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Babe honours her breeder Sue Harty

Central Hawke's Bay is a long way from the glamour and excitement of Randwick but on Saturday Honor Babe (Honor Grades-Repremand by Kreisler) completed the journey from one place to the other with a decisive victory in the $A800,000 AJC Sydney Cup.

Her breeder Sue Harty watched the race on a neighbour's television and returned home to a pile of congratulatory telephone messages. "You don't realise until it happens how important a Group One win is."

Sue manages her own 40-acre property at Pourerere near Waipawa and describes herself as "a small-time breeder." That definition only applies if 14 mares (nine of them in foal), 11 foals, four yearlings, four two-year-olds and four three-year-olds can be considered a modest investment.

Born in England, Sue grew up riding and hunting in Ireland before coming to New Zealand when she was eighteen. Marriage and four children delayed the fulfilment of her ambition to breed and race horses until after her husband's death in 1989. She then took over her own farm and pre-trained horses until recently when it became too difficult to find good staff.

Now a "very fit sixty-two", Sue does all the daily work with her horses but gets help from Graham & Isabell Roddick at Montana Lodge, former employee Michelle Murphy and daughter-in-law Catherine Harty to wean and brand the foals, and handle her young horses. Somehow Sue also finds time to look after a big garden. "I'm always on the go and hope I can keep going for another ten years or so."

She purchased Honor Babe's non-winning dam Repremand for $5,000 from Robin Mitchell and her Feilding breeder Colin McKay. Described by Sue as "a very nice, strong-boned mare", Repremand has had four foals to race, three of which are winners: Honor Babe and two Justice Prevails fillies Sue has retained, Out On Bail and Bail Us Out. Repremand didn't win herself but her dam Remand won five times and left stakeswinner Vendee (seven wins) dam of G3 winner Kiwi Golfer (16 wins). Honor Babe, conceived on a $7,500 service fee and sold as a weanling to her present owners for $5,000, has now eclipsed the best performers in her immediate pedigree with six wins including the Sydney Cup and the Marton Cup LR, a second in the AJC Chairman's H. G2 and earnings of more than $A650,000.

Repremand missed to Hunza Court this season but her Kingfisher Mill colt will be offered at the 2004 New Zealand yearling sales through Brian & Jackie O'Shea's Poplar Lodge. Out On Bail has a yearling colt by Istidaad and Bail Us Out is raced on lease by clients of Mike Breslin.

Another mare Sue has bred from with success is Ladies Bay (by Otehi Bay), dam of five winners of 23 races, including stakeswinner Golden Butterfly (nine wins). Ladies Bay has a 2002 filly by Shinko King and four daughters in Sue's broodmare band: Clear Horizon (2002 filly by Towkay); Irish Mist (dam of the promising Group-placed three-year-old Golden Harvest; a 2001 gelding by Mellifont; and a 2002 filly also by Mellifont); SandandSurf (2002 filly by D'Cash) and Golden Butterfly (2002 colt by Fly To The Stars). Another two daughters of Ladies Bay, Blue Pacific (Blues Traveller) and Pacific Heights (Kingfisher Mill) are in training with Mike Breslin.

Sue is characteristically modest about her latest success. "I chose Honor Grades for Repremand because someone told me it was a good cross. I'm not right up on line-breeding myself - I guess it was one of those lucky strikes." There's no doubt that genetic make-up always matters. Patient owners and a skilful trainer are important too. But so is the day-in, day-out dedication and sheer hard work of a woman on a Hawke's Bay farm with her horses.


- Susan Archer