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Valachi Downs add international flavour to Karaka

Jonathan Scully (left) with Kevin Hickman - Trish Dunell
Jonathan Scully (left) with Kevin Hickman

Trish Dunell

Kevin Hickman’s international search for quality bloodstock will add considerable interest to the upcoming New Zealand Bloodstock National Yearling Sales, which starts on January 28. 

The owner of Valachi Downs, a boutique thoroughbred stud located near Matamata, has a broodmare band that features pedigrees from around the world. 

Hickman passionately sources mares in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. 

Each season the mares visit some of the best stallions New Zealand and Australia have to offer, striving to breed quality racehorses. 

Valachi Downs will have a unique offering among their 15-strong draft for the new look Karaka Book 1 Sale.

Lot 394 is a son of Kingman, Horse of the Year and champion colt in Europe in 2014.

A four-time Group One winning miler and the highest rated European trained racehorse of 2014 (Timeform 134), Kingman’s oldest progeny are Northern Hemisphere two-year-olds and the son of Invincible Spirit has made a huge sale ring impact in that part of the world.

“His yearlings are something you don’t see down here,” said Valachi Downs stud manager Jonathan Scully.

“He was the leading first crop sire in Europe and North America by yearling price average (over £244,000 for 37 sold) and they have sold up to 1.7 million guineas.”

The colt arrived in New Zealand in utero after his dam Miss Olive, a half-sister to the dam of dual Group One winner Humidor, was covered by Kingman at Juddmonte’s Banstead Manor in the United Kingdom.  

“He’s had very positive feedback from the parades we’ve held at home and he strikes me as a real running type,” Scully said.

“He will add plenty of interest to our sale where we will present, in my opinion, our best-ever draft of yearlings,” he said.

“We keep improving the quality of our broodmares and consequently, our yearling draft keeps getting better.

“Viewers at our on-farm parades seem to think we have a nice cross-section of horses and we will head to the sale confident of some good results.”

Unusually, Valachi Downs, where the policy is to keep fillies to race and breed colts to sell, will offer two well-bred fillies in this year’s draft.

“They belong to one of our clients, Vern Trillo, and he’s thinks he’s got enough members of the family so he’s decided to market his two beautifully-bred fillies,” Scully said.

One is a Tavistock half-sister to Group winners Shamrocker, Rock Diva and Bohemian Lily and the other is a close relative by Medaglio d’Oro.

Lot 394 - Kingman x Miss Olive colt with yearling manager Sam Kennerley - Michael Rist
Lot 394 - Kingman x Miss Olive colt with yearling manager Sam Kennerley

Michael Rist

Valachi Downs principal Kevin Hickman has long had a passion for racing. 

Upon retirement from the managing director's role at Ryman Healthcare in 2005 he launched Valachi Downs. 

From modest beginnings on 50 acres, the purpose-built horse breeding operation has expanded to about 750 acres and now includes a pre-training property where young horses are also given their early education.

The entire operation is a reflection on Hickman’s dedication to the industry.

“We’re still buying mares and stallion shares and investing in quality,” Scully said. “It’s onwards and upwards.

“We’re putting a lid on numbers in the broodmare band while we concentrate on quality.”

Valachi Downs also has a major investment in promising stallion Zacinto, who stands in the South Island at Inglewood Stud.

“Zacinto is doing the job and we have a couple of nice yearlings by him for the sales,” Scully said. “He’s got some top horses out there.”

An example is Gr.1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) winner Ugo Foscolo owned by Hickman in partnership and the winner of five races from seven starts, while the Matthew Ellerton and Simon Zahra-trained Odeon is Group One-placed and looks to have a lot of upside. 

Meanwhile, Hickman has a good chance of getting a major pre-sales boost, and a reward for his investment and commitment, when Savile Row chases Group One honours this weekend.

The Makfi entire is one of the leading chances in Saturday’s Gr.1 Harcourts Thorndon Mile (1600m) at Trentham and a win would go a long way to ensuring his future as a stallion and provide further proof of Hickman’s success as an owner and breeder. – NZ Racing Desk.


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