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Lou and Val's breeding venture

Passionate breeders Lou and Val Te Keeti who will sell their first crop of yearlings in 2020
Passionate breeders Lou and Val Te Keeti who will sell their first crop of yearlings in 2020

A life-changing moment in 2017 has enabled Lou Te Keeti and his wife Val to pursue their shared love of thoroughbreds to the maximum and Group 1 success at Awapuni will realise a dream.

The Tauranga couple have always had a small scale interest in racing, but two and a-half years ago a NZ$10.3 million lottery strike allowed them to significantly expand their operation and on Saturday another jackpot beckons.

They race the talented filly Aalaalune (NZ) (Reliable Man {GB}), narrowly beaten in the G1 Sistema S. last time out, who will take aim at the G1 Courtesy Ford Manawatu Sires’ Produce S.

“My wife and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary last Easter and throughout that time the two things we have agreed on are our children and horses,” said Lou Te Keeti, who has also given generously to charity.

“We’ve always had a mare around, but couldn’t afford any decent blood and we pottered around without any luck.

“We had that good fortune in 2017 and provided for our children and grandchildren. We’re both in our 70s so we decided to follow our love and passion for the horses and went to Karaka.”

“We’re both in our 70s so we decided to follow our love and passion for the horses and went to Karaka.” – Lou Te Keeti.

Among their purchases was Aalaalune, secured for NZ$230,000 out of Westbury Stud’s draft and she has made a highly encouraging start to her career under the guidance of Matamata trainer Jacob McKay.

“He made himself known to me at Karaka in 2018 and I liked his approach,” Te Keeti said.

“He gave me his business card and as it transpired I needed four to be broken in so I gave him a ring. They were broken in, and that was all it was going to be, but I liked his work ethic so I gave them to him.

“He was energetic, so enthusiastic and infectious and I wanted to give a young fellow a hand starting off. We all know how hard it can be.

“I would like to look back in time and say I had a hand in shaping his career. He’s only 26 so it’s all in front of him.

“I’ve also got a horse with Graham Richardson and the local farrier Peter Huxtable. I like giving a grinder an opportunity and Peter trains very well. He’s got a good eye for a horse and it’s a 2-year-old by Burgundy that’s likely to have its first run soon.”

The lottery windfall has also allowed Te Keeti to expand into Australia and to take their breeding interests to another level.

“We’ve also got six with Chris Waller, all 2-year-olds,” he said.

With 40 hectares, the couple has eight broodmares and will be selling for the first time under their Te Keeti Bloodstock banner at Karaka.

“We’re going to do them ourselves. In the past we have had others do it, but we’ve got more time now,” he said.

“We’ve got them by Tavistock, Iffraaj, two by Telperion, Burgundy, Wrote and Tarzino. It’s quite a range and exciting times.

“We’ve got the time to plan the matings and finding suitors for the mares is something my wife and I enjoy.”

They are also thoroughly enjoying the emergence of Aalaalune, whose stablemates and Te Keeti-owned runners Vittachi (NZ) (Tavistock {NZ}) and Mr Universe (NZ) (Smart Missile) also run at Awapuni.

“They’re all starting to fire and I’d like to think we’ve got three live chances,” Te Keeti said.

“Vittachi is a 5-year-old and he’s going well and Mr Universe cost a bit and he’s starting to come right.”

A winner and a last-start placegetter, Mr Universe was a NZ$350,000 Ready to Run Sale purchase and is a son of Queen Of Troy (Ire) (Storm Cat {USA}), who is a half-sister to the two-time North American Group 2 winner A.P. Warrior (USA) (A.P. Indy {USA}).

Aalaalune’s trainer will be chasing his first Group 1 victory in his own right, having previously won the G1 New Zealand Derby with Puccini (NZ) (Encosta de Lago) when in partnership with his father Peter.

“She does look ideally placed over the 1400 metres and she did everything last time except win,” McKay said.

“She tried her heart out and she was beaten by a handy horse (Yourdeel), so hopefully she can turn the tables.

“I gave her a few days in the paddock after Ellerslie, but she didn’t really need it. She licked her bowl clear after the race and it was a hard run on a heavy track – I couldn’t believe it.

“Earlier in the season I really rated her and each time she steps out, whether it be a gallop, a trial or a race, she has improved.

“I’d love to win the Group 1 and it’s just exciting to have a horse even going for it.”

Aalaalune is out of the unraced Fastnet Rock mare Veva Girl and the family of the G3 Blue Diamond Prelude winner and G1 Blue Diamond S. runner-up Brief Embrace (Irgun {USA}) and the Group 2 winners and G1 placegetters Osborne Bulls (Street Cry {Ire}) and Viridine (Poet’s Voice {GB}).

“We’ll see how she goes on Saturday and take it a step at a time, but we have got an idea about Brisbane,” McKay said.

“It’s her sixth start and I’ve been talking to Dad about it and his good 2-year-olds Alamosa and Antonio Lombardo, who had 11 or 12 starts.

“We could give her three weeks off and look at the TJ Smith S., but she would probably have to win on Saturday and get through it 100 per cent to even be thinking of it.” -  compliments of TDN Paul Vettise


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