A host of New Zealand sporting stars hope to feel the rush of winning when they cheer home their equine pride and joy Pungo in Saturday's AUD$500,000 Group 3 Carbine Club Stakes (1600m) at Flemington.
England Test Cricket Coach Brendon McCullum, rugby stars Israel Dagg and Beauden Barrett, as well as Kiwi actor Karl Urban are just some of the names in the ownership of Pungo, an impressive last-start winner at his second start.
Purchased for NZD$180,000 at last year's New Zealand Bloodstock Ready To Run Sale, Pungo is a well-supported +230 favourite for Saturday's contest.
The lightly-tried son of So You Think is prepared by Chris Waller, who has previously won the race with the likes of Fangirl (2021), Comin' Through (2016) and Kermadec (2014).
Champion jockey James McDonald, who is setting all sorts of sporting records himself, will ride Pungo who will have a number of his celebrity owners on hand on the opening day of the Melbourne Cup Carnival.
“It's been awesome to watch him perform so far,” an excited Brendon McCullum said from Melbourne.
“Chris targeted this race a little while back and once we realised Pungo could gallop, we were very excited.”
The ownership group share a passion for racing, among other hobbies.
“We all like golf, racing and beer, with a bit of rugby and cricket thrown in, hence why we all own the horse together,” McCullum said.
“Kurt Gibbons (property mogul) bought him from New Zealand Bloodstock's Ready to Run Sale last year and he is mates with a lot of the boys in the group.
“He basically said ‘lads I've bought this horse you're all in' and we took out some percentages.
“It's great to have a whole lot of like-minded people together to race the horse. It is a cool group of people with some lucky owners so far.”
Mark and John Carter, and their sister Rachel, who race under the banner of Jomara Bloodstock and have enjoyed considerable success in breeding and racing through the likes of Verry Elleegant and Humidor also share in the ownership.
The cricketing legend has also enjoyed good success as a racehorse owner.
“I've actually had a lot of luck out of the Ready to Run Sale having purchased Volks Lightning who won at Group Three level, as well as Countofmontecristo, who went on to be a success in Singapore,” McCullum said.
“NZB's Ready to Run Sale is incomparable to anything else given the success that comes out of it.
“For a novice like myself, purchasing two-year-olds can tend to reduce the risk out as you can gain an insight into what their potential racing ability is like.”
Pungo was prepared and sold at the Ready To Run Sale by premier New Zealand polo player Kit Brooks.
“It's very exciting to have a horse like him come from last year's draft. We were pretty happy to breeze him up and get him sold last year,” Brooks said.
“The ownership group includes a few ex All Blacks and Black Caps and I'm sure it's pretty exciting for those guys too.
“It's always a thrill to have a horse you've prepared in Chris Waller's stable and they seem to rate him.”