COVID-19 lockdown makes for testing times at present, but the weekend news from Sydney for two Auckland near-neighbours has given them something to celebrate.
Octogenarians Don Goodwin and David Paykel live within walking distance of each other in the North Shore suburb of Takapuna.
In the past three years Goodwin has been having the time of his life as the breeder and co-owner of outstanding racemare Verry Elleegant, while over a much longer period Paykel has enjoyed numerous successes with horses carrying his canary and pink colours.
On Saturday Verry Elleegant was the headline act when various awards for the 2020-21 season were announced by the New South Wales Racehorse Owners’ Association in conjunction with Racing NSW and the Australian Turf Club.
On top of her New Zealand Bloodstock Champion Middle Distance and Gow-Gates Champion Stayer titles, the Zed six-year-old was crowned NSW Horse of the Year in recognition of the five Group One wins she collected last season.
Without wanting to sound blasé, Goodwin admits that the accolades generated by his wonderful mare in a career of 13 wins – nine of them at Group One – and stakes of more than $9 million, have become somewhat par de course.
It’s quite the opposite, however, for Paykel in the case of his current leading light So Wicked, a stablemate of Verry Elleegant in expat trainer Chris Waller’s star-studded line-up. With five wins in Sydney during 2020-21, the daughter of Street Cry and Group-winning Zabeel mare So Pristine took the award as the most prolific performer on Australian Turf Club tracks.
“I was absolutely gobsmacked to be told,” her owner-breeder admitted.
“I didn’t even know they had an award of that nature, but we’re thrilled that our mare has won it.”
So Wicked, whose granddam Pristine Kristine was sourced from the United States by Paykel’s bloodstock adviser Michael Otto, began her career with Cambridge trainer Stephen Marsh, for whom she won twice before being transferred early last year to Waller.
“The idea always was to send her across at some stage with more opportunities to pick up some black-type and get the pedigree boosted,” said Paykel, the son and nephew respectively of Fisher & Paykel whiteware manufacturing founders Maurice Paykel and Sir Woolf Fisher.
“She has yet to do that but she’s still done well. Chris plans to have her back in November for one more preparation before she goes to stud.”
The line founded in this part of the world by the Spinning World mare Pristine Kristine has had a significant boost with the recent Gr. 2 ATC Silver Shadow Stakes (1200m) win by Swift Witness.
Other contributors include 2017-18 New Zealand Bloodstock Filly of the Year Dijon Blue and her half-sister Passione, who finished third in the Gr. 3 Desert Gold Stakes (1600m) last season, while their four-win sibling Super Pursuit has feature racing on his new season agenda.
Meanwhile, as well as looking forward to another lucrative spring campaign for Verry Elleegant, Don Goodwin has received further welcome news with the birth overnight at Grangewilliam Stud of a brother to the mighty mare.
The leggy bay colt is the first live foal produced by the Danroad mare Opulence since the loss of her 2019 colt foal, which also meant she could not be served that year.
“I had been hoping for a filly to carry on the line with,” Goodwin said. “But after what happened last time I’m still happy to get a healthy colt.
“Mark (Corcoran, Grangewilliam Stud principal) tells me it was a straightforward foaling and mother and son are both well. From the photograph he sent me I can see he’s a good leggy foal, so all in all it’s a great result.”
Opulence will return to Zed, who Corcoran anticipates will cover a book of 70-80 mares this spring off the back of a season that besides Verry Elleegant also included Gr.3 Wellington Cup (3200m) and Listed NZ St Leger (2600m) winner Waisake, Listed Ballarat Cup (2000m) winner Irish Flame and Gr.2 Avondale Cup (2400m) winner Robusto.
After her first-up second to Mo’unga in last week’s Gr. 1 Winx Stakes (1400m) at Randwick, Verry Elleegant is scheduled to start next in the Gr. 1 George Main Stakes (1600m) at Randwick on September 18 ahead of Melbourne features.
Subsequent to Victorian jockey Mark Zahra being suspended for three months over his involvement in last week’s illegal Mornington gathering, Damian Lane has been engaged for a carnival campaign targeting the Gr.1 Cox Plate (2040m) and possibly the Gr.1 Melbourne Cup (3200m). – NZ Racing Desk