By Dennis Ryan, Raceform
Waikato Stud principal Mark Chittick has been drawn back to his formative years in the bloodstock industry as he reflects on yet another raft of breeders’ awards.
In recognition of an outstanding 2020-21 season, last week the New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association announced that the Matamata nursery, in conjunction with Garry and Mary Chittick and Chittick Investments were the recipient of the Sir Patrick and Justine Lady Hogan Breeder of the Year trophy. It is the eighth time the Chittick family has received this accolade.
Four Group One winners amongst a total of 15 individual stakes winners and yet another clean sweep of New Zealand-based stallion premierships by resident champion Savabeel were central to Waikato’s latest award.
Newly crowned Horse of the Year Probabeel headed the charge with her wins in the Gr. 1 ATC Epsom Handicap and Gr. 1 MRC Futurity Stakes. She was joined on the roll of honour by fellow Savabeel progeny Amarelinha (Gr. 1 New Zealand Oaks) and Mo’unga (Gr. 1 Rosehill Guineas).
The WS-bred elite quartet was completed by Aegon, a son of Waikato Stud homebred Sacred Falls whose wins in the Gr. 1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas, Karaka Million 3YO Classic and Gr. 2 Hobartville Stakes and Hawke’s Bay Guineas earned the Champion Three-Year-Old title.
Savabeel’s 2020-21 progeny record also underpinned his seventh consecutive Grosvenor (domestic) Award, a sixth consecutive Centaine (global) Award and a fifth Dewar (transtasman) Award. The Centaine Award recognises the Australian-bred stallion that thrust the Chittick family to the breeding industry forefront when he took up duties at Thornton Park Stud in the Manawatu in 1985.
The former Santa Rosa Stud property at Longburn was under the Mitchell family’s ownership when it became home to Sobig, the Derby-winning son of Summertime recognised as the stallion who in the 1970s broke the glass ceiling for what were referred to as “colonial” sires.
That somewhat patronising term loosely applied to any stallion that was not bred north of the equator, as in Europe, the British/Irish Isles or North America. Centaine therefore qualified and he took no time to make his own contribution to the Down Under brigade’s record.
His first crop numbered just 42, but was to produce no less than nine stakes winners headed in that 1988-89 debut season by Cordero, champion two-year-old with his win over fellow Centaine youngster Centime in the Gr. 1 Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes at Awapuni, just down the road from Thornton Park.
Major change was soon afoot, however, with the Chitticks’ decision in 1993 to move north to Waikato Stud, established in the mid-1960s by Texan Nelson Bunker Hunt but 25 years later consumed by corporate excesses that were to lead to its near demise. Sensing what was to be the opportunity of a lifetime, Garry Chittick brokered a deal with the receivers comprising the land, buildings and what bloodstock remained on the Tower Road property.
Thus at a fee of $22,000, Centaine’s name was added to a roster that already included US-breds Pompeii Court, Defensive Play and Masterclass. They were rapidly usurped by the newcomer, whose reign continued for another decade.
Centaine served his largest book of 115 mares in 2000 and sired 11 Group winners amongst a black-type total of 61. He also became a champion broodmare sire and his name can be found in the bloodlines of many present-day headliners, including in the third generation of Probabeel and Mo’unga.
When Centaine died in 2003 at age 23, Mark Chittick paid tribute to him as the stallion that inspired his pathway to future studmaster. “We were both young and we learnt a lot off each other,” said Chittick. “He was a dude, a mate, such a neat horse to work with. Apart from the great stallion he was, I’ll always remember him for that.”
Nearly 20 years later, and notwithstanding the contribution of subsequent stars O’Reilly, Pins, Ocean Park and Sacred Falls – each of them also a “colonial” – Chittick has drawn comparisons between the stallion that put Waikato Stud on the map and the one that has maintained the tradition to this day.
“We were so proud of Centaine and what he achieved. But this guy, you could double that, and no disrespect to Centaine, Savabeel is definitely a grade above that. They’re probably a little the same in their prowess and mannerisms; everyone knows Savabeel is a real character and great to handle.”
As with life, generational change is ongoing at New Zealand’s leading thoroughbred nursery. A newcomer to the Waikato Stud complement is Mark Chittick’s son George, who became a full-time staff member at the start of the breeding season and was recently announced as the recipient of the NZTBA-administered Keith and Faith Taylor Equine Scholarship.
In January the 19-year-old will follow in the footsteps of his father and countless other members of the global industry when he travels to Ireland for the Irish National Stud Diploma course at Tully, County Kildare.
“The Irish National Stud course was a massive learning curve for me, meeting like-minded people and seeing the outside world,” says Mark Chittick. “It’s also a fantastic opportunity for George and I’m sure it will be just as valuable for him in helping to set his goals.”