At only her fifth start Bellatrix Black (Redwood [GB]- Dark Arts) took out the Gr.3 McKee Family Sunline Stakes much to the delight of her owner/breeders Dave McKerchar and Janet Alexander.
The Catherine Cameron trained filly burst through late to grab the win on the line in the 2100m event, indicating that the extra distance of 300m in the upcoming 2400m Gr.1 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai New Zealand Oaks will be right up her alley.
The daughter of Redwood made her debut in late December with a fast finishing fourth at Counties over 1200m, she improved to finish second over 1400m three weeks later, and almost got there when finishing second again over 1600m three weeks after that. Following a similar gap, she won over 1600m at Tauranga and collected NZB Insurance Pearl Bonus in the process. Her next start was in the Sunline Stakes.
All this achieved in the space of 11 weeks, and now McKerchar and Alexander have a live chance in the most sought after three-year-old filly’s race for any breeder or owner the New Zealand Oaks.
Naturally they are excited about this prospect and also very proud of the filly they bred from their mare Dark Arts.
Members of the Waikato branch of the NZTBA, the couple only got involved in the industry after moving north from Wellington.
“We took early retirement from the government and we bought a kiwi fruit orchard in Te Puke,” McKerchar recalled.
“At the local bowling club all they talked about was horses, so we thought we better get involved. Prior to that I had a bit of a passive interest, and some friends had some good horses, but nothing serious.
“We got involved in some syndicates with not really any success and that’s when we decided we would have a go at breeding something better. It’s our hobby studying pedigrees, we thought it was a complicated science at first, but then realised it is quite simple if you follow the nicks that are working. So far in the 12 years or so that we have been breeding horses we haven’t had a dud, although Bellatrix Black is our first stakes winner.
“We just breed to race, Cossack Warrior (Shamoline Warrior (AUS) - Rush’N’Red) who had five wins from 14 starts before he was injured, was the best we had bred before Bellatrix Black.”
Bellatrix Black is the first foal of Dark Arts, a winning Mastercraftsman (IRE) mare the couple purchased through gavelhouse.com.
“A friend knew I was looking for a Mastercraftsman mare and called and asked if I was going to bid on Lot 8,” McKerchar said.
“So, I went and had a look and did some homework, watched her win online and thought I might have a go. To my advantage the website crashed but I kept trying and at about 4 o’clock the site came up again and I got her for $700.
“Emma-Lee Browne was selling her she had trained her for a syndicate who wanted to quit her as she was always getting herself into trouble and the vet bills were rather large. I liked Mastercraftsman, He seemed to be doing the job as a sire at that stage, and I liked his pedigree.
Dark Arts is a daughter of the winning Zabeel mare Zolata, who is also the grandam of he Listed Wanganui Cup winner Zola Express. Zolata is also a three-quarter sister to the stakes placed winners Night Club and Twistalot, and a half sister to Theatre of Dreams a stakes winner of nine races in South Africa.
They are in turn out of the Danzatore (USA) mare Danzalota a half-sister to the Stakes winners Rocket Race, Starzaan, and Chiming Knight, descending from the top race mare of her era in Bellota (Oakville [GB] - Radiant Ann) a group one winner of 10 races. It’s a family chock full of good stakes performers and solid racehorses.
Dark Arts second foal is Wolf Moon, a Rip Van Winkle (IRE) colt that the couple are retaining to race. For her next mating they sought another High Chaparral line horse in Contributor (AUS) and have a colt from the mare, who is now in foal to another High Chaparral horse in Ace High (AUS).
The couple also have one other mare they are breeding from in Explosive Girl (San Luis- Explosive) from the Explosive family. She is the dam of the stakes placed winner Jakkalbomb (by Jakkalberry [IRE]), and is a full sister to Explosive Dancer the dam of the Derby winner Vin de Dance (Roc de Cambes) and Extra Explosive (Ekraar [USA]) the dam of Explosive Jack. Explosive (Exploding Prospect [USA] - Tina’s Spirit [AUS]) was a stakes placed winner of three races and a sister to The Red Express who won 18 races and five of those were at stakes level.
She is in foal to Satono Aladdin (JPN) and has a Satano Aladdin (JPN) yearling filly, as well as a Roc de Cambes two-year-old Merlot Magic which will be raced by McKerchar and Alexander.
These days the kiwifruit orchard has been replaced by a smaller block just south of Katikati where the couple grow avocados and have more time to concentrate on playing bowls and following their horses, the majority of which are kept at Rich Hill Stud and The Oaks. -Michelle Saba, NZTBA