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Sean (Left) & Des Hawkins of Wentwood Grange

Sean and Des Hawkins of Wentwood Grange, breeders of Little Bridge

  PICTURE: NZTM  

Little Bridge's breeders 'on cloud nine'

NEW ZEALAND-bred sprinter Little Bridge landed the King's Stand Stakes on the opening day of Royal Ascot in the hands of Zac Purton, providing Hong Kong trainer Danny Shum Chap-shing with a career highlight.

The son of Faltaat booked his ticket to the royal meeting courtesy of a steely performance in the Group 2 Sprint Cup in Hong Kong in late April and was always prominent in his assault in the 5f Group 1 race, forging clear of runner-up Bated Breath in the closing stages.

Now the winner of ten of his 20 starts and a proven competitor at the highest level,  Little Bridge comes from humble beginnings.

Bred in New Zealand by the Hawkins family's boutique stud Wentwood Grange in Cambridge, Little Bridge is a son of consistent sire Faltaat, who was also the sire of 2009 Champions Mile winner Sight Winner and another Royal Ascot winner, Duke of Edinburgh Handicap scorer Wunderwood.

"Enrichment, Little Bridge's grand-dam, was one of the first mares we bought when we started Wentwood Grange," recalled farm manager Sean Hawkins.

"We put her to Gold Brose and got a filly named Golden Rose whom we sold to Stephen McKee [the trainer of the great mare Sunline] and later bought her back as the winner of one race."

Sent to Faltaat, Golden Rose produced Little Bridge after her first foal by Storm Creek had died. Offered at the 2007 New Zealand Bloodstock Weanling Sale, Little Bridge fetched just NZ$9,000 when purchased by Hastings owner-trainer Margaret Hakema.

"Eddie Lowry inspected the horse on my behalf and suggested I buy him," Hakema said. "From the time I put a bridle on him, we knew we had a serious racehorse."

"I took him to Wanganui for a trial and he won with ease. He won by seven lengths and just ran away from them coming off the top."

"It wasn't long before the phone started to ring with offers to buy the horse," Harkema recalled.

A private sale ensued and Harkema has derived much pleasure in watching Little Bridge race so successfully for his current owner Mr Ko Kam Piu.

"I bought a full sister to Little Bridge who is in foal to Captain Rio and I also own a half sister by Hawkeye who I intend to breed from," Harkema said. "I cheer him home every time he races and to see him win at Royal Ascot was the ultimate thrill. Hopefully his connections enjoy further success abroad."

On track to witness the success of Little Bridge were Des and Janet Hawkins of Wentwood Grange, along with two of their three sons Leigh and Dean, while brother Sean watched bleary-eyed from the home base back in New Zealand, cheering home Little Bridge in the early hours of the morning with wife Kirsty.

"It's just awesome," said Sean Hawkins. "It's all a bit of a blur really, I will have to go back and watch it again and again."

"It is absolutely fantastic for the farm and such a big thrill, all the staff are up watching too. It's just great for the New Zealand breeding industry, and Mum, Dad and the boys are having the time of their lives at Royal Ascot today. Dad just called and they're on cloud nine."

 

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