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Dezigna's dam winner of the Auckland Branch 2007 Broodmare of the Year title

Emma Evans wasn't just being optimistic when she named Dezigna's granddam May Be Great.

Evans also had her aunt May Wilson in mind when it came to putting a name to May Be Great, a Crested Wave mare she inherited from her aunt shortly after she died in 1985.

But it's turned out there was a fair bit of prescience in naming her. Dezigna, who added to his record in Saturday's listed GR Kelt Memorial (Listed-1400m) is the best representative to date, but the family has had numerous winners.

Not bad for a breeder whose sole purpose until very recently was in breeding horses she would race herself.

"My aunt had bought May Be Great's granddam Divine Chat from the Trentham sales as a yearling in 1962," said Evans, a farmer who lives in Whitford, southeast of Auckland.

"She didn't have much luck with the family though, as we didn't get Divine Chat or her daughter Pine Street to the races."

Wilson and her niece persisted however, and when Wilson died it was Evans who was given the responsibility of keeping the family going through Pine Street's Crested Wave mare, then a yearling.

"I thought I would name her May Be Great after my aunt and in the hope that she might live up to her name."

May Be Great wasn't an outstanding racehorse and needed plenty of distance to excel, winning both her races over 2200m. But she has more than done her job as a broodmare.

"Her first nine foals all got to the races," Evans said. "They all won except for one that was placed before going in the wind and another that unfortunately smashed his shoulder when falling at the Thames races."

It's arguable which of May Be Great's foals was the best racehorse. Kiwi Kid, by Kreisler, is the only black type winner, his three wins including the Great Northern Guineas Trial (Listed-1400m) at Ellerslie, and her only other black type performer was his brother Greatthings Happen, who won twice but was placed in the Levin Bayer Classic (Gr 1-1600m) and the ARC Champagne Stakes (Listed-1600m).

The most successful performer in terms of wins, however, was Be Famous (by Famous Star), who didn't earn any black type but did win 10 times from 1200m to 1600m.

Among the other winners was Label Basher, by Conquistarose, one of only two fillies that May Be Great has foaled to date. She won three before Evans retired her and started to look for sires to put her to.

Unlike May Be Great, who visited a number of stallions in the Auckland region, particularly at Haunui Farm, Evans has mainly used stallions at Windsor Park Stud near Cambridge for Label Basher. The mare first visited Star Way, producing the five race winner Label This, before being sent to Volksraad in 1998.

"I don't use any particular linebreeding principles but I do like to have a look at stallions and I did like the look of Volksraad and his progeny when I decided she should visit him," Evans said.

"We got a very nice foal. Her foals have tended to throw to the stallions in type and this foal did too."

Dezigna, as he was named by Evans, at one stage looked like he wouldn't make it to the races at all. He was badly injured as an autumn two-year-old and according to Evans nearly died, but he recovered and has had a solid career since he returned to racing as a three-year-old.

He was at one stage a professional placegetter, accumulating eight black type placings before finally breaking through in the FC Johnstone Handicap Listed-1400m) at Te Rapa as a seven-year-old last season.

The win seems to have done the trick as he followed it up by winning the ARC George Adams (Tattersall) Handicap (Gr 2-1600m) at Ellerslie on New Year's Day this year, and this season he won first-up at Whangarei before lumping 59.5kg in a handicap to take out the GR Kelt Memorial. He is next likely to the Captain Cook Stakes (Gr 1-1600m) at Trentham, where weight-for-age conditions give him a chance to top off his four group one placings with a victory at racing's highest level.

Dezigna is far from the end of the story of Label Basher, however. Two other foals, Multi Tasker (by Kaapstad) and Fascinator (by Spinning World) have won three races, and she has a two-year-old brother to Dezigna named Izonit, who won his first trial at Taupo and is likely to accompany Dezigna to Trentham.

All of these performers helped Label Basher earn an unexpected triumph for Evans – broodmare of the year for the NZ Thoroughbred Breeders' Association Auckland branch.

"I didn't even know she was nominated," Evans said. "But it's a great honour."
Evans, who keeps her horses at a separate property near Takanini, has only one mare from outside the Divine Chat family. She is now planning to go even further upmarket with Label Basher this year, as she is booked to go to Zabeel.
"Like May Be Great, I don't have too many from Label Basher (three to date, including Multi Tasker and Fascinator), which I'm kind of relieved about as I don't know what I'd do if we had that many mares on the farm," she said. "But I'd love a Zabeel filly to breed from."

The broodmare band also still includes May Be Great, now 23, who is set to go to Elusive City this season after Haunui Farm said she was still healthy enough to breed from.

If the family continues to produce, Evans may even start to think about breeding to sell. "I've sold two off the track to date but none have ever gone through the sales, but if the numbers keep going up I might have to think about it a bit more."

- Alastair Bull


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