Levante may be a Group One placed Group Two winner but for her owners, winning a NZ Bloodstock Insurance Pearl Series Bonus was a big thrill.
The Proisir (AUS) mare won the Royal Descent Stakes at Ellerslie on Auckland Cup day, which also carried a $20,000 Pearl Series Bonus.
“It’s a big thrill and that extra $20,000 added to the stake makes a big difference, it’s just lovely to see her back in winning form,” said her part-owner Phillip Brown referring to her missing the start and flying home for third in the Gr.1 BCD Group Sprint at Te Rapa.
“To be fair this is the first Pearl Series race she has been in. We’ve always been a supporter of the series and nominated her as a yearling but didn’t think we would get to race in a Pearl Series race.”
The Pearl Series has three categories of bonuses, the first being worth $20,000 and is placed on a Saturday Fillies and Mares race, the second being a $10,000 bonus which is applied to a mid-week Fillies and Mares race, and the third for two-year-olds worth $7,000 and is on a race open to all sexes.
That explains why Brown would think that Levante, who has now won seven of her 10 starts in her characteristic last to first style, would not be eligible for a Pearl Series bonus. Her wins include the Gr.2 Westbury Classic, the Listed Haunui Farm Counties Bowl, and she was Group One placed in the Gr.1 Sistema Railway. With this win she has now proven herself over 1600m.
The big question now is where will she race next? She holds a nomination for the Gr.1 Coolmore Classic in Sydney, but with Covid-19 restrictions the way they are at the moment Brown says she is more likely to head to the Gr.1 New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders Stakes at Te Aroha in early April.
“It’s a Group One race right on our back door," he said, “She’s a young mare she’s only four and has had 10 starts but she has had two bouts of colic.
"We would rather see her hale and hearty and take on Melbourne in the spring.”
Although she races in the Ancroft Stud colours for her owners Phillip Brown his wife Catherine, good mates Mark Tapper, Tony Enting and his wife Mary, along with Sandringham Investments Limited, her only real association with the Brown’s Matamata-based farm is that she was born there.
She was bred by well-known Cambridge breeder Scott Williams, from Island Doy(GB) a winning Doyoun(IRE) mare he bought through a Westbury Stud dispersal sale, at that stage she had already left a stakes performer in Doyenne (by Kilimanjaro[GB])
Out of a Nureyev(GB) mare Nuravia(GB) she was a half-sister to the group three winning mare Cryptavia, their dam is a half-sister to the successful sire in War Hero(GB).
“I bred six foals out of her including Miss Isle (by Bachelor Duke[USA]) who was stakes placed,” Williams recalled.
“Her foals always sold well, around that $20K mark so she had been a reasonable investment. She had missed for a couple of years and was getting on at the time – she was 21 when she produced Levante – and I had a spare nomination to Proisir(AUS) so I thought I may as well try for one last foal.
“She foaled down at Ancroft Stud and was a big bold foal I believe, for an old mare she produced a good quality foal, but I had a bad year that year with a lot of fillies so I told Philip to make me an offer, and I accepted it. To be fair they did offer me a share back in the filly.
“Levante would have to rate as one of the better mares I have ever bred, and the way she finishes her races she’s definitely got film star value and has attracted a real following, hopefully she can become my eighth Group One winner.”
Williams, an accountant by trade, originally hailed from the Wairarapa and has been involved in breeding horses for around 50 years. The first horse he bred was Dandaleith (Palm Beach[FR]-Zalamera) who ran second in the Melbourne Cup. A few more stakes winners appeared along the way including Camarena (Danehill[USA]-Canny Lass[AUS]) who won the Queensland Derby and Queensland Guineas, and Dowry (Bahhare[USA] -Meant For Me) the winner of the South Australian Oaks.
But it was in the first decade of this century where he had the most success as a breeder, especially with two Defensive Play(USA) mares, Gin Player(ex Gin Rhythm) and Refused The Dance(ex Florida Jig) the latter being the dam of the VRC Derby and Melbourne Cup winner Efficient(Zabeel), whom he also had a small racing share in.
Gin Player left three stakes winners in a row, Run Like the Wind (by Pins[AUS]) who according to Williams should have been a Group One winner but broke his leg while preparing for the Railway after winning the Concorde when it was a Group Two race. Her next foal was Joy’N’Fun (Cullen[AUS]) who won a sprint race on International night in Dubai worth US$1 million and another $28 million Hong Kong, and Zarita (by Pentire [GB]) who won the South Australian Derby and SAJC Schweppes Oaks.
“When I bred Efficient and Zarita, I think I only had five broodmares,” he recalled, “so two Group One winners in one season from five mares wasn’t a bad achievement.”
It was an achievement that saw him awarded the Breeder of The Year in 2008, and a year later he bred another Group One winner in Ferlax (Pentire[GB]- Legs Akimbo[AUS]).
These days Williams still has a significant investment in stallions in New Zealand, and a few broodmares with what he describes as the best ones based in Australia, including You Can’t Say That(AUS). The Fusaichi Pegasus(USA) mare is the dam of the smart Group Three placed three-year-old filly Babylon Berlin(by All Too Hard[AUS]), that Williams is currently enjoying racing at the moment. She is a half-sister to the dual Group Three winner Darci Be Good(by Darci Brahma).
Footnote: Levante wasn’t the only Pearl Bonus winner last weekend, Ruby Royale (Per Incanto[USA]-Jawharaw[AUS]) won her second bonus at the Wyndham meeting in the South Island.
Early Bird entries for the 2021 NZ Bloodstock Insurance Pearl Bonus Series close on March 31. Call the NZTBA office 07-827 7727 for more details or enroll online at www.nzthoroughbred.co.nz -Michelle Saba, NZTBA