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Sweet dream comes true for owner-breeders

Waikato Stud resident Pins, sire of G2 winner Viennetta

Waikato Stud resident Pins, sire of G2 winner Viennetta
"Absolutely thrilled. It's been a dream, an absolute amazing dream." That's how southern Hawke's Bay breeders Julie & Kevin Taylor felt after their four-year-old mare Viennetta (Pins-Bali Sugar by Christmas Tree) romped home in the $75,000 Counties RC NRM Auckland Thoroughbred Breeders' S. 1400m G2 at Ellerslie on Saturday.

The race is a major event on the NZTBA Auckland calendar and has been supported by the branch for 35 years. The Taylors, who own and operate Kia Ora Station, a 1400-acre sheep and beef farm near Dannevirke, are members of the Association's Central Districts branch.

Auckland-born secretary Julie and auto electrician Kevin hankered for the rural life and became interested in thoroughbred breeding during Kevin's four-year stint in the mid-1990s at Richard Moore's Soliloquy Lodge, Karaka. Says Julie "Richard and Barbara are the reason we're in this industry."

Their first investment was Bali Sugar, a four-win, G3-placed daughter of brilliant two-year-old Tasman Dancer. The Taylors bought her in foal to Gold Brose for $65,000 from Russell and Lesley Warwick in 1999, and the resulting filly, Marzipan, won twice. Her older sister Butterscotch did even more to boost their dam's record by winning ten races including the RRC Arawa S. G3 before her untimely death in 2002.

Bali Sugar has recouped her purchase price in more tangible ways too. Waikato Stud bought her Generous filly for $A80,000 at the 2004 Australian Easter Yearling Sale, no doubt as a replacement for Tasman Dancer who spent much of her breeding career at the Stud and died in January 2004. Named Lolly Scramble, the filly was an impressive debut winner earlier this year.

The Taylors' best price from a total of five yearlings sold to date has been $A150,000 for Viennetta's younger full-brother, bought by Mark Pilkington at this year's Australian sale. Since named Prince of Pins, he has recently been sent to Hong Kong. Kevin and Julie have retained Bali Sugar's 2004 filly by Viking Ruler and this season have sent the mare back to Pins.

Drawing on stock selection experience developed with sheep and cattle, the Taylors choose stallions primarily on physical type and compatibility with their mares. These factors, and Kevin's instinct that Pins would make it as a commercial sire, led them to send Bali Sugar to the Group One-winning son of Snippets at Waikato Stud. The result was Viennetta who has now won four of her eight starts, three of them since her return to racing this season from Peter and Nikki Hurdle's Awapuni stable after a 12-month break during which she had a bone-chip operation. She was formerly with Mark Walker who prepared her to win her first start as a two-year-old.

Viennetta is her sire's sixth individual stakeswinner from the 173 foals of his first two crops, and Pins is now sixth on the current New Zealand General Sires' list with $330,448 in stakes. Thanks largely to his Group One-winning son El Segundo, he's also part of a select group of four New Zealand-based stallions in the top 50 on the equivalent Australian list (to 23 November). Zabeel holds second place, Stravinsky sits at No. 13, Pins is 30th on the list and Pentire ranks 33rd.

Julie says their vet Barry Drayton and pre-trainer Joe Yorke played important roles in Viennetta's recovery, while the Hurdles have done "a brilliant job." Other much-appreciated sources of support and advice are the Moore family, the Chitticks at Waikato Stud and Auckland bloodstock agent Michael Otto.

The Taylors manage their breeding activities on a commercial basis and aim to sell most of their foals, but when the time came to make a decision about Viennetta, Julie and Kevin realised she had the makings of the type of mare they like to breed from. That type is big, strong and correct with good bone and presence – an accurate description of the four-year-old Group 2 winner.

These criteria have also been applied to the three broodmares that have joined Bali Sugar at Kia Ora Station: Marzipan (Gold Brose-Bali Sugar; 2005 filly by Danzero; visiting Stravinsky); Talista (Snippets-Talaga; visiting Flying Spur); Trisha's Belle (Sir Tristram-Stellar Belle; 2005 colt by Pins; visiting O'Reilly). Soliloquy Lodge will present two yearlings for the Taylors at the 2006 New Zealand National Yearling Sales. They are a Strategic-Talista filly at the Premier Sale, and an O'Reilly-Trisha's Belle colt in the Select Sale.

Kevin and Julie, both in their early forties, have more than enough to keep them busy apart from sheep, cattle and horses. They have five children ranging in age from 19 to three-and-a-half months: Erica, Kristina, Matthew, Nicholas and baby Oliver. As Julie says, "Naming our horses is a major family event!" Viennetta was named for a family-favourite ice-cream and cleverly fits the sweet-treat names of her half-sisters Butterscotch and Marzipan.

All five children accompanied Julie and Kevin to Pukekohe on 19 November only to find the meeting abandoned after the first race. They - and Viennetta - returned home but only Kevin and Julie came back last Saturday. This expensive exercise – also undertaken by many other owners - may have made a critical difference to the mare who, Julie says, worked better in the week leading up to 26 November than she had previously.

The Taylors hope to expand their broodmare band over time to ten or 12 mares. Julie says, "The industry has its problems and challenges, but we're very passionate about breeding and our life is exciting with matings to plan, mares to foal, foals to rear, young horses to handle and yearlings to sell." Plus a rather exciting racemare who will now target the New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders' S. G1 at Te Aroha in March.

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

- Susan Archer


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