Luigi Muollo wasn’t able to be trackside at Awapuni to celebrate the victory of Pignan, instead keeping a close watch on his sire Staphanos’ poster girl from afar.
The Novara Park principal is in the United States with family and tuned in to view the major first crop success for the stallion when the filly bagged top honours in the Gr.1 Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m).
“I’ve got four sons and my eldest one Antonio, who’s 16, is at a high level at soccer and been scouted to come over here to play in the Dallas Cup with teams from all around the world,” Muollo said.
“We took the opportunity to come and support and encourage him.”
Pignan is trained by Lisa Latta and the youngster also provided Irish jockey Joe Doyle with his first elite level success when they accounted for Aprilia and To Catch A Thief in Saturday’s two-year-old feature.
Pignan is one of just eight race day representatives to date for Deep Impact’s well-credentialled son and had previously broken her maiden at Trentham before Christmas.
She has yet to finish out of the top three in six appearances, including third placings in the Gr.2 Matamata Breeders’ Stakes (1200m) and the Listed Wellesley Stakes (1100m).
“It’s a great result for us and Staphanos to have a Group One winner from his first crop,” Muollo said.
“We were pretty confident and knew the extra distance was going to make a huge difference and I just thought about what Lisa Latta and Joe Doyle had said, that she was the toughest filly there.
“That’s what Deep Impact puts into his horses and I’m looking forward to that filly next season once she gets to a mile and beyond.
“I’ve got to say I am super excited about a whole bunch of other ones that I’ve got coming through and I’ve been patient.
“Whatever we’ve got so far is a bonus because it will be huge when they get out to 1600m, 2000m and 2400m.”
Staphanos won four races up to Group Three level and was a multiple Group One placegetter during his decorated career before retiring to Muollo’s Cambridge farm.
“He was at his best at 2000m and we got a very good reminder about how good Staphanos was in the Dubai Sheema Classic (Gr.1, 2400m),” he said.
“It was won by Equinox hands down and he’s by Kitasan Black and the only reason Staphanos wasn’t a Group One winner is because he came up against Kitasan Black, who was Japan’s Horse of the Year two times in a row.
“He pushed him to three-quarters of a-length in their biggest 2000m race (Gr.1 Osaka Hai) so we knew Staphanos was world class.”
Staphanos has been well-received by breeders and Pignan’s performance is sure to increase interest.
“The first year he had a very good-sized book with plenty of quality, the second year we went from 109 to 79 and then in his third year he dropped off a bit because we had King Of Comedy come in,” Muollo said.
“We didn’t syndicate Staphanos, my brother (Tony) and I own him outright, which has big upside now.
“Last year he picked up again when people saw his yearlings and went up to 75 and I’m pretty sure he will be fully booked this time.
“I’m not one who goes for big numbers and I think a nice number will be 130. I don’t believe in going above that, it puts the stallion under more pressure and when you come to your clients at sale time everyone is competing against each other so we want to look after him long term.”
Novara is also home to the proven Sweynesse and newcomer King Of Comedy and Muollo hasn’t completely shut the door on another addition.
“We’re in a very lucky position with Sweynesse being the leading New Zealand-based sire in Hong Kong so he’s in a good spot, so is Staphanos and King Of Comedy’s foals are outstanding,” Muollo said.
“I never say no and always look for a different bloodline to bring in that might cater for a different sector of the market.
“The New Zealand broodmare band is still shrinking and you have to be wary and I can’t really see too many new stallions coming in.”
Purchased by noted bloodstock agent Adrian Clark for $15,000 out of the Westend Partnership draft during the 2021 National Weanling Sale at Karaka, Pignan is raced by former All White Andy Rennie, All Black legend Christian Cullen and Cullen’s former manager David Monnery. – NZ Racing Desk.