and was successfully run with mares.

Born the 4th of December, Katy Keen was quite the specimen as a foal. "When she was a foal she was quite stunning-looking and Frank used to keep her in the front paddock so everyone who came to the stud would see her," says Kaye.

Following family tradition, Katy Keen was difficult to handle from the beginning. "She dropped every rider at the breakers and everyone here," says Kaye. "The family turn into dragons if you try to bully them."

Kaye speaks of Katy Keen's half sister Bettieboop (Express Duke) in that trend as well. Zorro's Lad died in a paddock accident before Tangelo could rendezvous with him again, so she was sent to Express Duke. "She doesn't get in foal when she has a foal at foot," says Kaye.

"We gave Tangelo to Frank Drummond. He has been very good to us and we decided to ask him whether he would like Tangelo, because when you have a mare you end up with lots of foals, and that can be expensive. Since we have two fillies out of her we at least have the family."

Frank Drummond put Tangelo to Danehill's son Chianti, standing at Te Runga Stud, and the resultant weanling colt is a 3/4 to Katy Keen and will be on offer at the Karaka weanling sale in May. As for Zorro's Lad, his last crop are yearlings and the Drummonds have the whole half dozen at Cheval Stud.

Katy Keen has certainly rewarded her breeders for their persistence and tenacity.

- Stacey Akers