21st birthday present delivers golden result in Grafton Cup

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Sacred Day

A bargain broodmare and a birthday present from Nick and Anne-Marie King to one of their sons produced an outstanding result for Brighthill Farm in Thursday’s Listed Grafton Cup (2350m). The race was won by Kiwi stayer Sacred Day, who seized on an inside run at the top of the straight and outfought Sopressa and Vaucluse Bay in a tight three-way battle to the finish. The other New Zealand runner, multiple stakes-winning mare Igraine, was just behind them in fourth.

Sacred Day is trained in Cambridge by Tony Pike for owners Raffles Racing, who bought the son of Azamour from Brighthill’s draft at the 2016 Select Yearling Sale at Karaka for $90,000. Nick and Anne-Marie King paid just $5,000 at the 2012 Sydney Easter Broodmare Sale to buy Sacred Day’s dam Top Of The Day, an unraced O’Reilly mare. Then it was over to son Benji. “It’s a really cool story and we’re well chuffed,” Nick King said. “The dam was a lovely O’Reilly mare who we bought just out of training in Sydney. We really liked her as a type and didn’t have to pay very much for her.

“Sacred Day was actually bred by our son Benji, and he was the first foal he’s bred entirely on his own. We gave him a nomination to our shuttle stallion Azamour as a 21st birthday present, he chose the mating and bred the foal. He then did all the preparation and put him through the ring at Karaka, selling him for $90,000. “It’s great for Tony Pike as well, who has always told us how highly he’s rated this horse. He’s been very patient with him and got the reward yesterday.”

But the result brought mixed feelings. Top Of The Day died at the age of just eight, having produced only three foals. The other two were both by Dalghar – Lady Dalghar, who won two races, and another filly who fetched $90,000 as a yearling at Karaka last year. It was also a reminder of what might have been with Azamour, who sadly died in Ireland after only one season shuttling to Brighthill in 2013. His single southern hemisphere crop now features 26 winners from 38 runners, headed by Group 1 Caulfield Thousand Guineas (1600m) heroine Aloisia and Group 2 Championship Stakes (2000m) winner Azaboy. “It’s a bit of a double-edged sword, not having the mare any more and with the sad loss of Azamour as well,” King admitted. “His only southern hemisphere crop has been phenomenal. It’s a real shame that his time with us was cut short, but it’s also vindication for us. We were so sure that we’d selected the right sort of stallion for this part of the world, and that’s proven to be the case.”

But there is a bright side at Brighthill, with Sir Peter Vela’s high-class performer (He’s) Eminent joining the roster this season alongside the proven performers Perfectly Ready and Dalghar and the stellar stayer Preferment, whose oldest progeny will be yearlings next season. “Both Preferment and Eminent are giving us a lot to be excited about,” King said.

“Preferment might also prove to be in that Azamour mould, he’s a lovely type of a horse and showed so much ability on the track. We’re very excited about his progeny and think he’s going to be a great chance at stud.

“Eminent’s a very recent development, and it was very exciting to be asked to stand him at stud for Sir Peter Vela and the team. “It’s great that these sorts of connections are putting their faith in us. Sir Peter Vela is obviously a huge name in New Zealand breeding circles, while on the other hand a lot of Preferment’s owners weren’t necessarily breeding people but just loved the horse so much and were keen to stay involved with him in partnership with us. “There’s a lot to look forward to, and we think we’ve got some great firepower to work with along the road ahead.”

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