2020 is already a year to remember for Chris Stewart and Robyn Milliken.
The Karaka-based couple bred Platinum Invador (Redwood x Atomic Dancer), winner of the Gr.3 City of Auckland Cup (2400m) at Ellerslie on New Year’s Day.
“He is the first stakes winner we have bred,” Stewart, who has been Stallion Manager at Haunui Farm since 2017, said. “It is pretty exciting to breed a winner, let alone a stakes winner.
“Having worked in racing stables I know what it takes to actually get a horse to the races let alone win so it is pretty exciting to be a part of it.”
Trainer Lisa Latta had been confident leading into the race that Platinum Invador would deliver a strong performance. The four-year-old gelding had placed at his previous two starts, both at stakes level, including a runner-up finish in the Gr.3 Manawatu Cup (2300m).
The City of Auckland Cup was marred with an incident at the start where the gates were opened before Pinmedown (Pins x Alleyway) had been loaded. Luckily jockey Leith Innes was able to pull up Platinum Invador fairly quickly once the false start was declared.
In the end Platinum Invador recorded a comfortable victory running away to a 2-3/4 length victory over Savy Yong Blonk (Savabeel x Ampin).
Platinum Invador is the first stakes winner for Danehill Dancer mare Atomic Dancer (x Bomba Atomica) who Stewart purchased from an Australian online auction and brought to New Zealand.
“She had a Globetrotter colt at foot and was in foal to O’Lonhro,” Stewart said. “I sold the Globetrotter at the Karaka weanling sales and he went on to run in Hong Kong as Energetic Dancer and won a few races up there.”
At the time Stewart was working at Westbury Stud and Platinum Invador is a result of Atomic Dancer’s mating with the Karaka farm’s resident sire Redwood.
“When I first saw Redwood I thought I wouldn’t be able to go to him with Atomic Dancer because she is a bit light boned,” Stewart said. “It wasn’t until I saw the stock by him that I thought you could go to him with anything.”
Stewart was pleased with the result and recalls Platinum Invador as leaving a positive impression as a youngster.
“I always had a lot of time for him as a young horse,” he said. “He was quite a precocious foal. Right from the word go you could do a lot of things with him you probably couldn’t do with other foals.”
Platinum Invador was purchased by Latta out of Westbury Stud’s 2017 New Zealand Bloodstock Yearling Draft for $25,000. He has since won over $267,000 in stakes across 17 starts.
Stewart and Milliken bred five foals from Atomic Dancer including promising three-year-old filly Qiji Dancer (Swiss Ace) who won at Pukekohe in November.
Stewart and Milliken’s final mating with the mare was to Makfi, the resulting filly foal was purchased by astute bloodstock agent Bruce Perry as a weanling for $11,000 at the New Zealand Bloodstock May Sale in 2018.
By then Stewart had joined Milliken at Haunui Farm and they had planned to send Atomic Dancer to Showcasing but circumstances dictated otherwise.
“She was getting later and later in service date so I was going to give her the year off and then start early again the next year,” Stewart said. “I was originally going to go to Showcasing with her but he never came back.
“It left me a bit high and dry about what to do with her.
“I couldn’t go to Iffraaj because I couldn’t afford him and couldn’t go to Belardo because she is too close to him.
“She was a dry mare and I was in a sticky situation with dollars and cents and she was at the bottom end of the scale so I gave her away.”
The fortunate recipient of that decision was Nigel Auret and Atomic Dancer now has a colt at foot by Unusual Suspect who stands at the Auret family’s Letham Stud.
“Nigel rung me the other day and I said I wanted her back,” Steward quipped.
Stewart breeds with the intention to sell and currently has three mares in his broodmare band including young Uncle Mo mare Just A Mo (x Stravinsky’s Image) who is in foal to Darley stallion Frosted.
“I generally only breed two a year,” Stewart said. “I try to by something under the odds that people haven’t noticed and will hopefully go on to do something.”
Though they no longer have Atomic Dancer, Stewart and Milliken are enjoying Platinum Invador’s success and will keep a keen eye on him as he prepares to return to Ellerslie to tackle some northern spoils in the coming months.
With the exciting stayer being aimed at the Gr.1 Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup (3200m) in early March, the new decade could deliver a big result for the small-time breeders. -Amie Best, NZTBA