Windsor Park Stud’s dual approach to securing high-class shuttle stallions and sourcing the best home-grown talent continues to work for the Cambridge farm with notable and satisfying results.
Their most recent acquisition on the global front is Charm Spirit (Ire), who travels from his Northern Hemisphere base, either at Tweenhills Farm in England or the Aga Khan’s Haras de Bonneval in France. He was represented by his first Southern Hemisphere winner - a Group 2 winner, no less - in Aretha (NZ) at the weekend.
Domestically, Shamexpress (NZ) is away to a strong start and he produced his first Australian Group winner at Moonee Valley on Friday night when Embrace Me (NZ) landed the G3 Typhoon Tracy S.
The Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman-trained filly Aretha got Charm Spirit off the mark in fine fashion when she triumphed, at her second start, in the G2 Matamata Breeders’ S. She placed in her only previous appearance in the G2 Wakefield Challenge S. prior to Christmas.
Aretha (inside) wins the Gr.2 Matamata Breeders'Stakes - Click on image to watch the race
“We know the expectations are high with a horse with the profile of Charm Spirit,” Windsor Park General Manager Steve Till said.
“With the type of gene pool in New Zealand, stallions need at least to have 3 and 4-year-olds to really judge how they are going to fare at stud.
“Charm Spirit won at two and he was an outstanding 3-year-old. We saw about this time last year with his yearlings that they had enough strength to be late 2-year-olds and train on at three.
“Particularly with our gene pool, we know we’re not a country that produces precocious 2-year-olds so we have a lot to look forward to.”
Charm Spirit, a son of Invincible Spirit (Ire), was successful as a juvenile and blossomed the following season to win at Group 1 level in the Ascot Queen Elizabeth II S., the Prix du Moulin and in the Prix Jean Prat for trainer Freddy Head.
“Aretha was tough all the way up the straight and very reminiscent of her Dad,” Till said.
“In his Group 1 races Charm Spirit would just stick his head out and it’s nice to see those tenacious, fighting qualities come out.
“It’s (Matamata Breeders' Stakes) the most prestigious race for 2-year-old fillies in this country, outside of the two Group 1s. It says a lot about the faith Murray and Andrew have in her ability to target the race. And to get there off an abbreviated preparation was impressive.”
Aretha returns to scale
The G1 Newmarket H. winner Shamexpress has also made a highly encouraging start to his stud career with Cyber Attack (NZ), and London Express (NZ) also successful at black type level.
“To see him get his first Australian Group winner was terrific,” Till said. “He’s only had 37 runners to date and he’s already had five stakes horses.
“Windsor Park has been through a transition period after proven stallions like Thorn Park, High Chaparral, Montjeu, Mastercraftsman and Volksraad and company to a very young stallion roster.
“The first of them, Shamexpress and Charm Spirit, are coming through and confirming the confidence we have in them to become good stallions.
“It takes time and doesn’t happen overnight and we never expected it to. So to see the young boys putting their hands up augurs well for the future. Particularly for Windsor Park and for the industry, we need as many good stallions as we can muster.”
Windsor Park is a past and proven master in the stallion shuttle business, dating back to the late 1990s when Tale Of The Cat (USA) arrived.
“He was our first and we shuttled him for a New Zealand syndicate and he did a very good job,” Till said.
The Storm Cat (USA) stallion Tale Of The Cat’s top Southern Hemisphere representatives included the G1 Salinger S. and G1 Goodwood H. winner Glamour Puss (NZ), the G1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas winner Tell A Tale (NZ).
He also sired the dual Group 2 winner Falkirk (NZ), who finished fourth in the G1 Royal Ascot King’s Stand S. before his retirement to Windsor Park.
His leading runners include the Hong Kong Derby winner Fay Fay (NZ) and multiple Group winners Durham Town (NZ) and Cousin Colin (NZ), who raced as Amazing Kids in Hong Kong.
“Tale Of The Cat was a Coolmore stallion and that opened the way for Montjeu, High Chaparral, Mastercraftsman etc. Why on earth would anyone be against shuttle horses?
“We’ve always felt that you make the most of an opportunity when it’s presented. To gain access to horses the calibre of Montjeu, High Chaparral and Mastercraftsman, and this applies again to the industry at large, is of fabulous benefit.
“You might not have them forever, but if they’re successful you’ll have their sons. That was the case with Danehill and it was the case with Last Tycoon, the sire of Waikato Stud’s O’Reilly.
“We also shuttled Spinning World, the sire of Thorn Park. There’s no reason not to shuttle world class horses.
“The industry is a global one. It’s changed markedly as has the domestic scene, which means it’s much harder for New Zealand to compete to secure stallions.
“This has been a mechanism that we’ve been able to use to get the quality to be competitive.
“At Windsor Park we try to access the world’s best bloodlines and the best race form and genetics like Shamexpress. He’s a grandson of Last Tycoon.
“Shamexpress was proven under Australian conditions at the highest level, winning a marquee sprint race. In a major sense we’ve got the best of both worlds with him and Charm Spirit.”