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Starcraft makes history for New Zealand at Longchamp

Starcraft, seen here winning the AJC Chipping Norton S. G1 at three

Starcraft, seen here winning the AJC Chipping Norton S. G1 at three
Starcraft (Soviet Star-Flying Floozie by Pompeii Court) became the first New Zealand-bred horse to win a European Group One race when he triumphed yesterday in the Prix du Moulin, 1600m, at Longchamp in Paris - a race also won by his sire, 17 years ago.

Bred by Garry Chittick at Waikato Stud, Matamata the handsome five-year-old stallion has now won ten of his 20 starts, including four Group One events. He was the star of last year's Hawke's Bay Spring Carnival, winning the Hawke's Bay Challenge S. G1 and Horlicks Challenge S. G2 before going down to Balmuse in the Ormond Memorial S. G1. He is trained in England by Luca Cumani for The Australian Syndicate, which is managed by Paul Makin.

Christophe Lemaire gave Starcraft a well-judged ride at Longchamp, taking the lead early in the race and then asking his mount to lift the pace as the field entered the straight. Starcraft responded most impressively to win by two-and-a-half lengths in the third-fastest time recorded for the race, 1:36.1. The placegetters were Gorella and Majors Cast, with Valixir, who had beaten Starcraft in the Eclipse Stakes, among the also-rans.

Cumani said after the Prix du Moulin that the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, Champion Stakes and Breeders' Cup are all options that would be now considered for Starcraft.

Soviet Star (Nureyev-Veruschka by Venture) stood the 1999 New Zealand season at Ra Ora Stud, at a fee of $18,000, between NH seasons in Japan and Ballylinch Stud, Ireland where he's now permanently based. He has a peculiarly modern kind of stud record: 30 (4.4%) stakeswinners from 677 foals conceived during successive stints in England, Japan, New Zealand and Ireland. His single New Zealand crop of 86 foals has produced 32 winners including six (6.9%) stakeswinners, among them two Group One winners, Starcraft and Russian Pearl.

A handsome, charismatic and energetic individual, Soviet Star was an outstanding, if highly strung, sprinter-miler. He won five Group One races in England and France from the stable of Andre Fabre, including the French 2000 Guineas and the July Cup, but it was his defeat of champion Miesque, also by Nureyev, in the 1988 Prix du Moulin for which he is best remembered. Beautifully ridden by Cash Asmussen on softish ground that favoured him, he got the lead two furlongs out and kept it, despite a resolute finish by the mare who went down by a head. The win was particularly satisfying because Miesque had beaten Soviet Star by two-and-a-half lengths in the same race the year before. It was some achievement to beat his magnificent paternal half-sister: Soviet Star was rated 128 by Timeform at three and four, while Miesque earned ratings of 131 and 133 at the same ages.

In sharp contrast to Soviet Star's French-American pedigree, Starcraft's distaff line is staunchly Kiwi, aided by several excellent imported sires, notably Pompeii Court, Battle-Waggon and Bellborough. Starcraft's fifth dam is the very fine racemare Queen Of Song (foaled 1931) whose record deserves some elaboration. She raced mainly in the South Island, winning the Invercargill & Dunedin Cups, over 10 and 12 furlongs respectively, and the 12-furlong Great Autumn H. at Riccarton. However, she also won the 1936 Wellington Cup and ventured across the Tasman later that year to win the VRC C.B. Fisher Plate, then run at weight-for-age over two miles. This race, now called the Queen Elizabeth S. G2 and run over 2500 metres, is one of the oldest races held at Flemington and has been won by many great horses: Phar Lap, Ajax, Rising Fast, Galilee, Rain Lover, Gunsynd, Hyperno & Might And Power. Second to Queen Of Song in 1936 was Sarcherie, second in the 1934 and 1935 Melbourne Cups, and third in the 1937 Cup. Queen of Song herself finished an unlucky fourth in Wotan's 1936 Melbourne Cup.

Queen Of Song's daughter Entrancing (Man's Pal) won the seven-furlong Great Easter H. at Riccarton and then left two fillies, Entrance (Kurdistan) and Entrancing Bell (Bellborough) whose descendants include a host of very good performers in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, among them G1 Taras Bulba, G1 Turfcutter, G1 The Hind, G2 Century Kid, G2 Zephyr Magic, G2 Dahlia's Legacy, G2 Happy Heiress, G3 Taras Regent, G3 Neo Star, SW Oregon Star, SW Taciturn and SW Tell All. All are members of a family established in Australasia by Peradventure (GB) in the 1870s, but it seems that Queen Of Song's branch is the only line of it that has flourished into the 21st century.

A half-sister to Zephyr Magic and sister to Happy Heiress, Flying Floozie was a non-winner with, according to Mark Chittick, very few excuses, but she has redeemed herself thoroughly at stud, with Starcraft, Sydney stakeswinner & Group One placegetter Forum Floozie (Danasinga) and Wise Choice (Danasinga), a good winner in Hong Kong, from her first three foals. They've sold well too, all at New Zealand Premier Sales: Forum Floozie made $160,000 in 2000, Wise Choice $400,000 a year later and Starcraft went for $80,000 in 2002 to the bid of shrewd New Zealand agent Robert Dawe, acting for old friend Paul Makin.

Flying Floozie was bred by Waikato Stud Holdings and was among the bloodstock purchased by the Chittick family when they purchased Waikato Stud more than a decade ago. A big, strong, plain mare, she was a perfect match for the smaller, stylish Soviet Star. Starcraft, a big, powerful horse with quality, is a fine example of a mating that successfully combined the best physical qualities of each parent.

Waikato Stud has retained Flying Floozie's 2001 filly by Pins, and her 2003 & 2004 fillies by Danasinga, but sold the mare herself, in foal to Pins, to Australian interests earlier this year. Flying Floozie deservedly won the Mercedes New Zealand Broodmare of the Year award in 2004 and again this year, while Garry was named 2005 Mercedes Breeder of the Year, a title he also won in 1993.

- Susan Archer