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Serving up a pot of gold challenge
10 Aug 2012 | By Dave Bradford, The Informant

Pour Moi strikes a handsome pose at Windsor Park Stud

It’s 24/7, early mornings, late nights, wind, rain, sleet, heart-breaks. All part of the farming caper – horse farming.

Part of one of the biggest risk-taking businesses around.

There are, of course, moments in the sun. Moments for the champagne corks to pop when you’re one of the winners at the yearling sales. Moments when one of the horses you’ve bred wins a Derby, an Oaks, a Melbourne Cup. Moments when your first season sire cracks a winner in a maiden two-year-old race.

There are other days, too. Days when you have to reach for the phone and tell a client his favourite broodmare has died foaling. Days when the stud’s big name stallion starts having fertility problems, or is kicked by an out-of-sorts broodmare.  Days when the bank manager suggests a friendly chat.

What makes all the stress worthwhile? Well, for New Zealand’s thoroughbred breeders it comes down to the love of the horse, the challenge and the romantic notion there is a pot of gold at the bottom of the rainbow.

Then there’s the self-belief in their superior animal husbandry skills, a natural environment the rest of the world cannot match and in the modern era access to stallions combining both world class pedigrees and performance.

This week Windsor Park Stud presented a classic example of the performance/pedigree combo when parading the 2011 Epsom Derby winner Pour Moi to invited media. By champion racehorse and sire Montjeu, who also shuttled to Windsor Park, Pour Moi continues a well established arrangement between Coolmore Stud and the Cambridge nursery.

As Windsor Park’s co-proprietors Nelson and Sue Schick well know, if Pour Moi fulfils expectations, like Montjeu he will in time be re-routed to Coolmore’s Australian operation for his southern hemisphere covering programme. But the folk at Windsor Park don’t see that as a downside.

“At least New Zealand breeders will have had access at an affordable price and his progeny will find their way to our racetracks,” says Nelson Schick. “What’s more his fillies will make a big contribution to New Zealand’s gene pool.”

A beautifully balanced horse of medium size, Pour Moi’s last-to-first run in the Epsom Derby was an effort of outstanding merit, but sadly it was the last of his five races. He over-reached in training when being prepared for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, badly injuring his near-side front pastern.  Because there was too much movement to keep stitches in place his recovery was slowed and because of his sire potential he was prematurely retired.

After serving a big book in Ireland, he has arrived at Windsor Park in terrific condition and will command a fee of $18,000, plus GST. By comparison So You Think will stand his opening season in Australia at Coolmore for A$66,000. On the service fee front, New Zealand breeders get it pretty good.

During a recent interview on Trackside with Steve Davis, Nelson Schick emphasised Windsor Park’s prominent status among New Zealand studs was the teamwork generated by an enthusiastic, dedicated and knowledgeable staff.

Outsiders would also acknowledge a preoccupation with matching genetics and performance when making stallion and mating sections. And not quite letting go when a well performed shuttle stallion moves on.

This year, as it did for the previous two years, Windsor Park will send five mares to former resident High Chaparral. The stud’s marketing manager Mike Moran, who has also been supporting High Chaparral in Australia, has yet to select which of his mares he’ll send this year but has decided on the Flying Spur mare Better Alternative for So You Think, the superstar he co-bred.