A topsy-turvy week will hopefully take an upward swing for Little Avondale Stud this weekend ahead of an annual highlight next Wednesday.
Last Saturday Little Avondale principals Sam and Catriona Williams were in Melbourne to see their star sprinter Roch ’N’ Horse kick off her campaign in the Gr. 1 Lightning Stakes (1000m) at Flemington.
It proved a fruitless trip, however, when the Per Incanto mare had to be scratched on race morning due to a minor but badly-timed leg infection.
This Saturday Sam Williams will be back in Melbourne for Roch ’N’ Horse’s delayed resumption in the Gr.1 Oakleigh Plate (1100m) at Sandown.
Williams will be on something of a dual mission, with Per Incanto two-year-old Little Brose also chasing Group One honours on the Sandown card in the Gr.1 Blue Diamond Stakes (1200m).
Little Brose, bred by Masterton identity David Wallace and purchased by Lindsay Park Racing for A$200,000 at last year’s Gold Coast Sale, is already the winner of the Listed Merson Cooper Stakes (1000m).
He had finished second on debut in the Gr.3 Maribyrnong Plate (1000m) and at his most recent start was runner-up in the Gr.3 Blue Diamond Colts & Geldings’ Prelude (1100m).
“It’s pretty exciting that a two-year-old conceived at Little Avondale is doing so well over there,” Williams said. “As for Roch ’N’ Horse, well she’s just a special horse for Catriona and me and everybody else here.”
Williams will head to Melbourne buoyed by another Australian two-year-old result after the Gai Waterhouse/Adrian Bott-trained The Years, by Little Avondale sire Time Test, won well at Kembla Grange on Thursday.
The Wentwood Grange-bred son of Iffraaj mare Joy Anna was offered in Book 1 at last year’s National Yearling Sale and was knocked down to Chris Rutten Bloodstock acting on behalf of Waterhouse and Bott.
“It’s great for Time Test to get a result like that,” Williams said. “That was only his second start and he won by five lengths. He holds a nom for the Golden Slipper (Gr.1, 1200m), so we’re keen to see what plans they’ve got for him.”
On the home front, the Little Avondale team have been busy making plans to celebrate their 10-year anniversary as sponsors of next Wednesday’s Gr.2 Little Avondale Lowland Stakes (2100m).
After being staged by the Masterton Racing Club since 1972 as a 1400m three-year-old filly feature in the spring, in 2006 the Lowland Stakes distance was increased to 2100m as an autumn lead-up to the Gr. 1 New Zealand Oaks (2400m) and in recent years it has been contested at Hastings.
The third-last race in the NZB Filly of the Year Series, the race is named after an Agricola filly bred at Te Parae Stud by Sam Williams’ grandmother Nancy. Lowland was one of the best of her era in the late 1960s, with a list of wins that included the AJC Oaks (2400m), Sydney Cup (3200m), Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2800m), Craiglee Stakes (1600m) and Underwood Stakes (2000m).
The original intention to celebrate Little Avondale’s sponsorship anniversary included a special function at next week’s race meeting, but those plans have been disrupted by Cyclone Gabrielle.
As a result of the devastation that has hit Hawke’s Bay and other East Coast regions, the Lowland Stakes fixture will now be staged at Awapuni as a Marton Jockey Club twilight meeting next Wednesday.
“We had big plans for a celebration of our involvement in a race that means so much to Little Avondale, but understandably Cyclone Gabrielle has changed all that,” Catriona Williams said.
“Hawke’s Bay Racing have had so much to deal with opening up their venue to people and animals affected by the cyclone, but they’ve been fantastic along with the team at Awapuni in still making it happen.
“Part of it will be a punters’ club that Little Avondale have put $1,000 into and everything on the day will be geared towards a donation to the Hawke’s Bay Flood Appeal.
“While it’s terrible what’s happened, we still want to make a celebration of this year’s Lowland Stakes and a big part of that is anyone who wishes to come along does so and adds to the fund-raising effort.”
Nominations for the Little Avondale Lowland Stakes include New Zealand Oaks second favourite Family Ties, the last-start winner of the Listed Grangewilliam Stud Oaks Prelude (1800m), and NZ Bloodstock Desert Gold Stakes (1600m) runner-up Pennyweka.