Grangewilliam Stud principal Mark Corcoran experienced one of his biggest moments in racing when Verry Elleegant secured Group One glory in the Vinery Stud Stakes at Rosehill on Saturday.
Corcoran stands her sire Zed at his Waitotara property, near Wanganui, and he said the win was made even sweeter given Verry Elleegant’s close association with the farm.
“It doesn’t get any better than a Group One,” Corcoran said. “This win was pretty special for the farm because Verry Elleegant was bred and raised here on the farm.”
Now trained by expat Kiwi Chris Waller, Corcoran said it was good to finally see the filly starting to settle in her races with fellow expat jockey James McDonald aboard.
“It was a great result and it’s good to see her finally settling in her races. I know she has been a bit awkward, getting her head up in the air,” he said.
“I’m really pleased to see James McDonald on her now and she seems to settle for him and relax. It looks like she has got a good future ahead of her.”
McDonald shares the same sentiments as Corcoran, and while pleased with the result on Saturday, he believes there is a lot of improvement left in the filly.
“I think she is a work in progress,” McDonald said. “The first time I rode her, I rode her in Melbourne (in the Gr. 3 Vanity). It was over seven furlongs (1400m) and she got back and was very keen, but I thought her run was sensational that day.
“She probably should have won, she got held up and dashed late. That’s testament to her ability. She stays well and now Chris (Waller) has had her for a few months now and he’s starting to work her out.
“They made that additional gear change (on Saturday). They put the ear muffs on and took the noseband off and it worked wonders. I think it was the best she has ever felt to me.
“That’s not only because she won, but because she relaxed well and has matured. It was a very good performance and I think not only will you see the best of her at four, but I reckon at five and six she will get even better. She has got so much maturing to do.”
It was the second Group One success for Zed, after Survived’s win in the 2013 Makfi Challenge Stakes (1400m) at Hastings, and Corcoran is hoping Verry Elleegant can add to that tally in the Gr. 1 Australian Oaks at Randwick later this month.
“She looked pretty impressive when winning on Saturday,” he said. “She still looked quite green when she hit the front, so I think there is still a bit of improvement left in her. She’s going to be a big chance in the Oaks in a couple of weeks. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Making Zed’s weekend even better, the Gary Vile-trained Jacksstar also took out the Gr. 2 City of Palmerston North Awapuni Gold Cup over 2000 metres.
“He’s such a good, tough stayer and the way he won with that turn of foot in the last 200 metres was so impressive,” Corcoran said.
According to Corcoran, the two Group victories over the weekend were a tonic for smaller breeders in New Zealand.
“Zed keeps on kicking away,” he said. “He has got his knockers, some people say they are just bread and butter horses, but he certainly knows how to leave a good one. He’s got a really good strike-rate, 5.1 percent stakes winners-to-runners.
“He gives hope for all the small breeders out there who don’t need to spend too much money to end up with a special horse.”
With a service fee of $4,000, Zed served 81 mares last season, an increase from 49 the year prior, and Corcoran is buoyed by the support his stallion has been getting.
“He just keeps leaving winners,” Corcoran said. “He is a syndicated horse, so he is getting that backing. I think every one of his shareholders used their nominations last year, so that helps his numbers.
“I think after Survived won his Group One, the next season he served the most mares of any stallion in New Zealand, so he has got those numbers coming through now. You really need those numbers to give your horse a chance.”
A few years ago Zed looked to be lost to the thoroughbred industry and was serving Clydesdale mares in the South Island. However, Corcoran saw his potential and resurrected his career and the 16-year-old entire now boasts two Group One victories as a sire.
“It’s amazing, everyone loves that story, going from serving Clydesdales to having Group One winners,” Corcoran said.
“You just never know where they are going to come from, but he’s certainly got the breeding behind him, by Zabeel and out of a Group One-winning Danehill mare. The blood is there and it comes through in the end if you get a chance.”