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Henderson Bay upsets in Chairman's Handicap

With eleven Kiwi-breds in the 19-strong field, the $A500,000 AJC Chairman's Handicap 2400m G2 gave New Zealand its best numerical chance of victory on Australia's richest raceday, at Randwick last Saturday.

Hail was the favourite with punters on this side of the Tasman, but it was one of the lesser-fancied, Australian-trained Kiwis that prevailed. Henderson Bay (6g Guns of Navarone-Misty Lore by Rolle), paying almost $60 to win on the New Zealand TAB, defeated fellow Kiwi-bred Homewrecker and Asia, with Ebony Honor (4th) and Armstrong (5th) putting in good Sydney Cup trials.

Henderson Bay, who has now won seven of his 25 starts and more than $A600,000, is raced by Sydney businessman Michael Clifford. When Mr Clifford first got involved with racing horses he didn't have a great experience, as New Zealand Thoroughbred Marketing's Caley Wilson reported last year.

His very first horse was slow. "Very slow", actually, if you ask Neville McBurney who trained it. But somehow Neville managed to talk him into another one. This time one from New Zealand: Henderson Bay.

Neville bought him after he'd won a trial at Cambridge, New Zealand.
John Mackenzie, who with Niki Wooff runs Thoroughbred Solutions Ltd in New Zealand, spotted the horse for Neville –as he'd done with Group 2 winner Go Bint (NZ) (Bin Ajwaad).

Max and Kathleen Dunn had purchased him from his breeder Mrs J.M. Carlesen for just $2500 at the 1997 Cambridge Thoroughbred Sales New Zealand Classic Yearling Sale.

John Mackenzie told Caley Wilson that "The Dunns live in Henderson Bay, up near Kaitaia, and this was the only thoroughbred they had. He was sort of like their pet."

Max used the horse to help out on the farm, doing chores like shifting the cattle. He always planned to put him in work but knew he needed time.

"Max gave him lots and lots of time," said John, "and he looked after him well. He got the sort of patient handling you'd like to see a few more horses given."

So it wasn't until the autumn of 1999, when Henderson Bay was three, that he had his first trial.

"He'd been sent to Sharon Cann at Tuakau. She did a good job with him and though he missed the jump by plenty he rounded the field and won by four lengths."

John and Niki liked what they saw. In turn, so did Neville McBurney, and then Michael Clifford and his wife Gail. They purchased him for what John describes as "a fair price considering his pedigree." And certainly more than the breeder Mrs Carlesen ever received.

Henderson Bay is only the second stakes winner for his sire Guns Of Navarone (Ire) (Bold Lad). The first was Present Arms (NZ) who won a Group 3 race in Christchurch.

Henderson Bay's dam, Australian-bred Misty Lore didn't win a race. But her dam, Misty Ville (NZ), won three, including the AJC Apollo Stakes G2, making her the only stakes winner in the first four generations of this female family, until Henderson Bay came along.

Misty Lore returned to Australia in January 1997 but, although she is listed in the on-line Australian Stud Book, there is no record of her subsequent fate.

The Chairman's Handicap was Henderson Bay's first win since July last year when he successively won the Ipswich Cup G3 and Caloundra City Cup LR in Queensland. He'd previously won twice at Rosehill Gardens, once (over 2400m) at Randwick and once at Newcastle, but until Saturday, his best performance this season had been a sixth placing in the STC Hill S. G2 in September.

Henderson Bay heads now to the $A800,000 Sydney Cup 3200m G1 on 13 April where he's been weighted at 50.5 kg.


- Susan Archer & Caley Wilson