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Owner/breeders' day out at Counties

Final Touch - Photo NZTR website
Final Touch

Photo NZTR website

Breeding a black type winner is the ultimate aim of any breeder, and four members of the NZTBA achieved that goal at the recent Counties Racing Club meeting.

On Counties' flagship race day – DHL Counties Cup Day – where the Auckland Branch of the NZTBA, in association with NRM, sponsor a group two fillies and mares race, it was fabulous to see those breeders Karen Parsons (Final Touch), Marie Leicester (Annie Higgins), Vicki and Wayne Pike (Waterford) and Helen Gaye and Graham Bax (Jackofall) achieve that success in the four black type races on the card.

What's even more exciting is that three of those winners were mares that are raced by their breeders and will ultimately take their place in our broodmare ranks. However, on a sad note all three were the last foals their mothers produced.

Final Touch (Kashani [USA]-My Lydia [AUS]) took out the Group Two NRM Auckland Thoroughbred Breeders' Stakes, Annie Higgins (O'Reilly-Diva Belle) the Group Three DHL Counties Cup, Waterford (Darci Brahma- Crystal Hailey) the Listed BNZ Partners Bowl and Jackofall (Mastercraftsman[IRE]- Wizard Princess[AUS]) the Listed Murdoch Newall Stakes.

Canterbury/Marlborough/Westland branch member Karen Parsons, along with her husband John, trains her gallant mare as well. Crowned last year's Champion Sprinter on the back of three Group One wins, Final Touch was recording her 18th win, and eighth black type success when she easily took out the Group Two event, three-quarters of a length ahead of Postmans Daughter (Postponed [USA]- Kinja Belle) who is also raced and trained by her breeder Don Walker.

"I am walking on air - words can't describe it. I have been breeding horses for 40 years with lots of criticism along the way. I have loved breeding them and to have finally cracked it with a mare like Final Touch is amazing," Parsons enthused.

"A couple of years ago one of our owners was complaining about my broodmares, and I told him I was only trying to breed a Group One winner – and he said you had better hurry up – but I have now, I have made it with this mare, and by the skin of my teeth."

Final Touch was the last foal from the Umatila (AUS) mare My Lydia, who always foaled standing up. While foaling Final Touch the foal's foot punctured her rectum and she was unable to breed after that. Fortunately for Parsons she has a half-sister Nareda by Al Jadeed (USA) to also carry on breeding from and her yearling colt by Shinko King (IRE) to race.

Nareda, like her mother, foals standing up, and she also suffered a similar injury to her mother when her colt foal put a foot through her rectum. However she has been operated on at Massey and Parsons' vet is confident that she can get in foal this year. She will visit Alamosa.

Arietta, another recent stakes winner from the Parsons team, was also bred by them. She won the Listed Valachi Downs Canterbury Breeders' Stakes in early November.

"Most of the horses in our team are raced by their breeders. My good friend Bev Jones was a mad keen breeder like me and raced Santos and a few others out of the stable. Really we don't have any clients that can go and buy expensive horses for us to train. We have to rely on them breeding them or picking up something less expensive at the sales," she concluded.

Marie Leicester is Taupo based but affiliated with the Auckland branch. She is a Gold Badge member of the NZTBA, and as the daughter of James and Annie Sarten - who gave the New Zealand industry the fabulous 'Belle Family' she is lucky enough to have inherited a number of fabulous mares from this family. Over the last 30 years she has helped to enhance the family with Annie Higgins being the latest star.

"I love winning with the Belle Family - I can go back so far," she said when discussing Annie Higgins' win in the Group Three DHL Counties Cup.

"It was superb! I will live on the excitement of it for weeks. She sort of didn't get going until the last 150 metres from home. I don't know what she was doing but I was working hard through the race and yelling and screaming. She is absolutely wonderful.

"Winning a black type race is everything. It's your dream to win black type for your broodmare - it makes all the difference if you have black type. As an owner you go looking for little black print and then go on hoping for big black print."

Annie Higgins has now won six races including last year's Group Three Waikato Gold Cup. She is trained at Matamata by Lance Noble. She will look for a repeat win in the Waikato Gold Cup before taking on the Group Two City of Auckland Cup and Wellington Cup.

"Tri Belle, the grand-dam of Annie, was the 1987 Filly of the Year and her fourth dam was Star Belle who won 18 races here and in Australia. She goes all the way back to the mare Mum and Dad bred and was born just after I was. That's 75 years of breeding, and something you can never dream about seeing those foals do well when you have followed them right through.

Tragically Diva Belle died foaling the year after she had Annie Higgins. However, as is often the case, this was the catalyst for Leicester to keep Annie.

"Every year for different reasons I keep a filly or two to race and to develop as a broodmare. It depends on how many I have got to sell and what they are out of. Last year I kept two fillies that are in work and this year I have two that I haven't entered into the sales. Last year I lost two Zabeel mares so I had to replace them, and I also had a Zabeel filly born and naturally I won't sell that."

That Zabeel filly is out of On The Board (AUS), a winning Spectrum (IRE) mare out of the Queensland Oaks winner Miss Danehill that Leicester owns with Haunui Bloodstock Ltd. All her mares are housed at Haunui Farm in Karaka.

"I wanted to keep the Zabeel filly so I bought Ron out, and I have also kept a Flying Spur(AUS) out of Passive Rose (Zabeel-Jinsky Rose). The two-year-olds are Boston Belle (Elusive City [USA] –Winning Belle) who is in work with Richard Collett and Gareth McRae and Star Walk (Starcraft [AUS]- Liberty Walk) who is going to Lance Noble.

"Boston Belle is Wishing Belle's last foal. Wishing Belle (Sir Tristram[IRE]) was the last foal out of Kashmir Belle (Pakistan II[GB]-Phar Belle) and she was born just after Mum died. Mum had been wishing for a filly so I called her Wishing Belle.

"Boston Belle is by Elusive City. As my mares get older I don't send them off the farm at Haunui, I have them served by the resident stallions. I get a bit sentimental about them and don't want to cause them any stress.

"Last year Liberty Walk died foaling a Starcraft colt and so I decided to keep the year older sister in Star Walk. Liberty Walk is a half-sister to Coogee Walk. Along with Annie Higgins, these two-year-olds are the only horses I currently have in work."

Leicester has mated 12 mares this season eight of her own and four that she owns in partnership with Haunui Bloodstock. She plans the matings herself and then runs them past Mark and Ron Chitty.

"Amazingly in the last couple of years we haven't changed anything. I guess I have been planning matings with them for so many years now we think alike. In the last few years of Dad's life he would call me and we would talk about the matings, and Mum and Dad always planned them together.

"I have had a 30 year association with Haunui. It's a long and very close association. It was wonderful to look across the birdcage at Counties and see Ron and Carolyn and Mark and Sarah and all the children there. My good friend Julie Wilding travelled up from Taupo with me and we had a wonderful day winning another black type event, and I will live off that for weeks," she mused.

Four-year-old Darci Brahma mare Waterford has been a star since the day she was born in the eyes of her breeder Waikato branch member Vicki Pike. She bred the filly with her husband Wayne and son Tony, who trains the mare in partnership with Mark Donoghue.

Now as a stakes winner herself and a half-sister to the stakes winners Veronica Franco (Johar[USA]) and Diamond Hailey (Zabeel), she will eventually be a valuable addition to the broodmare band at the Pike's Longlands Stud in Cambridge.

"The win was absolutely fabulous. She has come back so much bigger and stronger, she is a big horse and has taken a while to mature. She was a beautiful foal, her mother died having her and she was always determined to succeed.

"We have been breeding for so long that you know when they have the x factor at an early age, and since day one she has had it," Pike enthused.

"She is my baby. When I walk into the stables and she sees me she starts talking to me - she's pretty spoilt. We took her to the sales, but didn't really want to sell her. She was such a tall upright yearling and popped a couple of little splints, so people were never that keen. We put an $85,000 reserve on her and we didn't get that. The people that did look at her then are now saying they wish they had bought her. But we were very happy to take her home.

"We generally only keep the fillies that we don't sell. We are not in the financial situation where we can choose to keep a filly but we are happy to do so if they don't make the right sale, or have x-ray issues and can't get to the sales or don't sell. Pretty much all of our mares that we have ended up with have not made it in the sale ring. However, when we are forced to keep these horses they actually turn out quite well. She Wishes (Kenfair –Miss Saigon) the dam of the champion Rangirangdoo (Pentire[GB]) couldn't even get $1,000 in the ring, and look how that turned out.

"It helps that Tony is training them as he is a patient person and is actually turning out to be quite a good trainer of fillies. Most good fillies are quite quirky and you can't bully them. I am very happy with my trainer.

"Black type is very important. Waterford is Group One placed, and she probably should have won the 1000 Guineas. Now we have big black print and even though it's only a Listed race we are very happy to get that one out of the way and we can set our goals higher.

"It's a very exciting time. We will head to the Railway and the Telegraph and all going well we may go to Sydney in the autumn. Tony will target a fillies and mares race there and winning over there will completely ensure her breeding career. She has come through the race so well, it's onwards and upwards from here.

"We have cut down our mares, we only bred nine this season. Unfortunately you realise that you can't keep them all. We had some nice young mares who have won three or four races, and their progeny can only get into the Festival Sale, so we have had to cull them.

"Ideally we want to get down to between six and eight. We have some lovely mares coming through as well, like Waterford and Kelly O'Reilly (O'Reilly –Grace). She has now won five and we will attempt to get black type with her now. Chintz (Savabeel[AUS]-Charmed) has a K1 pedigree and she is coming through the grades nicely. These are mares we have bred and have had to keep and they are doing the job on the race track.

"Over the past few years we have bought three mares out of Australia, that look good, two by Elusive Quality(USA) and one by Montjeu (IRE). One of them, Miss Elusive, is the dam of Doubtless who won an early two-year-old race at Ruakaka before being sold to Hong Kong where he recently won, so that mare has paid for herself," Pike said, "and a couple of our old girls are still doing a good job nicely."

- Michelle Saba


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