Sacred Star named Champion NZ Sprinter

Flying Spur’s son Sacred Star was named Champion Sprinter at the 2014/15 New Zealand Thoroughbred Horse of the Year Awards presented on Thursday evening in Hamilton.

The award was accepted by Dato Yap Kim San, the owner of New Zealand-based Raffles Thoroughbred Racing, who was accompanied by his son Kyan, manager Bruce Sherwin and trainer Tony Pike.

It was a “starry” season for Raffles Racing, which also entered the Group 1 winner’s circle as owner-breeder of First Seal (Flight S. G1), and owner of Sacred Falls (George Main S. G1) & Rock Diva (Auckland Cup G1).

Sacred Star won two Group 1 races in 2014/15, the 1200-metre WRC Telegraph Handicap and the Waikato Sprint at 1400 metres, taking his record to eight wins and more than $600,000 prizemoney.

He was bred by Victorian businessman Mark Ruff from the Group 2-placed O’Reilly mare Irish Nova, whose relatives include another Group 1 winner last season Diademe (NZ Thoroughbred Breeders’ S. G1) and the excellent broodmare Professionelle, dam of Group winners Sportsman, Prisoner of Love & Hoystar.

Read: Victorian breeder celebrates first Group 1 Star

Flying Spur, Australian Champion Sire of 2007, retired from stud duties in 2012, but remains a powerful influence on Australian breeding & racing. His 99 worldwide winners last season included seven stakeswinners, headed by Sacred Star, Godolphin’s Group 2-winning mare Hazard, 3YO filly Okahu Bay, winner of the South Australia Fillies Classic G3, and Singapore sprinter Zac Spirit.

Flying Spur’s lifetime record as a sire now stands at 97 stakeswinners, 12 of them successful at Group 1 level, and an impressive Earnings per Runner figure of more than $84,000.

His broodmare daughters had an even better year, putting nine stakeswinners on the board, among them 3YOs Preferment (Victoria Derby G1) & Moonovermanhattan (Moonee Valley Vase G2), 2YO Speak Fondly (Magic Night S. G2). Flying Spur ended 2014/15 holding 4th spot on the Australian Broodmare Sires’ list, behind Danehill, Zabeel & Encosta de Lago.

Magnus did best of his Australian sire sons, finishing 19th on the General Sires’ Premiership with earnings of $5.1 million and three stakeswinners, notably the Perth Group 1 winner Magnifisio.

Second Group 1 victory for Sacred Star

A Stradbroke campaign is on the cards for Sacred Star after his dominant victory in Saturday’s $200,000 Waikato RC NRM Sprint 1400m G1.

The Raffles Racing-owned 5YO gelding and his jockey Vinny Colgan  put the race beyond doubt in soon after entering the straight and drove clear to by 1.3 lengths from Natuzzi and Spin Doctor in a sizzling 1:20.81. 

Colgan said, “The draw was a bit of a worry, but things just worked out for us.

“There was a good, even tempo and I ended up with a beautiful run. I knew at the 400 that I had plenty of horse and it was a matter of waiting to let him go.”

Also the winner of last month’s WRC Telegraph H. G1, Sacred Star joins Mentality, Forensics & Juanmo in a quartet of multiple Group 1 winners by Arrowfield’s retired champion sire Flying Spur.

Trainer Tony Pike is now planning another Queensland winter campaign for Sacred Star who won the QTC Cup G2 last May before running fifth from a wide gate in the Stradroke H. G1.  Those races are likely to be on his schedule again this year. Any success in Australia would support Sacred Star’s already strong claim to Champion Sprinter honours in New Zealand.

Sacred Star (ex Irish Nova by O’Reilly) was bred by Victorian businessman Mark Ruff and purchased by Guy Mulcaster for $200,000 at the 2011 Inglis Easter Yearling Sale, where he was offered by Attunga Stud on Mark’s behalf.

Read more: Victorian breeder celebrates first Group 1 Star

Victorian breeder celebrates first Group 1 Star

While Mark Ruff was busy winning a campdrafting event at Trafalgar, two hours east of Melbourne, the thoroughbred horse he bred five years ago was storming to victory in New Zealand’s $250,000 WRC Telegraph H. G1.

Sacred Star became the 12th Group 1 winner for Arrowfield’s now-retired champion sire Flying Spur when he won last Saturday’s 1200-metre Trentham feature by four lengths in the blistering time of 1:07.01. Already a Group 2 winner in Brisbane last winter, and twice Group 1-placed at 1400 & 1600 metres, Sacred Star has won seven of his 22 starts and more than $470,000 for owner Raffles Thoroughbred Racing & trainer Tony Pike.

Mark, also part-owner of Flemington Oaks Day winner Sadaqa, says, “It’s been the best year ever on all fronts, and now topped off by Sacred Star, my first Group 1 winner. I watched the replay on Sunday morning, but it didn’t really sink in until I started receiving a heap of calls and texts. This is something I’ve been trying to do for a long time!”

Mark’s business is Qanstruct, a Melbourne-based design and construction company which he joined after completing a degree in Building Engineering. He also has extensive rural property interests, including two stations in central Queensland and his home base, Bulla Thoroughbreds on 900 acres at Diggers Rest.

However, horses, of the stock and thoroughbred kinds, are his enduring personal passion. Sacred Star’s story began in the 1980s when Mark worked between school and university for trainer Colin Little. Years later,  Little prepared Flying Spur’s Group 2-winning son Blur and Mark closely followed his racing career.

“I loved Blur, he was a real speed horse, and a big, strong type who was able to beat Choisir at Flemington. Later I saw Flying Spur at a stallion parade and he was a beautiful horse, and also very commercial, so that’s why I sent Irish Nova to him.”

Bred by Waikato Stud’s Garry Chittick, Irish Nova (O’Reilly-Night Star by Centaine) had been a $40,000 New Zealand Premier Sale purchase in 2004 by owner, breeder and racing journalist Rob Burnet. Trained by Lance Noble, she raced for prominent New Zealand owners and breeders Alan and Colleen Jackson.

The filly showed plenty of ability in her three juvenile starts, including a Group 2 placing at Trentham, but injury forced her early retirement, and subsequent sale to Rhys Smith, acting for Mark, at a cost of around $NZ150,000.

Mark says of Irish Nova, “She’s a very strong, attractive mare with a beautiful head and a lovely nature, and every horse she’s produced has been a really nice type. However, Sacred Star is probably the best individual I’ve bred.”

$200,000 was the price paid by Guy Mulcaster for Sacred Star at the 2011 Inglis Easter Yearling Sale, where he was offered by Attunga Stud on Mark’s behalf.

Irish Nova’s first foal was a Zabeel filly named Zanova, unraced because of an injury as a foal, but fortunately retained by Mark because the mare has subsequently had five colts. Zanova is currently in foal to Equiano.

Mark sold Irish Nova, in foal to Stratum, for $120,000 to Rosemont Stud at last year’s Magic Millions National Broodmare Sale, but he has kept her yearling colt by Foxwedge to race, “because he’s the closest she’s had to Sacred Star”. He’ll be trained at Flemington by Mick Cerchi who, along with Rhys and Chloe Smith, and campdrafting champion Peter O’Neill, is a key source of  friendship, advice and inspiration for all of Mark’s equine activities.

Mark says modestly, “We just have a bit of fun campdrafting and racing.” With four or five thoroughbred broodmares, around ten racehorses in Mick’s stable and a busy schedule of draft events, this new Group 1 breeder clearly works hard at his fun!