Glory Days caps a big month for Wellington racing and breeding enthusiast Graeme Hunt with victory in the Auckland Cup.

The dominant performance by Glory Days in Saturday’s Gr. 1 Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup capped a special month for Graeme Hunt.

The Wellingtonian bred and owns the Cup winner’s dam Bilancia. Another mare he bred, Cold Shoulder, is the dam of On The Rocks, winner of the Gr. 1 Herbie Dyke Stakes at Te Rapa four weeks earlier.

“It’s been really exciting,” Hunt told The Informant on Monday. “I didn’t breed either horse myself, but it’s still been a big thrill to watch those performances.

“The Auckland Cup on Saturday was particularly exciting, since I also have a few half-sisters to Glory Days. It was a fantastic win on Saturday and really great for her connections.”

Bilancia is by Montjeu out of the Straight Strike mare Mistaurian, who has produced six winners including the dual Listed winner Kasumi and the stakes-placed Tariama. Placed in four of her seven starts, Bilancia retired to stud in 2009 and produced a Perfectly Ready filly from her first mating.

After missing to Perfectly Ready the following season, Bilancia was sent to the former Westbury Stud stallion Red Giant. The resulting foal was Glory Days, bred by Gloria Kenny and the late Jack Georgetti, who had agisted Hunt’s mares on their Marton property for a number of years.

The Red Giant mating came about through unusual circumstances. Hunt’s Shinko King mare Barinka, best known for winning the Gr. 1 New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes at Te Aroha, also won the Gr. 2 Westbury Classic at Ellerslie. That fillies and mares’ feature carried a service to Red Giant as part of its prize.

“I was mulling over sending her to Red Giant, and then Jack said, ‘If you don’t do it, can I?’

“Barinka’s win in the Westbury Classic earned us a service to Red Giant, and I had a look through my broodmares and didn’t think many of them would suit him,” Hunt recalled.

“I had three Shinko King mares at the time, and I didn’t really want to put another descendant of Northern Dancer to them. I prefer outcrosses.

“So it came down to Bilancia, who was over at Jack Georgetti’s place at that stage. I was mulling over sending her to Red Giant, and then Jack said, ‘If you don’t do it, can I?’ That was fine by me, and he bred an outstanding mare but unfortunately Jack died not long after that.”

Albeit posthumously, Georgetti completed an Auckland Cup double with Glory Days, having been the trainer, co-owner and co-breeder of 1993 Cup winner Ligeiro. That horse was one of numerous descendants of the Georgetti family’s classy late 1960s filly Brazil, whose wins included the New Zealand and Great Northern Oaks.

“On paper Red Giant was quite a nice cross for Bilancia, with Kingmambo and Straight Strike – two lines of Mr Prospector,” continued Hunt.

“Red Giant’s quite a compact kind of horse, not a giant by any means. Bilancia is a beautiful big, strapping mare, and the result was a very nicely put together horse.”

Glory Days is trained by Bill Thurlow and owned by his brother Grant and his wife Patricia, along with Thurlow’s neighbours Brent and Sue McAree. They initially raced the mare on lease from Kenny, later exercising a right of purchase. Glory Days has now won 10 of her 24 starts and more than $535,000 in prize-money.

The Waverley mare is clearly the headline act from Red Giant’s seven seasons shuttling to Westbury Stud before being relocating to Turkey in 2016.

Arion Pedigrees credit the American-bred son of Giant’s Causeway with a total of 135 winners from 221 runners. In New Zealand he has had 38 winners from 105 runners, with Glory Days, Platinum Command (Gr. 3 Winter Cup) and Red Striker (Listed Newmarket Handicap) winning at stakes level.

Bilancia, meanwhile, has had another two foals to race – Aniceta, a winner by Alamosa, and the promising Shocking filly Nerve Not Verve.

Trained by Mike Moroney and Pam Gerard, Nerve Not Verve has placed in two of her four starts and has been close up without much luck in the Gr. 2 Sir Tristram Fillies’ Classic (ninth, 4.3 lengths from the winner) and Lowland Stakes (eighth, 4.4 lengths). She will line up in the Saturday’s New Zealand Oaks.

“I bred her with my nephew,” Hunt said. “She was a beautiful yearling and I was reluctant to part with her, but sometimes that’s a business decision you have to make. We sold her at Karaka (for $60,000) to Bruce Perry on behalf of Lib Petagna.

“Since then Bilancia has produced a full-sister to Nerve Not Verve and I’ve kept her. I’ve also got a Reliable Man filly, and now the mare’s in foal to Belardo.

“I like the look of Belardo as a stallion and I think he’ll suit the mare. He comes from the same line as Red Giant and he’s a very neat horse.”

Meanwhile, On The Rocks brought back memories of another Group One star with his Herbie Dyke Stakes performance.

His dam Cold Shoulder is a half-sister to the Hunt-bred Efficient, who won the Victoria Derby and Melbourne Cup just over a decade ago. Another half-brother was Guillotine, who won at Group Two level and has been a successful sire, his latest winner the Moira and Kieran Murdoch-trained Trouble on the Auckland Cup support card .

“With everything that Efficient achieved, it’s certainly a special family for me,” Hunt said. “Cold Shoulder produced a couple of early foals who showed a hell of a lot of ability in Australia, Blanco and Ezee Ezee, but their careers were cut short by injury. I think they were just asked for a bit too much too early over there.

“But the mare had always threatened to leave a really good horse, and it looks like On The Rocks is that horse.

“I have a share in Alamosa, but I can’t take any credit for the mating that produced On The Rocks. I came to an agreement with Bill Gleeson that he’d breed from the mare for a couple of years, and then I’d take over again after that.

“Bill liked the idea of mating her with Alamosa. Cold Shoulder is a very small mare who’s quite difficult to mate. We’d been going to Zabeel because of the Efficient connection, but after he was gone it was hard to find a suitable stallion for her.

“I didn’t share Bill’s enthusiasm for Alamosa, who I thought was just a bit on the small side. But Bill was right and I was wrong!

“On The Rocks isn’t a big horse, but he’s got plenty of quality. He’s done a wonderful job for his connections.”