With Karaka 2022 sandwiched between two stellar days of racing at Ellerslie, Mark Chitty is set to be a very busy man over the next 10 days.
Chitty is the managing director of Haunui Farm, who will offer another quality consignment of 27 yearlings in Book 1 and 35 in Book 2. But he is also the deputy chairman of Auckland Thoroughbred Racing, who are staging the Gr.1 Vodafone New Zealand Derby (2400m) on Saturday and the Gr.2 Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup (3200m) the following Sunday.
“It’s fair to say we won’t be getting much time to catch our breath over the next few days,” Chitty said. “But it’s exciting. In some ways, it reminds me of the race meetings and sale that we used to have at Trentham in the old days.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for us to showcase some of our best racing with two quality racedays, and also having the sale in between. It’s going to be an action-packed week, albeit without our Australian friends here with us this year. We’re all really looking forward to it.”
Haunui were famously the vendors of 14-time Group One winner and dual New Zealand Horse of the Year Melody Belle, who was bought by David Ellis for just $57,500 at Karaka in 2016. But they also laid the groundwork for the careers of other recent star performers such as Western Empire, Furore, Sherwood Forest, Field Of Gold, Elephant, Tutukaka and Rondinella.
Chitty believes the class of 2022 is right up to the standard of some of those high-class predecessors.
“I’m really happy with the quality of the draft we’ve assembled for Karaka this year,” he said. “We’ve got the progeny of a myriad of stallions, from the proven and established big names to the exciting up-and-comers that are just starting to come through. I think there should be a horse there for everyone.”
Like many other vendors, Chitty has given an enthusiastic thumbs-up to New Zealand Bloodstock’s decision to postpone the sale from its traditional late-January timeslot due to logistical challenges arising from COVID-19.
“I think that late-January and February period is extremely conducive to yearling development here in New Zealand,” he said. “We’ve often seen examples of that in the past, where we’ve looked after horses following the sale when it was held in its usual date. Those yearlings really come a long way in those few weeks in the late summer.
“One big advantage of it that I can see is that the horses have had less pressure put on them early in the season, and they seem to have really benefitted from that.
“From walking around the grounds and looking at the horses in other drafts, I think there’s much more evenness across them all. You’re not seeing as many yearlings that make you think, ‘Oh, that one’s a little bit behind.’
“It certainly seems to have had a lot of advantages from a vendor’s point of view, and I think it’s more conducive to foals being born a few weeks later in the spring as well.”
One of the most notable features of Haunui’s draft in 2022 is that it features the final New Zealand crop of Iffraaj.
Shuttling to Haunui from 2008 to 2019, Iffraaj has sired 366 winners from 605 runners among his southern hemisphere-conceived progeny. That includes 30 individual stakes winners, headed by Group One stars Turn Me Loose, Gingernuts, Western Empire, Jon Snow and Wyndspelle.
Turn Me Loose, Jon Snow and Wyndspelle are now embarking on their own stud careers in New Zealand, along with Godolphin star Ribchester, who has taken his sire’s place at Haunui. Iffraaj is also the grandsire of Cambridge Stud’s bright prospect Almanzor.
“It’s the end of an era in a way,” Chitty said. “Iffraaj been a great servant over a number of years. He’s still got some really good progeny on the racetrack at the moment, and he’s making a name for himself as a broodmare sire as well (with four stakes winners in our part of the world, headed by Melody Belle).
“We’re looking forward to getting some lovely colts and fillies from his final crop in front of the buyers at Karaka over the next few days.”
Fellow Haunui sire Belardo is also represented in the draft, along with the likes of Savabeel, Ocean Park, Snitzel, More Than Ready, Justify, Deep Field, Almanzor, Per Incanto, Dundeel, Written By, Vadamos and U S Navy Flag.
There is also no shortage of credentials on the dams’ side of the pedigrees. Lot 37 is out of Valpolicella, who is the dam of four black-type performers, while Lot 190 is a Savabeel half-sister to the trans-Tasman Group Two winner Spanish Whisper, and Lot 343 is a half-brother to the Group One winner Consensus.
Haunui’s Book 1 draft also features the progeny of Group One-performed mares Veloce Bella, Xpression, Floria, Irish Fling and Striker.
“There may not necessarily be a superstar in the draft this year, but I think it’s a really nice, even group of yearlings,” Chitty said.
“I think there’s quite a high standard generally and a great variety of stallions represented, and buyers can come and choose a horse that’s going to suit them.” – NZ Racing Desk