Thoroughbred breeders often make the annual pilgrimage to the yearling sales at Karaka hoping for the result to be life changing.
For Willow Glen Stud’s Barbara Cooney, Karaka 2021 was exactly that, life changing, but not for the financial reasons so often associated with the cream of the thoroughbred crop going under the hammer.
Cooney suffered a heart attack and had it not been for the quick action and medical assistance of those on the Karaka complex, the South Canterbury horsewoman would likely no longer be with us.
“I was extremely lucky it happened at Karaka,” Cooney said.
“It was hard on Mike (husband) and our friends that were there but I was lucky I was in the right place at the right time.
“We lost my brother at the beginning of lockdown last year with a similar incident but he was out on the farm, with a blocked main artery.
“I was so lucky it happened at Karaka where there were medical staff on hand, an ambulance there relatively quickly and the hospital staff were great too.”
Cooney said the camaraderie of those in the industry who pulled together to help the Waimate breeders present and sell their yearling colt by War Decree at Karaka following the emergency was incredible.
“I was in hospital for a week. They put a stent in the main artery and the ambulance people at Karaka came and visited me and brought me flowers, which was very nice,” Cooney said.
“Mark Corcoran from Grangewilliam Stud, Stewart McGiffert from Three Valleys and the team at Long Acres all just sprung into action, took over and looked after the horse for Mike.
“They were just glad to do it. We were very lucky and everyone was so kind.
“New Zealand Bloodstock were excellent and Mike was offered a vehicle and plenty of support.”
Cooney, who most commonly goes by the childhood nickname Jimmy, is savouring her good health as she prepares to offer six yearlings at the South Island Sale, with the 63-strong catalogue currently online on plus.gavelhouse.com with bidding set to commence on Monday 12 April, with the first lot closing incrementally at 7PM (NZT) on Wednesday 14 April.
“I went to Dunedin last week to the specialist and passed with flying colours and I was able to go on the treadmill for eight minutes, which I thought was pretty good. They had it going flat out going uphill and I was fine.”
Nothing gets breeders more excited than the launch of the first crop of yearlings by a new stallion and the Cooneys are no exception, with four of their South Island Sale yearlings from the first crop of Mongolian Falcon, a Group Two winning son of Fastnet Rock.
The winner of the Gr.2 Hawke’s Bay Guineas (1400m), defeating Group One winners Jon Snow and Heroic Valour, Mongolian Falcon was runner-up to Ugo Foscolo in the Gr.2 Sarten Memorial (1400m) and was retired after an injury in the Gr.1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m).
From an international family, Mongolian Falcon, who raced for the Inner Mongolia Rider Horse Group, is out of a Group Three performed daughter of Galileo, Amazing Beauty.
“They are super types and he is a real chance. The foals are very athletic and Fastnet Rock couldn’t be going any better in New Zealand,” Cooney said.
“We are very lucky. He is a Fastnet Rock that leaves a lovely type. He is a stunning horse himself that is very correct and strong and he is passing that on and he is leaving horses with a lovely head, which is often not a trait associated with Fastnet Rock.
“Maybe that is some of the Galileo coming through too, but his progeny certainly have a bit of quality about them.”
Willow Glen’s other duo are by their Group One winning son of Footstepsinthesand, Pure Champion and Cooney said there would be terrific opportunity for pinhookers at the online sale.
“The Pure Champions are leggy, good sorts. A colt out of Libby Surprize was pinhooked out of our South Island Sale draft last year for $3,000 and made $105,000 at the Ready To Run Sale to Shane Baertschiger in Singapore,” Cooney said.
“We have a full brother to that colt in this year’s draft, so there should be good opportunity there for the pinhookers again.”
Cooney said they welcomed any inspections at their Waimate property, but in the event prospective purchasers couldn’t make it to the farm ahead of the sale, New Zealand Bloodstock’s Kane Jones and Cam Bray had been to view the stock last week, while respected horseman Ray Knight of Novara Park had also inspected the draft and could offer an independent viewpoint.
“With COVID, people are getting used to purchasing horses more remotely, so that is a positive, but sometimes it can be harder for us to value our horses compared with a physical sale,” Cooney said.
“We have done relatively informal videos as we want to show the horse as naturally as possible without the over-production that often goes with them and we would love to welcome anyone keen to inspect the horses to the farm.
“We are really excited by our draft.
“I firmly believe I survived Karaka because I still have a Group One winner to breed.
“Hopefully it is right here amongst our draft of six at this week’s sale. That might have been why I was saved.” – NZ Racing Desk