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Wayne and Karen Stewart have a big week for White Robe Lodge

Photo: NZTM Website
Photo: NZTM Website

Commitments at the National Yearling Sales at Karaka kept Otago breeders Karen and Wayne Stewart away from seeing their classy three-year-old filly Include (Gallant Guru-Slightly Aloof) win the Listed Southern Wide Real Estate Guineas recently.

"That's the second time we have missed seeing one of our horses win their first stakes race. We missed seeing Royal Flight win the Listed Great Easter Stakes in 2011 as we were in Australia watching our son Jack playing league in the New South Wales Country Cup tournament, and we missed Include because of the sales," said Karen Stewart who, along with her husband Wayne, manage the iconic White Robe Lodge in Mosgiel.

"Not that we are complaining as we have had a fantastic sale and our daughter Renee was at the races and she was able to lead Include back to scale."

Include has now had six starts for four wins. She won on debut in September at Wingatui over 1200 metres and then won her next start at Winton over 1600. She failed in Listed company in the Holloway Stakes at Riccarton in late October, and was then put aside. She resumed on Boxing Day and won the Guineas Prelude again at her home track of Wingatui, and then failed again in the Listed Gore Guineas.

Back at Wingatui where she is trained by Karen's father Brian Anderton and her brother Shane, she was victorious again in the Dunedin Guineas, and will now progress on towards an attempt at The Oaks in March.

By the resident White Robe Lodge stallion Gallant Guru (AUS)(Montjeu[IRE]- Proud Halo [AUS]) Include is his second stakes winner. She is the sixth foal of the O'Reilly mare She's Snubbed and is a half-sister to three winners including the stakes winning mare Sharp Princess (Pins [AUS]).

"We bought She's Snubbed (O'Reilly-Slightly Aloof) at the 2007 Broodmare sale for $17,000 specifically to go to Gallant Guru. I love studying pedigrees and I picked her out as a good cross with Gallant Guru. At that stage Sharp Princess hadn't done anything. She was in foal to Scardee Cat and we sold that colt for $100,000 (Mr Trim) and then a Gallant Guru colt for $57,000 (Immortal Glory) that was followed by a Gallant Guru filly to Paul Moroney for $32,000 but unfortunately she broke a pedal bone.

"Dad always says you should send a mare to a stallion three times. Well, Include is the result of the third mating. We then entered a foal share arrangement with Rich Hill, and John Thompson has a two-year-old Pentire filly out of the mare. We had a yearling colt by the same sire but we sold him to Australia out of the paddock and I believe he will be in the Sydney Easter sale.

Include is now in foal to Raise The Flag. Her dam She's Snubbed was placed before she went to stud and is a half-sister to five winners including High Command. Her grandam Slightly Aloof (Centaine[AUS] ) is a winning full sister to the VRC Oaks winner Slight Chance, both being out of the stakes winning mare Lady Aloof (Sir Godfrey[FR]-Miss Coventry). Slight Chance is also the dam of the stakes winners Dane Shadow and Salgado.

Karen and her husband of 30 years Wayne own two other broodmares besides She's Snubbed - Flight Arrival and Woodini. Woodini (AUS) (Woodman-Regal Halo) is a half-sister to Zilzie (Generous) who won six races including the Group Three Taranaki Cup and the Rotorua Plate. She is the dam of Millbank (Keeper [AUS]) a stakes winner in Melbourne before going to Hong Kong to race as Time Legend. Regal Halo was a Group Three winner in Canada.

Woodini was purchased specifically to go to Gallant Guru also and has a lovely yearling filly by that sire, and this season she had a beautiful colt to Raise The Flag. Flight Arrival (Yamanin Vital- Capital Flight) is a half-sister to Royal Flight (Danzighill[AUS]) and she's in foal to Keeper. She is from the same family of the multiple Group One winner Our Flight.

"We can't afford to buy black type broodmares so when we produce them it's really good. We have bred three stakes winners - Envoy(Personal Escort [USA]-Sovereign Command) who won the Wellington Cup when it was still a Group One 3200metre race, Royal Flight and now Include. Flight Captain (Seasoned Star[AUS]), Royal Flight's half-brother was stakes placed and won five," added Karen.

The Stewarts were at Karaka with the White Robe Lodge draft of yearlings, and the day before the Guineas witnessed their Raise The Flag (GB) filly out of Emerald Fire become the top priced filly in the Select section when she was sold to Cantabrian Rodger Finlay for $147,000.

Emerald Fire was a winner of four races and has already left the stakes winning mares Inferno (Yamanin Vital) and Ortem Fire (Gallant Guru). She is a daughter of the stakes placed Noble Bijou (GB) mare Gem Fire, herself a daughter of the stakes-winning Fraxinus(IRE) mare Firefly.

A colt from another of Gem Fire's daughters, Ardent Fire, also sold at Karaka in the Festival Session for $40,000 to the bid of Ralph Manning.

"Gem Fire only ever had one colt and lots of daughters, so we have lots of descendants," Wayne said, "it's funny how the Emerald Fire filly has come all the way up to Karaka and gone all the way back down again to the South Island.

"We come to Karaka because it keeps the White Robe Lodge name out there. It's a long way to come - it's 30 odd hours on the road to get here. However the roads have improved over the years. This year the horses travelled so well, and didn't leave an oat. That also says a lot about the temperament of the Raise The Flags.

"We are away for at least two and a half weeks, and fortunately for the last two years, thanks to Don Mackinnon we have had access to Blackbridge Park in Karaka and we can utilise their paddocks, yards and facilities if we want to give the horses a bit of a break. It's ideal if we do have a problem, Don has everything on hand.

"Last year we couldn't get a Raise The Flag into Select. He had to prove himself and this year he did that and had the top filly and the highest average at $86,666. His Festival results were excellent as well with three colts selling for an average of $22,333. Not a bad result for a $4000 service fee.

"We knew that the feed-back about the stallion was good, just by the number of mares that returned to him last year. He has now had four books in excess of 100 mares, and the calibre of mares has been excellent and is improving. This year Inferno is in foal to him as is Alpine Delight the dam of Alpine Heights who has won the Dunedin Cup and the Trentham Stakes in his last two starts , and Ears Carol the dam of Who Shot Thebarman . Miss Millbrook is among half a dozen mares that the Fred King has sent and the Dennis Bros have sent some of their good mares," he said.

Wayne first met Karen when he joined the staff at White Robe Lodge at 15. He grew up in Mosgiel and according to him it was the 'done' thing in Mosgiel when you left school you either went to work in a stable or a market garden!

"I didn't know a lot about horses but I had a few school mates who were apprentices, including Michael Casey who was apprenticed to Brian. I certainly know a lot more about them now!"

They both work on the farm, and do everything associated with the horses, breeding, yearlings preps, and breaking in.

"Dad still works on the farm," according to Karen, "he is there from six in the morning until six at night he sets the pace for all of us. He looks after the pastoral side of the farm, the sheep and the cattle and grows good grass so we can raise good horses. He also trains all the horses in the racing team with my brother Shane, and Shane's two boys work for us on the farm as well.

"Our son Ricky has worked on the farm and I think he will come back to it, and hopefully Jack will too, he is currently playing rugby in Scotland for the Dundee High School Club, and when he finishes there may do a six month stint at either Coolmore or Juddmonte.

"We have three great girls working on our team including Liz Hodson who has been with us for 30 years. The teamwork we have is really great, and that's because we wouldn't expect them to do anything we wouldn't do ourselves," she added.

A principle no doubt that has been in place since Hector and Alice Anderton established White Robe Lodge in 1956. Karen idolised her grandfather Hec and speaks of him with great affection and awe.

"I used to just follow him around everywhere, the stuff he taught us is incredible, he just fed our minds the whole time. We all used to live so close together in those days, my cousin Steve who is training so well at the moment with The Diamond One winning the same day as Include, and his dad Uncle Heckie. Apart from the Skelton cousins who moved away to Auckland (legendary jockey Bob Skelton was married to the late Maureen Anderton sister to Brian and Hector Junior), we would all meet up on a Sunday and we all learnt so much not just about the bloodstock but about family values. We are all still a close family," she concluded, "and that is what the White Robe Lodge brand is all about."

- Michelle Saba


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