Karaka 2022 will be more of the same but with a distinctive twist for highly respected horsewoman Kerrie Cox.
For 17 years Cox played a key role in Waikato Stud’s rise to the top of the National Yearling Sale vendors’ table, however, this year she will front for another Matamata consignor, Blandford Lodge.
Cox’s time at Waikato Stud began when she was still at high school with weekend and holiday work that evolved to a full-time job once her studies ended.
Her skills, particularly in all-important sales preparation, were quickly recognised by Mark Chittick and by the age of 20 she had been appointed yearling manager.
A highlight of Cox’s nine years in that role came in 2014 when Waikato Stud claimed its first National Yearling Sale leading vendors’ title, an accolade it would repeat for the next six years.
After nine years, Cox was promoted to the newly created role of bloodstock manager, making her responsible for the daily working across the farm’s broad spectrum, reporting to Mark Chittick.
“I couldn’t have wished for a better experience than my years at Waikato Stud,” Cox said. “To be entrusted with so much responsibility by Garry and Mark and to work with the very best bloodstock was an opportunity I’ll forever be grateful for.
“It was a very demanding role though – one that I had given half of my life to – so last year I decided I needed to step back and make more time for my family. It was time for my husband and boys to see more of me.
“That gave me time to reassess and decide where I might belong, so when I was approached with the offer of a general manager’s role, I didn’t take long to realise what a good fit that would be.”
Blandford Lodge, one of New Zealand’s most historic thoroughbred nurseries dating back to the 1940s, is these days owned by Graham and Helen-Gaye Bax in partnership with Wellingtonian Lib Petagna.
The latter’s JML Bloodstock portfolio is one of the most recognisable across New Zealand and Australia through the likes of multiple Group One-winning racemare Lucia Valentina, who was selected from the 2014 Blandford Karaka draft by Petagna’s bloodstock consultant Bruce Perry.
Cox began her new job in December and has quickly adapted to the different role, one that encompasses some 170 horses and the current primary focus, a similarly smaller yearling draft than what she has been used to being prepared for Karaka.
Even so, the 12 Book 1 yearlings and another two for Book 2 span a wide range of stallions, from champions Savabeel and Snitzel, to proven sires Per Incanto, Tavistock, Proisir and Charm Spirit, emerging forces such as Almanzor, Deep Field, Turn Me Loose and Time Test, and freshmen U S Navy Flag, Ace High and Merchant Navy.
“That’s something I’ve quickly picked up on since coming here – the diversity in stallions, both in our yearling draft and what the mares are covered by here and in Australia,” Cox said.
“It’s been quite a learning curve in that respect, but one that I’m really enjoying, getting to know all the individual horses and getting up to speed on their pedigrees.”
Cox is looking forward to presenting a 2022 draft with a difference from her previous 17, one that still allows her to identify yearlings she’s confident will have definite appeal with the buying bench.
“One of the first things I did when I started here was make notes on every member of the draft and it was reassuring to learn I was on the same page as everyone else involved, and that we have the same goal – we’re all about doing the right thing by each horse,” she said.
Common to others in her pivotal role, Cox doesn’t leap at the question around the pick of the draft, but still offers some insight.
“The Snitzel from Eleonora is an absolutely stunning filly, one that would hold her own anywhere,” she said.
“Another filly I really like is the Charm Spirit from Fairygem – she’s just beautiful.
“As far as physical types go, it’s hard to go past the Time Test colt from Daniela’s Magic, he’s an athlete through and through, and the Almanzor-Mackenzie Kate filly is a lovely mover, so typical of what her sire is leaving.
“The numbers we’re taking to Karaka might not be what I’ve become used to over the years, but the main thing is the quality is still there, so yes, I’m definitely looking forward to seeing them go through the ring.”