The 2021/22 racing season has started on a high for Wellfield Lodge Director Bill Gleeson who has two stakes winners to his credit just a month into the term.
Gleeson bred Wakari (Vespa x Denlee) who scored an upset victory earlier this month in the Listed Sir Colin Meads Trophy (1200m) and is the co-breeder of House of Cartier (Alamosa x Shez Sinsational) who was at her winning best last weekend in the Gr.3 Metric Mile (1600m) at Awapuni.
For good measure Colorado Star (Alamosa x Elegant Emerald), also bred by Gleeson, won on the undercard at the Manawatu track.
Gleeson said it was particularly satisfying to get the Group win with House of Cartier, who he bred with co-owner Peter Gillespie and Greg Tomlinson’s Nearco Stud, as she had proven herself at stakes level in Australia only to get disqualified after her win in the Listed Wagga Cup (2000m) due to a positive swab.
“What made this win so satisfying is that House of Cartier had performed in Australia at the highest level and had won a Listed race but due to a drug positive the race was taken off us,” Gleeson said.
“In essence it was bittersweet that we got a Group win with her to go with her multiple Group placings.
“To achieve that in Australia and get it taken off us was a big blow. It was a non-performance enhancing drug and it is still unresolved how it got in her system but the rules are the rules.
“To get a Group win with her with how she is bred and how she has performed was pretty exciting.”
By Wellfield’s resident sire Alamosa, House of Cartier is the second foal out of four-time Group One winner Shez Sinsational (Ekraar x Original Sin) who was purchased off the partnership that raced her as a breeding prospect.
“At the time she was in foal to Darci Brahma but part of the deal was that we didn’t own that foal,” Gleeson explained. “So the partnership that leased her got that foal. To make the deal happen we took her back to Wellfield, foaled her down and took them through to weaning. Then we bred her to Alamosa.”
Shez Sinsational is the dam of five foals and is due to foal down to Almanzor in the next few weeks. Gleeson has plenty to look forward to with the progeny of the champion stayer with a promising Savabeel three-year-old filly in Manifique nearing her raceday debut and a standout Almanzor yearling filly in the paddock.
“Manifique has had three trials, we have been pretty patient with her,” Gleeson said. “We actually put her through the sale ring and a client of ours wanted to buy into her. We retained some ownership in her with Peter Gillespie and Glen Cotterill.
“She has shown us a huge amount of ability, we had a lot of Australian interest in her after her trial win but we are keen to push on because we have a bit of an opinion of her. At this point she is due to kick off in the next two weeks.”
Shez Sinsational is also the dam of Sinarahma, winner of last year’s Listed Wairarapa Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (1600m).
Gleeson said House of Cartier had come through her Metric Mile win well and her connections are now eyeing a Group One target, though the broodmare paddock is beckoning.
“She has come through the run super,” he said. “We have it in the back of our mind to breed her this year and she has a tentative booking to Savabeel.
“At this stage she will have a trial and then go directly to the Livamol (Gr.1, 2040m, October 16).”
House of Cartier is trained out of the Peter Didham-run stable at Wellfield, with Gleeson explaining part of their new business model was to develop the racing arm of the Manawatu-based operation.
Didham currently has 30 horses in work with a track on farm for pre-training and the Awapuni course just a short truck trip away.
“Our business model has changed considerably,” Gleeson said. “We have got a lot more clients with ownership in the mares now and what we have done is pull back the breeding operation to be very boutique and are also supporting our racing operation.
“It’s a public training operation and we are developing the client base as it becomes more successful.
“At one point we had 80 or 85 mares but now we are at around 25. When we were trying to promote commercial stallions we had to have our broodmare band up to support the stallions but we have decided to pull back and be a bit more niche.
“We have sent roughly 19 mares to outside stallions and they are either half-sisters to Group winners, dams of Group winners or Group winners themselves.”
The stallion roster has also downsized with Gleeson throwing his support behind Vespa who returned to Wellfield after standing the 2020 season at Valachi Downs in Matamata.
“We stand Alamosa privately and we also stand a private stallion for a Japanese client who has his own mares.
“We are also supporting Vespa who we have a large ownership in. We have a number of Vespas in work and we quite like them.
“We find it very hard to get a stallion like Vespa going so he stood at Valachi last year to give him more opportunities up north.”
While the business model may have changed, the goal of breeding a successful racehorse hasn’t, and Gleeson has been fine tuning his mating plans to produce staying types that can compete with the best there is in Australasia.
“The first thing I like to do is mate the horses up physically,” he said. “I think that is really important.
“Over the last five years we have probably had a strong inclination around trying to breed stayers.
“We just feel if we are going to compete in Australia we have to breed that type of horse and do it ourselves. We have a number of clients with that viewpoint as well.”
Gleeson stands a good chance of adding to his season tally and will be represented on Saturday by Wakari who is the current favourite for Saturday’s Gr.2 Dundeel at Arrowfield Stud Hawke’s Bay Guineas (1400m) while House of Cartier looks on track to add further black-type to her burgeoning record before she takes on motherhood. - Amie Best, NZTBA