Business as usual for Woodlands Stud
By Brad Reid
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It doesn’t matter which way you look, for Woodlands Stud’s Andrew Grierson and the Roberts and Kenny families, it’s basically business as usual.
A wise man once said there’s a reason that the windscreen of a car is bigger than the rear-view mirror.
That’s because it pays to look forward more than you look back.
A quick glance in the rear-view however would be prudent for the Woodlands team because in March before we came to a grinding halt, they bred four individual Group Race winners.
If it wasn’t for an ‘amazing’ filly winning the Derby, it could have easily been three in two days.
The party started with Sweet Lou securing his second Group Race winner in New Zealand when the Stephen Reid trained Shes No Lady won the Delightful Lady Classic.
She was bred by the stud after racing her dam Bettor Be A Lady with very same ownership group.
The group includes ex All Blacks captain Kieran Read, halfback Andy Ellis and Dave Hewett together with 1974 Commonwealth Games star and harness racing identity Dick Tayler MNZM, who have raced Speeding Spur, Victors Delight and others with the larger Woodlands syndicate group.
“We leased her mother Bettor Be A Lady out to the group and she won on debut for Cran, but she was just a bit of a carry-on and a bit of a difficult mare, so we retired her to stud after four starts,” said Grierson.
“We leased her mother, Lady Retton and got a filly which was great, but we took the foal straight off her as she had had killed two or three of her foals. She went to a foster mare at Hallmark Stud and returned to us at weaning ,” he said.
Shes No Lady traces back to the famed 2009 Broodmare of Excellence winner in Coo Doo.
Her dam, Bettor Be A Lady was the second live foal from Lady Retton (1:58 mile rate, 1700m), winner of 10 races from 31 starts for John and David Butcher.
Lady Retton, by the Abercombie sire Crouch, was Group Two placed when runner-up to top mare Alta Serena in the 2005 $50,000 Queen Of Hearts at Auckland.
Bettor Be A Lady’s third dam was Pamelene, who managed two grass track wins for the late Jack Smolenski from just 16 starts.
Pamelene (Scottish Hanover-Coo Doo) was more importantly a sister to former top 1970s pacer Palestine (18 wins), who beat Speedy Guest, Noodlum and Micron in the 1976 Wellington Cup for Methven trainer-driver, Terry May.
Palestine also won the 1977 Kaikoura Cup, scored an upset win in the 1977 Allan Matson FFA (mobile 2600m) on the final night of the NZ Cup meeting (beating Greg Robinson and Balgove), two Hannon Memorials, and beat Greg Robinson and Sunseeker in a 1979 Interdominion Consolation at Addington in the twilight of his career as a 9YO.
“Shes No Lady was always a big strong filly, right from day one.
“Her first couple of starts she had gone out of her gait and lost a bit of confidence but she had never done that at Pukekohe or with Steven (Reid) in the cart.
“We hatched a bit of a plan and decided he should drive her in the big race, and the rest was history,” said Grierson.
Covid-19 came at the wrong time of the year for anyone with a smart age group horse, but Shes No Lady will no doubt develop into a very nice filly for her three-year-old campaign.
“We sold her full brother for $41,000 to Graeme Anderson at the sales this year and he was a really nice horse too,” said Grierson.
One day after Shes No Lady’s triumph in Auckland, Henry Hubert smacked a nice field of pacers by 4 lengths to go back to back in the Group 3 Northern Southland Cup.
He was bred out of the Christian Cullen mare Queen Camille, the producer of four winners including: Apollo Thirteen (ironically 13wins), Lambros (10 wins)and Kolovos (2 wins).
Like Henry Hubert, they were all sired by Bettor’s Delight.
Last term he showed he would make a nice open class horse when he won at Northern Southland, and a fortnight later scored the biggest win of his career in the 2019 Group 2 Four & Fiver Year Old Superstars at Addington.
He beat Thefixer, Hail Christian and A G’s Whitesocks home before going on to run second behind Turn It Up in the Jewels G1 4YO Emerald.
He showed he could mix it at the highest level when running 6th in last year’s New Zealand Cup finishing less than 2 lengths from Cruz Bromac in a sizzling 2 mile time.
Copy That continued the good run for the stud when winning the Group Two Vero Flying Stakes from the outside gate on the 20th of March at Addington.
He had been in sensational form this season since running second in the Sires Stakes Final after being drawn 14 and going down by only a lip.
He then went on to win the G2 Alabar Classic and more recently was desperately unlucky when running into traffic issues on the final turn in the Northern Derby, finishing second behind Amazing Dream.
“We got his dam Lively Nights from a connection with John Dickie who trained her throughout her career.
“She was a reasonable race mare having won seven, and the people in the ownership didn’t want to breed from her so we took her over,” he said.
That is the case with a lot of the mares at Woodlands now with the stud being offered well-bred mares with people cutting back on breeding or choosing not to breed at all.
Grierson remembers Copy That being prepared for the All Age Sale at Karaka in 2017.
“He wasn’t a big horse, just a nice horse, not big, not small.
“We sold him as a weanling and it was Ray Green’s wife who bought him. She had brought Hard Copy as well and was never happy when Ray sold him, but probably wasn’t unhappy with the price,” laughed Grierson.
“She’s obviously got a good eye because he showed something right from the start and (My) Hard Copy won $1.1 million also.”
The two are both by resident sire American Ideal, and Grierson is frank in his understanding as to why the sire is continually overlooked by New Zealand breeders.
American Ideal was moved to Victoria this season which was a reflection of where he sits in the Australasian market having done a full book in Australia again this season, yet a paltry 62 mares in the last two seasons in New Zealand.
“The stats speak for themselves, he’s done a better job in Australia to be fair.
“I mean he’s had some fantastic horses in Democrat Party, Ideal Belle, The Orange Agent etc but he lacked some good colts over here,” he said.
His best colts being Ideal Scott and Besotted, but his progeny are continually showing up in big races and he recently triumphed in the WA Derby with Patronus Star.
“I remember a few years ago he had the best two-year-old in NSW, the second best two-year-old in Victoria, the best horse in WA and was the second leading sire of two-year-olds in Australia, and yet he had only one two-year-old winner in New Zealand.
“When you look at him in America he is never out of the top eight every year.
“His stock is probably not as precocious as some of the other top stallions, but he is a good -looking horse and an athletic, thoroughbred type with a fantastic nature. He’s a gentleman. The most fantastic sire to look after and he just wants to please you. He’s happy to see you and throws that in his offspring as well,” said Grierson.
The fourth Woodlands bred runner to win a Group Race in March was the former New Zealand Two-year-old of the Year in Another Masterpiece.
He won the NZ Superstars on the 20th of March impressively having returned from a somewhat disappointing Australian trip cut short after failing to qualify for the Miracle Mile.
This is a horse however who is easily overlooked in terms of his quality given over 50% of his races have been at Group One or Two level.
He is bred to be good being out of one of the best-bred mares on the Woodlands Stud property in Elegant Art.
David McCarthy detailed this a few years ago;
Another Masterpiece, champion two-year-old of 2018, is by Bettor’s Delight from a Christian Cullen mare. Like Lazarus. Like well nearly every youngster popular at the sales and in big races these days. Nothing to see here?
Because once you get past that oh so fashionable cross, things get a bit interesting.
Another Masterpiece’s dam Elegant Art is the last Kiwi bred mare in the family. After that, it is all USA. Like a surprising number of top buys by All-Stars over the years.
And that USA family is not one of ordinary performers. In fact, Another Masterpiece’s third dam TOWN PRO was the champion American two-year-old filly of 1989 and the champion three-year-old filly of 1990 as well as being a Canadian Horse of the Year and the first to win back to back Breeder’s Crowns filly finals.
In 2004, she was elected to the Hall of Fame. She lived until 2014.
Town Pro won 12 of her 13 starts at two and 14 of 17 starts at three. Besides her ability, she was extraordinarily tough.
Her outstanding winner was Darlins Delight who won over $US2.9m but she left 12 winners from 17 foals altogether. Some tough.
Town Pro had been bought by trainer Stew Firlotte for $US60,000 as a yearling because Firlotte had had considerable success with her dam Programmed.
Programmed developed into the champion aged pacing mare in Canada and retired the highest earning daughter of the great Bret Hanover, no less.
Town Pro, in turn, was the richest racehorse by her sire Big Towner.
Grierson secured the dam of Another Masterpiece in a package negotiated by Hazel Van Opzeeland and once again the rest is history.
“Elegant Art doesn’t have a lot of foals out there. She doesn’t have a lot of weaknesses in her pedigree either and has done a great job for us,” said Grierson.
Looking further ahead to the All Age Sale, Woodlands will take a record 67 offerings to the sale now being conducted on the online selling platform, Gavel House.
“It would have been nice to go to Karaka but who could have written the story we have now,” he said in reference to the pandemic that has forced the hand of New Zealand Bloodstock Standardbred.
“It will be interesting going through Gavelhouse but I believe with lag and some of our internet speeds around the country there could be a problem for the live auction route at this stage.
“And in saying that we have had a lot of interest from Australia which being on Gavelhouse and the extended type of auction it can open up that market up a bit more while giving everyone a chance,” he said.
Offering 55 lots last year, the All Age Sale is a big part of the Woodlands Stud business model by necessity.
Having bred upwards of 170 mares of their own this season, they can’t take everything to the Yearling Sales and this has become a great avenue for the stud to sell some stock and put cash back into the business.
It bodes as a great opportunity for the racing fraternity also who can secure some well-bred weanlings, knowing they have had the best start to life. Usually at a pretty good price also!
This year is particularly exciting for Grierson and the stud with the first public offerings of Downbytheseaside and What The Hill progeny in the Southern Hemisphere.
“We’ve got some fantastic looking weanlings. I don’t know if you have seen many What The Hill’s around Canterbury but he is leaving some fantastic looking types, he’s got a big chance and as does Downbytheseaside,” he said.
The full Woodlands draft includes two American Ideals, two Bettor’s Delight’s (one yearling), 36 Downbytheseaside’s (which is slightly more than half of his live foals), 18 Sweet Lou’s and nine What The Hill weanlings.
With Covid-19 and restricted travel and freight both domestic and internationally, a lot of breeders have begged the question “what does this mean for shuttle stallions this coming season?”
A season without a Bettor’s Delight would not only be a major loss for a stud like Woodlands, but the stud book as well with many commercial mares simply not being bred at all.
“We haven’t heard any different that at the moment they are not doing freight for horses. It is a little bit early to know whether that is going to suddenly change, because it is big business for both sides and we own part of those horses. It’s not like a lease deal.
“We’re hoping it will be just like business as usual, but there will be some additional costs no doubt with grooms who come down who will need to go into quarantine for 14 days. All of these things are unchartered waters for everybody so a lot will come out in the wash in a bit of time,” he said.
Bettor’s Delight isn’t getting any younger but is showing no signs of stopping either having just won eight leading Sire of Pacers titles in New Zealand consecutively.
He recaptured the title in Australia last season for his fifth crown while in North America he captured his sixth Leading North America Sire of All Age Pacers title and second in a row.
“I wish he wouldn’t keep on being leading sire in America,” laughed Grierson when asked if he would have a forever home at the farm in the near future.
“He is just unstoppable. We did a full physical before he went back to America: blood tests, hormone tests, feet x-rayed etc and he was all completely as he was the previous year and the year before.
“We had him on a pretty strong rigorus diet. He was on a major exercise programme so he looked great as well. We got complimented on his physique when he go back.
“Who knows, age catches up one everyone, but I have said to the American owners that when he is retired up there he has a forever home down here as we believe the weather and climate would be a lot more suitable for a horse his age and we would look after him like the champion he is,” said Grierson.