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John O'Flaherty breeds his 11th Stakes Winner

Photo - NZTM Website
Photo - NZTM Website

When Princess Kyoto (Shinko King [IRE] – Sent To War) won the listed Marks Ewen and Associates Kaimai Stakes at Matamata recently she became the 11th stakes winner to be bred by NZTBA Gold Badge member John O'Flaherty.

It was the fourth win for the seven-year-old mare who is raced by O'Flaherty and his partner Jan McGivern who trains the horse at Te Aroha. Two starts ago she also won the Taupo Cup which was her first win in over 12 months. She will now be freshened and aimed towards the Group Two Travis Stakes in April.

In fact, according to O'Flaherty, he has had 150 horses to the races, for 94 winners, 21 placed horses, 11 stakes winners and four stakes placed, in a breeding career spanning around 40 years.

"I probably haven't been fair to my mares, and have bred the best horses by some ordinary sires. I mean I bred a Group One winner by Diagramatic (USA) (Sir Wiggle[USA]-Miss Suzy [CHI])," he said referring to the champion filly he bred in Tidal Light.

Tidal Light was the champion filly of her year in 1987 and had 19 starts for 10 wins, including three Group One wins. She won the New Zealand Derby on Boxing Day, ran second in the Group One WFA Waikato Sprint six weeks later, then won the Group One WFA New Zealand Stakes, before going to Sydney and winning the Group One Canterbury Guineas.

"Out in Front was by Frontal (USA) and Brianna was by Sudurka (AUS) and this mare is by Shinko King, none of them fashionable sires, as I am a type breeder and always try and find a stallion that suits my mare physically. Also in the early days I was pretty loyal and sent mares to the stallions I was working with when I was actively involved in a vet practice."

O'Flaherty's first introduction to the thoroughbred world came when he went to work at a Hamilton veterinary practice straight out of veterinary college in 1971, and that practice had the famous studs Pirongia and Te Rapa on their books. After a couple of years there he moved to Matamata Vets and worked on the big studs like Waikato and Evergreen Lodge and before long was buying horses.

"I was one of those vets that ended up getting involved in horses, and established Oughterard Farm at Te Poi where we eventually prepared and sold yearlings," he said.

Oughterard Farm has since re-located to Te Aroha and is home to O'Flaherty's small band of broodmares and young stock and a number of outside mares.

"In 1982 I was vetting yearlings at the Trentham sales for Robert Sangster and there was one stand out yearling in my opinion that year and that was a filly by Sovereign Edition (IRE) out of the Beaufort Sea(USA) mare Ionian Sea. That was Ancient Art who didn't do much but went on to be the dam of the dual stakes winner Power Of Destiny (Sir Tristram[IRE]). So the next year I went back and brought her half-sister by War Hawk II(GB) and that was Strofadhes, the grandam of Princess Kyoto.

"Strofadhes was never going to race and so I sent her to stud and she left four winners including (Our) Freeze Frame (Icelandic [IRE]) who was third in the GroupOone Australasian Oaks. Sent To War was the only filly I kept from the mare and she produced seven foals, all winners including two stakes winners before I sold her and a whole lot of my other mares in the Mixed Bloodstock sale in 2008."

Sent To War was purchased by Auckland-based breeder Tim Harrison, a big fan of Centaine (AUS) mares. She produced two colts by Pentire (GB), and a filly by Sakhee's Secret (GB) which Harrison has retained, before she died in 2013.

Two visits to Blues Traveller produced the good stakes winning mare and later producer, Tonic, who won six races including three listed wins, and her brother Bohemian Dancer who won nine races. She also left Sentire (Pentire) who won five races including the Listed Ballarat Cup.

Ionian Sea was a full sister to the stakes winning mare Aegean Sea, who left the Wellington Stakes winner Syrian Sea (Vice Regal) and is the grandam of the AJC Metropolitan winner Electronic. She in turn is the grandam of the recent dual Group Two winner Sweet Idea (Snitzel[AUS]).

When O'Flaherty downsized his bloodstock in 2008 he also sold his stakes winning mare Lightning Tree (Blazing Keel[AUS]-Treepop). She in turn is the dam of the Group One-placed stakes winner Brianna (Counties Bowl) and the Listed two-year-old winner Centennial (Centaine[AUS]). Lightning Tree was a half-sister to Fortune Road, also bred by O'Flaherty, who won eight races and was third in the Concorde Handicap

"I kept Sinead, a Shinko King mare out of Lightning Tree. I had two shares in Shinko King and reckon I sent him some of the best mares he got, so I have kept a few and still have a link with my good old families. Sinead is in foal to O'Reilly (NZ).

"I also have Chatwin (Shinko King – Peat) a winner of five races, and she is in foal to He's Remarkable (NZ) and has an O'Reilly at foot. Her dam Peat (Beaufort Sea [USA]) won nine races including the Southland Guineas and was the dam of the stakes winner Travellin Man (Blues Traveller) and grandam of Te Akau Class.

"My only other mare at the moment is Sheza Gamble (Montjeu[IRE]-Hallivien). She has a lovely Rios (NZ) at foot and is back in foal to him. She is a half-sister to the promising filly Leslie's Legacy (Iffraaj [IRE]).

"We have cut our bloodstock interests right back. We still have a few around us though and take three to the track at Te Aroha each morning. Jan has had three winners this season so it's not a bad strike rate.

"I am still enjoying being involved, although the only vet work I do now is my own. I am still heavily involved with the Equine Research Foundation and I stick my oar in there often when it's not required," he added.

O'Flaherty was previously the Chairman of the Equine Health Association and has been a great supporter and contributor to the NZTBA over the 40 years he has been involved in the thoroughbred industry.

- Michelle Saba


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