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Hong Kong Derby winner bred by well-known Cambridge breeder, Ngaire Fraser

Memories from 1960s and 70s Trentham yearling sales were instrumental in leading Cambridge horsewoman Ngaire Fraser to the dam of Vital King, the latest big-race winner she has bred.

Vital King (4g Almutawakel (GB)-Wauwinet by Bassenthwaite) on Sunday scored one of the most important wins by a New Zealand-bred horse in the last year when he nosed out favourite Floral Pegasus to win the Hong Kong Derby (HK-I, 2000m)

Fraser bought Wauwinet when she was carrying Vital King at the 2002 Karaka broodmare sale for $20,000 partly because of memories she had of Wauwinet's grandam Nantucket.

"I was keen on buying a mare from a good family and one that I was familiar with, and she stood out," Fraser said.

"I had worked at Jim Malcolm's Te Rapa Stud many years ago, in the days when all a stud's yearlings came through the sale ring at the same time, and I worked with some foals of Nantucket.

"She had left Maria Mitchell (winner of a Railway Handicap, an Avondale Guineas and a Whyte Handicap) and I had good memories of the family. It's a good solid family."

Late in her breeding career Nantucket visited Sir Tristram, producing Nantucket Sound. She proved a good producer, her progeny including Sounds Abound (by Sound Reason), winner of the group three Centaine Stakes, and the smart Aka Bilk (by Al Akbar), a winner of 10 including the listed Wanganui Guineas and runner-up in the group two Craiglee Stakes at Flemington.

Wauwinet, by Bassenthwaite, produced a few winners before Trelawney Stud sold her to Fraser for $20,000. It was Trelawney who mated Wauwinet to Almutawakel, the Dubai World Cup winner who shuttled to New Zealand for one season but who has made his mark with horses such as New Zealand Derby winner Wahid, Counties Cup winner Chettak and the open handicap winner Darringdo.

Ngaire Fraser and friend
Fraser recalls always liking Vital King from the moment he was born – "he was correct, good walking and well balanced"– but she couldn't sell him exactly where she wanted.

"I thought that since he looked like a real racehorse that he would be a good type for Magic Millions and started preparing him accordingly," she said.

"But when I didn't hear back from them, I called (auctioneer) Steve Davis, told him the pedigree and he said he would be gone at the first cut, so consequently he was entered at Karaka."

Eventually Vital King was sold to former Olympic equestrian gold medallist Mark Todd, whose Cambridge property was close to Fraser's current property, "Donegal Ridge".

"In hindsight going to Mark was probably the best thing for the horse. It meant he didn't have a rushed preparation for a Magic Millions race."

Named Izzat in New Zealand, he won his first start as an autumn two-year-old and then ran third to Final Reality in the listed Castletown Stakes (1200m) at Foxton. At three he failed in his first start before winning over 1600m at Te Rapa before heading to Otaki, where he finished half a length and a nose away from Wahid and Shikoba in the group one Levin Classic (1600m).

Soon afterwards he left for Hong Kong to race for new owner Chong Man Lung out of the Paul O'Sullivan stable, and he had been a very solid performer before scoring a last-to-first win in the Hong Kong Derby (2000m).

"It was an exciting moment watching him win, especially watching him come from last. He always gets a long way back and I always wonder how he can make up the ground he does," Fraser said.

Unfortunately, Fraser will get limited benefit from the victory as Wauwinet died last year after complications foaling an Ishiguru colt, now a weanling. Prior to that she foaled Sanjeev (by St Petersburg), a three-year-old that has won two trials, and a Minardi two-year-old that was sold privately to Hong Kong just prior to a scheduled appearance at the Ready To Run sale last year.

"The biggest disappointment is that she didn't leave me a filly," Fraser said. "But she gave me four big brown colts that I've been delighted with."

Vital King, of course, is far from the first top galloper Fraser has been associated with.

Fraser played a major part in breeding several outstanding runners at Chequers Stud with then-husband Jim Campin in the 1970s and 1980s, and developed a place for herself in the late 1980s as the trainer of the multiple group one winner (Our) Westminster.

She also earned a special niche in New Zealand racing history for foaling and rearing Sunline at Pleasanton Farm, her former Cambridge property, for Sunline's breeders Michael Martin and Susan Archer. Vital King in fact shares the same KR brand as Sunline – the KR standing for Kind Regards, the dam of one of Chequers Stud's greatest products, Vice Regal.

"When you consider how many people can go a whole lifetime and still struggle to breed a good horse, I consider myself very fortunate.''

- Alastair Bull


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