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25 NZ Oaks winners, 1969-1993 & their stud records

From the 1969 winner Mayo Gold until the 1993 winner Miltak (the most recent Oaks winner to produce named foals), the New Zealand Oaks at Trentham provides a group of 25 fillies whose subsequent race and stud careers make very interesting reading.

The present race has a complex history. Three races at three different courses have at various times carried the Oaks title. It was not until New Zealand's national three-year-old classics were finally established in 1974 that the New Zealand Oaks became an internationally recognised Group One event, and the country's premier distance test for three-year-old fillies. The inaugural 1974 running of the 2400-metre Oaks at Trentham was won by Sweet Offer (Sucaryl-Fair Offer).

The first incarnation of the New Zealand Oaks, retrospectively rated Group 2 for cataloguing purposes, was run at Riccarton, Christchurch in November right through the 20th century until 1972. Many of that race's winners were of outstanding quality, among them Desert Gold, Passive, Froth, Trial Offer, Star Belle, Brazil, Princess Mellay and Young Ida.

However, until 1974 the principal 2400-metre race for three-year-old fillies had been the Great Northern Oaks held in the autumn at Ellerslie, first run in 1906 and also won by Desert Gold, Froth, Trial Offer, Brazil and Young Ida, as well as Surprise Ending, Jalna, Kind Regards and Breathalyser. It is given a catalogue rating of Group One during this period, to 1974. From then until its final running in 1988 (won by Candide) the Great Northern Oaks was formally classified as a Group 2 event.

From 1969 until 1973 the Wellington Oaks was held over ten furlongs (~2000 metres) at Trentham and is recognised in catalogue pedigrees as an unofficial Group 2 race. This race was the immediate precursor of the present New Zealand Oaks and and its five runnings are included in that race's history, eg in the Australian Stud Book's online list of New Zealand Oaks winners. Thus, the Oaks at Trentham from 1969 to 1993 yields a representative group of 25 winners to analyse.

The New Zealand Filly of the Year title, established in 1974, was won by eight of these fillies: Princess Patrice (1975), La Mer (1977), Tang (1979), Glamour Bay (1981), Solveig (1985), Royal Heights (1986), Let's Sgor (joint winner with Plume, 1991) and Staring (1992).

Incidentally, six of the nine Oaks winners since 1993 have also gone on to win the Filly of the Year title, now sponsored by New Zealand Bloodstock: Snap, Tartan Tights, Alacrity, Tycoon Lil (AUS), Savannah Succcess (AUS), and Vapour Trail. Tycoon Lil, winner of eight races including three at Group One level, and La Mer are the only two New Zealand Oaks winners to be named New Zealand Horse of the Year since the establishment of that award in 1974.

The range of subsequent performances by the 25 fillies under consideration here varies greatly from Supreme Glory whose 1980 Oaks victory was her only success in 40 starts, to champion two and three-year-old Mayo Gold (18 wins, including six of Group quality), and a trio of fillies that ended their careers as three-time Group One winners: Solveig, Miltak and La Mer. Although La Mer did not win at Group One level in Australia, she deserves to be regarded as the best horse to win the New Zealand Oaks in the last three decades and her champion status is indisputable. Her twenty-four wins included the Manawatu Sires' Produce S. G1 at two, and an astonishing performance in the Air New Zealand S. G1 at five.

Three stallions are each responsible for two winners among this group of Oaks winners. Hermes sired Eastern Time (1976) and Athenaia (1978); Zephyr Bay, who got 22 stakeswinners (seven G1) from 251 foals (8.7%), left Glamour Bay and Zepherin (1984); and Sir Tristram was the sire of Royal Heights and Starline (1987). Zepherin and Glamour Bay were both bred by Jack Lindsay's Balcarres Stud, Matamata. Jim Campin of Chequers Stud, Cambridge is the only other person to breed two Oaks winners since 1969: Domino (1990) and Tapildo (2001).

No Oaks winner in that period has managed to leave a New Zealand Oaks winner but Miltak has a chance today when her daughter Milzeel (Zabeel) lines up in the race. Milzeel's second in the ARC Royal Stakes G2 is good form to have because over the past 34 years ten fillies have won, and four have been placed in the Royal before winning the Oaks.

Three other runners in the 2003 New Zealand Oaks have connections with previous winners. Wisborough Green (Entrepreneur) is a grand-daughter of Zepherin; Telsa (Sandtrap) is from the family of Solveig; and Te Horo Girl (Jetball) is a grand-daughter of Royal Heights' sister Ballerina Heights. Te Horo Girl, from a Grosvenor mare, is also bred on the Jetball-Sir Tristram cross which produced last year's Oaks winner Vapour Trail.

The subsequent stud careers of the 25 Oaks winners from 1969 to 1993 offer strong evidence for the worth of good racing fillies as broodmares, although it must be remembered that Group One winners generally receive much better opportunities than unraced or poorly performed mares.

Twelve of the 25 Oaks winners remained in New Zealand or were New Zealand-owned; eleven went overseas, six to Australia, five (Marnie, Port Royal, La Mer, Maurita and Let's Sgor) to the northern hemisphere; and two, the lovely filly Susan Jane (1970) and Sweet Offer sadly died before they had foals.

The group has left a total of 148 named foals to date, an average of almost six per mare. Of these 84 (56.7%) have won and four horses (2.7% of named foals) have won at Group One level. Two of these Group One winners, US-bred Grand Flotilla (by Caro) and Japanese-bred Marvelous Crown (by Miswaki), are from the 1982 Oaks winner Maurita who has so far been the most successful broodmare among the group. The other two Group One producers are Domino (dam of Hero), and Candide (dam of Hong Kong domestic Group One winner Billion Win).

The group has left another eight Group & Listed Stakeswinnners, producing a total of 10.8% SW to named foals, well above average. In all, the 25 Oaks winners from 1969 to 1993 have so far produced 23 (15.5%) stakes performers - a very respectable record indeed.

These figures may improve or decline of course, because several mares, including Zephyrin (now 22), Solveig (21), Starline (19), Candide (18), and Domino (16) are still breeding and have young progeny yet to race.

Grateful thanks to Arion Pedigrees: www.arion.co.nz for the comprehensive stud book and race record data which made this summary possible.

- Susan Archer


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