Behind The Breeds #5

Behind The Breeds is a series where breeding enthusiast Don Rae takes a deep dive into the pedigree of some of today's trotters and pacers.

Under the spotlight  today is the Tony Stratford-trained two-year old Dawson, who cleared out and won his juvenile heat at the Winton Harness Racing Club Trials Meeting on Friday October 13th by eleven lengths.

By Sweet Lou from Speights Girl, the ownership group comprises some well known southern identities who have also enjoyed great success with another Sweet Lou, the Grand Circuit performer Spirit of St Louis, whose current record stands at 66-28-15-4, $AU1,284,377 and a mile rate of 1:48.2. They'll certainly be happy if Dawson earns half of that but based on breeding, he just might be pretty good.

Dawson's great-grand-dam is the In The Pocket mare Under Cover Lover who won 21 races for Graham Pearson and $NZ864,923 in Australia and New Zealand before racing in the United States and taking a winning mile rate of 1.51.8.

She swept the board in her three-year-old season winning the Ladyship Stakes, NZ Sires' Stakes Fillies Championship, Northern Oaks, New Zealand Oaks and Nevele R 3YO Fillies Series Final. She could sprint and stay as evidenced by her third, beaten by two and a quarter lengths in the 2000 Easter Cup behind Facta Non Verba and Happy Asset and her fourth in the same year's New Zealand Trotting Cup behind Yulestar, Bogan Fella and Kym's Girl. Considering she was bred to American time, it meant she gave the best three-year-old fillies of her year a start in age and maturity yet still proved superior.

Undercover Lover has proved highly influential at stud and appears in the pedigree of many top horses.

Her first foal Affairs Of State was Group placed at two, and her third foal was Exotic Lover (the grand-dam of Dawson) who pocketed a very tidy $110,336 from her 11-2-2-0 record. Affairs of State has had a distinguished breeding career leaving Chachingchaching (16 wins, $AU193,831) Ring The Till (17 wins, $AU99,078) and Group 1 placed Smart Fortune (10 wins, $AU103,523)

Overall Under Cover Lover left eight winners from thirteen live foals without leaving any real champions but her real influence arises from her several daughters leaving any number of very good horses.

Her second foal, the Artsplace mare Art Lover left a very good mare in Classical Art 1:52.4 ($110,444) and the handy Lost In Bangkok (6 wins and $68,564).

The next filly was Exotic Lover whose first two foals were Abraxas (Big Abraxas NZ in Australia who took his record to 15 wins, 29 placings and $AU145,806) and the dam of Dawson, Speights Girl (6 wins and $31,782). In Australia as My Exotic Lover she has left her best in the shape of the high class Australian filly Match In Heaven (24 wins, $AU368,810 in stakes) and also Challenging (6 wins, $AU65,541).

Next, the unraced Fortune Lover was able to leave six winners, among which are Under Cover Bettor (5 wins, $AU34,518), Mister Fortuna (8 wins, $AU72,094) and the standout Vampiro (29 wins, $AU697,673). Another foal, Fortify, is racing from Mark and Nathan Purdon's stable and has currently chalked up two wins in five starts for owners Paul and Pauline Renwick.

The next cab off the rank was Under The Odds who left Major Trojan (6 wins from 13 starts, $AU204,689, Western Australia Derby, Western Australia 3yo Horse of the Year), Underthesouthernsun (1.57,1M* & 1.47.8,1MUSA) and Artisan (6 wins to date from 37 starts for Barry Purdon and Scott Phelan).

Like Under Cover Lover, her dam Vain Franco (by the great Holmes Hanover) was a prolific breeder leaving seventeen live foals!

Among her fillies we have Front Cover Lover who has left the exceptional Bettor Cover Lover (19 wins from 39 starts, $AU1,026,427) whose clashes with the other champion filly of her year Carabella lit up the scene over two seasons. Winning Group 1 races on both sides of the Tasman, Bettor Cover Lover also proved her highest quality as an aged mare by running third behind Themightyquinn and Terror To Love in the 2013 Auckland Cup.

The last foal of breeding note from Under Cover Lover has been Delizioso (4 wins,1.56.6 TT) who has to date left Italian Lad (12 wins, $AI134,639), Castellina Lover (7 wins, 1.55.3*AUS) and Art Critic (5 wins, 1.56,S*).

In turn, Castellina Lover has left the Group 1 performer Amore Vita (18 wins from 36 starts, $AU653,553, 1:50.5MS). Her other foals include the capable Recco Lover (8 wins, $AU90,551, 1:52.2MS) and the three-year-old filly Amore Infida (who has just started her racing career in the M & N Purdon barn with one win from three starts).

In addition to her fillies, Vain Franco has also left Monarch of The Glen (10 wins, $AU53,851) and CC's Lover (1.59*AUS & 1.51.2,1MUSA).

The grand-dam of Under Cover Lover was the Van Dieman mare Van Glory who raced in the black and white colours of Denis Nyhan. She raced from two years until seven and her pinnacle victories were the 1971 Northern Oaks defeating Roydon Roux and the 1974 New Zealand Standardbred Breeders' Stakes beating Marie Gibbins, Gay Rose and Scottish Charm.

Her peak year was as a three-year old filly. As well as her Oaks victory she ran second to Bachelor Star in the New Zealand Derby, third behind Roydon Roux and Double Cash in the Northern Derby and third behind Ar Miss and Lottie's Express in the New Zealand Oaks. She was however also a competitive open class horse and placed second in the 1974 New Brighton Cup over 3200m behind Vanadium (a Van Dieman gelding and thus a Cecil Devine flavoured quinella), fourth in the 1974 Easter Cup behind Vanadium, Speedy Guest and Arapaho and fifth in the 1974 Auckland Cup behind Young Quinn, Robalan, Hi Foyle and Irish Kiwi. She won eleven times in all and showed she could sprint as well as stay.

Bred by Christchurch identity Nick Matyasevic, Van Glory was the fifth foal out of a tiny filly Malabella. Van Glory failed to leave a New Zealand winner at stud but managed to leave three Australian bread and butter winners in the shape of Karinya Castle (10 wins, $AU17,387), Broncroft Castle (6 wins, $AU17,556) and Franco Vogue (6 wins, $16,170).

It is through her daughters' and most particularly Vain Franco's deeds that her legacy lives on. While her first filly was of no account her second Verity Franco, who was a little better, left Butler's Glory who in turn left the handy Sir Jasper (5 wins, (1.57.8,S*). The last foal of breeding note from Van Glory was the unraced Vonnie Franco who managed to leave Just Another Lover (6 wins) and the Group Two-winning Wirrpunda (26 wins, $221,626, 1:54.8MS USA).

Van Glory's dam Malabella must be noted too. As mentioned, she was a small mare but had a big heart as evidenced by her racing and breeding careers. On the track, she managed just five wins but secured some notable placings as a three-year old - third in the 1954 Derby behind the dead-heaters Royal Minstrel and Single Medoro, second in the New Zealand Oaks behind Earl Marie and second in the New Zealand Champion Stakes behind Don Hall.

At stud, in addition to Van Glory, she left Bellajilly who won nine times including the 1963 New Zealand Derby and also ran second in the New Zealand Oaks the same year. After being exported to the United States, an unlikely story followed. Jim Dalgety noticed Bellajilly in a claiming race at the old Rockhampton Park track. Through an American contact Frank Popfinger, Jim secured the mare and put her to stud in America. Going to Most Happy Fella early in his career, the resultant foal was Jovial Jeanie (9 wins, 1978 Franklin Cup) who subsequently became the dam of Northern Oaks-wining mare Happy Hazel.

One of Jovial Jeanie's foals, the unraced I'm Glad subsequently became the grand-dam (via Just Like Magic [2 wins] and the two-start maiden Behappysam) of Rathmore Lady (18 wins, $164,141, 1:52.1MS).

More notably, the Alberton mare Happy Hazel won fifteen races in total including 1989 Ladyship Stakes and 1989 Nevele R 3YO Fillies Series Final and also recorded classic placings, with third in the 1989 Northern Derby behind Inky Lord and Captain Lee and second in the New Zealand Oaks behind Adina Lee. Happy Hazel was by far the best of the Albertons but later in his stud career, Alberton became such a disappointment, Jim Dalgety didn't even bother claiming the insurance when the stallion expired.

However, despite the Alberton influence, Happy Hazel did leave a very good mare in Imagine That who also won fifteen times including the 2006 Kaikoura Cup (defeating Harnetts Creek and Likmesiah), 2003 Magness Benrow Sires Stakes Fillies Championship (Gr1), Yarndley Farms Sires Stakes Fillies Championship (Gr2), and the 2004 Great Northern Breeders Stakes/Queen Of Hearts (Gr2) (Listed) double, all of which except the Kaikoura Cup came the right handed way of going at Alexandra Park.

Imagine That has yet to leave anything of note but some of the Happy Hazel foals had some impact as noted.

Malabella was by Doral's Derby out of Mala by Red Shadow out of Krina by Jewel Chimes out of an unraced Rothschild mare.

Mala also won five and in addition to Malabella also left the Van Dieman horse Young Dieman (6 wins) and the unraced Princess Grace who in turn left the mighty Vanadium (19 wins, New Brighton Cup 1973/74, Easter Cup 1974, 1973 Ashburton Flying Stakes).

Vanadium also ran second in the 1975 New Brighton Cup, twice second in the Hannon Memorial and fifth in the 1975 Inter-Dominion Pacing Final behind Young Quinn, Hi Foyle, Speedy Guest and Irish Kiwi. Perhaps he was unlucky in the biggest of races, perhaps it was his manners, but even amongst his disappointments in the New Zealand Trotting Cup and Auckland Cup, nonetheless it was a fine career. His best in the New Zealand Trotting Cup was in 1975 when fifth to Lunar Chance, Final Decision, Robalan and Speedy Guest, reminding readers that this was the year that the meeting belonged to the free-legged Final Decision.

Breaking at the start of the Cup, Final Decision lost a conservative 80m at the start yet recovered to run a wonderful third. Lunar Chance secured the Cup/Free For Double on Show Day but Final Decision ran a great second and on the final day of the meeting got his just desserts when winning the Allan Matson Free For All beating Master Dean, Lunar Chance and Forto Prontezza. It was a romantic story - his amateur trainer Derek Heckler has a railwayman at Hamilton's Frankton shunting yards and with the horse being an upstanding, free-legged horse, he just seemed to capture the imagination that year.

The very last horse to note in this pantheon of harness stars is the Gamble half-brother to Mala in Sprayman. He was a Cup-class horse in the 1940s and raced in two New Zealand Cups with sixth behind Highland Fling in 1948 being his best. His best win was the 1948 Louisson Handicap over two miles, driver Clarrie King for trainer Allan Holmes when Ingle Belmer, Plunder Bar, Checkmate, Globe Direct, Grattan Drive, Countless and a past her best Loyal Nurse were among those beaten.

Wrapping up, this is a family deep in high class animals and the story surely isn't written yet. With the sheer quantity of fillies and mares from this family still breeding, there will be many more very good horses to come from this family. One could do worse if opportunity presented to acquire an unraced mare from one of the more obscure branches of the family. History has shown that while top horses can and sometimes do breed top horses, equally, unraced or maiden horses that are sound in conformation and from a good family - such as with Vain Franco in their pedigree - can still get a good horse when put to a good stallion.

I'm sure I won't be the only one following Dawson's racing career with great interest.

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