The corner with Garry Chittick

Where to from here? We now have Omnicron to deal with. There are, as always, many theories as to the where, how, potency and virility of this new strain. All I know is somehow we are going to have to work around whatever inconvenience we are to be confronted with. With a third of our population 18 or under, who have not been vaccinated generally, add the 10% of the over 18-year-olds, and we do in fact have 40% of the population as yet not vaccinated. Now I know we are told the younger generation are not as prone to the serious effects of COVID, however it is the intention to vaccinate down to the age of five, therefore we have a long way to go before the so-called herd immunity enhanced by vaccination could be considered as our natural ally. 

We are indeed fortunate to have been able to race our horses both here and Australia, more importantly the breeding sectors have continued to function almost as normal. Visiting mares walked on has resulted with a clear understanding, depending on the region they have come from, with the transport operator sticking to their vehicle as per the rules. 

Remarkably, we at Waikato have covered more mares than our previous season. This is very encouraging, illustrating the resilience of our mare owners. Horse sales internationally are quite remarkable. Apart from some sticky clearance rates, I have not seen a reported sale result in the negative.

Is this sustainable? We here in NZ are half a chance with the buoyant east coast racing in Australia. Our horses are as always boxing above our weight over there, they as always could be a bit lippy, but seriously the last decade of results is remarkable.

The issue is our spread of stallions. I have raised this issue in the Corner before, it takes a lot of intestinal fortitude to step into the retired colt market at current prices. Our rule of thumb when quoted a prospect was – does he suit our mares and can we recover our investment over the next four years? 

We all know the strike rate for above average sires is pretty limited. If we believed we had a prospect to enhance our results the four-year criteria used to be achievable. It’s a shaky business model but now, it is impossible to compete in this current market. Our last couple of high-profile sires have only been possible with the cross subsidisation of the income from Savabeel. My view is this is not sustainable, certainly without a leading sire to help.

However all is never lost. NZ-ders are an innovative lot, we will ferret out prospects one tier down from the mega dollar high risk horses. We have done it before, successfully and my belief is our terroir is an advantage that is immeasurable.

Waikato has notched up our eighth Breeder of the Year Award. Easy, you say, with Savabeel in our back paddock. Quite right! But I can type you a list of many previous studs fortunate enough to stand champion sires who have not appeared to take advantage of their opportunity, otherwise they would have eight Breeders Titles.

It was said to me some years ago “I don’t know why you get wound up over the annual award.” Well, if you are devoting your life, energy, and intellect to breeding the best horse you can, the Award is a measure of what you are trying to achieve. 

We live in a woke world where excellence is frowned upon. Fortunately, not in our results which most breeders celebrate the excitement of winning. Long may it last. 


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