A stellar run of form by the progeny of former shuttle stallion Belardo has left Haunui Farm managing director Mark Chitty with a feeling that is all too familiar to studmasters.
Chitty decided against bringing Belardo back to the Karaka stud for the upcoming breeding season, having served a book of only 13 mares in 2022. That decision has been followed by the best patch of form in the Lope De Vega stallion’s southern hemisphere career.
Belardo has been represented by 30 winners among his New Zealand-conceived progeny since the beginning of April. Belardo Boy took top billing with his win in last Saturday’s Gr. 3 Winter Cup, while a week earlier Quirky Habits was runner-up in the Listed Ryder Stakes.
The lightly raced Lincoln Lady and Caitlyns Wish have both been three-time winners this winter, Golden Path has made an exciting start to his career in Melbourne with two wins and a second from his only three appearances, and Carbonados beat next-start stakes winner Chantilly Lace by four and three-quarter lengths in a sparkling debut win that prompted a quick sale across the Tasman.
“It’s always the way – you make the decision not to bring a stallion back, and then they start having winners all over the place,” Chitty told RaceForm.
“I probably made some mistakes early on and bred too many smaller mares to Belardo. Coming from the Shamardal line, he just wasn’t throwing horses with a lot of scope. The crops that are turning two and three now are shaping up to be his best – people had worked out the type of mares he works well with.
“Breeding is a funny old world. We didn’t bring him back this year because he just wasn’t supported at all last spring. That was the broodmare owners talking, and we just had to accept it. But he might be proving a few people wrong now.”
Belardo shuttled to Haunui between 2017 and 2022, and he was New Zealand’s leading first-season sire in 2020-21. Overall, Arion Pedigrees statistics credit him with 63 winners from 124 runners from his New Zealand crops.
Saturday was a red-letter day for the sire and for Haunui, with the farm’s graduates Belardo Boy and Verona combining for a major transtasman double.
Belardo Boy’s Winter Cup victory was the seventh win of a 28-start career for the chestnut gelding. A son of seven-race winner and Gr. 3 Desert Gold Stakes placegetter L’Amour, Belardo Boy was co-bred by Haunui and was offered by them at Karaka in 2020, where trainer Lisa Latta bought him for $28,000.
Meanwhile in Sydney, last year’s Gr. 3 Frank Packer Plate winner Verona roared back to form with a spectacular last-to-first romp in a 2400-metre Benchmark 78 handicap at Rosehill that was worth A$160,000.
Verona, a member of the same 2018 crop as Belardo Boy, was bred by Don and Dame Wendy Pye, and Haunui offered her in Book 3 of Karaka 2020, where Jenna Mahoney secured her for just $8,000. She had five starts for Mahoney, winning on debut and finishing fourth in the Gr. 2 Royal Stakes and the Karaka Million 3YO Classic, then was sold to Australian interests.
“A double like that on the first Saturday of August was a great way to get the new season underway,” Chitty said. “Lisa Latta always believed that Belardo Boy was a Group winner in the making, but he just had a tendency to do things wrong. He’s more mature now, more easily managed, and Lisa has done a great job with him. Her efforts were rewarded on Saturday.
“Belardo Boy wasn’t a big yearling but was a really good mover. That’s quite a contrast with Verona, who was a bigger, leggier yearling. She was very nice and correct.
“Jenna spotted an opportunity to buy her from Book 3 without having to spend a lot of money, and she deserves plenty of credit. She always had a good opinion of the horse, and she got her to win on debut and put in huge performances in the Karaka Million and Royal Stakes.
“Verona later went on to win the Frank Packer Plate on a very wet track in Sydney, and then her form trailed off for whatever reason. It was great to see her turn things around on Saturday.”
Chitty is delighted to be welcoming back shuttle stallion Ribchester for the 2023 stud season. The multiple Group One-winning miler is carrying on the legacy of his outstanding sire Iffraaj, who shuttled to Haunui for more than a decade and left an indelible mark.
After beginning his shuttle career with two seasons in Australia, Ribchester has had a new southern hemisphere home at Haunui since 2020. His oldest New Zealand-conceived progeny are two-year-olds this season.
“We’re very excited about Ribchester,” Chitty said. “We’ve had very good word from the breakers. Whether he’ll have any two-year-olds on the track before Christmas, time will tell. But we’ve sold some extremely nice colts and fillies, and this season’s crop of yearlings made a good impression when the New Zealand Bloodstock team came to do their inspections for Karaka 2024.
“He’s continuing to have strong results in the northern hemisphere, including Facteur Cheval, who was a close second in last week’s Sussex Stakes at Goodwood behind Paddington – probably the talk horse in Europe this year. Facteur Cheval is a very good horse in his own right, and hopefully he might snag that elusive first Group One win for Ribchester before the year is out.”