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Sakhees Secret wins at Newmarket 13 July 2007

Sakhee's Secret: an exciting addition to the Oaks Stud roster for the upcoming southern hemisphere season

  PICTURE: Martin Lynch 

'I saw Sakhee's Secret in the ring and took a shine'

WHILE European Flat racing is in full swing, in the southern hemisphere the Flat season is over and the statistics are being dissected.

In New Zealand, The Oaks Stud, a 550-acre property in Cambridge, Waikato, is celebrating the fact that one of its shuttle stallions, 2004 Irish 2,000 Guineas winner Bachelor Duke, has been crowned the country's leading first-season sire.

Hoping to repeat the trick, the stud - owned by Australian businessman Dick Karreman, whose colours were carried by prolific Group 1-winning mare Seachange - has this year joined forces with Sir Patrick Hogan's Cambridge Stud, the Vela family's Pencarrow Stud and other prominent New Zealand breeders to purchase equity in July Cup winner Sakhee's Secret. The son of Sakhee recently completed his first covering season at Whitsbury Manor Stud and arrived at the farm from quarantine on Sunday.

The Oaks Stud general manager Rick Williams, who struck the deal to stand the son of Sakhee in New Zealand, explains what attracted him to the horse: "I liked his conformation and the fact that he was a firm track horse and a very progressive type who, like most of Sakhee's progeny, appeared to be improving with age.

"I have no doubt that, but for injury, he would have been an even better horse at four. Plus, shuttlers need to have great temperaments to cope with the travel and quarantine requirements, and he fits the bill."

Did he have any reservations about Sakhee's Secret's sire line, which goes back toRiverman through Bahri, and has had littleexposure in the southern hemisphere?

"The sire line is not well known down here, but The Oaks stands two sons of Danehill, Darci Brahma and Spartacus, a son of Stravinsky in Keeninsky and a son of Miswaki in Bachelor Duke. We were looking for another sire line and Sakhee's Secret suited, as I believe he will work well with Danehill and sons of Danehill mares, as well as mares by Zabeel, the other major influence in Australasia."

Williams, whose involvement with shuttling stallions from the northern hemisphere began in the late 1980s when he ran Waikato Stud and oversaw the import of Dahar and Palace Music from the US, also gives an insight into the complex network of negotiations - and the elements of chance - that lead to the acquisition of a shuttler.

"Traditionally [a former Oaks Stud shuttler] and Bachelor Duke were sourced by John O'Connor of Ballylinch Stud, someone I have known for a long time and whose judgement I respect," he says. "In the case of Sakhee's Secret, I saw him in the parade ring at Royal Ascot when I was over with Seachange and took a shine to him.

"When he was injured, John rang me about the possibility of buying the horse and I indicated that we would be keen to participate. But we were too late as he had already been purchased by Whitsbury Manor Stud.

"Several months later, Alasdair Chisholm, a bloodstock agent and friend of mine, arrived back in New Zealand after having stayed with Whitsbury Manor manager Charlie Oakshott and he asked me if I had any interest in Sakhee's Secret. I had also known Charlie when he was in Australia, so we commenced negotiations and completed a deal to buy equity in the stallion."

Williams adds that acquiring equity is "very important". He says: "Leasing is expensive and if you have put your best mares to a stallion and have got to a successful commercial level only to see the stallion relocated after the lease expires, it is very frustrating.

"The Oaks Stud will not enter into any stallion agreement without equity, as we always support our new stallion with our best, suitable mares and if we are lucky enough to see a stallion become successful we want to be able to control him through profitable years. My own opinion is that shuttling sires without equity is simply not worth it."

Another potential drawback to the shuttling stallions were the repercussions of the mastermind of the movement, Arrowfield Stud supreme John Messara, questioning in 2005 whether the influence of overseas sires had become too dominant in Australasia.

"There was a backlash," Williams admits. "But whether stallions come from the northern hemisphere or are sourced locally, most fail and in fact there is a trend to try and source the best performed Australasian colts as the evidence would suggest they are outperforming the shuttle stallions in recent years. We shouldn't forget, however, that Danehill was a shuttle stallion who founded a dynasty."

With the news that Sakhee's Secret's book has been restricted to 120 mares, and that he will receive 27 of The Oaks Stud's best mares, along with 15 each from Cambridge and Pencarrow Studs, owners of the most blueblooded broodmare bands in New Zealand, it looks as though every precaution is being taken to help him emulate Bachelor Duke's success and strike another blow for shuttlers.




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