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First Group Winner for Ustinov

Top Australian filly Antarctic Miss gave New Zealand's horse community a further reminder how fortunate they were that Jeff McVean chose this country as the place he wanted to live.

The former Australian Olympic equestrian rider has made his mark in many ways since his arrival in 1989. His management of New Zealand equestrian teams and the performances of his daughter Katie in that sport have been notable by themselves, and along the way he's trained a New Zealand Derby winner, Leica Guv.

But he and wife Vicki have also had an impact through breeding the thoroughbred mares he brought with him, most notably the Thatching mare Alice Downs, whose great granddaughter Antarctic Miss became the latest New Zealand-bred group winner in Melbourne on Saturday.

In doing so she also became the first stakeswinner for her sire, the regally-related Brighthill Farm resident Ustinov.

"We brought about six mares out from England when we arrived, and Alice Downs was one of them," McVean said.

"Most of them have been good to us but she's probably been the best of them."
Thatching is a notable speed influence in Britain and McVean said the toughest job has been breeding some stamina into the family. However, to date he's had some good successes.

Alice Downs bred nine foals, and six of them were winners. Undoubtedly the best of them was the Crested Wave mare Miss Tessla, a winner of nine races and more than $A410,000. Her greatest successes were the Sedgwick Classic Stakes (G2-1600m) in South Australia and the VRC Matron Stakes (Listed-1600m). Another of her progeny, Routine Blue, won seven in Australia.

Among her other winners was Far South, a mare by Stark South. Though her sire was known most for his stamina – his best progeny were NZ Derby winner Hail and Auckland Cup winner Bodie – Far South was pure speed. She won at two in the South Island and was placed in the listed CJC Welcome Stakes (Listed-1000m).
The first sire she visited, O'Reilly, had speed himself and not surprisingly, so did the resulting foal. Ballymore Lass, a $17,000 purchase for Paul Moroney, was a winner at two and went on to win the Canterbury Breeders' Stakes (Listed-1600m) from the stable of Moroney's brother Mike.

"The price we got wasn't fantastic but it was pleasing to see her first foal going to a good trainer," McVean said.

Far South missed to Danske the next year before McVean decided to look for some stamina, and decided to send her to Ustinov.

There was plenty to recommend about Ustinov. For starters there was his pedigree – he was by Seeking The Gold, sire of Dubai Millennium and two Breeders' Cup winners among others, out of the champion racemare Let's Elope.

He was also a very good horse on the racetrack at his best – he won the traditional VRC Derby lead-up, the AAMI Vase (G2-2040m) and was second in an outstanding Caulfield Guineas (G1-1600m) behind Lohnro, beating Pure Theatre and Viscount among others.

"Ustinov had a bit of stamina in him and was a great individual, so we thought we had a good chance of getting a nice foal," McVean said.
McVean also had another good reason to support Ustinov – they had a long relationship with Brighthill Farm, which stands him.

"We knew Annemarie King when we were in Britain on the equestrian circuit," McVean said. "We may have had a hand in convincing her and Nick to come to New Zealand."

Fortunately for McVean they did get another good foal, and the filly was sold for $70,000 at the Karaka Select Sale through the Brighthill draft to Australian Mark Pilkington.

Since then Far South has visited Golan three times. A colt was sold for $90,000 to New Zealand agent Phil Cataldo earlier this year, she has a yearling at foot and is set to deliver another foal soon.

The Ustinov filly, Antarctic Miss, went into the stable of Nigel Sutcliffe, and has now won twice from six starts, the best win coming with a solid half-length victory in Saturday's Champagne Stakes (G3-1200m).

She is now reportedly being aimed at the Victorian Oaks (G1-2500m), a distance which McVean holds some hope of her staying.

"Miss Tessla managed to stay 2000m, and at three against their own age they can sometimes do it," McVean said.

"But if we have to settle for the 1000 Guineas at Caulfield I won't complain."

- Alastair Bull