Trish Dunell breeds full brother and sister - 1st and 2nd

Picture of 'Divine Miss Em' by happy owner / breeder Trish Dunell
Picture of 'Divine Miss Em' by happy owner / breeder Trish Dunell

When Divine Miss Em beat Roverto recently it may have only been an industry day at Waipa in a $5,000 maiden event but the remarkable thing is that these two horses are brother and sister.

Divine Miss Em is the 2007 filly by Traditionally (USA) out of Delph (Blue Razor [USA] –Miss Forty Niner [USA]) and Roverto is her 2006 colt. Both horses were bred and are raced by New Zealand's leading equine photographer Trish Dunell.

Racing pundits have been trying to recall when or even if this has happened in New Zealand in recent history, and so far no one has come up with the answer.

According to Trish, who was on hand to witness the feat, it was a pretty surreal feeling watching the pair do battle down the straight although Divine Miss Em always seemed to have the upper hand.

"I had no idea until after the acceptances came out that they were going to be in the same race, and actually Toni (Croon), the trainer of Roverto, offered to scratch him when I mentioned to her that he would be racing against his sister, but I told her not to change the plans, maybe it will be his turn next time.

Both horses are only lightly raced. Divine Miss Em has had four starts while Roverto. even though he is the older sibling. has only had three. Divine Miss Em won a trial at Te Aroha in May by seven lengths before making her debut at Counties in early June where she finished a luckless fourth on a very heavy track. She showed nothing in her next outing but bounced back for a good third at Paeroa before going on to win at Waipa.

Roverto has taken a long time to come to hand and made his first race day appearance in late July. He followed that up with a fifth in early August and two weeks later, with the addition of blinkers, entered the Waipa event. Both horses are trained at Cambridge with Divine Miss Em being trained by Graham Thomas and Paul Mirabelli, and Roverto by Toni Croon.

"Roverto will start again in three weeks. Toni has done a great job with him. calming him down - he was a very nervy horse. She takes him everywhere and keeps him busy and he thrives on routine. Often I would be working at the races somewhere and Toni would come up and tell me that Trevor (his stable name) was on track. She would bring him along for a ride with whatever else she had in that day. Due to that he never knows when he goes to the races whether he is actually going to run or not."

Roverto possibly got his nervousness from his dam Delph, whom Trish describes as not being the most sociable mare.

"She has been a resident at The Oaks stud now for about six years as she would rather not be caught, and her progeny is a little like that. The staff at the stud know how to handle her and look after her well. She is happy there and so I am happy to keep her there."

Trish and her partner Graham Mackie purchased Delph as a weanling along with her mother Miss Forty Niner (USA) (Mr Prospector – Bend Not) from an Ashford Park Stud dispersal sale in the mid nineties.

"Miss Forty Niner was an old mare when we bought her but she was a sister to Straight Strike, and as it happened Delph was her last foal. She was a little weak weanling and as she got older it became obvious that she wasn't going to be strong enough to race so we sent her to stud quite early.

"At that stage we owned Tabasco (AUS) (Sir Tristram [IRE]- Hot Princess [GB]) so that was where she went. Her first foal was Sally Greensticker who won one race and the second was Aftershock who, despite problems with soundness, won four races and ran second in the Avondale Cup.

"She then went to Express Duke and produced two foals, one of which is Ellington who we have retained as a broodmare, before going to Traditionally to produce Roverto and Divine Miss Em. We have a two-year-old Spartacus (IRE) filly, a Bachelor Duke (USA) yearling colt and she is in foal to Roc de Cambes.

"Depending on when and how she foals we will probably send her back to Bachelor Duke."

"Sally Greensticker has a three-year-old filly (in work with Graham Thomas and Paul Mirabelli) who has had one trial, and she has a two-year-old full sister, a yearling colt by Strategic Image (AUS) and is in foal to Danroad.

"Graham and Paul also have a Royal Gem (USA) colt in work which is Ellington's first foal. She also has an Elusive City (USA) two-year-old colt and a Strategic Image yearling colt but is not in foal.

"It's a family that I guess I have kept for sentimental reasons, and I am having lots of fun with it now. It will be interesting to see where it goes from here," said Trish.

Trish will no doubt be able to keep an eye on the various progeny as she goes about her work as an equine photographer. She not only takes photos on race days but is always around the studs and farms photographing stallions, foals, yearlings and sales stock.

Having had a career photographing school children and sports teams she decided to combine it with her love of horses and became an equine photographer for the media in 1990. Trish grew up in Albany just north of Auckland. In those days it was very much a rural area and so she was surrounded by ponies, and admits to never owning one but riding very badly.

"My mother loved to go to the races, and we would often go into Ellerslie or Avondale to meet her sisters for a day out and that was my first introduction to racing," she added.

Who would have thought back then that Trish Dunell would be so entrenched in the industry and be a household name in the racing world.

- Michelle Saba


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