It was a momentous occasion for the Wigley family of Inglewood Stud when Matchmaker won the Listed Canterbury Belle Stakes (1200m) at Riccarton on Saturday. Ever since the race was named after their champion mare, they have aspired to win the race, so for Matchmaker to do so in Canterbury Belle’s very same colours was a huge thrill.
“We have had a couple of goes at winning this race so we are very pleased especially for Nick (Wigley, breeder, co-trainer and part-owner) he was really thrilled he told me it was one of his most enjoyable moments in 50 years of racing,” part-owner Gus Wigley said.
“Mum and Dad raced Canterbury Belle and she was a cult mare back in the day, not just in the racing game but throughout Canterbury. I remember when I was growing up, people coming up to Dad and saying ‘are you the Nick Wigley that raced Canterbury Belle’ and what a great mare she was.”
Nick and his wife Carol bred Canterbury Belle at their Inglewood Stud, one of New Zealand’s oldest thoroughbred stud’s that has been in the same family for the last 80-odd years, having been established by Nick Wigley’s grandfather, Ken Austin. She was trained for them by Dave Kerr and won 10 races in the parochial red and black colours of the Canterbury province.
As a three-year-old she won six of her first seven starts including the Group 1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton, then came back in the winter and beat the older horses in the Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap (1400m) in Brisbane. She went on to race until she was five adding another four wins and a further Group 1 placing to her tally.
These days it is Nick Wigley who is the trainer of the Inglewood team having taken a step back when Gus and his wife Bianca took over the stud operation in 2012. Last season he was joined in the training operation by Kayla Milnes.
“It was Kayla’s first stakes winner as a trainer,” Wigley said. “She was working for Nick on the stud before Bianca and I came back in 2012 and became our employee. Kayla is an amazing horsewoman, she helps in the serving barn, and with the young horses, and then goes and works the horses with Nick. It was a big thrill for her as well.
“We are really pleased for Nick he is a big supporter of Bianca and I and he has really helped us get the stud up and running. He helps out in the season with the afternoon servings, and comes and holds the mare, and wants to know all about them and their racetrack performance. It’s his way of staying involved.”
Matchmaker was bred under the banner of Gus and Bianca’s Inglewood Stud (NZ) Limited and is raced by them and Sydney based funds manager Manoj Wanzare. She was having only her third race day start in the Canterbury Belle Stakes, having won her maiden in late July at Riccarton. She returned to that track in mid-August and ran on late to finish second in a three-year-old set weights and penalties 1070m race. Following that she ran second in a 1000m trial before storming home late again to win the Canterbury Belle.
After she won her first race Australian based New Zealander Andy Williams approached the Wigley’s on behalf of Manoj Wanzare wanting to buy a half share in the filly. “At that stage we weren’t sure if we wanted to sell. It has always been one of my dreams to win the 1000 Guineas. Mum and Dad did it with Canterbury Belle,” Wigley said.
“To his credit Andy put together a great deal structured to suit everyone, he said how about we work with you and Nick and you race her in New Zealand up until the Guineas and then she can go to Australia, and that is now the plan. “It’s been a big week for Manoj with the shares he has in New Zealand bred fillies and mares, as he has shares in both Verry Elleegant and Subpoenaed.”
Inglewood Stud has produced a number of good horses over the years with Ken Austin breeding and racing a multiple Derby winner in Monte Carlo in the early years, before a resurgence in the 1970’s saw Nick return to the farm and import the successful stallion Beaufort Sea. Besides Canterbury Belle he was also the sire of the Group 1 winning mare Seamist, who was raced by Nick Wigley and his mother Bing.
When Gus and Bianca took over the farm they set about rebuilding the broodmare band and stallion ranks, starting with the successful sire Zacinto before he relocated to Valachi Downs in Matamata and two seasons ago War Decree, a Group 2 winning son of War Front, joined the farm.