Zirna’s girls building a star record

After breeding seven fillies in a row, Russell Warwick, manager of Watson Bloodstock, now plans the matings for Group 1-winning mare Zirna in confident expectation of a filly.

And why not? The all-girl approach has been a highly successful strategy for Zirna, producing more than $1 million in yearling sale returns, and three talented performers, headed by the admirable Sydney Group 3 winner Crafty Irna (by Starcraft).

Progressive 4YO mare Raziyya of Sydney (by Redoute’s Choice) has won three races up to 1800 metres this year in Singapore for owner Mark Read, and earlier this month ran a terrific fourth in Better Life’s Singapore Derby 2000m Sgp-1.

La Siroque (by Zabeel) was successful in Adelaide and placed in Melbourne before retiring to stud last spring, and the unplaced Dr Kate (by Danzero) is also at stud.

Rising 3YO Snow Petal (by Bernadini) has just returned to the stable of Peter & Dawn Williams in New Zealand with an Oaks preparation in mind.

Zirna’s rising 2YO filly by Encosta de Lago was purchased for $170,000 from the Bellerive Stud draft at the Inglis Australian Easter Sale and is currently spelling at Carinya Lodge. She will soon join her older sister Crafty Irna in the Ron Quinton stable for the next stage of her education.

Zirna has a 2012 filly by Snitzel, is in foal to Encosta de Lago and is booked again to Snitzel this spring.

Jo Monehan, manager of Arrowfield’s sister farm Bellerive Stud, where the almost 15-year-old mare has been based since 2006, says, “Zirna leaves absolutely outstanding foals, they’re all very correct and very hard to fault. They’re all gutsy fillies and good to deal with.”

She recalls, “Crafty Irna was a lovely athletic foal, with a lot of scope, and she oozed class, while Razziya of Sydney was a cracking type, in my top 10 foals on the farm that year.”

“The Snitzel filly is slightly different, she is maturing sooner and has plenty of natural muscle.”

Stallion selection has played a role too, as Russell Warwick explains, “We’ve been conscious of Zirna’s lack of size, so we’ve gone for size and scope in her early matings, which has given us good physical athletes.”

He says of Zirna, “She’s a lightly framed, neat mare, not much more than 15.2 hands, but she raced with the attitude of a 16.2 horse. She was tough, but in a lovely way, with a very good spirit.”

Bred by the late Jim Campin, Zirna showed plenty of ability in her first two seasons of racing, winning and running second to Our Egyptian Raine in a Listed Race at two, and third in the ARC Eight Carat Classic G2 as a 3YO. However, Russell suspected she would prove more effective if she could be held up during her races and saved for a sharp final sprint.

That change of tactic proved instantly successful and Zirna won three of her six starts at four, including the Te Aroha JC NZ Thoroughbred Breeders’ S. G1 over 1600 metres.

The prospect of a million-dollar bonus encouraged Russell and Eric to pursue an unprecedented campaign for a Group 1-winning mare. They sent Zirna to Singapore trainer Malcolm Thwaites for a tilt at the Patron’s Bowl-Derby Trial-Derby treble.

She won the Derby Trial and placed in the other two races, so missed the bonus, but she so impressed Thwaites that he urged Eric and Russell to leave her with him for the Raffles Cup (1800m) and Singapore Gold Cup (2200m), both carrying domestic Group 1 status.

Ridden by Mark du Plessis, Zirna won both races in classic drop-from-the-clouds fashion and added more than $S1 million to her earnings. (Watch Zirna’s 2003 Singapore Gold Cup victory here.)

Crafty Irna’s sustained power style of racing distinguishes her from both her mother and from other leading Starcraft progeny, most of whom display their sire’s explosive acceleration at 1200-1600 metres – think brilliant 2YO and 3YO sprinter Star Witness, New Zealand filly We Can Say It Now and Group 2 winner Hallowell Belle.

None of that matters to Ron Quinton whose store of adjectives is fully utilised when he talks about Crafty Irna.

“She’s one of our favourites, she’s a doll, she’s just so honest…she’s very sound, she’s a beautiful mare…gee, she’s a lovely mare!”

The rising 6YO is back in work and, all going well, her 2013 spring programme will be similar to last year, beginning with the ATC Toy Show Quality. LR over 1300 metres on 24 August, and then possibly the 1600-metre La Gioconda S. at Wyong which she won in 2012.

Although her first-up record over sprint distances is good – her previous campaign openers include seconds to Red Tracer and Dystopia – Crafty Irna’s victories have all been at 1500-2400 metres.

With three daughters on stage, and two more in the wings, Zirna’s chorus line of fillies is likely to draw plenty more applause yet.

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