Saturday double for in-form Shamexpress

With a pair of powerful victories by Coventina Bay (NZ) and Shamus (NZ) at Awapuni on Saturday, the strong start to the season for Windsor Park stallion Shamexpress (NZ) has rolled on into December.

Shamexpress has sired 10 winners in Australia and five in New Zealand so far this season, with Coventina Bay leaping straight to the top of the list with an outstanding last-to-first performance on her seasonal debut in Saturday’s G2 Carters Manawatu Challenge S.

Zola Express (NZ) also won the Listed Wanganui Cup in late November, while Maracana (NZ) made an impact during the Melbourne spring carnival with placings in the G2 Moonee Valley Fillies’ Classic and Listed TAB Trophy.

There are also emerging stars on both sides of the Tasman, with Weona Smartone (NZ) adding another three victories so far this season to improve his career record to eight wins from nine starts, while Shamus has a perfect three-from-three record after outclassing his Awapuni opposition on Saturday.

Shamexpress has had a very successful start to the season, and that winning double at Awapuni on Satuday was another real highlight,” Windsor Park Stud’s General Manager Steve Till told TDN AusNZ.

“Shamus is unbeaten in three starts now, and looked very smart yesterday. He picked up really well and ran the 1400 metres out strongly.

“Allan Sharrock has managed this horse so well, ever since his impressive debut as a 2-year-old in May, and now he’s added two good wins early in his 3-year-old season.

“It’ll be interesting to see what happens from here. He’s nominated for the New Zealand Derby in March, and not many sons or daughters of Shamexpress have been tried over that sort of distance so we’ll be keen observers if he carries on along that path.

“Coventina Bay’s performance would have to be as good a winning effort as we’ve seen from a horse resuming in a Group race in New Zealand in recent times.

“It was her first start in five months and she produced a devastating finish with race-caller, Tony Lee, commenting that when Coventina Bay is in peak form, her turn of foot is as good as any in New Zealand at the moment.

“I’d love to see her win a Group 1 race for Shamexpress and for her connections. She’s nominated for the Thorndon Mile at Trentham in January and the Herbie Dyke S. at Te Rapa in February, and both those races look logical targets. Everything has to keep falling into place between now and then, but we’ll certainly be keeping our fingers crossed.”

Coventina Bay was offered by Windsor Park at the 2017 New Zealand Bloodstock National Yearling Sale, where she failed to meet a modest reserve of NZ$20,000. She has now earned more than 13 times that amount in an 18-start, nine-win career.

She won last season’s G3 Cuddle S. and Listed J Swap Sprint, along with placings in the G1 New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ S. and G2 Rich Hill Mile.

“She was bred by Wayne Darling, and we offered her at Karaka as a yearling on Wayne’s behalf but she didn’t meet her reserve there,” Till said.

“So Wayne decided to retain her and race her with some friends. He sent her to Robbie Patterson’s stable, and he’s reaping the rewards now.”

With decades of service at Windsor Park Stud under his belt, Till has more than one reason to take special satisfaction from Coventina Bay’s black-type exploits.

“She comes from a very old Windsor Park family that actually dates all the way back to Eustaci and her dam Arga, who was one of the foundation mares when I started at the farm back in the 1980s,” he said.

“Eustaci became a great broodmare, producing the Group 1 winner Nimue and her descendants, while another branch of the family has produced the champion Hong Kong sprinter Aerovelocity.

“Wayne is breeding from a half-sister to Coventina Bay and a half-sister to her dam and both have gone to Shamexpress this season.”

Shamexpress joined the Windsor Park stallion roster in 2014 after a racing career in the Danny O’Brien stable that featured a victory in the G1 Newmarket H. and placings in the G1 Coolmore Stud S., VRC Sprint Classic and Lightning S.

From foal crops numbering 63, 73, 41, 35 and 54, Shamexpress has sired 80 winners from 149 runners to date. His six black-type winners include two at Group level – Coventina Bay and the O’Brien-trained Embrace Me (NZ), whose four wins include the G3 Typhoon Tracy S. at Moonee Valley. She also placed in last year’s G2 Australia S. and was close up in seventh and eighth in two shots at the G1 William Reid S.

“Shamexpress has lacked the numbers on the ground,” Till said. “He’s had a fairly well-documented issue with fertility at times, but he’s still getting mares in foal, and he served quite a good book this year. He’s proven statistically that he can produce a good proportion of stakes winners and very smart horses.

“He has the highly promising Weona Smartone, who’s won eight in a row in Australia now and is likely to target some good races in the future.

“Meanwhile, Danny O’Brien also has the talented filly Maracana, who’s been stakes-placed this spring. Danny trained Shamexpress himself and also had a bit of luck with Embrace Me, who sold for $700,000 at the Magic Millions National Broodmare Sale on the Gold Coast this year.

“Shamexpress is doing a very good job and consistently leaves well-made, well-balanced horses with a great attitude. Hopefully he can carry on this recent run of form through the weeks and months to come.”

The Windsor Park stallion lineup features plenty of young talent that is showing all the right signs at a very early stage.

The oldest progeny of Turn Me Loose (NZ) are now 3-year-olds, and the G1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas, Emirates S. and Futurity S. winner has already sired eight winners including the Kiwi Listed winner Turn The Ace (NZ) and Brisbane black-type placegetter Verbek (NZ).

Vanbrugh, who also joined the roster in 2017, has two early winners to his name including the G3 Gold Trail S. runner-up Mustang Valley (NZ).

New Zealand Derby, Australian Derby and Caulfield Cup winner Mongolian Khan was added to the Windsor Park roster in 2016 and has sired 28 winners from 69 runners.

Mongolian Khan was represented at Te Rapa on Saturday by the up-and-comer Bankers Choice (NZ), who produced a big burst from well off the pace to record his third win from eight starts.

“That was a very impressive finish by Bankers Choice, and he looks a good horse in the making,” Till said. “He’s obviously very talented with a big future.

“That race was over only 1400 metres, but he should get up over 2000 metres easily enough because he relaxes really well and then produces a brilliant finish.”

Circus Maximus completes first tour of duty

During the week, Windsor Park farewelled their latest addition to the stallion roster, Circus Maximus (Ire), who returned to Ireland after his first New Zealand tour of duty.

By Galileo (Ire) out of the highclass Danehill Dancer (Ire) mare Duntle, Circus Maximus won five races including the G1 St James’ Palace S., Queen Anne S. and Prix du Moulin de Longchamp. He also placed in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Mile, Prix Jacques le Marois, Prix du Moulin and two editions of the G1 Sussex S.

Standing for an introductory fee of NZ$20,000 plus GST this spring, Circus Maximus was enthusiastically received by Kiwi breeders.

“He’s headed back home again after serving a lovely first book of 160 mares,” Till said. “We’ve already got over 120 of them tested in foal. He was a busy boy up until he left so we’ve got a few more weeks of testing ahead of us and he could well end up with over 130-40 mares in foal.

“He has a great attitude and handled the season well. He’s a very well-made horse with a great girth and a lovely walk.