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His Royal Highness comes up trumps again

Horowhenua breeder Peter McKenzie bought his mare Betelgeuse because he thought she would go well with the sire Tom's Shu. But as so often happens, it was another sire, His Royal Highness, to whom she produced her best progeny.

Betelgeuse's best son Sculptor added to his own very good record with victory in Saturday's Ipswich Cup (Listed-2150m), less than a week after a botched start cost him his chance in the Brisbane Cup (Gr 2-2400m).
The four-year-old's win followed a group two victory in the Great Northern Guineas (Gr 2-2000m) at Ellerslie last season and a placing in the Brisbane Cup that season (then a Gr 1 race over 3200m).

Betelgeuse was imported in utero from the United States. By Full Out, a son of Never Bend, Betelgeuse was out of Wentodinner, a mare imported by the Troy Corporation.
McKenzie was able to buy Betelgeuse at a Northern Hemisphere-time yearling sale in 1988 – he can't remember how much for exactly but thinks it was either $9000 or $15,000 – because her third dam was the top US broodmare Pocahontas.

"War Hawk (one of Pocahontas' foals) had done well in New Zealand, Tom Rolfe was a huge sire overseas and Alzao, who was out of one of her daughters, was just starting to make a mark in Europe," McKenzie said.
"I thought she would go well with Tom's Shu (a son of Tom Rolfe, making any of their progeny 3x4 to Pocahontas) and I was pleased I was able to get her."She won a couple of trials for me but at the second she chipped both fetlocks.

She was not the same after she was operated on but I didn't mind too much because I wanted to breed from her."
McKenzie was only able to get two colts from Tom's Shu, Sabik and Bullion Mansion, before Tom's Shu died. After that she went three times to Beldale Lear, getting only one foal, a filly called Sharalyn. Since 1995 she has only visited McKenzie's resident sire, the vastly underrated His Royal Highness.

"I went to him because I believed in the horse and they were very compatible physically," McKenzie said.
Bred in 2002 by one of McKenzie's companies Galaxy Exports Ltd, Sculptor would seem to have indicated the belief in the mating, as McKenzie said he was a very good and neat foal.

"He always had class and he was very, very correct," McKenzie said."Even as a foal he was almost like a ballet dancer he was so athletic.."
As is often the case with breeders, McKenzie bred one of Sculptor's parents himself. What's unusual is that in this case he bred the sire rather than the dam.McKenzie bred His Royal Highness in 1989 after sending his US-bred mare Gem In The Rough, who he believes was one of the first Mr Prospector mares at stud in New Zealand, to Grosvenor.

Unusually for Grosvenor, what McKenzie got was a speed machine. He thinks the colt was just as fast as his top sprinter Mr Illusion – and he was a rare New Zealand sprinter up to Australian class, winning both the Galaxy Handicap (Gr 1-1100m) and Oakleigh Plate (Gr 1-1100m).
But after winning his first two races, he hurt his leg very badly in his third start, the Stewards Handicap (Gr 3-1200m) at Riccarton, lost 15 lengths in the process, but still finished third.

His life was in jeopardy for a time but his leg eventually healed and he was able to take his place at stud, where he's been a great success. He's had 13 stakeswinners, among them racehorses such as Zvezda, Figurehead and Wharite Princess, and his ratio of 4 percent stakewinners to foals born and 7.5 percent stakeswinners to starters are both good totals, especially since he hasn't seen highly commercial mares.
"For some reason his progeny haven't been wanted at the best sales – we entered 15 last year and they were all catalogued in the Festival Sale despite sometimes only having two mares on the catalogue page – but they are runners and I've sold his progeny for up to $250,000 from training.

"And apart from a couple of years when I wasn't well that I didn't manage his breeding season, his fertility has been fine."
McKenzie has about 25 mares at his Strathcarron Stud in Ohau, south of Levin. Most are used specifically with His Royal Highness. Unfortunately they no longer include Betelgeuse. She didn't prove a prolific breeder, missing four times and slipping another four foals. And after not producing a foal for three years after Sculptor, she died while foaling a His Royal Highness filly.

"She's gone to a foster mare, but I'll definitely be keeping her," McKenzie said.
Joining her on the farm one day is likely to be her brother Sculptor. "I thought he could make a sire from the time he was in training and I hoped he could win the Ryder Stakes at two but he had a bad run and finished sixth," McKenzie said.
"But he's been a very easy colt to manage and his record could have been much better were it not for bad luck and some problems with the barriers in Australia."

- Alastair Bull


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