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'Anna's Choice' grows beyond expectations

Jen Campin's first broodmare Anna's Choice was an unwanted twin when she began life. Now she's a producer of multiple black type performers. Best-known as the dam of New Zealand Derby winning international performer Hades, Anna's Choice added further prestige to her record when Everbright took out the Queen Mother Memorial Cup (HK Gr 3-2400m) at Sha Tin in Hong Kong on Saturday. "I was at a party when the race was run and I didn't see him win," Campin says. "But a friend called me to tell me about it and I was beaming for the rest of the night."

Campin admits she didn't know a great deal about horse breeding when she arrived in New Zealand to marry Jim Campin of Cambridge's Chequers Stud. Until then her experience had mainly been as a business manager at Mercedes-Benz. Shortly after arriving, she was told by the team at nearby Balmerino Park that their Todman mare Nuclear Energy had foaled a twin to Chequers' outstanding stallion Vice Regal that they said would be put down as she was no use to them. "Jim and I went to Balmerino Park and when I saw her I fell in love with this little thing that was no taller than three feet," she said. "There was nothing wrong with her other than that she was a twin – her body was fine even though her legs were tiny. I said to Jim that we can't put her down and that we should have her. We got her for a free service to Vice Regal."

With her legs so small, Anna's Choice was never a racing prospect. Her breeding prospects were however reasonable and she did have a useful family – her brother Isonomer won 10 in Australia and was group-one placed three times, once in the Galaxy at Randwick. However, Campin must have wondered if breeding was such a good idea when the first foal she bred, a Bakharoff filly, died. "I was extremely disappointed because I was really looking forward to her first foal. But I had learned pretty quickly that you have to take the good with the bad in this business, and fortunately I got Katchmekate next." Also by Bakharoff, Katchmekate was a winner of two and proved up to black type quality, running third in the Counties Challenge Stakes for juveniles and second in the Walter Brown Handicap in Adelaide, both of them listed races.

Three of Anna's Choice's next four foals also won races but it would be her sixth foal, by Zabeel, who would put her into the elite category. Sold to Waikato trainer Roger James for $32,500, he became Hades, a small but smart horse who won the 1999 NZ Derby at his fourth start. "I was in the crowd at Ellerslie hoping he would run a nice race and maybe run in the first three, but watching him win was an incredible thrill. The thing about the family is that they never give up and he didn't that day." Hades was sold to Hong Kong the next year, where he raced as Helene Vitality. Trained by David Hayes, he only won once but he placed in five Hong Kong group one races and also ran second in the Dubai Sheema Classic (Gr 1-2400m).

Anna's Choice continued to produce quality runners after Hades, including the black type placegetter Swan Lake, and in 2001 Campin decided to send her to Cambridge Stud's shuttle sire Cape Cross, a group one-winning miler in England.
"I remember I loved him when I saw him for the first time at a stallion parade at Cambridge Stud. He had real presence and I was keen to use him. I only wish he was still here," Campin says. "So I sent Anna's Choice to him and the next year she foaled a fabulous colt. I rated him one the three best foals she has produced."
The colt was one of the standout Cape Cross yearlings at the 2004 Premier Sale at Karaka, with only three fetching higher prices. He was bought for $115,000 by a Hong Kong client of Ginger Tankard, who had told Campin earlier how much he liked the colt. Named Everbright, he went into the stable of Bryce Tankard, where he raced three times for a win and a second, before being sent to the stable of Paul O'Sullivan in Hong Kong. This season, as a four-year-old to NZ time, Everbright has been one of the big improvers in Hong Kong. He had won his previous three starts heading into Saturday's race and was at short odds for the Queen Mother Memorial Cup, duly proving too strong in the hands of regular rider Danny Nikolic by a neck.
"I think Paul has said he was one of the very best horses he has trained on his own account," Campin said. "I believe he's likely to be put aside now and be aimed at the Hong Kong International Vase (2400m) in December."

Since foaling Everbright, Anna's Choice has produced fillies by Montjeu and Ustinov before returning to Zabeel for the first time since producing Hades. She produced a colt that is down as a $200,000 sale at Karaka earlier this year but has since returned to Campin. Despite the success with Cape Cross, Campin says she is keen to send Anna's Choice and her fillies to sires carrying Sir Tristram where they don't already have him. "The cross with Sir Tristram and Vice Regal is extremely potent, and especially with Zabeel and Vice Regal. It's been one of the most successful crosses for Zabeel and I'm surprised more Vice Regal mares haven't visited him."

Now separated from Jim, Campin has about 10 broodmares of her own now and is getting ready to move to a new property near Lake Karapiro. Several of those broodmares are from the Anna's Choice family, and she still has Anna's Choice, now a 20-year-old and currently in foal to Viking Ruler after missing to Savabeel the year before. "She's hardly ever had problems carrying a foal – she's a good bodied mare and if anything her foals have been getting bigger as she's got older. She's just been amazing to me."


- Alastair Bull