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Henley Park up and running at Karaka Premier

Pictured above - Premier Sale 2012 - Sarah Devcich leading a Darci Brahma colt in the Henley Park draft. - Picture by Trish Dunell
Pictured above - Premier Sale 2012 - Sarah Devcich leading a Darci Brahma colt in the Henley Park draft.

Picture by Trish Dunell

In January 1996, when Sarah Devcich answered the call to help out her childhood mate Robyn Cunningham at the Karaka Premier Yearling sales, little did she know that 16 years later she would be back presenting her own yearling draft at that sale?

Under the banner of Henley Park, Sarah presented three yearlings in the Premier Sale and seven in the Select Sale selling one lot, Carol and Chris Chamberlain's Thorn Park (AUS)-Nightmare colt for $190,000, three times his actual reserve. Her O'Reilly – Curbyourenthusiam colt offered on behalf of Milan Park also sold well to Cambridge trainer Trent Busuttin.

"I was delighted with the two colts that sold well at Premier, especially for Chris and Carol, as that wasn't really expected. They were very realistic with their reserve and got a huge thrill. Our Select draft was a good even line up, a good bunch of fillies and colts and they sold accordingly," said Sarah.

Chris and Carol Chamberlain were also part-owners of the $800,000 High Chaparral three-quarter brother to So You Think (ex La Souvenir) but were apparently more excited to get $190,000 for the half brother to their good galloper Run Like Al than they were with selling the second highest lot in the sale.

Sarah owns Henley Park with her husband Mark, the President of the Waikato Branch of the NZTBA, and meeting him 16 years ago is part of how this journey to becoming a successful Premier vendor began.

At that time in 1996 Sarah had been living in Taranaki where she grew up. She had just returned from an extended overseas trip and still had a little bit of leave owing before she returned to her job as a banker in early February when her old friend Robyn, who at that stage was married to Gordon Cunningham and running Curraghmore, suggested she come and help out.

"I came up to work for Curraghmore Stud at the sales for two weeks, met Mark and was offered a job and ended up staying permanently. I had no knowledge of thoroughbreds nor did I have an interest in them.

Sarah grew up on a dairy farm in South Taranaki. As a seven-year-old she pestered her parents for a pony and even went so far as trolling the advertisements in the newspaper to find the right one. When she did find that pony her parents reluctantly agreed, stating that if she didn't look after it herself it would have to go. Eighteen years later the pony died on the family property – so it's fair to say she did a pretty good job of taking care of it.

Sarah worked hard and had other ponies. She went to pony club and competed in gymkhanas and other events, and spent a lot of time on her pony especially with the girl from the next farm - one Robyn Cunningham.

"I stayed at Curraghmore for about a year where I learnt an awful lot from Gordon, before leaving to join Mark at Highview Stud where he was working at the time."

Similarly Mark's early days were on a dairy farm where he grew up just down the road from Highview Stud and as a youngster that was where he spent all his spare time. He started his working life there, had a stint overseas at Widden in Australia and also in the States before returning there in the mid 90's.

From there the couple moved to Mapperley Stud, by then part of Windsor Park before becoming joint managers at the Halidon Hill property and it was from there that they prepared the Hong Kong group one winner Beauty Flash and the listed Wellesley Stakes winner Hollows which was bred by Sarah and Mark for sale.

In 2008 Sarah and Mark purchased the former Ashwell Farm property near Matangi and while Mark carried on as the yearling manager at Windsor Park, Sarah set about establishing Henley Park as both an agistment farm and sales preparation business. After Easter however, Mark will move over to Henley Park permanently leaving his position at Windsor Park but not before taking their High Chaparral- Visique colt to Sydney for the sales with the Windsor Park draft.

Visique (Quest for Fame[GB] – Dulcinea[AUS]), the dam of Hollows, is resident at Henley Park complete with a Mastercraftsman (IRE) colt foal at foot. They have also retained a full sister to Hollows in Alpena Rosea (Thorn Park[AUS]) which is in work with John Sargent and she will join their broodmare ranks when she retires.

"We wanted a Quest for Fame mare and we decided the easiest way to get one was to buy a yearling filly. We purchased her out of the Sydney yearling sales for $60,000 and raced her here where she won three races. She is from the same family as Zeditave , Melito and Shikoba.

"Hollows was her first live foal, and it was a great thrill for him to win a stakes race as my parents and aunt and uncle had a share in him with John Wheeler. His full sister sold at Karaka last summer for $200,000 and her High Chaparral yearling is going to Sydney at Easter.

"It hasn't been easy but we have had lots of good support, especially from clients of Mapperley and Windsor Park, as well a lot of the local trainers are sending their horses here to spell, and now that people realise that we get the job done well we are getting recognised and getting the support.

"We have had some good horses spelling here on the property including Sangster, the VRC Derby winner. We are planning on expanding our agistment facilities and hope to purchase a walker and get involved in doing some rehabilitation work with horses."

To this end they have leased a further 20 acres to help grow their operation. In the past they have done well pin hooking weanlings and taking them to the sales and they plan to carry on with this. Promising three-year-old King's Fortune (Kings Chapel-Alleyrun) is one youngster they purchased as a weanling and on-sold for $100,000, and no doubt there will be a lot more drafts to present at the Premier Sales.

- Michelle Saba