IN Racing
Western Empire another Australian star for Iffraaj
Former Haunui Farm shuttle stallion Iffraaj is back in the Group One spotlight in Australia
NZ Racing Desk | November 21, 2021
Photo: Trish Dunell

With his final southern hemisphere yearlings set to go through sale rings in early 2022, former Haunui Farm shuttle stallion Iffraaj is back in the Group One spotlight in Australia.

His exciting son Western Empire was sent out as a $1.60 favourite for Saturday’s Gr.1 Railway Stakes (1600m) at Ascot – the shortest price in the 134-year history of the Perth showpiece. He lived right up to those big expectations, exploding out of midfield and streaking away to win by four lengths.

Trained by Grant and Alana Williams for Western Australia’s powerhouse owner-breeders Bob and Sandra Peters, the four-year-old has had 12 starts for seven wins, four placings and more than A$1.2 million in stakes. He has now won six stakes races, having previously claimed the Gr.2 WATC Derby (2400m), Gr.3 Asian Beau Stakes (1400m) and Listed Lex Piper Stakes (1600m), J.C. Roberts Stakes (1800m) and Melvista Stakes (2200m).

“He was spectacular on Saturday – you don’t see many horses winning Group Ones the way he won that race,” Haunui Farm’s managing director Mark Chitty said.

“He looks a pretty special galloper. He’s always shown plenty of ability, and he seems to be really starting to put everything together now. No doubt they’ll be thinking about heading across to the eastern states at some point in the not-too-distant future.”

Iffraaj is the sire of 81 individual stakes winners worldwide, 11 of them at Group One level, including New Zealand-bred stars Turn Me Loose, Gingernuts, Jon Snow, Wyndspelle and now Western Empire.

“He’s done an incredible job that has been way beyond what we’d expected,” Chitty said.

“You always hope you’ll be able to get a stallion as influential as that, but he’s done a phenomenal job for us, with the likes of Turn Me Loose, Gingernuts, Jon Snow and Western Empire all winning Group One races in Australia.

“We’re now starting to see him develop an influence as a sire of sires and as a broodmare sire as well, so I think he’ll continue to make his presence felt in our part of the world for years to come.”

Sons of Iffraaj at stud this season include Turn Me Loose, Jon Snow and Wyndspelle, while Godolphin star Ribchester has taken his sire’s place on the Haunui stallion roster. Wootton Bassett, the sire of Cambridge Stud sensation Almanzor, stands at Coolmore in Australia.

Iffraaj ceased shuttling to Haunui after the 2019 breeding season, and he will be represented by 21 members of his final southern hemisphere yearling crop at Karaka 2022, including 18 in the Book 1 session.

“We’re up to his final crop of yearlings from his years shuttling to Haunui, and they’ll be going through the ring at Karaka early next year,” Chitty said. “We’re going to have some really nice ones in our draft. We’ve kept a couple of fillies ourselves, but we’ll still be offering some lovely types at Karaka.”

In the meantime, Chitty will continue to marvel at the racetrack exploits of Western Empire, who was foaled at Haunui in October of 2017.

“He was born here and spent the early part of his life with us here at Haunui,” Chitty said. “Bob has a few mares with us. They foal here, we wean the foals, and then we send them over to Perth off the back of the yearling sales in February or March.

“I wouldn’t say Western Empire was an absolute standout foal, but he was always very correct as a young horse, and he certainly did have a bit of presence about him.”

Bob and Sandra Peters have found plenty of success through their association with Haunui, which also includes Celebrity Dream.

A well-bred daughter of Thorn Park and Valpolicella, Celebrity Dream was bought for $260,000 from Haunui’s draft at the 2014 Premier Sale at Karaka. She won 11 of her 29 starts and more than A$625,000 in stakes, including black-type wins in the Gr.3 La Trice Classic (1800m), Listed Jungle Mist Classic (1200m), Listed Sheila Gwynne Classic (1400m), Listed Starstruck Classic (1600m) and two editions of the Listed Jungle Dawn Classic (1400m).

“Bob would have to be one of the leading breeders in Australasia, and he’s got a huge number of mares,” Chitty said. “He’s been a great supporter of New Zealand over the years, and he has a few mares here.

“He likes to pick out stallions that he thinks are on the move and provide a bit of value, and our stallions often fit that bill relative to the ones that are available in Australia. We’ve sold him some nice horses in the past, and he went on to breed a few mares to Iffraaj over the years, so we’ve formed a great association with him.

“He’s used a few other stallions in New Zealand in recent times, like Per Incanto, Reliable Man and others. It’s great to see him supporting New Zealand and, more importantly, having success out of that.”

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