Racing: Going the distance, and it's shorter

By Mike Dillon

Kawi (left) deserves his favouritism, but there are a couple of factors pointing to Stolen Dance (10) in the $300,000 feature at Te Rapa today. Photo / Nick Reed
Kawi (left) deserves his favouritism, but there are a couple of factors pointing to Stolen Dance (10) in the $300,000 feature at Te Rapa today. Photo / Nick Reed

The two favourites (Kawi, $2.10) and Stolen Dance at $2.80 for today's $300,000 Herbie Dyke Stakes at Te Rapa are sired by Savabeel and Alamosa.

The significance?

Well, it's because that will mean times ten in terms of New Zealand bloodstock in a decade from now as it will this afternoon.

The quality of New Zealand's young horses is entering a phase that would have been unthinkable a decade ago. Among those to realise this is Stolen Dance's trainer David Greene, one of racing's emerging lights.

The long-held opinion of New Zealand's bloodstock can be summed up in one word - stayers. Looking for a Melbourne Cup (3200m) horse, head to New Zealand.

A decade back it became - and here an Australian-based New Zealander in Chris Waller was among the first to see it - looking for a Derby (2400m) winner, head to New Zealand.

There is no mystery. Australia has bred sprinter to sprinter to sprinter for six or seven generations now and it's no surprise our friends across the Tasman now possess the world's finest sprinters.

But - and it's too late - that's pretty much all they have in their own nurseries. An Australian-bred in a Melbourne Cup is getting more difficult to find than a white whale.

Meanwhile, the New Zealand horse is rapidly evolving thanks to the likes of our stallions Savabeel, his sire Zabeel, Pentire, O'Reilly, Alamosa, Pins and Tavistock, whose emergence in the last 24 months has been head-spinning.

The Australians cannot go further back or forward in speed than where they currently stand - you occasionally hear an Australian commentator say: "This horse is vulnerable past 1000m and 1100m and it certainly can't get the 1200m."

We laugh at that and there is an element of sadness in it from the true thoroughbred perspective.

Because of commercially driven directives, the New Zealand horse is gradually coming back in distance, but not dangerously so like the Australians.

David Greene: "It used to be that we weren't competitive back of 2000m against the Australians, but then we started winning against them at shorter distances, now that demarcation has fallen back across the 1600m line."

Greene knows if and when he takes Stolen Dance to Australia the high class mare will be capable of kicking butt, just as Allan Sharrock knows the same about Kawi.

Respected Australian form analyst Brett Davison made the astute comment last week: "You know, those who watch closely over here realise you guys and girls have the right trainers who have worked out what horses to bring to Australia and when to bring them here and more importantly aim them at the level they can win at. You only have to look at what Murray Baker, Donna Logan and Trent Busuttin have achieved to see that."

Australian opinions about New Zealand can be more difficult to remove than red wine stains, but when is comes to smart horsemen difficult does not read as impossible and the leading buyers were scooping up the Savabeels, Tavistocks, O'Reillys, Pentires and the Pins at the recent Karaka sales.

The critical point in our favour is, imagine the type of horse that will eventually be left by the mares from these stallions along with mares by Zabeel who, when he's finished, will surely have world records to his name.

Two very significant facts: none of these stallions are merely sprinters - they can and have between them produced Derby and Melbourne Cup winners and perhaps even more important, they are owned locally and are not shuttle stallions.

Shuttle stallions served a very important function for a while injecting class blood into out pool, but the danger was always that we would lose them when they became too valuable for us.

High Chaparral was fabulous, but as soon as he sired So You Think, he was out of New Zealand quicker than an Isis pod.

Back to today's race: with a 2-0 score card over Stolen Dance, Kawi deserves his $2.10 favouritism, but there are a couple of slight factors pointing to the local mare.

There is also the home track advantage, even if Greene will happily flag that for his one wish, that Stolen Dance gets an opportunity to eyeball Kawi in the home straight.

Weight-for-age racing is about tactics and this race will fit right into that theory. It will be a great contest.

Soriano, having her last race because of pregnancy, is also by Savabeel. She won this race a year ago and it would be a memorable moment for owner Denise Howell if the mare could go out on a winning spree.

It would also project Soriano over the million dollar earning barrier.

Vavasour is the forgotten horse in the top four, which dominate here, but simply because she is essentially prepping for the 3200m of the Auckland Cup. She is all class though and won't be out of this.

- NZ Herald

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