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Perseverence and Toss of a Coin Alter Mare's Image

When Altered Image (Strategic Image x Dented Ambition by Danasinga) won the Listed New Zealand Bloodstock Castletown Stakes on Saturday at Foxton, few people were happier than the colt's breeder Dean Hawthorne and his mother Yo Hawthorne. The colt is perhaps the biggest reward yet for the Hawthornes' perseverance through five thoroughbred generations.

"My mother has had the family for five generations. It goes back to a family she has had right from the early days of when Paramount Stud started in Hawkes Bay. She bought a mare called Shifnal Belle and has since been a hobby breeder. We've only got two mares, says Hawthorne.

"Dented Ambition (Danasinga) is out of She's Cool (Spectacular Love), who is out of Shivers (Half Iced), who is out of Curio (Weyand), who is out of Mom's first mare Shifnal Belle (Shifnal)," he continues.

Hawthorne, a familiar face at the yearling and ready-to-run sales, has been breaking in and pin-hooking for nearly 20 years. Despite the success of his Anzac Lodge, Hawthorne has decided to intensify his focus on bloodstock. Prominent at the Karaka Premier Sale this past summer with over $3 million in purchases, Hawthorne continues to alter his image.

The dam of Altered Image, Dented Ambition, showed early potential but never raced. "She had a lot of ability and Tony Pike trained her for me. The problem was she kept locking up in the stifle and was very immature, but Tony said she could really gallop. The problem was I had two horses in work and I couldn't really afford to race both. So, I tossed a coin as to whether I'd keep her in training or another horse and she lost the toss, says Hawthorne.

"As a result we put her in foal and thought we would sell her. A friend gave us a nomination to Strategic Image we could use, and we decided the family needed speed which is really the main reason we went to him. Then we offered her in the August sale carrying Altered Image and never got a bid. Later at home in the paddock we got offered a thousand dollars for her and I said to mom just leave her in the paddock in case she's carrying a colt, so we did."

Currently in foal to Perfectly Ready, Dented Ambition will now remain a part of the two-strong Hawthorne broodmare band. "It's my mother's breeding hobby as much as mine, we're not commercial breeders and I don't know really what we're going to do now- we're probably going to have to raise our price a little bit and go to a more commercial stallion. For us it comes down to funds and at this point it's still up in the air where she goes next, says Hawthorne.

"As far as going back to Strategic Image, I'd have to say one swallow doesn't make a summer, but it's not completely out of the question. We decided if Altered Image goes on to become a Group 1 performer we'd like to keep the first filly out of her, but any colts she has will go through the ring."

Altered Image's win on Saturday was his third straight and, due to the jockey's inquiry, he remains undefeated. "It doesn't surprise me that Dented Ambition has left something that could gallop because she herself could gallop. It was only dollars and cents that kept her from the track, says Hawthorne.

"I am, however, surprised that he has developed into the horse that he has. He was a nice yearling without being anything spectacular. He was a nice tidy horse and we were happy with the $20,000 we got for him considering he didn't cost us much."

The first foal out of an unraced mare, Altered Image was unattractive to many at the 2007 Festival Sale at Karaka, where Paul Moroney picked him up for $20,000. Can Altered Image join the ranks of fellow star first foals Pentane, Kingmambo, Daylami, and Seattle Slew- to name a few?

- Stacey Akers