[Published Bluebloods Nov/Dec 2020]

One of the finest representatives of the Sir Tristram sire line via that legendary stallion’s outstanding son Zabeel, Waikato Stud’s 19-year-old Savabeel continues to shine with seven different horses winning stakes races in the first half of the season.

Savabeel’s excellent start to 2019/20 was heralded by a barnstorming Rowley Mile-Listed, 1600m victory recorded by the tough and consistent mare Savacool. Holding her form throughout the spring, earning further black-type when stakes placed at Hawkesbury in mid-November, she has amassed over $500,000 in stakes in a career that has seen her win six races with a further 13 placings on her resume.

It was a significant victory with Savacool becoming her sire’s 100th stakes winner.

A couple of days later saw Savacool’s stablemate Mo’Unga kick off his second campaign having impressed with a dominant debut victory at the Gold Coast in mid-June. A $325,000 Karaka graduate raced by Aquis, he proved a class above his rivals in a 1400m contest at Newcastle before stepping up to stakes class and charging home to take out the Dulcify Quality-Listed, 1600m.

“He is a very nice horse,” said an excited Waller who was moved to make a bold comparison; “he came through them like a real professional, like Lonhro bursting through!”

Thought highly enough of to contest the Caulfield Guineas-Gr.1, 1600m at only his fourth start, Mo’Unga got back having found early trouble from a wide gate and his fast-finishing seventh was one of the eye-catching runs of the race, his final 200m the second fastest with only the winner Ole Kirk recording a better late split.

On the same day as Mo’Unga’s first up win, Savabeel’s high class daughter Probabeel was kicking off her spring campaign with a strong finishing (in restricted room) second in the Show County Quality-Gr.3, 1200m at Randwick. She would go on to win her next two, drawing clear from the 150m in the Bill Ritchie Handicap-Gr.3, 1400m.

“She is a lovely mare to ride,” Kerrin McEvoy noted, adding that “she will prove very hard to beat in the Epsom.”

And he was spot-on with Probabeel, despite working hard from an outside gate, winning that time honoured mile by a length (“she showed true grit,” said McEvoy) before a brave run ridden closer to the pace than usual in the W.S Cox Plate-Gr.1, 2040m, a race which her sire won in 2004.

On the same day as Probabeel’s Bill Ritchie Stakes Shezzacatch was making an impressive debut at Hawke’s Bay, bursting through late to defeat her more experienced rivals in the Sir Colin Meads Trophy-Listed, 1200m.

“We got shuffled back a little bit turning for home,” jockey Craig Grylls told the media, “but then I really felt her come up underneath me. Gee, she had a good turn of foot late, she’s got a very bright future.”

Freshened for the summer carnival, Shezzacatch remained undefeated overcoming trouble in the straight to win over 1300m at Awapuni on November 21 and she looks set for bigger things.

“We’ve always had a high opinion of her,” said co-trainer Grant Cullen. “She is still a work in progress even though I think we are on the right track. With some age on her and the maturity that comes with that, I think she could be a very handy horse.”

Another exciting member of Savabeel’s current three-year-old crop is the Victorian Albarado who, on the back of a Super Impose Stakes-Listed, 1800m placing at Flemington in early October, was a tough winner having made an early run out wide in the Norman Robinson Stakes-Gr.3, 2000m at Caulfield.

“A good, gutsy win,” said co-trainer Trent Busuttin.

Also three is the exciting filly Cornflower Blue who broke her maiden with a 6 1/4 length stroll home at Matamata in early September, two starts later emerging victorious from a two horse battle down the straight in the Barneswood Farm Stakes-Gr.3, 1400m.

There is a great story behind Cornflower Blue, the daughter of the Perth winning O’Reilly mare Tiffany Yellow highly rated by Waikato’s Mark Chittick as she was being prepared for Karaka 2019, a broken wither forcing her withdrawal. And after her first start in February, she fractured a bone in her leg; so she is a filly who certainly knows how to overcome the odds. And there looks to be more to come following her game 1000 Guineas-Gr.1, 1600m third at her most recent outing.

Yet another exciting three-year-old for Savabeel is Lindsay Park’s Hindaam, winner of three of her first five starts including the Twilight Glow Stakes-Listed, 1400m at Sandown in mid-November.

An $825,000 Magic Millions purchase (her dam a sister to Merchant Navy) for Shadwell Stud, Hindaam is an exciting prospect. “Riding her quietly is the key to her,” Ben Hayes said, “it unlocks that good turn of foot she has.”

Rider Daniel Stackhouse was also happy to rave about Hindaam. “She’s got an explosive turn of foot and I think she has got more to offer. A bit more time under her belt and I definitely think that she will measure up.”

Already a two times Group Three winner, Concert Hall has enhanced her impressive record with another two feature race successes this spring. Charging home to nail her rivals right on the line in the Thompson Handicap-Gr.3, 1600m at Trentham in late October, she had co-trainer Robert Wellwood excited.

“She’s a mare who keeps improving with maturity and it looks like she has stepped up again for this season. She’s a real racehorse who wants to be there and you could see that as she really pinned her ears back and got down to the task.”

Three weeks later Concert Hall was again strong to the line taking out the Tauranga Stakes-Gr.2, 1600m with her other trainer Roger James noting that “it was a terrific effort. She really sprinted hard when Vinnie (Colgan) asked her and it was quite an easy watch in the end.”

“She’s very versatile,” he added, noting that “you could bounce bullets off her, she is so tough and resilient.”

Concert Hall followed up her winning double with a strong finishing second in the Captain Cook Stakes-Gr.1 1600m at Wellington in early December and the Thorndon Mile-Gr.1, 1600m now beckons.

“At the same stage last year Savabeel had had three stakes winners and he ended up with 16 for the seasons,” Mark Chittick said, understandably excited about what the rest of the season will bring.

Another 13 of Savabeel’s progeny have featured in the placings in stakes races this racing year with the triple Group winner The Chosen One doing a particularly good job with a Caulfield Cup-Gr.1, 2400m third followed up by a close-up Melbourne Cup-Gr.1m 3200m fourth.

Also racing in great form are the classy gallopers Missybeel (this year’s Epona Stakes-Gr.3, 1900m winner who was third in the Mona Lisa Stakes-Listed, 1350m in early September), Atishu (second in the Wanganui Guineas-Listed, 1200m at just her second start), Prise de Fer (a first up third in the Foxbridge Plate-Gr.2, 1200m), Supera (the triple Group winner who kicked off her spring with a Tarzino Trophy-Gr.1, 1400m second), Zebrowski (a promising Hawkes trained stayer who found the line well when second in the Herbert Power Stakes-Gr.2, 2400m), High Supremacy (another promising three-year-old who was second in the Spring Stakes-Gr.3, 1600m at his third start), Savy Yong Blonk (a five times winner who was a somewhat unlucky second in the Counties Cup-Gr.3, 2100m), Grand Bouquet (a game fresh Counties Cup third), Black Sail (a five times winner third in the Kilmore Cup-Listed, 1600m) and Helsinki, yet another three-year-old with promise having run second, at her most recent outing, in the Trevor Eagle Memorial-Listed, 1500m.

Meanwhile in Hong Kong, Savabeel at the time of writing had two entries for the prestigious international meeting in mid-December; Dances With Dragons (a Group One winner in New Zealand as Hall Of Fame) and Rattan who was Group Two placed in the lead up to the big day.

Savabeel’s current group of three-year-olds look especially exciting and Chittick remembers that they were an outstanding group of yearlings at the sales. “We and other studs did really well with Savabeel that year, they were lovely horses who have gone right on with it.”

Just serving his 16th book at mares, Savabeel is the reigning New Zealand Champion Sire, a title he has held onto for six consecutive seasons. This outstrips the achievement of his own sire Zabeel (four championships) and he also has on in his impressive trophy cabinet four Dewar Awards (combined NZ and Australian earnings).

Savabeel’s statistics read well, his winners-to-runners strike rate an excellent 71.3% whilst his 10.6% stakes winner ratio compares favourably with that of his sire’s 11.2%. Twenty of Savabeel’s sons and daughters are Group One winners and he boasts progeny earnings in excess of $106 million with stakes winners in New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Macau.

“What I find most incredible about him,” Chittick said, “is his versatility. He gets colts, fillies, two-year-olds and older horses over all sorts of distances. And he is continuing to sire high class stayers in an era where the competition from imports is stronger.”

Bred by Glenlogan Stud in partnership with trainer Graeme Rogerson, Savabeel made his debut in a 1000m juvenile contest at Kensington in February 2004. Despite finding early trouble and having to change course at the 250m, he
was able to record a very easy win, his winning margin a soft 4 1/2 lengths.

Two of his subsequent three debut campaign runs were in Group company and he earned his first black type with a Champagne Stakes-Gr.1, 1600m third behind Dance Hero.

Improving with each three-year-old run (stepping up in distance), Savabeel at his third run in was strong to the line when second to Al Maher in the Gloaming Stakes-Gr.2, 1800m. At his next start, doing a bit of work from the outside gate, the bay stamped himself one of the country’s best Classic types with a gutsy win over Outback Prince in the Spring Champion Stakes-Gr.1, 2000m.

It was a performance that impressed Graeme Rogerson who was confident that Savabeel still had plenty of upside.

“I think he still has to learn to race,” he told press at the time. “Mum had a big heart and he has too, he is a pretty good horse.”

Jockey Chris Munce was also impressed, noting that “he has lots of natural staying ability.”

The Caulfield Cup-Gr.1, 2400m was touted as a possibility for Savabeel’s lead up to his main spring aim, the VRC Derby-Gr.1, 2500m but with Munce a natural lightweight a crack at the W.S Cox Plate-Gr.1, 2040m was too tempting to overlook.

Enjoying a nice trail behind the leaders, Savabeel made the most of his light impost by making his run before the turn, getting a nice break early in the straight and gamely holding off challenges from two of the best weight-for-age horses of the time, Fields Of Omagh and Starcraft. 

It was no mean feat to join the great Octagonal as a W.S Cox Plate winning Zabeel three-year-old as it was a strong line-up, behind him the likes of Grand Armee, Elvstroem and Elegant Fashion.

Savabeel was double figure odds that day but Rogerson was not surprised by the Moonee Valley success, telling the media that “he is a really good horse. He still doesn’t know what it’s all about, he will get better.”

Beaten but hardly disgraced when second to WA visitor Plastered in the Derby, Savabeel kicked off his autumn campaign with a fast-finishing C.F Orr Stakes-Gr.1, 1400m second splitting Elvstroem and Lad Of The Manor. He was to lose his way in three subsequent outings but such drop off of form is not unheard off for maturing colts, and there was word that the young horse was suffering from the effects of inoculations for a possible trip to Hong Kong.

And so connections began to field offers from studs, Waikato Stud putting in the successful bid with Savabeel becoming the first $10 million syndicated horse to stand in New Zealand. He has proven worth every cent since, siring 706 winners of 2159 races. 105 stakes winners, 67 of whom have been successful in Group company with 15 juvenile stakes winners.

Savabeel’s success comes as no great surprise when considering the strength and depth of his pedigree. His dam Savannah Success was a terrific race mare, the winner of
half of her 16 starts with victories at the elite level, the
Ansett Australia Stakes-Gr.1, 2000m and the New Zealand Oaks-Gr.1, 2400m.

She is still at stud (served last spring by Star Turn) with her most recent foal being a yet to be named two-year-old Vancouver filly. Of her 11 foals to race so far, nine have been winners including the Group placed Arlington and the metropolitan winners Pampas, Scipio, Triumphant Choice, Savannah River and Zavana.

Savannah Success is a daughter of the Breeders Cup Juvenile-Gr.1, 8f hero Success Express who did such a great job firstly as a stallion with 32 stakes winners and secondly as a broodmare sire with his daughters producing a further 33 stakes winners including another two W.S Cox Plate winners; Pinker Pinker and Shamus Award while his Gr.1 son Al Akbar is the sire of the dam of champion mare Winx.

Savannah Success is one of four winners  (from as many foals to race) for the Adrian Knox Stakes-Gr.3, 2000m winning Semipalatinsk mare Alma Mater who has had two other daughters produce stakes winners; the unraced Rebel Sister being the dam of the multiple Listed winners Rebel King and Rebelson whilst the triple city winner Sister Theresa produced the durable six times Group One winner Black Heart Bart.

Multiple Group winners are not new to this family, one which has also been represented back in the 1960s by the high class galloper Craftsman and his brother Shorengro, the only three times Feehan Stakes-Gr.2, 1600m winner.

Boasting multiple strains of Sir Tristram’s famed ancestress Selene along with crosses of Turn-To, Round Table, Princequillo and Round Table, Savabeel also has, in his grandam, two strains of the great mare Oceana via her high achieving sons Noholme and Todman.

It has been interesting to watch Savabeel succeed with further strains of the latter, 14 of his stakes winners (including the Group One winners Probabeel, Embellish, Brambles and Diademe as well as the promising Mo’Unga) carrying another strain within five generations. And from limited representation (just seven runners) he has sired five winners including the Group Two mare Queen Of Diamonds and the Listed winner Ray’s Girl whose dams bring in a strain of Oceana’s other son Faringdon.

He picks up on the influence of Selene (he has Sir Tristram, Hyperion and Pharamond with three of his Group One stars (Lucia Valentina, Soriano and Hasahalo) carrying strains of her successful descendant Star Way whilst another four (Embellish, Dances With Dragons, Sound Proposition and Diademe) are line-bred within five generations to Sir Tristram, as are the recent stakes winners Albarado, Cornflower Blue and Hindaam.

Meanwhile Savabeel’s love of O’Reilly mares is well documented; 102 winners from 133 runners including 18 stakes winners, four of whom we have discussed as recent stakes winners; Mo’Unga, Shezzacatch, Albarado and Cornflower Blue. He also fares extra well with Pins mares, the 2020 Epsom heroine Probabeel one of 13 stakes winners from 104 runners bred on this cross.

The in-form Concert Hall is another interestingly bred Savabeel being out of a Carnegie mare, a cross that has produced 14 winners from 17 runners, four of those successful at stakes level. Carnegie’s grandam Derna is the third dam of Zabeel whilst his sire Sadler’s Wells is a 3/4 brother to Zabeel’s dam sire Nureyev. There are another 16 Savabeel stakes winners out of mares carrying a Sadler’s Wells strain.

Danehill line mares have also fared well with Savabeel with Hindaam one of his two stakes winners and five winners from just six runners out of Fastnet Rock mares. He has also sired stakes winners out of mares by Flying Spur (five stakes winners from 17 runners), Danasinga, Redoute’s Choice, Rock Of Gibraltar and Viking Ruler as well as Danehill himself.

It is still early days for Savabeel as a broodmare sire but already he is faring well with Chittick noting that for a son of Zabeel out of a Success Express mare success in this field is “a no-brainer.”

Already Savabeel’s daughters have produced 158 winners, nine of whom are stakes winners.

Savabeel is, Chittick said, in excellent health on the back of serving around 130 mares. “He handles that sort of number with no problems at all,” he said, adding that the handsome dark brown stallions “a cool old cruiser!”

“He is a very intelligent horse, we joke here that when he sees a gap on the serving board at the back of the shed he takes his time! He is a real character.”

Kristen Manning

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