One of the star lots to be offered by The Oaks Stud at Karaka is the Fastnet Rick filly from champion racemare Seachange.
This year’s New Zealand Bloodstock National Yearling Sale at Karaka will have more bearing on The Oaks Stud than usual.
All vendors rely on a good sale of yearlings to make their respective operations viable. But for The Oaks Stud this year there is more at stake.
“It is decision time and how we look at our future,” said Rick Williams, who manages The Oaks Stud for Queensland businessman Dick Karreman. “We are scaling down our broodmare band and the sales results will determine how much we scale down.”
Karreman began with a broodmare band of 42 when he purchased The Oaks Stud in August 2002 and those numbers later peaked at 130. The resident broodmare band has been reduced to 70, with many being retained to help support the promising sire Roc de Cambes.
“We’ll work down to 50 or less,” Williams said. “Dick and I will sit down and rationally consider our options after the sales. It’s all going to depend on our sale.
“We’re certainly going down to 50 mares in the next few months and that means we’ll be selling some lovely young mares. It’s something we have to do to survive.
“But we’re not the only ones with a lot riding on the sales. I think it’s important to a lot of breeders who are at the cross roads too.
“The industry is down over 1,000 foals since 2008 and New Zealand has about 900 mares owned outside the main studs and there are 120 stallions to support.
“It’s tough times for everyone and it all comes down to a business decision to survive.”
Already The Oaks Stud has taken measures outside of racing to survive with the subdivision of 50 acres of the property that was initially 200 acres when bought by Karreman and increased to 550 acres.
“The first 30 sections of 120 sections will be selling in March,” Williams said. “We’re selling 10 per cent of the farm, but that still leaves us with 500 acres.”
The Oaks Stud is also stepping back from standing any new sires after its current three – Darci Brahma, Roc de Cambes and Niagara.
“We’re not going to invest in standing any new stallions at The Oaks,” Williams said. “We’d rather let other people stand the stallions.”
The Oaks Stud already has an outside stallion interest with five shares in Westbury Stud’s exciting young sire Reliable Man.
“We’ve supported him since day one,” Williams said. “He’s got a pedigree that suits a lot of our mares. He’s leaving classic types of three-year-olds and his yearlings have sold well.”
The Oaks Stud will be offering seven of Reliable Man’s progeny over the first two sessions at Karaka with six in Book 1, including a colt from New Zealand Oaks winner Artistic (Lot 39) and a half-brother to the talented stayer Snow Secret (Lot 602).
The draft comprises 21 yearlings in each of Book 1 and Book 2 with the progeny of Darci Brahma (16) and Roc de Cambes (14) the biggest of its contributors.
The farm will offer Darci Brahma colts out of stakes-winning mares Obsession and Smoulder. Both mares were Group Two winners and dual Group One placegetters.
Also in Book 1, The Oaks will be offering a Roc de Cambes brother to Gr. 1 Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes placegetter Reminisce (Lot 28) and among its 13 Roc de Cambes in Book 2 are a half-sister to Gr. 3 Waikato Cup winner Five To Midnight (Lot 820) and a sister to the recent Gr. 3 Wellington Stakes runner-up Trail Blazer (Lot 859).
Constantly churning out the winners, Darci Brahma has just capped those achievements with his fifth Singapore Champion Sire title. However, the most international interest in The Oaks Stud’s Book 1 draft is likely to centre on its two Fastnet Rock fillies.
Lot 561 is a filly from The Oaks Stud’s best performer, the seven-time Group One winner and dual NZ Horse of the Year Seachange. “She has got the physique to match her page,” Williams said. “She is a standout filly.”
The other Fastnet Rock filly is Lot 479, a half-sister to D B Pin, who was a close second in the Gr. 1 Longines Hong Sprint and third in the Gr. 2 HKJC Sprint, and is closely related to the unbeaten Karaka Million favourite Avantage.
Williams is excited over the stud’s racing prospects this year, headed by Devise and complemented by the unraced pair of Sea Goddess (Darci Brahma daughter of Seachange) and Revise, a sister to Devise.
“Devise just got beaten in the Group Three (Trentham Stakes) last Saturday and I think there’s a big Group win in her this year,” he said. “Last year she was a bit weak as a three-year-old, but she was still only a half-length off Bonneval in the New Zealand Oaks.”
A five-time Group placegetter last season, Devise (by Darci Brahma) is being set for the Gr. 1 Herbie Dyke Stakes at Te Rapa on February 10, while The Oaks Stud is also racing the promising three-year-old Trail Blazer, In The Clear and Paint The Town, who are all nominated for the Al Basti Equiworld Dubai New Zealand Oaks at Trentham in March.
So how does Williams see the upcoming National Yearling Sales series?
“It was great to see such genuine bidders at the Ready to Run Sale,” he says. “That was a strong sale and hopefully this will be the same. We need it.”