Waikato Stud principal Mark Chittick and multiple Group One-winning trainer Peter Moody have mixed business with pleasure for decades and their latest success story is one from left field.
A$10 million Golden Eagle (1500m) winner I Wish I Win had to overcome early adversity to fulfil his destiny and ranks as a top contender for Saturday’s Gr.1 Newmarket Handicap (1200m) at Flemington.
The son of Savabeel was born with an extreme knock-knee that ruled him out as a sale prospect in the beauty pageant that is commercial yearling sales. Gelded at 12 months, mother nature was left to work her magic.
That she did, and following a promising start to his career with the now Hong Kong-based Jamie Richards in New Zealand, I Wish I Win was sent to Victoria by Chittick to race in partnership with Moody.
“Peter and I are roughly the same age and I know he looks a lot older than me, but we are,” Chittick quipped.
“We got in the game at about the same stage and I couldn’t tell you what our first horse was, it was such a long time ago.
“Put it this way, we’ve always had a horse in work with him since we’ve been at Waikato Stud and that’s 30-odd years.”
I Wish I Win was a dual winner and twice Group One-placed under Richards’ care and Chittick struggles to pinpoint the reasons for the level he has now gone to in Australia.
The Golden Eagle aside, he has won the Listed Testa Rossa Stakes (1300m) and recently resumed with a blistering run to finish runner-up in the Gr.1 Lightning (1000m).
“When Peter and I talked about taking this job on together my honest opinion was that the horse was going to Australia to have a crack at second-tier opportunities,” Chittick said.
Despite I Wish I Win’s emergence against Australia’s best short-course performers, there’s no chance he will follow the path of the Waikato Stud-bred and raced multiple Group One winner Glamour Puss to Royal Ascot.
She ran a creditable seventh in the 2006 Gr.2 King’s Stand Stakes (1000m) before she finished 10th in the Gr.1 Golden Jubilee Stakes (1200m).
“We’re not interested in Royal Ascot with the opportunities in Australia,” Chittick said.
“We regard it as the best racing in the world so while we have a horse at that level, let’s just enjoy it.”
While I Wish I Win has won at 1500m and placed over 1600m, the decision to tackle elite-level sprints has already been vindicated by the slashing run in the Lightning by the versatile galloper.
“We went down that track and what triggered it was the way he quickened in the Golden Eagle,” said Chittick, who will be at Flemington on Saturday.
“Peter and I agreed that if after one or two runs over a sprint distance it didn’t work then we could always refocus and Saturday will again tell us which path we take in the future.”
Waikato Stud races a sizeable team spread across Australian and New Zealand stables. Dominated by fillies and mares, I Wish I Win, as a gelding, is one of the odd ones out.
“I always say we have about 60 in work, but I get corrected by (Business Manager) Mike Rennie that there’s more than that,” Chittick said.
“I Wish I Win is carrying a lot of other horses, seriously though the team has been going well.
“Waihaha Falls, another gelding, will be out in a couple of weeks with the aim of getting to the Stradbroke (Gr.1, 1400m). I race him with Guy Lowry.”
Waikato Stud has again excelled in its core business of breeding and selling yearlings this year and ended New Zealand Bloodstock’s National Yearling Book 1 session as leading vendor with 52 youngsters sold for $7,742,500 at an average of $148,494 and a top price of $400,000 for a Savabeel colt.
“It’s been a good selling season, Karaka worked out very well for all of us considering it was the first year that we had everybody back,” Chittick said.
“It was unfortunate circumstances that Auckland Airport was closed for a few days (due to the flooding) and it did affect people, but in the end it was pretty good (the Karaka Sales).
“There is an insatiable market in Australia and we’re right next door and New Zealand thoroughbreds have had an incredible last 10 years and certainly the last 12 months over there. Let’s hope we’re celebrating again on Saturday.”