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Hallmark Stud - Two Group 1 Winning Fillies

Banchee winning the Group 1 Auckland Diamond Stakes

Banchee winning the Group 1 Auckland Diamond Stakes
"Unbelievable!" That one word, sums up the reaction of Hallmark Stud's Denny Baker on breeding two group one winning fillies in one season.

Following the win of Banchee(Oratorio IRE) in the Group One Auckland Diamond Stakes at Ellerslie, Banchee and Katie Lee (Pins) the fillies out of the Hallmark resident mare Miss Jessie Jay (Spectacularphantom) have now between them won seven black type races, this season.

"I watched the race on my own and was so proud of her. I was wandering down to congratulate John Sargent after the race when he suggested I lead her in. With Sam Kelt not being there, and Sargent insisting he would have to make the speech anyway, I was very proud to step in and lead her in.

"What a privilege to lead in a filly that we had bred who had just won a group one race at one of the greatest race courses in the world. I was honoured to be asked.

"It was a gutsy win, a tremendous ride by Leith Innes and a great training feat by John Sargent. Leith said she just lifted when asked for that extra effort in the straight. She was hardly blowing after the race and I had no trouble leading her in, she's always had a great disposition and temperament.

Good temperament was a trait Denny was looking for when he chose Oratorio IRE (Danehill- Mahrah by Vaguely Noble) as a suitor for Miss Jessie Jay. On a visit to Ireland Aidan O'Brien had told him that he was the best horse he had handled. He said he was the loveliest horse and so kind and that added some merit to the decision to send the mare to Australia to be mated with him.

Banchee is from the first crop of the triple group one winning son of Danehill, and his first southern hemisphere group one winner. In the northern hemisphere he has left the Group One Dewhurst Stakes winner in Beethoven (ex Queen Titi).

Good temperament and performance as a racehorse were also the factors that swayed Denny in the mating of Katie Lee. But a quick look at the pedigrees of these two brilliant group one winners will tell you that there is nothing similar in their sires and Denny believes it is the bloodlines of Miss Jessie Jay that hold the key to their success.

"Miss Jessie Jay was by Spectacularphantom (Spectacular Bid-Imanative) and he was bagged by plenty as a sire, out of Miss Distinction who was Bletchencore (Bletchingly – Sing Again) and he was an underrated sire with a stunning heart score and fabulous bloodlines. Star Kingdom line mares seem to mate with anything," he added.

With two group one winners in a season, Miss Jessie Jay must now be a contender for the Mercedes Broodmare of the Year. Fortunately for her connections, the NZTBA Council changed the criteria for the Award last year to include foals that were conceived in New Zealand as well as New Zealand bred (born) progeny.

Hallmark Stud is home to Miss Jessie Jay, her half sister Miss Katella and their dam Miss Distinction (Bletchencore- Estella Dawn). They are owned by Taranaki dairy farmer Trevor Hurley who initially raced Miss Distinction on lease from a neighbour of Denny's at Te Kauwhata.

"Going back a few years my neighbour Lance Wallace had this highly strung mare Estella Dawn that he had acquired from the Malcolm's of Kinross Stud – which is where I started out in the horse business.

"We bred her to Bletchencore, and she produced Miss Distinction. She was a little bit offset and we knew we would get hammered at the sales, but we both liked her as she was a deep girthed filly so we decided to keep her.

"Eventually we leased her to Trevor and Kieran McCarthy to race, and she won a race for them, and they sent her back. Lance by this stage had just bought another dairy farm and wanted to give her away, He suggested giving her back to Trevor, but on the condition that she only go to Hallmark stallions, unless we agreed otherwise and that is how the partnership and the family has developed.

"Miss Distinction went to Spectacularphantom and produced Miss Jessie Jay. We took her to the sales, and couldn't sell her either. So home she came and fortunately Trevor gave me the time to break her in and get her going along. She was a highly strung type of filly as well, but nursed along she was fine, and it paid off. Miss Jessie Jay won nine races including the Group Three Fayette Park Stakes and the Levin Classic.

"Her second foal was Miss Katella (The Commander) she didn't sell either and was a bit hot to handle, she came back here and I worked on her, and she went on to win a race.

"When the two fillies that Trevor bred retired from racing they came back here for us to look after and we continued with the partnership arrangement whereby they went to Hallmark stallions, and if they came right or the family took off that we still had a share with him, and Trevor has been as good as his word," added Denny.

Keiran McCarthy, Miss Distinction's other racing partner, also bred from the mare. In 1999 he sent her to Jahafil, and she produced a filly, as Gee I Jane she became a multiple group one winner for Kevin winning six races including the Telegraph and the BTC Cup.

As well he bred the next two foals, one of which is The Silence Sir (Istidaad) a winner of nine races.

"With the early success of Miss Jesse Jay and Gee I Jane, we started to take a more commercial approach with the matings. Trevor has his input and the three of us discuss them all before we make the final decisions," according to Denny.

"Miss Jessie Jay is back in foal to Pins after losing her Darci Brahma filly foal, and not having a foal the previous season. Miss Distinction has a filly foal at foot by Darci Brahma and is in foal to High Chaparral. Miss Katella has a full brother to San Bernadino at foot and is in foal to Pentire, and her yearling full brother to San Bernadino sold at Karaka this summer for $110,000.

"Mark rang Trevor on Saturday after Banchee's win and he succinctly said "I guess we must be doing something right!"

"We were hoping he was going to join us at Ellerslie, and hopefully if the mare did get a nomination for Broodmare of the Year, he would come up for the dinner. That would be quite an achievement for a mare from a family that we always had faith in and in those fillies we were happy to keep."

- Michelle Saba