Valachi Downs will send a quality group of yearlings through the ring during the 2020 New Zealand Bloodstock National Yearling Sales, but this year's Karaka draft is likely to be remembered mostly for the generosity of the Matamata stud's owners Kevin and Jo Hickman.

Valachi will offer 16 horses in the Book 1 session and eight in Book 2, with a wide selection of stallions and plenty of black type among the pedigree pages.

Among them is Lot 313 — a filly by Brazen Beau out of the Danehill Daner mare Stepanova, who is out of a full-sister to High Chaparral.

Hickman bought the service to Brazen Beau at an auction for the CatWalk Spinal Cord Injury Research Trust, paying $100,000, which was more than double the stallion's advertised service fee of A$40,000 ($41,600) for that season.


The Brazen Beau nomination was donated to the auction by Godolphin's Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who has also been a long-time supporter of the CatWalk Trust.

Hickman's mating of Stepanova to Brazen Beau produced a filly foal, which he then decided to give back to the cause. All proceeds from the sale at Karaka will go to the CatWalk Trust.

"It's a wonderful story," said Valachi's breeding consultant Gareth Downey. "Kevin has always been very passionate about CatWalk and the work that Catriona [Williams] does. Most people would probably think that buying the stallion nomination in itself would be generous enough, but then Kevin thought, 'Hang on, I think we can do even better.'

"I hope we can really build the profile around this story in the lead-up to the sale. Every parade that we've had at the farm so far, people haven't actually known about it. So we'll try to get the word out over the next few weeks and create a bit of a buzz around the filly by the time she goes through the ring.

"With her pedigree, I'd expect her to attract plenty of interest, even without that great story of the CatWalk factor."

Williams has been overwhelmed by the generosity shown by the Hickmans, which she said would help the charity's cause tremendously.

"CatWalk cannot thank Valachi Downs enough for their incredible generosity of gifting their stunning Brazen Beau filly to CatWalk," she said. "I've been fortunate to spend time with a number of former jockeys who have spinal injuries, most recently Sophie Grant and Sophia Malthus. Like me, they would give anything to be back on their feet again.

"Research is CatWalk's focus and that's exactly where the proceeds from the auction of this filly will go. CatWalk's aim is to get Sophie, Sophia and anyone who dreams of walking back on their feet again."


While the CatWalk filly is sure to be the enduring story from Valachi's Karaka 2020 draft, the diverse selection of stallions has also made an impression on prospective buyers.

"From the feedback that we've had so far, that great variety of stallions seems to be what has stood out to people the most," Downey said. "We have some exciting newcomers like Astern, American Pharoah, Turn Me Loose and Vadamos ... The stallions are also a great mixture of sprinting and staying influences."

Valachi will offer two yearlings from the first southern hemisphere crop of American Pharoah, who in 2015 became the first horse in 37 years to sweep the famous American Triple Crown.

He then broke new ground with an unprecedented "Grand Slam", adding the Breeders' Cup Classic at the end of the same year.

American Pharoah commands a $66,000 service fee at Coolmore Australia, and there are a total of eight of his progeny in the Karaka catalogue. Valachi's two are Lot 213, out of the stakes-placed Henrythenavigator mare Raskova, and Lot 598, who is a half-brother to the Group One performer and young Valachi stallion Savile Row.

"It's really exciting to have two yearlings from the first crop of American Pharoah," Downey said. "It's fair to say it took a bit of twisting of Kevin's arm for him to actually agree to part with those two."

- NZ Racing Desk