The Listed James Bull Rangitikei Gold Cup (1600m) carries the name of one icon of the Hunterville community, and on Saturday it was won by another.
The green, gold and white colours of Christopher and Susanna Grace were carried in the Awapuni feature by Hinerangi, who delivered a victory that was significant in more ways than one.
The Bull connection was a special one for Christopher Grace, who himself received the Queen’s Service Medal in 2014 for services to the Hunterville community.
“I’ve lived and farmed next to the Bull family all my life, so there’s a very long association and friendship there,” he said. “When I was on the committee of the Marton Jockey Club, I was also very closely involved with Jim Bull while he was on the Racing Conference. The Bull family has done a lot for racing and our community, which made this result extra special.”
But it was also a first black-type win for the Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman-trained Hinerangi, who comes from a family Grace has raced and bred from for half a century.
“When you’re a breeding person, a mare winning a black-type race is always a big thrill and so important,” he said.
“This mare comes from a family that I’ve had for eight or nine generations. The first horse from this family that I raced was all the way back in 1962 – that’s a long time ago now.”
Hinerangi is the first foal out of Hinemoa, who won the Listed Ag & Turf Sprint (1400m) at Te Rapa and the Listed Sprint Series Final (1200m) at Caulfield. Hinemoa is a half-sister to Taitanium, the dam of the Graces’ Gr.2 Wellington Cup (3200m) winner Graphic.
“It’s been a good family and Hinemoa raced well for us both here and in Australia,” Grace said. “Having another mare now who can carry on her line is fantastic.
“We’re trying to keep our number of broodmares down to 10 or 12, which can be very difficult. You have to be pretty ruthless at times. But my ambition is for all of our broodmares to either be stakes winners or sisters to stakes winners.”
The Graces’ CV features elite breeding successes with Gr.1 Telegraph (1200m) winner Morar, plus the Gr.2 Brisbane Cup (2400m) winner and Gr.1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) placegetter Tullamore.
But their home-bred mare Shillelagh has been an obvious headline act, carrying their colours to Group One victories in the Cantala Stakes (1600m) and Empire Rose Stakes (1600m) during the last two Melbourne Cup carnivals at Flemington.
The Savabeel mare was a close sixth in last Saturday’s Group 1 Doomben Cup (2000m) – right alongside the fifth-placed Luvaluva, who was also Grace-bred.
The winner of more than $1.8 million in prize-money, the seven-year-old Shillelagh has been trained for most of her career by Chris Waller, after commencing her career in New Zealand with Te Akau Racing.
“Whether or not we continue with Shillelagh is up in the air at the moment,” Grace said. “That decision probably won’t be made until the end of June.
“She hasn’t been over-raced, and she had only one start as a three-year-old, which she won. However, time does march on, so we’ll see.
“One possibility is that we might get her in foal in the spring and then race on for a little bit after that. But we’ll take a bit longer to work through that decision.” – NZ Racing Desk