Pentire repays faith with a stunning week

When Victorian trainer Robbie Laing came to Karaka in 2000 there was one stallion whose first-crop progeny he was especially keen to see: Pentire. The reason? He greatly admired his damsire, champion racehorse and sire Mill Reef, as well as Pentire's own outstanding race record in Europe.

Those first yearlings didn't disappoint him and Robbie ended up buying the Pike family's colt out of Dewamar for $52,500 that year, returning in 2001 to purchase Malcolm McHoull's's colt from the Sir Tristram mare Privilege for $61,000.

Robbie's faith in his own judgement has been fully justified by the performances of these two horses, named Pantani (SAJC South Australian Derby G1) and Sir Pentire (last Friday's $A150,000 VRC St Leger G3). But, as the man says, that's not all.

Robbie had already returned to New Zealand in 2002 to pick up another two Pentire colts, from Annifrid and Another Sound for $32,000 and $20,000 respectively, prices that look distinctly modest beside the $A64,000 paid yesterday for John & Jacqui Todd's Pentire-Chorus Star yearling colt at the Inglis Sires' Produce Sale in Sydney.

The Todds could not have timed their sale better. Sir Pentire's St Leger win was only one of three black-type performances by Pentire's sons over the long weekend. Pentastic carried 58kg to victory in the $A100,000 AJC Japan Racing Association Plate LR at Randwick on Saturday. Botero, the colt from Another Sound, ran third in the VRC Anzac Day Stakes 1400m LR at Flemington.

Other winners through the week were Corisande (Kembla Grange), Roseario (Te Aroha), Penny Gem (Ellerslie), and placed horses Recurring (Randwick) and He's Hot Right Now (Moe), both beaten by a nose into second.

Pentire has strong entries in upcoming Australian Group races over the next month including Sir Pentire (South Australian Derby and Adelaide Cup), Pentastic (Queen Elizabeth Stakes), Penny Gem (Queensland Guineas) and Botero (South Australian Sires' Produce S.).

New Zealand's reputation as a breeding nursery was once based almost entirely on outstanding classic, weight-for-age and staying horses. In the past decade, the appeal of early-maturing speed horses has been very seductive for many owners and trainers, in Australia, and in New Zealand where the gap between racing costs and rewards has steadily widened. For most owners patience has become prohibitively expensive.

It's required more than usual determination for Rich Hill Stud and their clients to "hang in" with Pentire. They must be smiling now, and not only because of last week's results. Pentire may be about to remind a business that swears by large foal crops as the key to commercial success, that scarcity has a value too. His first three crops totalled a respectable 158 foals but he has only 39 yearlings and a tiny fifth crop of eleven – yes, eleven - 2002 foals.

- Susan Archer