Listen to the right people and be good at taking advice – that’s the philosophy that Wessel Van der Scheer attributes to his success.
He has applied this theory to his thoroughbred breeding interests and now under the banner of Mahoenui Partnerhsip, is the proud breeder of New Zealand Derby aspirant and Gr.2 ATR Avondale Guineas winner Desert Lightning (Pride of Dubai [AUS] – Isstoora [AUS]).
Now a resident in his native Germany, Van der Scheer is successful in the banking and brokerage industry but he has strong ties to New Zealand, and this is where his horses are domiciled.
“You have to be good at taking advice,” he said.
“I have adhered to that all my working life, which is 28 years in the financial industry. Listening to the right people, always works for anything in life.”
In this case, the right people are Little Avondale Stud’s Sam Williams and noted bloodstock agent Bruce Perry, who were both involved in the purchase of Isstoora, the dam of Desert Lightning.
Although the son of Pride of Dubai was only recording his second win in the Avondale Guineas, he has pretty impressive form for a horse who has only had 10 starts.
He won on debut as a two-year-old in February last year and followed that win with a fourth in the Gr.3 Matamata Slipper and the Gr.1 Sistema Stakes. At his first start at three he ran second over 1300m, before running fifth in the Gr.2 Hawkes Bay Guineas (1400m).
He then ran fourth in the Gr.2 James and Annie Sarten Memorial at Te Rapa (1400m) before going down by a mere half-head to Pier in the Gr.1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas at Riccarton. After a brief break, Desert Lightning returned to run fifth in the Listed Uncle Remus Stakes (1400m), third in the Listed Karaka Million behind Prowess and Wild Night, before defeating Waitak in a ding dong battle in the Avondale Guineas.
Desert Lightning was purchased from Little Avondale Stud’s 2021 New Zealand Bloodstock Yearling Sale Book 1 draft by Peter Williams for Barneswood Farms Limited, Sarah Green and Gert Beemsterboer, for $150,000.
He is the fourth foal out of the High Chaparral (IRE) mare Isstoora, an unraced daughter of the Gr.3 SAJC Breeders’ Stakes winner Mujana. She is also the dam of two other horses to race - Asateer (by I Am Invincible [Ire]) who won two races in Australia before going to Singapore to race as Opunake and win a further four races. Meanwhile Enaaya, a full sister to Desert Lightning, has been placed in South Australia.
Her fifth foal is a colt by Per Incanto (USA) who was purchased by Paul Moroney and Ballymore Stables for $180,000 at Karaka last year, while Desert Lightning’s yearling full-brother was passed in at the Karaka sales last month. That colt is currently being broken in by Chris Rutten and will go to the Ready To Run sales in November.
Isstoora has a filly foal at foot, by Per Incanto that will be retained and is in foal again to that stallion.
Mujana (by Giant’s Causeway [USA]), the grandam of Desert Lightning, is also the dam of the stakes placed winner Mujaan (Fastnet Rock (AUS)) and one other winner. She in turn is a half-sister to Celebria, the dam of the stakes winners; Gathering, Florentina and California Turbo, to Mithila the dam of the Group Three winner Madam Legend, and to River Song the dam of the Group Two winner and sire Niagara.
The third dam of Desert Lightning is the winning Danehill (USA) mare Twyla, herself a three-quarter sister to the Champion sire Redoute’s Choice, Al Maher and Platinum Scissors. She is also a half-sister to the stakes winners and successful sires Umatilla and Hurricane Sky, and to Shantha’s Choice the dam of the stakes winners and sires Manhattan Rain, Echoes of Heaven along with Sliding Cube the dam of Rubick. It’s a family that is one of the best in the Australian stud book.
So how does a German banker, who at the time of this interview was somewhere in Spain, get to have a thoroughbred interest in New Zealand?
It all started around about 12 years ago when Van der Scheer was working in Hong Kong with expat kiwi Mike Gilbert.
Gilbert’s father John is involved in horses and it was on his suggestion that they decided to get into a horse. The first horse they raced was O’Reilly’s Prize who was bred by Mike’s father, and he raced in the Derby in 2011 and won a couple of races.
“We decided to buy a horse, and that’s when we met Sam,” Van der Scheer recalled.
“We bought one from him at the sales, then we bought the next one from him out of the paddock and that was Xanadu (Elusive City [USA]- Forest Dream).
“That was the start of a great connection with Sam and Little Avondale, and the joy of racing a horse like Xanadu.”
Xanadu was the joint Champion Three-Year-Old filly of her year and won six races including two at Group One level, the coveted New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes and the Windsor Park Plate. She was also Group One placed on six occasions before being retired to Little Avondale Stud.
By this time Van der Scheer and his wife Daniela had moved to New Zealand and purchased a home in Mahoenui Road in Coatesville, on the outskirts of Auckland.
“I had no interest in horses or racing until I met Mike in Hong Kong,” he stated.
“When we moved to New Zealand it was great being able to drive to Matamata early in the morning to watch them work and to visit LA stud and be much more involved. It never grabbed me in Germany but in New Zealand I loved it.
“We lived there for a long time, 10 years from 2012 and officially moved back to Europe last year to Frankfurt. Europe is my home, but I am still very attached to New Zealand and I have plenty of opportunity to come back, I’ll be there in May and again at Christmas next year. I am looking forward to going racing in New Zealand again.
“I’ve always done everything with LA and Sam. With the Gilberts I had bought a share in Per Incanto but I decided I wanted a share in him for myself and my wife Daniela.
“Sam said if one comes available, as an existing shareholder you will have first opportunity to buy it. So, when a share came up, I bought it. I said now I want a good broodmare, and he said you need to look for bloodlines outside of New Zealand and that is where Bruce came in.
“We were very lucky we got Isstoora in foal to Pride of Dubai for $90,000 at the same sale where her weanling sold for $80,000. Bruce and Sam are pretty good operators, Bruce knows how to pick mares and Sam knows how to pick a horse. So far it’s going to plan. Even though I am on the other side of the world I have no intention of stopping.
“It’s been a fantastic hobby and I have been a bit lucky. Desert Lightning is by far the best horse I have bred and I am very excited he is heading to the Derby. One thing I know is not to cling on to horses, you can’t keep everything you breed no matter how beautiful you think they are.
“I think you have to grow up with horses or involved the industry to be really knowledgeable. I might look at a horse and say it looks good, but I will never be able to look at a horse like Sam does, or look at a pedigree like Bruce does. I am not going to pretend that I am any kind of connoisseur Bruce and Sam are, but I am good at taking advice.” – Michelle Saba, NZTBA