Savabeel's Cox win has a strong Kiwi flavour

Zabeel, sire of 2004 Cox Plate winner Savabeel

Zabeel, sire of 2004 Cox Plate winner Savabeel
Three-year-old Savabeel's brilliant victory in the MVRC W.S. Cox Plate 2040m G1 at Moonee Valley this afternoon won't officially count as a New Zealand victory, but there are enough Kiwi connections for us to claim a fair part of him.

He's trained, co-bred and part-owned by a proud New Zealander and one of the sport's more colourful personalities, Graeme Rogerson, whose trans-Tasman stables are rarely without a very good runner or three. They emerge from a large base of horses, maintained by a great deal of yearling sale purchasing, Graeme's indefatigable salesmanship and the hard work of his many staff members.

Somehow it doesn't seem unusual that Graeme trained dual Group One winner Savannah Success, bred her first two foals in partnership with Queensland breeder Jon Haseler, sold her with Savabeel at foot to another client, Gerry Harvey's Baramul Stud, then bought Savabeel as a yearling at the 2003 Magic Millions Sale for $A400,000!

Savabeel was foaled in Australia but he is the 29th Group One winner by New Zealand's champion sire Zabeel whose fortunes have risen again in the past two years after a leaner period following his two Australian sire titles in 1997-98 and 1998-99. Mind you, Zabeel's "lean" would be over-achievement for most sires: since 1998-99 he has been second, fifth, second, seventh and third on the Australian sires' list and his progeny have earned more than $A20 million!

The $A2 million or so that Savabeel won today puts Zabeel alongside Danehill at the head of the current Australian sire table.

The overall score on Australian stallion premierships is 8-2 in favour of the deceased Danehill, but Zabeel claims three Cox Plate winners (Octagonal, Might And Power and Savabeel) to Danehill's one (Dane Ripper).

Danehill has the edge in terms of stakeswinners-to-foals - a terrific 12.8% to Zabeel's excellent 6.9%, but the gap narrows when Group One winners as a percentage of foals are considered. Group One winners comprise 2.6% of Zabeel's foals, compared with Danehill's figure of 3.0%. Of course, Danehill received more opportunities than Zabeel because he served mares in both hemispheres, and his progeny have a notably broad aptitude range. His progeny are best-known in Australia as precocious two-year-olds, but many of them are more than capable at three, four and five over distances up to 2400 metres, as Elvstroem reminded us in last weekend's Caulfield Cup.

However, these factors - dual hemisphere success and versatility - are very much to the credit of Danehill who remains in a class of his own as a truly international supersire.

Cambridge Stud and New Zealand breeders can nevertheless be immensely proud of their own champion sire. He has won four New Zealand sire premierships, nine Dewar Trophy titles, has sired two Australian Horses of the Year (Octagonal & Might And Power), and made a significant contribution to the national economy, never mind the New Zealand thoroughbred industry. And the winners keep coming: two races after the Cox Plate, Zabeel's five-year-old New Zealand-bred son Lad Of The Manor (ex Matrona (USA); bred by David Thomas) won the Waterford Crystal Mile 1600m G2.

Best of all Zabeel is owned here, and - touch wood - is alive, healthy and currently serving another book of mares at Cambridge Stud at a fee of $85,000.

- Susan Archer


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