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Hall of Fame's win for Canadian based Michael O'Keefe

Hall of Fame wins the Group One Levin Classic

Hall of Fame wins the Group One Levin Classic
Currently it's around minus 20 degrees in the city of Montreal in Canada, so receiving the news that you had just bred a Group One winner was like a burst of warm sunshine for Michael O'Keeffe the breeder of Hall Of Fame (Savabeel[AUS]-Around The World[AUS]).

"It was fantastic news, he's a little champion and I couldn't be more pleased, it certainly brightened up the day, the winters here in Quebec are fierce," said O'Keeffe still an Australian at heart, when talking about the Group One Levin Classic winner.

"We have been up here two years now and I don't know if I will ever get used to it, I certainly won't complain about New Zealand winters ever again, they are nothing compared to this and I thought they were pretty bad."

Over the past 20 years or so O'Keeffe has been a regular visitor to New Zealand, coming here first with legendary trainer Bart Cummings to look at yearlings.

"I went to New Zealand a lot with Bart when I had horses with him, he seduced me into the quality of horses bred in New Zealand and I haven't looked back".

"Because of my association with Bart I have always been keen on stayers and in order to have a good stayer we always had a New Zealand bred, or a horse with a New Zealand bred influence, like Moatize(AUS) who ran sixth in a Melbourne Cup."

For the record Moatize was by Danehill Dancer (AUS) out of the Zabeel mare Shezabeel and was raced by O'Keeffe with another fan of New Zealand as a production base Nevan Botica of Dalghar(FRE) fame.

In later years O'Keeffe teamed up with Sydney trainer John O'Shea when he started taking tours to Waikato Stud.

"I started joining John and got to know the guys there, I really enjoyed going over and talking to them, and developed a relationship with them through John".

"It was John who helped me get the nomination to the Savabeel, so I sent the mare over and the result is Hall of Fame, who is my first Group One winner and the twelfth for his stallion."

The mare was Around The Clock by Galileo(IRE), whom O'Keeffe had purchased due to his love of stayers and raced successfully out of the Bart Cummings stable. A gutsy mare she won two races and was only out of the money twice in 11 starts.

Around The Clock is out of the Catbird(AUS) mare Night And Day, a winner of two races and a three-quarter-sister to the VRC Derby and multiple Group One winner and sire Nothin'Leica Dane and the Stakes placed She's A Pretender. She is also a half-sister to the New Zealand based sired Duelled who ran second in the VRC Derby and won the Group Two MVRC AAMI Vase, and to Thrilling Day who won the Listed Guineas Trial at Ellerslie.

Night And Day is out of the unraced Sir Tristram(IRE) mare Leica Pretender, and therefore Hall Of Fame carries two strains of Sir Tristram blood, the other being through Savabeel's sire Zabeel.

"When I get a good filly I like to keep her and breed a few foals from her, I usually have shares in around 10 horses at any one time, but most of the mares I have 100% of. I have since sold Around The Clock but I have kept her Reliable Man(GB) filly to race."

After Hall Of Fame, Around The Clock lost an Ocean Park foal before visiting Reliable Man. She has since been on sold fetching $75,000 at the Gold Coast Magic Millions broodmare sale last June.

Following his win in the Group One Levin Classic Hall Of Fame has now won five races from nine starts for the Te Akau 24/7 Syndicate. At his first start last April he was collared on the line and beaten a short neck in a maiden two-year-old at Hastings, and followed that up with a decisive four and a half length win at Counties three weeks later.

He was put aside for the winter and returned to Hastings in the Spring where he ran second to Ugo Foscolo who went on to win the Group One Two Thousand Guineas. Another couple of placings ensued before he headed to the South Island and won the Inglewood Stud Guineas Trial and the Listed Zacinto Stakes

Hall Of Fame ran a shocker in the Two Thousand Guineas in November but bounced back on Boxing Day to win a three-year-old event at Ellerslie over 1400 metres, before heading to Trentham and winning a tough race against a field of quality three-year-olds all vying for positions in the Derby field.

Despite being a true blue Australian, O'Keeffe describes himself as a sucker for punishment when it comes to kiwi horses and trainers.

"I have horses with B J (Brian) Smith in Brisbane, where I have had quite a bit of success, and now with Bryce Heys in Sydney, including the New Zealand bred Group One placed Spieth(ex Stella Livia[GB]). I loved the Thorn Park's and was keen for Bryce to get one when he started training".

"He is going to have to harden up though, I can't believe that he cried when he missed out on that Group One," he teased, "I am going to nominate him for the top 10 crying athletes' award, but then Bob Hawke always cried and he was a success so maybe that augurs well for Bryce."

A product of Trelawney Stud, Spieth has now won five races, and prior to his narrow defeat in the Group One Darley Classic at Flemington was a winner in the Listed Tattersall's Lightning Handicap at Randwick. At only four years old he still has big future ahead as a sprinter.

"I also have a lovely O'Reilly filly O'Reilly's Angel (ex Zamfir) who has won a couple of races and she will be destined for the broodmare paddock as well."

Like many of his fellow Australians O'Keeffe was always fond of horses and grew up going to pony club. As a young man he lived in the outback near Mount Isa and would often go on mustering camps. From there his interest drifted into race horses and after some success in business he started to race a few.

O'Keeffe ran Glencore Australia, building it into one of the biggest commodity traders in the world, before leaving to set up his own coal group in South Africa and Mozambique, Riversdale Mining, which he sold at the top of the market in 2011.

Mining took a hit soon after and he kept his head down for a while, before moving his family to Canada a couple of years ago and taking advantage of the down turn in metal prices to acquire a number of iron ore reserves in anticipation of another boom. Now he is all set to go again in Quebec with a company called Champion Iron which has over five billion tonnes of iron ore in the ground, giving him a champion in each hemisphere, Iron in the north and Hall Of Fame here down south. - Michelle Saba


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