The Grey Panel

Who's Zed Baby?

The final day of the Sydney Autumn Carnival can often see Randwick’s best meeting of the year ending with a whimper rather than a roar. Not this year, with putting himself into pole position for Horse Of The Year honours, posting a magnificent win in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes, providing racegoers with yet another reason to love and admire her, and reminding us that he is a magnificent stayer. Added to this, we had John Singleton and Gai Waterhouse ensuring that Sheik Mohammed and Mahmood al Zarooni can’t have a monopoly on racing’s gossip columns. On a slightly lower profile, another landmark was posted on Sydney Cup Day when the hitherto obscure NZ-based sire announced himself as a stallion with a big future thanks to the victory in the Frank Packer Plate of his three-year-old son . This was particularly well timed, as it had just been announced that Zed is shortly to relocate to Grangewilliam Stud, writes John Berry.

Nowadays, only a few stallions are required in the major breeding nations, simply because we have moved from a situation which saw a large number of sires each covering a small book of mares, to one in which a small number of sires each cover a large book, or two large books in the case of shuttle sires. Therefore, it is now rare for horses to be given much of a chance if they weren’t top-class racehorses. As was recently mentioned in this column, the unraced horses and both did very well in South Africa in relatively recent times; while last year saw an unraced horse sire a Grade One winner at the Breeders’ Cup Meeting (BC Turf winner , a son of ’s brother ). However, such incidents are a rarity – and a similar situation applies to a horse such as Zed, whose racing career saw him achieve nothing more illustrious than victory in a maiden race. However, Zed has seized his slender chances so well that he can be regarded as a major improver among the sires’ ranks.

As with most stallions who didn’t achieve much (or anything) on the racecourse, Zed’s principal credential on his retirement to stud was his pedigree: not only is he a son of New Zealand’s best sire Zabeel, but he hails from the ‘Eight Carat’ family which has kicked so many goals in New Zealand and elsewhere over the past four decades. stands as a legend in the annals of breeding, so her story bears re-telling.

Scottish peer Lord Forres was Australian representative for the British Bloodstock Agency in the ‘70s when he brought a yearling filly by the Fairway-line sire (who had recently sired the Derby winner ) out to Australia as a prospect for both racing and breeding. This filly’s primary attractions were that she descended from the Aga Khan’s great foundation mare (whose family would shortly yield the 1981 Derby winner , who was likewise by Great Nephew), that her dam (a six-furlong winner) was a full-sister to the top-class sprinter , winner of the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot in 1968, and that Klairessa’s dam had been a full-sister to , one of England’s top juveniles in 1960 before embarking on an excellent stud career in New Zealand. Named , this filly duly turned out to be a very good racehorse when trained in Sydney by Pat Murray – and in time she became a great matron, mainly courtesy of her filly , who eventually became the dam of the Group One-winning full-siblings , and .

Once it had become clear that Great Klaire was thriving in New South Wales, Lord Forres went to Tattersalls’ December Sale in Newmarket in 1979 and bought for 9,400 gns her four-year-old half-sister Eight Carat, who had shown only poor form when trained in Lambourn by Mark Smyly. The best which the lightly-raced daughter of the Godolphin Arabian-line sire had managed had been fifth place in a mile maiden race at Haydock 14 months previously, but her lineage obviously held great appeal for him. She was in foal to the Fairway-line sire at the time of the sale, which mating duly produced a filly the following spring. The foal, who was given the name , was weaned later that year, and mother and daughter were subsequently both brought down under.

Unfortunately, Lord Forres did not retain ownership of Eight Carat for long. He had her covered in her first stud season in Australia (1981) by the -line sire , but then sold her to Robert Sangster. Cotehele House too was sold, going to New Zealand before eventually returning to Australia, where she bred the best of her many good winners: , a top-class racehorse and high-class sire, and who didn’t achieve quite as much as Danewin on the track before doing even better than him at stud.

Eight Carat’s Sticks And Stones foal turned out to be a filly – and, named , she won the Group One Railway Handicap at Ellerslie in New Zealand, in which country Eight Carat was soon domiciled too, having been bought by Patrick Hogan of Cambridge Stud. Diamond Lover’s stud carer in New Zealand proved to be a stellar one, matings with the Cambridge Stud sires and his son yielding the Group One winers and , both of whom have excelled at stud: to , Tristalove bred the high-class colts and , while Don Eduardo is now a high-class sire in New Zealand. Diamond Lover’s other matings with Zabeel yielded the high-class fillies (dam of the Group One winner , now best known as the sire of the world-class Singaporean-trained sprinter ) and .

Eight Carat proved even more successful than her daughter Diamond Lover with the Cambridge Stud stallions. Her visit to Sir Tristram in 1983 led to the top-class colt , who became a very good stallion in New Zealand. By the time that Kaapstad was born, Eight Carat’s status had received a terrific boost as her Irish-bred Habitat half-sister , born in 1980, had followed up her stellar season in 1983 (in which she had won most of Europe’s best sprints including the July Cup and Prix de l’Abbaye) by landing the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot as a four-year-old. Even better was to follow when Eight Carat went to Sir Tristram’s son Zabeel, most notably when she foaled in 1992. He was a terrific horse, ranking up there with the likes of and as one of the best NZ-breds ever to be trained in Australia, and he remains the only Australian Horse of the Year to sire another winner of that prestigious award (). By this time, Eight Carat had already bred the Group One-winning filly (Our) to the Cambridge Stud sire , and further visits to Zabeel yielded the Group One winner as well as the successful stallion .

Coming from this family, it is understandable that Zed was given his chance at stud, notwithstanding that he comes from a less prolific branch of it. While Cotehele House’s two best children (Danewin and Commands) are both Australian-bred sons of Danehill, Zed’s second dam was produced in the earlier phase of Cotehele House’s life, while she was still in New Zealand (at Ra Ora Stud). A daughter of the American-bred stallion (a top miler in England in the early ‘80s when trained by Guy Harwood, and subsequently a decent sire at Ra Ora, responsible for the likes of 1990 QTC Oaks winner and 1990 AJC Sires’ Produce Stakes victrix , both trained by Tommy Smith), Theme Song won two races before embarking on a good career at stud, during which all her five runners won, including two who won stakes races. One of Theme Song’s two stakes winners was Zed’s dam , a daughter of Danehill (and thus very closely related to Commands and Danewin) who won seven races including the Group One Waikato International Stakes over 2000m at Te Rapa in February 2002 when trained at Cambridge by Murray Baker.

Emerald Dream was retired after winning the Waikato International – an inevitable decision as she was in-foal. And not just in-foal; she was in-foal to the ideal stallion, Zabeel, who had already bred so many top-liners from this family. The resultant foal was born later that year: Zed.

Zed was sold at the NZB Karaka Premier Yearling Sale in 2004, bought by bloodstock agent Bruce Perry. The intention was that he would cross the Tasman to join Lee Freedman’s stable, but fate intervened: he was en route to the airport when another yearling went beserk on the truck. The journey was aborted with several of the young horses, including Zed, badly injured. Zed remained in New Zealand to endure a long convalescence, and eventually joined Murray Baker’s stable. His two-year-old season had passed him by, but he won on debut as a three-year-old, taking a 1600m maiden at Hastings in January 2006. Baker pitched him straight into the Waikato Guineas the following month, but the colt went amiss during the race (in which he finished sixth behind that season’s NZ Derby winner ). He resumed racing as a four-year-old in the spring of the 2006/’07 season, but ran badly in both his starts (finishing 13th of 16 at Te Rapa over 1600m and 7th of 8 at Egmont) and, suffering from wear and tear, was retired. His year-younger full-brother enjoyed better luck: , the result of Emerald Dream’s next visit to Zabeel, has proved himself one of New Zealand’s most honest stayers of recent years, winning the Dunedin Cup in 2010 and the Metropolitan Handicap at Riccarton in 2011 and being placed in two runnings of the New Zealand Cup at Riccarton.

Zed retired to Little Avondale Stud near Masterton in 2007 and his very small stud fee (theoretically the nominations were free, but in practice they cost $500) attracted over 100 mares to his court. Inevitably, most of the mares were of very indifferent quality, and the novelty of a ‘free’ stallion didn’t last. His books became smaller year on year, and after five seasons he was sold to stand at Erewhon Station on the South Island. In theory he stood there at a fee of $1,000, but in practice he didn’t: he didn’t cover any thoroughbreds at all, having only the station’s resident Clydesdales as his mates.

During the current season, the members of Zed’s early crops have really hit their straps. Two members of his second crop – Survived and Usainity – have really come good as autumn three-year-olds in recent weeks. In the Manawatu Classic over 2000m at Awapuni at the end of March, the pair filled the quinella. The John Bary-trained won the Hawkes Bay Cup over 2200m at Hastings three weeks later, and now Usainity, who fittingly is trained by Murray Baker, has crossed the Tasman to win the Frank Packer Plate over 2000m at Randwick.

Grangewilliam Stud near Whanganui has now secured the services of Zed to stand alongside (another regally-bred son of Zabeel, but one who has a racing record to match his lineage), the well-bred former Peter Snowden-trained Redoute’s Choice horse and the Argentinian-bred (a Grade One winner in his homeland) for this year’s breeding season, during which his stud fee will be $4,000 + GST. He’s had a slow start in life – very possibly solely due to the misfortune of finding himself on the same truck as a bad traveller as a yearling –but he’s now starting to make up for it. In the fullness of time, Zed might well end up with his own chapter in the story of the legendary Eight Carat.

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