The Singaporean Champion three-year-old of his year Countofmontecristo (Echoes Of Heaven[AUS] – Replicate) returned to form to win the Listed Merlion Trophy in Singapore on Sunday, much to the delight of his Taranaki based breeders Heather and Peter Crofskey.
It had been around 700 days since the now six-year-old gelding last won a race, after winning seven races at three and four, including two of the Singapore three-year-old Triple Crown races the Three-Year-Old Classic, and Three-Year-Old Sprint, followed by the Listed Jumbo Jet Trophy at four.
Since that win he has run seven placings, with five of them seeing him finish in second place where he has been pipped on the line.
“We are absolutely thrilled about the win,” enthused a delighted Heather Crofskey who watched the race live on Trackside.
“I couldn’t watch the finish we’ve been disappointed so many times. Pete just said here’s the photo and he’s got it. It was a great thrill.
“These days we are getting as big a thrill watching the horses that we have bred win, as we did when we won the Derby with Habibi. We’ve discovered what it’s like to breed good racehorses and it’s all so exciting, now it’s not just the thrill of racing them, we have produced some good horses off the fields of little Lepperton.”
Lepperton in Taranaki is where the Crofskey’s are based and where they keep their six mares and young stock.
It is home to Replicate (Towkay[AUS]-Replica), the mother of Countofmontecristo who was also bred by the Crofskeys.
In the late 1990’s the Crofskeys bought their first racehorse, an Omnicorp yearling out of the Creag-An-Sgor(IRE) mare Replica from noted Wairarapa breeder Lorraine Jameson. Named Modem, he won five races on the flat before being sold and exported to the United Kingdom where he won a further five races over fences.
That was the start of a long friendship and Jameson gifted Replica in foal to Towkay(AUS) to the Crofskeys and the foal she produced, her last one, was Replicate. Besides Modem, Replica also left Kowloon Fit (by Towkay[AUS]) who won three races in Singapore. She was was an unraced daughter of Rakhri (In The Purple[FR]), who in turn was a daughter of the group one winning race mare of nine races Chantal (Chatsworth II[GB]-Tenderfoot).
Chantal was bred and raced by Jameson, and her first foal a colt by Agricola (GB) was the highest priced yearling – creating a new record – when he sold to Bart Cummings for $60,000 at the 1970 Trentham yearling sales. He went on to race as Hampton’s Pride who was a listed winner of six races. She also left the stakes winners Rural Song, Bright Halo, and Inceptor who was a successful sire.
Crofskey speaks very fondly of her long association with Jameson.
“Lorraine has been very dear to us over the years, it’s been a bit of a journey. We bred and raced Endownment (Savabeel[AUS]-Timpin) together and raced him in last year’s Derby, where he ran fifth. He also ran second in the Gr.2 Jamieson Park Auckland Guineas.
“She has also given us a lovely Ocean Park mare Pania, who we sent to Ghibellines last year.”
Back to Replicate, she was a winner for the Crofskeys before they sent her to stud. Her first mating was with Any Suggestion (AUS) and she produced a filly I Suggest who won nine races. A return there saw her produce another filly Question Mark who was also a winner.
She produced a colt to Lucky Unicorn (AUS) followed by a colt by Per Incanto (USA), who unfortunately succumbed to a paddock accident after winning a jump out by 10 lengths. Her fifth foal is Countofmontecristo and following him, she went back to Any Suggestion and produced Final Suggestion, a promising gelding who has won five races for the Crofskeys.
Her next mating produced a filly by Ekraar (USA) who was retained by her breeders, and she has a two-year-old gelding by Zacinto (GB) who is heading to the Ready To Run Sales in November. She has a full brother to Countofmontecristo who is destined for the yearling sales, and is in foal to Satano Aladdin (JPN), and will go back to Per Incanto (USA) this year.
“Most of the success we have had is from wanting to breed a horse that will become a good horse,” stressed Crofskey, and in recent years they have breed quite a few including the 2013 New Zealand Derby winner Habibi (Ekraar[USA]-Danny Halliday), Countofmontecristo and another Singapore stakes winner in Hip Hip Hooray (Tavistock-Timpin).
“It’s based on a gut feeling about a pedigree and lots of research by Peter. He has the passion and the knowledge, and we are very proud of what we have achieved. We are not in the commercial echelon; we just love our horses. You know we went to Ekraar three times before we got Habibi.
“With Echoes of Heaven (Encosta de Lago[AUS]-Shanta’s Choice[AUS]), it was always about his pedigree, Peter and I looked at the breeding and we just knew we believed in him. We were so taken with his breeding and in this case out instinct was right.
“We ran it past Peter Jenkins and he thought it was a great mating, he has been a great help with our matings all the way through. With stallions like Echoes of Heaven and in fact any mating it’s always about taking a punt and doing the best you know how.”
The Crofskeys are expecting six foals this season, but will only be breeding four mares, supporting U.S.Navy Flag, Per Incanto, Ghibellines and Derryn.
“Two of our mares are quite late this year, so we are going to give them a break. The industry is not really flourishing, and the racing is definitely affecting the breeding side, it’s disheartening for small breeders like ourselves,” she said.
“At the end of the day we have a passion we love seeing our babies grow and get a big kick when they win. We were both brought up around horses, we enjoy our lifestyle and we get to meet some wonderful people.” -Michelle Saba, NZTBA