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Desert Flight adds to Coxon family's success

Richard Coxon with Desert Flight

Photo: NZTM

Richard Coxon with Desert Flight  - Photo: NZTM
When Alec Coxon bought the broodmare River Flight for $1,600 at the Dalgety Mixed Sale in April 1982 his sons Richard and Wayne weren't exactly thrilled. As hard-working Waikato dairy farmers they were concerned about the amount of feed a broodmare would consume, but their father took the longer view. He said, "She'll be a goldmine and you'll have a lot of fun with her."

Alec died eleven years ago but his sons, wife Norma and daughter-in-law Anna have had the pleasure of seeing his faith in the small, plain chestnut mare rewarded. The Coxon family has achieved consistent success as breeders, owners and trainers of River Flight's descendants, most recently with Desert Flight (Desert Sun-Fantasy Flight by Never Til Dawn), winner of last Saturday's $25,000 Thames Cup over 2000 metres. Trained by Richard Coxon, the seven-year-old gelding has now won more than $150,000 from nine wins and 12 placings in a 45-start career.

River Flight (Tiber II-Belinda's Flight by Bellborough) was, as her name suggests, a member of the 'Flight' family to which leading miler Cog Hill and Timaru Cup LR winner Sapphire Belle also belong. Like her Invercargill Gold Cup-winning half-sister In Flight, she was bred by well-known Southland owner-breeder David Robertson, whose son Graeme later bred and raced 1995 New Zealand Filly of the Year Tartan Tights.

Alec Coxon, who had previously bred from the family of top-class performer Nausori, bought River Flight with a positive test to Never Til Dawn, an undistinguished half-brother to champion Australian sire Without Fear. The resulting foal made about $4,000 and as Vihtavuori, he won eight races in Queensland. His year-younger sister Fantasy Flight won twice, and a half-brother Flight Commander (Vaguely Tender) won three races.

Fantasy Flight, described by Richard as "almost identical" to her dam, had eight foals before her death in 2002, and so far, four have won. Best of them has been the stakeswinner Last Flight (Valley of Carome), winner of 12 races, and fourth in the ARC Easter Handicap G1, but Desert Flight and her two fillies by Pentire, Walsburgs Dream (three wins) and Penultimate Flight (placed), are likely to enhance their dam's record.

The Coxons are already breeding from two older daughters of Fantasy Flight, the unraced Magic Flight (Magic of Sydney) and placegetter Mystical Flight (Danzalion), the latter in partnership with friends Gary and Linda Hodel. Richard says that planning matings has more to do with financial resources than pedigree analysis. "We look at the bank balance first!"

He also finds data published in the NZTBA's annual Stallion Register helpful, and compares stallion service fees with their yearling sale averages to identify young, affordable sires whose progeny have appealed to buyers. That's how he chose Volksraad and Desert Sun for Fantasy Flight. The Volksraad mating produced a colt sold at the 1999 New Zealand Select Sale for $47,500, the best price the Coxons have ever received for a horse. Named Flashman, he won six races in Singapore.

After more than 20 years of working with the River Flight tribe, the Coxons are familiar with the qualities that make them effective competitors. Richard says, "They're very lively types, with good brains and a bit grumpy. They don't like being brushed much, they're bossy, independent and very good doers. And they love their work."

Richard, a licence-holder for about 25 years, has five horses in training at the family's 66-acre farm near Matamata, all but one of them descendants of River Flight. The exception is the promising four-year-old mare Sanitee, owned by John and Margaret Wright, and winner of three of her six starts to date. He acknowledges that he and his family are in a good position, able to breed, rear, educate, own and train their own horses without having to rely on thoroughbreds for a living. "I wouldn't like to be training full-time, and it's very hard for owners paying training fees because of the small returns."

The Coxons' breeding and racing success seems likely to continue into a third generation, as Richard and Anna's daughters, Nikita, 14, and Kim, 9, take a keen interest in the horses.

Their grandfather would surely be delighted.



Thanks to Arion Pedigrees for pedigree, performance and statistical data.



- Susan Archer