The Best of the Week - or so

Time to pay tribute to an outstanding Australian racehorse LONRHO, (Octagonal-Shadea by Straight Strike; Woodlands Stud, NSW), stunningly easy winner on Saturday of his second consecutive MRC Yalumba S. 2000m G1 and likely odds-on favourite for the Cox Plate on 25 October.

Lonhro has now won 22 of his 29 starts, earned more than $A4 million in prizemoney, has raced almost exclusively in Group 1 and Group 2 company for two years, won eight Group One races, is drop-dead gorgeous and, as a five-year-old stallion, is still racing with the zest and joy of a two-year-old. What a pity his trainer John Hawkes couldn't express just a little more joy and a little less resentment of "the knockers" when he was interviewed on Sky TV after the Yalumba.

Although foaled in Australia, Lonhro has a pedigree very definitely fashioned in New Zealand. Champion Octagonal and Group 3 winner Shadea were both bred here, and Shadea is a half-sister to AJC Oaks G1 winner Mahaya (by Octagonal's grand-sire Sir Tristram). Their dam Concia was a half-sister to the marvellous racehorse and very good sire Grosvenor (also by Sir Tristram). Five other stakeswinners in the immediate family have also been by Sir Tristram, and Lonhro's full-brother Niello won the AJC Spring Champion S. G1 last weekend.

STRAIGHT STRIKE, now 26 years-old and standing at Newbury Park, Palmerston North at a fee of $4,000, is the sire of 42 stakeswinners, and damsire of eighteen, among them six Group One winners: Lonhro, Niello, Bunker (by Sandtrap), Desert Eagle (by Hurricane Sky), Shizu (by Manntari) and D'Gaulle Lane (by The Commander, by Sir Tristram). He's also been represented this season by dual stakeswinner Daniel's The Man (by Touching Wood) and SP Fiammarosa (by Danehill). Straight Strike has been lying a close fourth (behind Rory's Jester, Centaine and Marscay) on the Australian broodmare sires list and his position looks set to keep improving for a while yet.

Another veteran stallion still doing a fine job in the first and second generations of pedigrees is LORD BALLINA who got his 33rd stakeswinner when Cent Home's brother Studebaker took out the VRC Turnbull S. G2 on 4 October; and his second G1 winner as a damsire when Distinctly Secret (by Distinctly North) won the $750,000 HBRI Kelt Capital S. G1 a week earlier. That win has given Lord Ballina a lead of almost $400,000 on the New Zealand Broodmare Sires' list.
Studebaker, who cost his owners $A230,000, is one of five six-figure sales of Lord Ballina yearlings made at the Australian Easter Yearling Sale in the past ten years. The best of the other four was Vitrinite (ex Centrepiece; by Centaine, like the dam of Cent Home and Studebaker), a Group One-placed stakeswinner of seven races and almost $A500,000 in return for his $A170,000 price-tag.

Champion sire ZABEEL had a great day at Randwick on 4 October when Unearthly (ex Snippets' Crown by Snippets; Lorna & Mr J. Moore, Victoria) won the AJC Flight S. 1600m G1, and Shower Of Roses (ex Marquise by Gold And Ivory; Malcolm Glenn, Matthew & Elizabeth Oram) took out the AJC Craven Plate G3, her second Group win after the AJC Storm Queen S. G1 last autumn.
Unearthly is Zabeel's 25th individual Group One winner, and the tenth of his daughters to win at that level. As at 8 October Zabeel was second on the Australian general sires table, not far behind Danehill and just ahead of Encosta de Lago. However, Beautiful Crown's just-completed splendid weekend has pushed Zabeel back to third place. It's tight at the top though, especially with the richest spring prizes coming up: about $A400,000 covers the top five sires (Danehill, Zabeel, Beautiful Crown, Octagonal and Encosta de Lago).
Zabeel is also starting to appear in black type pedigrees as a broodmare sire, with six stakeswinners to his name so far, most recently G2 Natural Blitz (Dehere)and SW Lucida (AUS)(Danehill).

Test your knowledge:
The Flight Stakes isn't a race New Zealand-bred fillies have won too often: Unearthly is only the fourth in the past 20 years. Who were the other three?
Answer at the end of this article

VICE REGAL is best known and valued now as a broodmare sire whose daughters have left 47 stakeswinners, including 12 Group One winners (five of them by Zabeel). There are still a few of his own progeny racing though, and one of them Crown Prince (ex Green Queen by King Delamere; Mr J.J. Allan) became his 33rd stakeswinner when he took out the ARC Mitchelson Cup LR on 4 October.
Himself a marvellously brave and gifted racehorse in an era of outstanding performers, Vice Regal had a curious stud career, leaving only eight stakeswinners after his 1986 crop. The best of those, G1 Sapio was very tough and durable but not in the same class as Vite Cheval, Prolific, Eva Grace and All Glory, all from his early crops.
As a damsire Vice Regal appears most recently in the pedigrees of G1 Luvly Jubly, G1 Critic, G3 Danceinthesun and last season's New Zealand Derby G1 runner-up Kajema.

A sire that has quietly slipped into the top five on the New Zealand sires table is KASHANI, currently fifth on the list by progeny earnings. Kashani is the sire of Saturday's Jim & John Evans Mile LR winner Betta Watch It (ex Better Leica by Century; Jonathan Hope), his seventh stakeswinner. Interestingly, all seven have won Listed Stakes races -none have managed better than a Group 2 placing. Two, Validify and Baby Lover, are from Grosvenor mares, while a third, Cantorist is by Grosvenor's sire Sir Tristram. Cantorist is also from the same immediate female family as Betta Watch It.

Prebbleton Farm's John Shaw has every reason to feel happy with his decision to stand TUSCANY FLYER in Canterbury this year, just as his progeny have come up with several black type performances. Wee Winkle (ex Resuelto by Show King) was third in the ARC Lindauer Guineas G2 on 4 October, following his second in the Wanganui Guineas LR and Lady Libertine (ex Liberty Rose by Clay Hero) was runner-up in the CJC Canterbury Belle S. LR on 20 September, a race won last year by Flying Coup, also by Tuscany Flyer. Tuscany Warrior (ex Blue Ruffles by Piperhill)took out the season's first stakes race, the CJC Winter Cup G3 on 2 August.
Tuscany Flyer, who stood last season in Victoria, has now produced two stakeswinners and five stakes-placed horses, not a bad effort from only 134 foals of racing age, 48 of which have so far made it to the races.

PENTIRE has certainly boosted his record in the past fortnight, and last week held 15th place on the Australian general sires list, and was 20th on the equivalent New Zealand table.
On 27 September Tintagel won at Matamata while Penitentiary ran an excellent second in the Hawke's Bay Guineas G3; and a week later four-year-old mare Zanna scored in the AJC Angst Quality LR at Randwick.
Walsburgs Dream (3f ex Fantasy Flight by Never Til Dawn) was second in a maiden 1100m at Te Aroha on 8 October; Milan 4g ex By Design by Sir Tristram; Cambridge Hunt Ltd) was first equal in a 1400m maiden at Hastings on 9 October; and on 11 October Lord Belvedere (5g ex Fair Isa by Vice Regal; Mr J.E. & Mrs M.E. Crawford and Mr D.W. & Mrs N.K. Stuart) won a 1600m Progressive at Counties. Also on 11 October, at Riccarton Park Reality Check (5g ex Shivers by Half Iced; Dean Hawthorne) won an Intermediate 1800m and the cleverly named Colourfast (4m from the very good racemare Covered N' Grey by Lord Triad) was third in a maiden 1600m.

Zanna was bred by North Aucklanders Peter & Pat Payne who have had terrific success with this family. They bred and raced Zanna's dam Posing (by Truly Vain - incidentally the damsire of another stakeswinner by Pentire in Mustaagel), who won five including the RRC Rotorua Stakes LR. The Paynes achieved even more with Posing's half-sister by Kenfair, the lovely grey filly Ad Alta, winner of the CJC NZ One Thousand Guineas G1 and AJC Surround S. G2 and five other races before her tragic death as an early four-year-old.

Tintagel (ex Taste Of Success by Prince Echo; Mr N. St J. Christophers) has plenty of famous names in his pedigree, as he descends from two New Zealand Broodmares of the Year, Dulcie and Micheline - the family of champions Balmerino and Surround. The four-year-old gelding has now won four of his nine starts and his modest earnings of $29,925 look certain to increase substantially.

Penitentiary (ex Strangeways by Veloso; Val Langsford, who also bred his Group-winning half-sister Maze, and co-bred Group 1 winner Rebel) did his Victoria Derby prospects no harm with a strong finishing run from an awkward position on the fence to reduce Stardane's winning margin to a long neck in the Hawke's Bay Guineas, but was well out of the money in Saturday's Caulfield Guineas 1600m G1. He looks like he will relish 2500 metres at Flemington.

MASTERPIECE (Bletchingly-Sober Dancer) doesn't have many opportunities to occupy centre-stage but he made the most of his chance on 27 September when his sons Titian (ex Dusky Amazon by March Legend; bred by Mr C.M. Peters) and Rodin (ex Fine Decision by Averof; Richard Wood) filled the first and third places in the Matamata Cup LR. Masterpiece is one of those stallions consigned to the industry's margins by lack of foals on the ground rather than an inability to sire winners. His five crops of racing age total a mere 87 foals - fewer than a popular stallion would expect to produce from a single crop. From 26 runners to date Masterpiece has had fourteen winners, including G3 Rodin and now SW Titian. Co-incidentally, Rodin won last year's Matamata Cup. Masterpiece is now standing in the Central Districts at a fee of $2,500.

The other three New Zealand-bred winners of the Flight Stakes in the past 20 years were: A Little Kiss (1989), Slight Chance (1992) and Sunline (1998).

Thanks to the excellent online news and data resources of:
Thoroughbred News, Arion Pedigrees, ThoroughbredInternet.com,the New Zealand Stud Book, OzHorse, and the Australian Bloodhorse Review

- Susan Archer