Every breeder knows the disappointment of passing a filly in at the sale, so it’s very satisfying when three years later that filly becomes a dual group two winner.
This is what happened to the Cambridge based Hawkins Family of Wentwood Grange, with their bonny mare Our Abbadean (Looking At Lucky[USA]- Highland Lights[AUS]).
At the 2014 National Yearling Sales, she failed to reach her $75,000 reserve, the decision was made to race her, and she was placed in the Te Akau Stable of Stephen Autridge and Jamie Richards.
She had one start at two, before being spelled, and as an autumn three-year-old won a maiden over 1200 metres. She backed that win up with another at her next start over 1400 metres, before another spell.
As a four-year-old she won over 1400 metres in early summer, and had her first attempt at black type running in the 1600 metre WRC Wentwood Grange sponsored Cuddle Stakes in March, where she finished fourth behind subsequent group one winner Miss Wilson. She backed that up with a win over 2200 metres at Te Rapa.
Coming back as a five-year-old, it is obvious that she is definitely an autumn mare, who loves to race over ground.
Running over 2100 metres at Trentham she won an open handicap with ease, before taking on a quality field in the Gr.2 Awapuni Gold Cup where she made a late dash to get up and win by a nose. At her next start she ran second in the listed Hawkes Bay Cup, and a week later she took on a strong field of top mares in the 2000metre Gr.2 Travis Stakes, where she scored by half a length.
“It is very satisfying to see her win two group wins this season,” said Wentwood Grange’s Marketing Manager Sean Hawkins, a committee member of the Waikato Branch of the NZTBA.
“It’s good for the farm and our team here they do a magnificent job.”
“We bought Highland Lights out of the Gold Coast sale in foal to Stratum(AUS) in 2009. She wasn’t a typical Fantastic Light(USA) to look out, she is a lovely athletic mare.”
The resulting Stratum(AUS) foal was placed, and was followed by a Thorn Park(AUS) colt Piasau Garden who was a winner in Singapore. After missing to Darci Brahma she was sent to Australia to visit the Smart Strike(USA) stallion Looking At Lucky(USA).
“She was empty in 2011 so we sent her back to Australia to Lookin At Lucky(USA),” Hawkins said, “we thought that would be a nice mating both genetically and physically.
“We only ever send empty mares to Australia as we like to foal down all our mares here and work with the foals from a very young age.
“We took the resulting filly to the sales but she didn’t sell, and we decided to race her and that’s Our Abbadean.
“Since then she has been to Bullbars(AUS) and David Ellis bought that filly in 2017 on that back of the ability shown by Our Abbadean , and this year we sold a Super Easy colt to Stephen Gray from Singapore, which is where Piasau Garden has won. That is where the Thorn Park(AUS) we bred has won a couple.
“She has a lovely Charm Spirit(IRE) weanling at foot, and fortunately she isn’t in foal, as she has been very ill and it was touch and go there for a while, but thanks to the care and attention at Cambridge Equine Hospital she is well on the mend. She had an infection in a joint in her foreleg, but she’s a tough old girl so hopefully she will bounce back.”
Highland Lights was unraced, and descends from a family chock full of black type in the United States. She is the fifth foal from the Nasty and Bold(USA) mare Miss Josh who won 14 races in the United States including the Gr.1 Gamely Handicap at Hollywood Park, before being imported to Australia. She is a half-sister to the stakes winners Rocky Mountain Inn, Highland Springs and Highland Crystal, and also Nicole’s Niner the dam of the 2005 Singapore Horse of the Year Currency.
Our Abbadean is now home in the spelling paddock in the Redoubt Farm property of Wentwood Grange, where she will have about a month off before getting ready for a spring preparation. Just to top the weekend off, Right Call (Darci Brahma-Sweet Caroline) another Wentwood Grange graduate was a winner at the group one meeting in Hong Kong.
“He has been a great representative for us up there, and he has won six now,” Hawkins said.
“John Foote purchased him and this year at the sales he came back and bought his three-quarter brother for $220,000 for the same interests. We have had two group two graduates from the farm this season, as the Gr.2 ATC Chairman’s Handicap winner Charles Road went through out 2015 yearling draft, as well.”
Wentwood Grange was established by Sean’s father Des in 2000 when he moved the family over from Wales. He had a dream to build a better life and family business for his three young sons, Sean and his brothers Dean and Leigh.
In that time the farm has produced numerous stakes winners including the Royal Ascot group one winner Little Bridge, Kermadec, Miss Raggedy Ann, Valley Girl, Gust of Wind, Sacred Elixir and I Am A Star. It has developed and expanded to three properties each with their own operations, mares and foals, yearling preparation and spelling and agistment.
Now in his seventies Des has progressively over the last couple of years reduced his workload and involvement on the farm and left it in the capable hands of his sons, and according to Hawkins things remain the same.
“Not a lot has changed since we took over, we have always been a family operation except now Dad does a lot less and we do a lot more. We all just love working in the industry and enjoy being in the business.” - Michelle Saba