It’s fair to say Auckland-based breeder Don Goodwin has loved every minute of breeding and owning a champion racehorse.
The octogenarian stole the show at Saturday night’s National Breeding Awards, sponsored by AGrowQuip, where his star mare Verry Elleegant was named the Seton Otway Horse of the Year, while her dam Opulence shared the honours for Eight Carat Broodmare of the Year with Galileo mare Baggy Green.
For good measure, Goodwin was also named New Zealand Small Breeder of the Year.
After a couple of false starts, Goodwin finally got his time in the spotlight, with the National Breeding Awards cancelled in each of the past two years due to Covid.
But the longevity of 11-time Group One winner Verry Elleegant ensured that Goodwin wasn’t denied the experience, with the daughter of Zed adding Group One victories in the George Main Stakes (1600m), Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m) and Melbourne Cup (3200m) in season 2021/22.
The Verry Elleegant story is one of persistence and is years in the making, with Goodwin a shareholder in Zed, a son of Zabeel, from the time he was sold as a yearling at Karaka in 2004 for $400,000.
Out of the Group One-winning mare Emerald Dream, Zed’s racing promise went largely unfulfilled due to injury, but his pedigree provided him with an opportunity at stud, one which he has made the most of.
The union of Zed and Opulence in 2014, which produced Verry Elleegant, was very much a planned one.
Like Zed, Opulence traces to the great Eight Carat, whose matings to Zed’s sire Zabeel produced champions Octagonal and Mouawad.
Goodwin struck upon genetic gold when he purchased Opulence for $14,000 from small-time Auckland trainer Nick Bishara at the 2011 Karaka Mixed Bloodstock Sale.
His convictions in the double-up of Eight Carat have proved well-founded and his broodmare band now numbers two, with his other mare by Flying Spur tracing back to the dam of Eight Carat.
Bishara and Goodwin would subsequently become friends and fittingly shared in the ride that was Verry Elleegant until selling out of the great mare recently, prior to her transfer to race in France.
Aside from getting a thrill out of winning three awards, the affable Goodwin also relished the opportunity to get some mileage out of his black-tie attire, which he also wore while watching the Melbourne Cup from his lock-downed Auckland abode.
“I don’t usually wear this sort of gear, but I went out and bought it two years ago as I was going to receive a Thoroughbred Breeders Award and they were cancelled due to Covid,” he said. “Then it was cancelled the next year.
“I had this gear at home that I hadn’t worn anywhere, so when Verry Elleegant was running in the Queen Elizabeth I said to Christina (wife) ‘stuff it, I’ll put the gear on and watch the race’.
“Well she ran second, so I thought maybe that wasn’t a good idea.
“When it came to the Melbourne Cup last year, I thought I’d put the gear on again and we’ll open the champagne before the race because I’m pretty confident and you all saw what happened.
“She beat the hottest favourite since Phar Lap fair and square, carrying the same weight.
“When she won, we went out on the balcony and with Covid, you couldn’t have people around but by the end of the evening there seemed to be quite a few people around.”
Goodwin said that he had his fingers crossed for a filly when Opulence foaled this spring, the mare naturally in foal to Zed once again.
Verry Elleegant aside, the mating of Zed and Opulence has produced colts and while not all bad, with her year older brother being the stakes winner Verry Flash, Goodwin said that should a filly arrive, Opulence would be mated to champion stallion Savabeel this year.
“I’d like to thank the whole racing and breeding industry. It is a great industry. If a little breeder like me can get a horse like her, we can all aspire to that,” he said.
“You need a bit of luck, I’ll grant that, but study your breeding, study your horses and you never know.
“She is a direct result of Eight Carat. Both the sire and dam side go back to Cotehele House, which is the best daughter of Eight Carat. If you get Danehill in there a couple of times, you’re on the job, I’ll tell you.
“Mark and Jane Corcoran at Grangewilliam Stud are absolutely marvelous. They have looked after Opulence so well and it is a great breeding farm.
“We are just small people having a good time.
“It’s a marvelous game and if you are winning, just make the most of it.” – NZ Racing Desk