Ponderosa Miss beats her rivals and her life-threatening injuries

Pondarosa Miss (nearest camera) edges ahead in a thrilling finish to the $200,000 Manco Easter Handicap at Ellerslie on Saturday with runner-up Vespa (centre) and Kawi storming home on the inside of the track. - (David Mackay/Phototek)
Pondarosa Miss (nearest camera) edges ahead in a thrilling finish to the $200,000 Manco Easter Handicap at Ellerslie on Saturday with runner-up Vespa (centre) and Kawi storming home on the inside of the track.

(David Mackay/Phototek)

It's been a rollercoaster season for the Te Awamutu mare Ponderosa Miss (High Chaparral[IRE]- Bak da Princess) and her win in the Group One Manco Easter Handicap was thoroughly deserved.

One month into the season the four-year-old mare was involved in a fall in a race at Hastings that almost claimed her life.

In six starts as a three-year-old she won two races and was unplaced once. She started her four-year-old season with an impressive win at Te Rapa and was a two dollar shot in her next start at Hastings, where she was brought down and suffered severe head injuries which included a collapsed nasal passage and major lacerations on the top of her head and around her left eye.

The mare was heavy sedated and despatched to the Cambridge veterinary clinic of Ian McKay, where he repaired her nasal passage and literally stapled her head back together, hoping to save her as a broodmare for her Te Awamutu based, breeder owner's father and son Peter and Darrell Hollinshead.

But horses are resilient creatures and remarkably Ponderosa Miss, recovered well, well enough in fact that she was back at the racetrack in winning form in December. Hain on the other hand although not injured in the race fall at Hastings, fell from another Hollinshead runner at the Rotorua trials in November and was side-lined with a fractured wrist.

Veteran jockey Noel Harris took over the riding duties, and they campaigned over the summer at the elite level, initially running third in the Group One Zabeel Classic before the mare contracted a virus which curtailed her performances in the Group One Thorndon Mile, Herbie Dyke Stakes, and Group Two Avondale Cup.

By the time the Auckland Cup came around she had bounced back enough to run a creditable third behind Rock Diva and King Kamada, and she was then freshened to run 1600 metres in the Group One Fiber Fresh New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders Stakes at Te Aroha in early April where she finished fifth.

Exit Noel Harris, he retired after that ride, a decision he had been considering all season, and re-enter Daniel Hain who thought his first ride back on the mare would be in the Group Two Travis Stakes at Te Rapa over Anzac weekend.

"That was the plan," according to Darrell Hollinshead." We couldn't have been happier for Hainy's sake, he's such a good little guy a real worker, and it was such a thrill for him to get a Group One. We only ran her in the Easter as she was so well, after she ran fifth in the New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders Stakes we thought we would take her to the Travis at Te Rapa, but she was so well we had to give her a run and decided on the Easter. She has improved since that race as well. The Travis will be her last run for the season."

Ponderosa Miss is the third foal for the Danske mare Bak da Princess, whose life ironically was also saved by Ian McKay.

"While she was being broken in she rolled under a fence and snapped a tendon in her back leg in half, fortunately Ian McKay, came that day instead of one of the cow vets and he persuaded us to save her, and then years later he ends up saving Ponderosa Miss as well," said Hollinshead.

Bak da Princess didn't race following that injury, and went to stud and produced Prickley Princess (Thorn Park[AUS]) a winner of four races for the Hollinshead's, and now in foal to Rip Van Winkle (IRE). Her next foal was Ecuador a colt by High Chaparral who has won five races in Sydney.

Since Ponderosa Miss, she has produced three more fillies, Moderation by Mastercraftsman (IRE) has been retained by the family, while two fillies by Rip Van Winkle have sold at the Premier Sale in the last two years; the first went to Gai Waterhouse for $60,000, while the second sold to Te Akau Bloodstock for $80,000. She has a weanling colt by Mastercraftsman and is back in foal to Rip Van Winkle.

Bak da Princess is out of Havitbak and is a half-sister to the Hollinshead's Group Two Waikato Cup winner Bak da Chief (Chief Bearheart [CAN]), also a resident broodmare on the Hollinshead property.

"Havitbak was a mare we bought through a Dalgety's sale she was bred by Jim Campin, who then sold the mother to Korea and that side of the family disappeared. However her fourth dam is the Rockefella (GB) mare Riches (GB) and she in turn is the sixth dam of Miracles of Life, so that branch has been successful in Australia.

"While here Havitbak won eight races and was Group Three placed twice, she is the dam of eight foals, seven to race and six winners. Of the half dozen or so mares that we have between us, all are from the one family with the exception of Vinskible who is a descendant of Alynda, she was my all-time most favourite racehorse.

"Vinskible is by Stravinsky out of Kapeable (Kaapstad – Alynda). I bought her in foal to Iffraaj(GB), in 2011, and that colt is placed in Singapore, she has left a winner by Elusive City (USA), She has a two-year-old filly by Mastercraftsman (IRE) and a weanling by that sire and is in foal to Shamexpress."

"Dad (Peter) started the interest in the horses, much to Grandad's horror, but he soon came round and followed Dad all over the country with the team of race horses. It's thanks to his legacy that we had the big dairy farm, which we reduced to the 40 acre block where we run the mares, and train half a dozen or so horses. We are now concentrating on breeding rather than racing. It's affordable because we can do it all ourselves and we have a family that is a little better than the middle market. He set it up for Dad and I to enjoy".

"Basically my philosophy is to cross two good athletes and you should get a good athlete. We are so fortunate now with shuttle stallions that we can do this. We have access to all those fabulous Coolmore horses who have proven themselves as elite athletes and we get to send our mares to them. My association with Windsor Park is testament to that philosophy, with their stallions being basically the only stallions I have supported in the last seven years. I do now however have a share in Redwood, but that is because he is by High Chaparral, and I have supported him since he arrived."

You can understand Hollinshead's liking for High Chaparral given the success of Ponderosa Miss, and now he has one of only two Group One winning mares by the Sadler's Wells stallion High Chaparral, the other being the recent Vinery Stakes winner Fenway.

- Michelle Saba


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