A year after celebrating her first Group One success as a thoroughbred breeder, Joan Egan is having a ball with her small but select racing string.
When Beauden won Sunday’s Woodville Cup, the Team Rogerson-trained gelding took his owner-breeders’ tally for the season to nine wins. A day earlier Concert Hall had completed a hat-trick by winning the Gr. 3 Cuddle Stakes at Trentham, going one better than Sandrine’s Ellerslie double in late February-early March.
Egan’s Group One winner was Sword Of Osman in the Sistema (Diamond) Stakes at last year’s Auckland Cup carnival. The only possible downside was that she had sold him as a yearling to Te Akau principal David Ellis, but she still took great delight from the Savabeel gelding’s big win.
“A Group One is what every breeder strives to achieve and that win will always be special to me,” Egan reflected. “But to see a horse that you’ve bred win in your own colours, that’s special too, and just lately I’ve been very lucky in that respect.
“It’s such a thrill to think that my horses have won seven races since February 6 – that’s an amazing run and I’m extremely grateful.
“I have to say though, that it’s not an overnight success, I’ve been slogging away for 22 years! I’m just so thankful that I’m getting my turn.”
The timeframe referred to by Egan dates back to the decision she and her husband Peter made to sell their 20-acre Clevedon property and re-establish themselves on 145 acres at Rotokauri, west of Hamilton.
Peter Egan had been involved in the meat industry from the time he worked as teenager in his family’s Gisborne butchery, and the move to the Waikato coincided with the expansion of Greenlea Premier Meats, an operation that has been a leader in meat processing and export.
Horses have long played a part in Joan Egan’s life, from competing in dressage in her younger years to branching into thoroughbred breeding and racing. Her first horse was Key Largo, a one-race winner in the early 1990s, and her first major success came with Belle Femme, who she bred and raced in partnership with her late great friend Marilyn Kent.
That mare, whose best win came in the Gr. 2 Rich Hill Mile, was a half-sister to Flying Babe, the top juvenile filly of 2000-01 who Egan and Kent sold as yearling. The pair were bred from a mare they bought in Australia, Cast Your Fate, by Bletchingly from a branch of the illustrious Belle family. Belle Femme is no longer breeding, but her four-year-old Bullbars son Beauden is representing her well as the winner now of five of his 16 starts.
Concert Hall, who stepped up from Rating 72 and Rating 82 wins at Tauranga and Matamata in February to notch her first black-type success in the Cuddle Stakes, is by Savabeel from the Carnegie mare Classic Legacy, who was bred by Egan from the Sound Reason mare Super Sound.
Concert Hall is the first named foal of her dam, who was raced on lease by Ian and Shelley Wright and won four races from 1600 to 3000 metres, the furthest of those over hurdles.
This is the doughty South Island line responsible for the likes of South Australian Oaks winner Lee’s Bid and her VRC Derby-winning son Arena, as well as the prolific winner Ultra Sound and her New Zealand Oaks and 1000 Guineas-winning daughter Tartan Tights.
“I wasn’t sure she would handle the ground on Saturday and Roger (James, co-trainer) did warn that this was just a stepping stone, but that solid blood kicked in,” Egan observed of the four-year-old’s dominant come-from-behind win.
Egan was an original shareholder in Savabeel, but having sold that share she has in more recent years paid upfront for the champion stallion’s services. As well as Sword Of Osman and Concert Hall, that investment has also been rewarded by the third member of Egan’s in-form trio, Sandrine.
A stablemate of Beauden at Rogerson Racing, Sandrine has made impressive progress lately to now be the winner of four races from 10 starts. And having beaten a talented field in the Royal Descent Stakes at Ellerslie earlier this month, the four-year-old is likely to take on the most exalted of filly and mare company in the Gr. 1 Fiber Fresh New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes.
If that plan comes to fruition at Te Aroha on April 7, Egan’s pair of Savabeel mares will go head-to-head, something their owner-breeder is trying to keep in perspective.
“All going well the Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes might happen for both of them,” she commented. “Roger doesn’t intend running Concert Hall again, and nor does Debbie (Rogerson) with Sandrine.
“I’m very happy about that – I’m a firm believer in going into these big races with fresh legs.”
Egan’s whole philosophy around breeding and racing is based on firm principles, and she openly admits that she’s not backward in coming forward when it comes to sharing her opinion with her trainers.
“Any trainer who I give a horse to knows that I am to be involved in all decisions, right down to the jockey,” she says. “I don’t mind hearing the bad news along with the good news – that’s all part of racing – but I do like to have my say.”
She considers herself fortunate not to be classified as a commercial breeder, which frees her up from the necessary decisions that go with that label. “My mares aren’t bred every year and by making the decision to sell only occasionally, I can pick and choose what stallions I send them to.
“I’m lucky that I’m not under any commercial pressure, which I’ve observed can take so many choices away.”
Egan enjoys the daily routine of tending to her broodmares on the Rotokauri farm – and is equally happy to leave foaling, weaning and rearing duties to Trelawney Stud.
“I’ve got two groups of mares here at the moment – four old mares including Belle Femme and Super Sound who are no longer breeding, and four young mares. Some of those were late foaling so I bred only one of them last spring, Sword Of Osman’s dam Bunyah who went back to Savabeel.
“And when I’m not busy there’s nothing I enjoy more than talking about my horses. I never tire of it – the difficult part is shutting me up!” - story compliments of The Informant Dennis Ryan