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Lime Country Thoroughbreds starts the spring with a Bang!

In recent years Jo Griffin and her husband Greg have immersed themselves in the bloodstock industry under the banner of Lime Country Thoroughbreds, and now they are starting to see some results and achieve some success.

In the beginning, with a limited budget and a need to generate turnover to stay afloat, they set out to buy older mares from proven families in foal to good stallions. One of their first purchases was Cheeky Veronica (AUS) before she left the group one winner Tell A Tale. But perhaps Jo's best buying spree was at NZB's Mixed Bloodstock Sale in 2009 where she outlaid $36,500 for three in-foal mares.

They were Granita (Bigstone[IRE] – Café Miss), Trebuchet (Bigstone - Pronutto) who were both in foal to Iffraaj and Piece of Cake (Snippets [AUS]) in foal to Elusive City. Three months later Piece of Cake became the dam of the listed winner Lamington Vegas (Elusive City[USA]) and recently Granita's subsequent Iffraaj foal Twilight Granita won the listed Fordell O'Leary Fillies Stakes at Wanganui.

"Twilight Granita is the first stakes winner we have bred since we established Lime Country Thoroughbreds and according to her trainer she will carry on through the spring. It was pretty exciting when she was stakes placed at two so to come out as an early three-year-old and win a black type race is pretty special," said Jo.

"We bought the two Bigstone mares at that 2009 sale because of the Last Tycoon influence. We like that in our mares, and we also bought Piece of Cake because she was by Snippets and we like him.

The financial returns from the purchase of those mares has been fairly rewarding as well.
The foals they were carrying all sold at the 2011 Select Sale. The Iffraaj colt out of Trebuchet fetched $90,000, Twilight Granita sold for $41,000 and the Spartacus colt out of Piece of Cake fetched $20,000. This year a full sister to Lamington Vegas sold for $34,000.

We have no other income so we have to make the most commercial decisions and we think it's cheaper to buy mares in-foal than to mate them. It's not a hobby for us.

"It was obviously an inspired mating by Mark Chitty and I have to thank him for that. He can take all the credit. I will probably send Granita back to Iffraaj this season. I was thinking of sending her back after Twilight Granita had the two stakes placings at two, but now I am pretty sure I will. She is an old mare now but I am happy with her - we nearly lost her after she foaled Twilight Granita and we left her empty a year before leasing her to Greg's Dad Mike. He has a lovely Faltaat(USA) filly who is a yearling now.

According to Mark Chitty, he mated Iffraaj with Granita and Trebuchet because he was a fast horse and a physical horse. Both mares were medium sized and given the opportunity should show a bit of spee. Granita is a half sister to a two-year-old stakes winner in Rohatyn. It also used the proven Mr Prospector(USA) Northern Dancer (USA) cross. Mr Prospector through Iffraaj's grandsire Gone West and Northern Dancer through Nureyev and again through Bigstone's grandsire Try My Best (by Northern Dancer)

"It's been a fabulous spring for Iffraaj and obviously the quinella in the Fordell O'Leary Fillies Stakes is a great result. New Zealand needs all the young stallions it can get to boost the industry. It's pleasing that he has had eight winners at this stage and his stock are obviously coming to hand a lot earlier than he did himself. Some have even shown 2YO form.

"The winners he has left are all out of different types of mares. Fix is out of a Danehill (USA) mare Destined (GB), Meleka Belle a Sir aTristram(IRE) mare Empress Belle, Mystic Princess and Zabeel mare Zahra– so far we have no sex bias in the northern hemisphere although it seems a bit like that here. I think his colts are yet to come out. He is from the same family as Cape Cross and he left some very smart fillies, and comes from a fast female line."

Trebuchet's colt, Mighty Able was trial placed in New Zealand at two and has subsequently been trial placed in Hong Kong.

Harking back to the Griffins and Lime Country Thoroughbreds, which as the name suggests in based in lime country in the Hawke's Bay, on the Okawa property made famous by the Lowry Family.

"We chose the name based on the theory that good horses are bred on lime country, here in the Hawkes Bay and in Kentucky and Ireland. In all the good horse raising areas throughout the world there are substantial lime deposits and that is the case here in the Hawke's Bay.

"We utilize the farm's yearling barns and facilities, including a 1300 metre plough track and a number of surrounding paddocks and operate all facets of horse agistment from mares through to racehorses, weaning through to yearling preparation, breaking in and pre-training.

"We have around 70 horses at home at any one time, including mares, foals, yearlings breakers and pre trainers. We have broken in some lovely yearlings this year, a number for Chris Waller and other Australian clients. We broke in the $550,000 O'Reilly- Petit Verdot filly that is a half sister to Antonio Lombardo and she has gone to Australia already.

"The Lowry's are pretty flexible and if we need another paddock they just lease us one
– and at Okawa the average paddock size is about 10 acres so we have plenty of room for expansion. We are also planning on buying another block to stand beside Okawa.

"We have been incredibly lucky - our business grows month by month and we have good income, turnover and clients. We have great clients - people that are good to do business with and we are still attracting people. We are confident of another really good year.

"This was the first year that we sold at Premier and we were chuffed that we averaged $95,000 and we were 15th on the vendors' list. It was nice to get those results for our clients.

"We have about 18 yearlings on the farm but the really nice fillies have been shuffled back down to Festival so we will probably only present about 10 or 12 this summer, and I am still not sure whether they will be Premier or Select. We pin-hooked three colts as weanlings - two here and one in Australia - to boost our yearling numbers and we may well do that again next year.

"In fact, after a recent session with New Zealand Bloodstock discussing our yearling selection I know that some of our mares are not really worth breeding from – if they produce fillies they will only be Festival quality – yet their colts will make Select.

"On the strength of that we will probably only breed three of our eight mares. We have the space to keep them in the back paddock and if their pedigrees improve or the market picks up then we can breed them again - not everyone is fortunate enough to be in this position. This is why we think we will be able to pick up some nice mares in the near future and capitilise on someone else's investment.

"We will send a mare to Darci Brahma, Granita to Iffraaj, and Piece of Cake to Bullbars.
He is a lovely looking horse and we will get that Elusive Quality cross that worked with Lamington Vegas. If it's a filly we will keep it and race it and if it's a colt it will sell anyway.

"At this stage we are still trying to decide what to do but the stud masters have been very supportive in trying to ensure as many mares get bred as possible. Granita will go to Iffraaj; Piece of Cake will go to Keeper who we believe is still a big chance to sell well with the two big books of quality mares he served in 2010 & 2011. At this stage the rest are undecided for commercial reasons but I'd like to think we can get a couple of the younger mares bred as well, they deserve their chance."

- Michelle Saba


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