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Charlie Roberts and family breed Sydney Cup winner

Mary Kenny would love Gesine to breed a full brother or sister to Saturday's Sydney Cup winner Gallic. Trouble is, Zabeel doesn't seem to want to come to the party.
Charlie Roberts
Kenny, her husband Paul and Kenny's father Charlie Roberts were overjoyed on Saturday when Gallic, a seven-year-old son of Zabeel and their mare Gesine, added the Sydney Cup (Gr 1-3200m) to the Adelaide Cup (Gr 2-3200m) he had already won this season.

Gesine has been a very reliable broodmare for them on their farm at Ardmore, southeast of Auckland – her 1999 foal Gallic was the first of seven consecutive years in which she produced a foal – but their first attempt to return to Zabeel was unsuccessful for unusual reasons.

"We sent her to Zabeel three times in 2005 and he would not serve her," Kenny said.

"We always take our mares to be served and walk them into the serving ring ourselves, but after watching him refuse to serve her it became very frustrating. For once we left her at Cambridge Stud to see if Patrick Hogan
and his team could have any more luck but Zabeel he still wouldn't serve her and we didn't get her to another sire that year.

"It's only happened to us once before, when we tried to send Tiz Jean to Sir Tristram in 1995 and he wouldn't serve her. Instead we sent her to Last Tycoon and she gave us Vanderbilt, the mother of Smitten Kitten (a stakes winner in the South Island)."

Roberts, a Takanini vet, has been a successful breeder for many years. He bred the 1967 Auckland Cup winner Royal Sheen and later bred two 1980s group one winners, Fothers and the Australian group one winner Penny Edition. He is also a life member of the New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders' Association and served on its council for many years.

In later years he and his daughter set up Roberts Holdings, a company which looks after their thoroughbred breeding.

Roberts Holdings bought Gesine almost exclusively as a broodmare prospect at the Karaka yearling sales in 1995 for $110,000. It wasn't a hard decision to understand – her sire Nassipour had produced outstanding runners like Let's Elope and Shiva's Revenge, and her dam was Solveig, the Oaks-winning daughter of Soliloquy, whose family was also to the fore last week through NZ Thoroughbred Breeders' Stakes winner Captivate.

With such strong bloodlines, Roberts and Kenny decided they would only race her if she looked to be outstanding, and as it turned out she wasn't.

"We put her with Trevor McKee as a two-year-old and an early three-year-old and then she went to stud at three," Kenny said.

"She had a couple of trials and afterwards Trevor said 'I think she'll be better as a broodmare'.
"We'd always bought her as a broodmare and we were happy not to race her. It looks much better in a pedigree page for a mare to be unraced than racing 10 times for nothing."

Gesine was served for the first time as a three-year-old and produced Lady Gesine to Grosvenor. She didn't get to the races either but at stud has produced Deferment, a winner in Australia as a three-year-old this season.

She slipped a foal to Honor Grades the season after that but then in 1998 was sent to Zabeel, with Gallic being the result.

"It was a pretty obvious choice to go to Zabeel. That was when his progeny really started firing, when Might and Power, Jezabeel and Champagne were winning the big races in Melbourne," Kenny said.

"Also, Gesine is not an overly big mare and we were hoping to put some size into her foal. It worked well – he was quite a big foal and became quite a big yearling.

"He was quite easy to deal with – we got all the benefits of Zabeel without some of the temperament issues that some of them have."

Like many of the Roberts mares, Gallic was sent to the Ra Ora-Haunui Farm partnership to be prepared for the yearling sales and he was bought by Lloyd Williams for $170,000.

Gallic has had more than his share of bad luck for Williams and his trans-Tasman trainer Graeme Rogerson. He's had a series of injuries, including a bowed tendon and a broken pelvis, but they had enough faith in the gelding to persist with him.

The rewards came this season. In spring he won the Bendigo Cup and was third in the group two Moonee Valley Cup, and this autumn won the Adelaide Cup before his hard-fought win over Irazu and No Wine No Song. The Melbourne Cup next spring is now possibly on the cards.

The day to day operations of the farm, which includes about 15 mares, are largely left up to the Kennys. Along with Gesine, for whom Gallic is the only black type winner, their other good broodmares include Starina, a placegetter in the Wellington and Sydney Cups from the family of Penny Edition, and Tristean, the dam of Matamata Breeders Stakes winner Katana who comes from the family of Yir Tiz and Mr Tiz.

Roberts these days is also highly successful with harness racing – he runs Woodlands Stud, which has had breeding rights to champion sire In The Pocket and currently has rights to the very exciting Bettor's Delight, whose progeny have included outstanding two-year-olds and three-year-olds in the United States.

With the partnership giving up for now on attempts to get a full relation to Gallic, they decided instead to try for as close a relation as possible last year, sending Gesine to Zabeel's Australian Derby-winning son Don Eduardo. Kenny is hoping the resulting foal will be a filly.

"We don't have any of her fillies on the farm yet, but we'd definitely like one now," she said. "I'd love the Don Eduardo foal to be a filly because it will be a very close relation to Gallic, but hopefully she will deliver us a filly at some stage. She's only 14 and is very hail and hearty so with any luck there's a few more foals to come yet."

- Alastair Bull