Savabeel to the fore once again: ‘he’s basically just a freak’


TDN AusNZ caught up with Waikato principal Mark Chittick to discuss a memorable two weeks for the farm and its flagship stallion, and took a close look at the domination of New Zealand-bred horses in Australia over the past few weeks.

With an astonishing seven of the eight Group 1 contests during The Championships in Sydney this year going the way of New Zealand-bred horses, the Kiwis came and conquered in no uncertain terms.

Having landed all four Group 1s on day one of The Championships, the Kiwi-breds came agonizingly close to making it a clean sweep on Saturday, winning three of the four elite-level races on day two and finishing a gallant second in the other.

Such domination could simply be dismissed as an anomaly, but in truth, the success of New Zealand-bred horses in Australia has extended far beyond The Championships this season, with the likes of Sharp ‘N’ Smart (NZ) (Redwood {GB}), Prowess (NZ) (Proisir), Legarto (NZ) (Proisir), Roch ‘N’ Horse (NZ) (Per Incanto {USA}) and the sadly ill-fated I’m Thunderstruck (NZ) (Shocking), to name but a few, all enjoying Group 1 success on Australian soil earlier in the campaign.

Atishu wins the G1 Queen of the Turf S. (Ashlea Brennan Photography)

Over the past two weekends, Waikato Stud resident Savabeel has been responsible for more Group 1 winners than any other stallion, with his sons I Wish I Win (NZ) and Major Beel (NZ) winning the G1 TJ Smith S. and G1 Australian Derby respectively, before his daughter Atishu (NZ) became her sire’s 31st individual Group 1 winner on Saturday having turned a competitive looking G1 Queen of the Turf S. into a procession.

All three of those horses were bred and raised by Waikato, whilst fellow farm graduate Mo’unga (NZ) (Savabeel) and Waikato homebred Skew Wiff (NZ) (Savabeel) very nearly made it five Group 1 winners in seven days for their record-breaking sire, having finished runner-up in both the G1 Queen Elizabeth S. and G1 Breeders’ S. respectively.

Put simply, it has been a remarkable fortnight for both Waikato Stud and its flagship stallion, whom Chittick could only describe as a ‘freak’ when asked to reflect on the farm’s recent run of success at the highest level.

“It has been an absolutely incredible last couple of weekends,” Chittick said. “Savabeel gives us the opportunity to breed these top-class horses and it’s a situation that we are very honoured and privileged by.

“There’s a process, an incredible team and an incredible family here at Waikato Stud that is now second generation heading into the third generation.

“There has been a breeding philosophy that has been in place since Garry (Chittick) started breeding horses some 50 years ago. That has given us the opportunity with horses that have been champions in New Zealand in the past – horses like Centaine, Pins, O’Reilly, Ocean Park and now Savabeel.

“All the younger ones we have got coming through now are all taken on and given the same opportunity under that philosophy, and it’s something that we are very proud of.”

Savabeel entered unchartered territory among the pantheon of great Southern Hemisphere sires, becoming the first stallion in history to sire the winner of both the G1 TJ Smith S. and G1 Australian Derby.

Producing elite-level winners over such a variety of distances is a rare and highly sought-after commodity in a stallion, one that Chittick feels Savabeel owes to the combination of his sire, Zabeel (NZ), and damsire, Success Express (USA).

“We’ve always said what an incredibly versatile stallion he is,” Chittick added. “He gets fillies and colts, sprinters through to distance horses, all ages, etc. He has no bounds.

“His sire Zabeel has obviously had a big influence on that, he’s achieving the same sort of incredible feats as he did. But if you add in that Success Express and that little more speed, it brings in those sprinting results and makes him incredibly versatile.

“The way things are panning out with him as a broodmare sire, it’s a no brainer that that will be his next chapter as well. He’s an incredible sire and he’s basically just a freak.”

A fresh challenge

For all Savabeel’s achievements in Australia over the past fortnight, the son of Zabeel (NZ) is facing an uphill battle to be crowned Champion Sire in New Zealand this season, a title which he has held every year since 2015.

A breakthrough season for Rich Hill Stud stallion Proisir has seen Savabeel drop to second on the New Zealand Sires’ Premiership – a position which he also holds in the Australian equivalent – in terms of both progeny earnings and stakes wins for the current campaign.


But let’s be clear, to be second in the Sires’ Premiership across two racing jurisdictions is no mean feat. The emergence of Proisir means that Savabeel will likely have a regular sparring partner at the top of the NZ Sires’ Premiership for years to come, something which Chittick feels can only be of benefit to the racing and breeding industries on both sides of the Tasman.

“I think the great thing with the New Zealand sire ranks at the moment are these young horses coming through,” he said.

“There are other stallions here that are doing a great job and that’s fantastic for the New Zealand breeding industry.

“We are competing in a very, very tough market, but we’re consistently leaving incredible, tough racehorses that put their hands up in what is the toughest racing environment in the world (Australia).

“It’s very important that we have stallion success over here. After the likes of Pins and O’Reilly it has been a one-man band for the last few years, but the more the merrier – it stands us in good stead for the future.”

Something to be proud of

As a proud Kiwi, Chittick has taken as much joy from the domination of New Zealand-bred horses in Australia this season as anyone, but the success has not come as a surprise to the second-generation studmaster, who feels the writing has been on the wall for a number of years.

I Wish I Win – G1 TJ Smith S. (Ashlea Brennan Photography)

“It just showcases the level of horsemanship, the opportunities that horses are given and the environment that these horses are reared in over here in New Zealand,” he said.

“Of the foals that are born every year in New Zealand, some of them are sold as yearlings and go here, there and everywhere, some of them stay here, some go overseas to race with trainers from here, then there’s the tried market, etc – they get spread very thin.

“So for New Zealand to have had such success through this Sydney carnival, and such continued success throughout Australia in the last few seasons, is really, really encouraging.

“The success is coming from left, right and centre. It’s not just a one-off year, but it’s a year that we are extremely proud of.”

In light of the challenges that racing in New Zealand continues to face, Chittick believes the success of Kiwi-bred horses across the Tasman has come at a vitally important time to breathe some much-needed positivity into the racing industry in New Zealand.

“It’s very important – it has shown that we’re not bad at this breeding game, whether it’s cattle sheep or horses,” he quipped.

“Obviously, our racing industry is not the most vibrant at the present time and certainly needs to turn a massive corner, but the breeding side of the fraternity are keeping our end up.

“Our environment gives us that opportunity, and with the way that the racing industry is here at the present time, it gives us huge confidence to keep breeding the way we are off the back of the success we have had in the best racing environment in the world.”

Something in the water

Chittick’s sentiments were echoed by Andrew Birch, CEO of NZ Thoroughbred Marketing, who feels the New Zealand racing and breeding industries have plenty to be positive about despite the prizemoney levels across the Tasman remaining a key concern.

“We have some outstanding horse people but given our domestic prizemoney levels, trading horses off-shore has been vital to make a living,” Birch said.

“The breeders in New Zealand are very tight-knit and we all feel a collective sense of pride every time a horse with the (NZ) suffix wins a feature race, let alone seven of the eight Group 1 races at The Championships.

“When you consider the first three past the post in the Oaks were all Kiwi-breds and I thought Mo’unga was a massive run for second in the Queen Elizabeth, we really couldn’t have asked for much more.”

With several months of the season still to go, New Zealand-bred horses have already equalled last campaign’s tally of Group 1 wins on Australian soil, but just like Chittick, Birch believes that this year’s achievements are by no means a flash in the pan.

“Kiwi-bred horses won 16 Group 1 races in Australia last season and 18 Group 1 races the season before, so we know they continue to perform exceptionally well in our most important market,” he added.

“We are also seeing great diversity in the types of horses – from I Wish I Win landing the TJ Smith Stakes to Explosive Jack in a 3200 metre Sydney Cup and everything in-between. The common denominator is generally longevity and soundness.

“The success of the New Zealand bred is probably down to a combination of factors, but maybe there’s something in the water.”

Article courtesy of TDN AUSNZ, written by Lewis Lesbirel.

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