A policy of sourcing thoroughbred talent from this side of the Tasman has produced rich rewards this season for Australian owner John Fiteni.
The Queenslander hit headlines earlier this year with a superb Gr.2 Adelaide Cup (3200m) victory by his lightly-raced stayer Surprise Baby, and his colours were to the fore again at Flemington last weekend as Miss Mandito took out the Leilani Series Final (1400m).
“We’ve had a pretty good run,” Fiteni said. “I’ve got between 15 to 18 horses in work at the moment, and most of my horses come out of New Zealand. I like to buy them off the farms, after hearing from the people who have bred and raised them. It’s worked out really well.
“I just bought another couple from New Zealand earlier this month, so hopefully that continues with them.”
Surprise Baby has provided a remarkable return on Fiteni’s investment. The son of Shocking was bred by Rich Hill Stud, who were unable to sell him at Karaka either as a yearling or a Ready to Run two-year-old.
He was then listed on Gavelhouse.com, where Fiteni snapped him up for just $5,500.
“I bought him online and couldn’t believe the price,” he said. “I bought him sight unseen, after talking to the breeders and looking at photos.”
Surprise Baby has won four of his eight starts for more than A$400,000 in stakes. In his most recent appearance, he was beaten by a nose in a head-bobbing finish to the Andrew Remsden (3200m) at Flemington, coming agonisingly close to a guaranteed start in this year’s Gr.1 Melbourne Cup (3200m).
“It’s been a great ride with him so far, and it could be an exciting spring ahead,” Fiteni said. “It’ll be interesting to see what happens with him over the next few weeks.”
Surprise Baby became the second consecutive Adelaide Cup winner for Rich Hill stallion Shocking, following in the footsteps of Fanatic.
Miss Mandito, meanwhile, was bred by Gus Wigley at Inglewood Stud and was purchased privately. She is a daughter of Zacinto, who stood at Inglewood before relocating north to Valachi Downs.
Ridden on Saturday by expat Kiwi jockey Michael Walker, the four-year-old delivered a first metropolitan win for trainer Charlotte Littlefield.
Miss Mandito has now had 15 starts for four wins, four placings and just over A$140,000 in prize-money.
“It was a great win by that mare on Saturday, and Charlotte has done such a wonderful job training this horse for me,” Fiteni said.
“Now we’re hoping the horse can carry on and be competitive in some nice races in the new season.
“When the sire Zacinto started winning some races over here in Australia with his early progeny, Julian Hay – who is now Charlotte’s husband – got in touch with the team at Inglewood and got the whole process underway. He passed on all the relevant information to me and asked me if I was interested in her, and I certainly was.”
Miss Mandito is out of the O’Reilly mare Mandy O’Reilly, which makes her a half-sister to the highly promising juvenile Intimidate. Bred, raced and trained by the Wigleys, the Charm Spirit filly scored a stylish win at Riccarton on June 22.
Now the dam of two talented winners from two named foals, Mandy O’Reilly is a full-sister to the multiple Group-winning New Zealand mare Dating. – NZ Racing Desk.