Outstanding Waikato Stud stallion Savabeel has asserted his dominance yet again in season 2020-21 with another clean sweep of New Zealand’s three major stallion awards.
For a seventh time in succession the son of Zabeel has won the Grosvenor Award, as Champion New Zealand-based sire by total progeny earnings within New Zealand.
It is the fifth time in the past six years that Savabeel rules supreme in the Dewar Award, for Champion New Zealand-based sire by total progeny earnings within New Zealand and Australia.
And in a true measure of the global reach of his progeny, it is the sixth time in succession Savabeel has won the Centaine Award, as Champion New Zealand-based sire by total progeny earnings worldwide.
The just-turned 20-year-old has sired 23 individual Group One winners throughout his stud career, with 115 stakes winners at an outstanding 11 percent stakes winners to runners.
And season 2020-21 was another exceptional 12 months, with Probabeel, Mo'unga, Amarelinha and Concert Hall all saluting at the elite level.
“He has got the Dewar Award back off his barn mate,” Waikato Stud’s Mark Chittick quipped, referring to Ocean Park who landed that prize last season.
“It is off the back of just an incredible year, with 19 stakes winners of 30 stakes races. He is the highest stakes-producing stallion in Australasia, which New Zealand has to be incredibly proud of.
“Being the smaller producers, horses like Savabeel keep us in the forefront of the Australian buyers’ mind.
“He has had four Group One winners for the year, and once again from a personal view we are extremely proud that three of those have come off the farm.”
When Savatoxl won the Gr.1 Goodwood (1200m) it provided a significant milestone for Savabeel with his first Group One winner as a broodmare sire, a capacity in which he is represented by 13 stakes winners already.
“As he ages, we are now starting to see him climb up as a broodmare sire as he is represented by more broodmare daughters,” Chittick said.
“If they are going to be a good broodmare sire, they start doing it at around 20. That side of things really should be a no-brainer being by Zabeel out of a Success Express mare. They were both fantastic broodmare sires.
“That really does make him the complete package and I think off the back of the three stallion premierships again, seeing him climb the broodmare sire ranks, he ticks every box.”
While he was the leading sire in New Zealand, Savabeel finished 15th on the Australian General Sires’ table, seventh in Hong Kong and currently leads the Singapore sires’ premiership, which runs to the calendar year.
“With a lot of stallions, there is a little quirk somewhere, where they don’t perform in various jurisdictions,” Chittick said.
“But with him, they have got the temperament, they have got the durability, athleticism, soundness and he features all across the world. They win wherever they end up. Colts and fillies, two-year-olds through to stayers, he does it all.”
Chittick recalls viewing Savabeel in 2005, along with his father Garry, at trainer Graeme Rogerson’s stable, but could never have imagined the Matamata nursery would ultimately stand the Cox Plate winning son of Zabeel and New Zealand Filly of the Year Savanah Success.
“Garry and I had been at Randwick one morning and we ran into Rogey and he dragged us into the stable and said come and see my good horse,” Chittick said.
“It was just out of interest and he still had his racing career in front of him. It was a surprise when the phone went a few months later after he had a reaction to the vaccination to go and campaign in Hong Kong.
“Bruce Perry rang me at five or six o’clock one evening to say there was a bit of movement going on on Savabeel.
“I said crikey, I’d love him but he’d be out of our league.
“Bruce said if you could get him for around $10 million, and you guys took half, I’ve got a few guys that would certainly come in and help out.
“That gave me the confidence to give it a go. I rang Garry and he happened to be sitting at the dinner table at his house with Nelson and Meagan Schick (of Windsor Park Stud).
“I said to Garry you had better step outside and told him they were doing a deal on Savabeel for $10 million.
“I relayed Bruce’s words to him and he said ‘alright, fair enough, if you think you can get it done, give Rogey a ring’.
“To be fair, I said ‘you ring Rogey because he is more your era’. Half an hour later Garry rang back to say he’d better get back to dinner but you’ve got a horse and you better get off your arse and get your support around.
“I was cold calling people the next day trying to sell a $200,000 share. I was blown away with the incredible support and I had him syndicated within 24 hours.
“What made the job a little easier from the word go, was some of the guys who were involved in racing him stayed in him for breeding. There is only one of those guys left now in Max Whitby, who has been our Australian representative in Savabeel and he had all sorts of fun racing him and is so proud of him.”
While standing a horse of Savabeel’s calibre might have looked plain sailing, there were nervous times when as few as 85 mares visited the multiple Group One winner in the awkward seasons before his eldest progeny had shown their best.
“There were a couple of years there that weren’t that easy,” Chittick said.
“When they were two, turning three we didn’t get a lot of support from the sales company in the main sale. They were in the second book and from when they did their sales selection to when the sales came around, things had really taken off.
“That became a hard year. We dropped his fee to $20,000 and outsiders were seeing that they weren’t making the top sale and didn’t have a lot of confidence to pay a service fee, which was fair enough. It also coincided with the Global Financial Crisis.
“We were hearing the feedback of people saying he’s not doing enough. They were two.
“I am really proud of the horse that he went through those difficult times between the lack of numbers and lack of support and it was a time when the whole world was battling, to climb his way through.
“He made his name the hard way, but he has certainly made his name.”
The family-owned thoroughbred nursery continues to go from strength to strength, with a constant flow of stakes winners emanating from Waikato Stud and a willingness to back their judgement when it comes to investing in stallions.
With the breeding season looming, Savabeel will stand alongside proven barn mate Ocean Park, in addition to Super Seth, Tivaci and Ardrossan.
“They (stallions) don’t come easy. They are massive investments, but they are our business and what we believe in,” Chittick said.
“We breed a good number of mares ourselves so we certainly want what we believe is the right stallion for ourselves, and luckily enough they have turned out the right stallion for both ourselves and our industry in New Zealand.
“This has been a year that we are incredibly proud of. You start with the stallions but there is a whole mix of factors from then until going through to a horse winning a Group One.
“There are five Group One winners that have come off the farm this year, including four that we bred ourselves and our vet Chris Philips bred the Queensland Derby winner. Somewhere along the line, the mix is hitting the mark.
“We are going into a period with a fair bit of pressure and not much sleep, but it makes it all worthwhile when you are getting results like we have in the last season.” – NZ Racing Desk