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New Zealand Sires on the Rise: Mellifont

By a champion sire son of the great US sire Mr Prospector from a three-quarter sister to the dominant stallion of Europe, Sadler's Wells, Mellifont is not short of northern hemisphere genetic power. His other relatives include champion sires Nureyev and Fairy King, plus Perugino who produced 36 winners from 50 starters out of his 1996 Australian crop but did not return to Australia until 1999. Those 36 winners include two Group One winners, champion Australian Sprinter Testa Rossa (TFE rating 126 at four), and Sudurka, given a TFE rating of 120 last season.

Brought to New Zealand by Norm Hawthorne's Paramount Lodge, Matamata in 1997, Mellifont has 171 foals from three crops of racing age. From his first two crops he has produced 23 winners from 55 starters, among them last season's Southern Filly of the Year, Pledge (winner of three Listed Races in the South Island) and Finbar Reidy (3rd ARC Lindauer Guineas G2 to subsequent New Zealand Derby winner Leica Guv and NZ Oaks winner Vapour Trail). These two horses were the main contributors to Mellifont's ninth position among New Zealand's leading sires of three-year-olds in 2001-02. Woodford Girl was stakes-placed at two and a fourth member of Mellifont's first crop, Titan Happiness, has won five from seven in Singapore and ran fourth in the Listed Singapore Guineas last January. Norm Hawthorne estimates that Titan Happiness' success encouraged the sale of at least another 24 horses by Mellifont to Singapore, a good result for their owners, but not so positive for their sire who would benefit more from having these horses winning at home or in Australia.

Mellifont's own race career was cut short by injury after a maiden win and two placings from five starts. Strong pedigree and modest or no race performance is a combination familiar to New Zealand breeders. Champion sires Battle-Waggon, Sir Tristram, Mellay, Noble Bijou, Straight Strike and last season's premiership winner Volksraad were all either unraced or well below the best performers of their generations.

Standing at only $3500 for his first three seasons, the size of Mellifont's books has exceeded their quality, although mares by Kaapstad, Sound Reason, Famous Star, Vice Regal, Noble Bijou, Nassipour, Straight Strike, Sovereign Edition and Lord Ballina can be found among them. With only one yearling from three crops catalogued in the New Zealand Premier Yearling Sale, Mellifont was not going to make sales headlines early in his stud career, but within the middle and lower end of the market he has achieved consistent returns, averaging $15,147, $15,289 and $14,770 from 2000 to 2002. Mellifont's highest yearling sale price has been $70,000 paid by Joe Barnes, Macau, for the Jahdu colt at this year's New Zealand Select Sale. Mellifont's fee was lifted to $4500 in 2001 and remains there in 2002.

While six of his 23 progeny that have started at two have won, Mellifont's 14 winners from 33 starters at three, and the performances of Finbar Reidy, Pledge and Titan Happiness, indicate they produce better form in their second season. Unfortunately, his current crop of three-year-olds is his smallest to date, 46 live foals, while his two-year-olds number sixty-two.

Paramount Lodge reports that Mellifont's three-year-old daughter Twice (ex Three Times by Defensive Play) has been an impressive trials winner in Perth, and was second at her first start there on 11 September. Mapua (ex Hatchet Girl by Half Iced) won twice last season as a three-year-old and is a likely type now in Roger James' Melbourne stable. Recent winners by Mellifont include four-year-olds King Tiger at Avondale and Mellsun at Wanganui, and three-year-old Escuedo at Awapuni.

Information sources:
Arion Pedigrees
Australian Bloodhorse Review
NZTBA 2002 Stallion Register
Note: yearling sale averages quoted above treat $A and $NZ as equ
- Susan Archer