Despite getting drenched during an early morning yearling parade on Waitangi Day Monday, Phoenix Park principal Janine Dunlop is struggling to take the smile off her face as she prepares for the 2022 edition of the New Zealand Bloodstock National Yearling sale at Karaka next month.
Dunlop is one of the most recognisable faces at Karaka each year and having prepared and sold some of the leading individuals from the sale on numerous occasions, knows when she has a line-up that will attract interest from a wide cross-section of buyers.
Phoenix Park graduates in recent years include Group One winners Princess Jenni, The Chosen One and Montoya's Secret, in addition to rising star Mr Brightside, winner of six of his seven Australian starts and fourth in the Gr.1 Cantala Stakes (1600m), plus Hong Kong Group Two winner Reliable Team.
So, when Dunlop says her draft this year could be her best ever, especially with the fillies on offer, it pays to take notice.
Phoenix Park will offer 21 yearlings in the Book 1 sale at Karaka and a further five in Book 2, on behalf of a number of leading breeders in New Zealand, including Terry Archer, Beltana Stud, The Dennis Brothers, Carol Marshall and Luigi Muollo’s Novara Park, which has a quality half-sister to three-time Derby winner Explosive Jack by Novara Park’s exciting first-season sire Staphanos, a Group One performer by Deep Impact.
Dunlop has a particularly close connection to the first filly from her draft to step foot in the Karaka Sales ring, Lot 15 by Charm Spirit from The Pearler, sold on behalf of her breeder the Southland-based Dennis brothers.
“The thing that strikes me first and foremost about the yearlings we are offering this year is just how good the quality is across the entire draft,” Dunlop said.
“I’ve prepped horses for a long time now and we have sold some absolute crackers that have gone on to be elite level winners and this year I think we have individuals that are as good or better than those across the board.
“The fillies we have are amazing and include some that would not normally be offered for sale, so that is a real coup for me.
“I’m also thrilled to offer a filly for the Dennis brothers who I have worked with for a very long time now.
“Their Charm Spirit filly is from a branch of the wonderful female family they breed from and I feel I have a connection to her given I put The Chosen One through the ring the year he came to Karaka.
“I was so taken by him that when he was passed in, I offered to take a share in him and he has covered himself in glory ever since.
“Unfortunately, I couldn’t be at Trentham to watch him win his Group One in person last month, but you can bet your boots I will be at Te Rapa this week, if we are allowed under COVID protocols, to see him try and make it two on end in the Herbie Dyke Stakes (Gr.1, 2000m).”
Lot 354, the So You Think ex La Bella Delicia filly is one of the yearlings that Dunlop believes could be one of her best, with the granddaughter of Group Two winner Star Affair, the dam of former top three-year-old filly La Diosa, a real standout.
“When I talk about fillies that come from families that don’t often sell their females, Lot 354 is the one that springs to mind first,” she said.
“Her pedigree is impeccable and I doubt whether you would find many yearlings that have two individual Group One winners in their pedigree updates for the sale like she does (The Chosen One and The Perfect Pink).
“She is an outstanding type and you can see so much of both So You Think and Star Affair coming out in her.
“Lot 103 is our filly from the first southern hemisphere crop of American triple crown winner Justify and all I can say is if his other yearlings are like this filly then everyone will be well pleased.
“She appeals as a real three-year-old classic type and she just covers so much ground when she walks and is very athletic.”
Dunlop is also quick to point out the qualities of Lot 234, the Staphanos half-sister to multiple Group One winner Explosive Jack along with Lot 360, a colt by American Pharoah out of La Diosa.
“The La Diosa colt is probably one of the most powerful I have had and is just a gorgeous horse,” she said.
“I’m very excited by him as well as the half to Explosive Jack who is also a cracker and very forward at this stage of her prep.
“She ticks a lot of boxes from a family on the move and hopefully will be a superb advertisement for her sire.
“We have three by Staphanos all from the Explosive family and we have already seen a Staphanos filly from the same family sell for A$140,000 in Sydney on Sunday.”
With a high-quality draft at her disposal, Dunlop is feeling confident for the overall success of this year’s sale, despite border closures.
“The new timing of the sale has allowed vendors to present a more developed product,” she said.
“That should assist buyers make their purchasing decisions and given it is the second year we have been affected by COVID it will also let us produce pre-sale material better aligned to the buyers demands.
“From a staffing perspective it is a little tough, especially with our university students heading back to class, but I think overall NZB made the right decision by putting a line in the sand and providing some surety with the sale process.”
The 2022 sale kicks off at Karaka on Monday March 7. – NZ Racing Desk