Auckland resident Don Goodwin has been named the inaugural winner of the New Zealand Small Breeder of the Year Award for 2020-21 due to the feats of his outstanding mare Verry Elleegant.
Sponsored by Luigi Muollo, the award recognises the achievements of a New Zealand breeder whose small broodmare band represents true breeding merit in the quality of racing performance.
Goodwin received the honour over fellow finalists Willie and Karen Calder (breeders of Avantage), Joan Egan (breeder of Concert Hall and Beauden) and Marie Leicester (Breeder of Melody Belle and Tutukaka), the calibre demonstrating the strength of New Zealand’s small breeders.
“There are a lot of small breeders in New Zealand that punch above their weight,” award sponsor Luigi Muollo said.
“I come from a small breeder background so appreciate the effort they put into their breeding ventures. Small breeders are a big part of the New Zealand racing and breeding industry.
“No discredit to the bigger studs and breeders but not everyone can have 150 mares, so I think it is really important we recognise our small breeders and their achievements.”
Goodwin epitomises the concept with his small breeding portfolio headlined by Opulence, whose daughter Verry Elleegant has been a flagbearer for New Zealand racing since she first stepped foot on Australian turf in 2018.
Verry Elleegant, who races in Goodwin’s red and blue silks which are a nod to his affiliation with the Suburbs Rugby Club, added five Group One wins to her tally during the 2020-21 racing season.
She started her five-year-old season with a bang, winning the Gr.1 Winx Stakes (1400m) fresh up. After a fourth placed run in the Gr.1 George Main Stakes (1600m) she won the Gr.1 Turnbull Stakes (2000m) and Gr.1 Caulfield Cup (2400m) in succession before placing seventh in the Gr.1 Melbourne Cup (3200m), a race she would return to win a year.
After a spell Verry Elleegant finished third when resuming in the Gr.2 Apollo Stakes (1400m), then went on to claim a further two Group One victories in the Chipping Norton (1600m) and Ranvet Stakes (2000m) before rounding out her season with a runner-up result in the Gr.1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m).
“I never thought I would breed a horse like Verry Elleegant,” Goodwin said. “It’s wonderful for a breeder of my size to get something like this. It keeps the little people in the game and it is a hard game to be in. It’s the love of the horse that keeps you going.”
Goodwin’s love of horses was established at a young age though his breeding venture began with the aptly named mare Chance of Luck (Vice Regal x Purple Pride) who produced two foals for him by Zed.
“Chance of Luck was quite old and when she passed on I had to make a decision whether I should get another mare or not,” Goodwin said. “At the time I had shares in Zed so I thought I would go out and buy a mare I thought would go well with him.”
That mare was Opulence who Goodwin purchased at the 2011 New Zealand Bloodstock May Sale in foal to Towkay for $14,000.
“I went out and bought Opulence to put to Zed,” Goodwin said. “I don’t think many other breeders would have thought to do that. To me it was pretty obvious, to double up on the Eight Carat.
“I thought the bloodlines I was doing were pretty good but I would never had thought I would breed one as good as Verry Elleegant. I knew she was pretty good early on and she has just gone on and on and got better and better.
“A lot of three-year-old fillies who win the Oaks don’t go on to much but she has just got better and better. To win the Melbourne Cup this year, that would be my proudest moment as a breeder.”
Though Goodwin has an obvious passion for pedigrees and has put many an hour into studying bloodlines, he said there is still one element you need for success.
“You do need luck,” he said. “You can study everything you like and have your theories, but you still need luck.”