New Zealand bloodstock agent Paul Willetts struck Australian Derby gold with his A$10,000 weanling purchase, Leicester.
New Zealand bloodstock agent Paul Willetts has a well-earned reputation for spotting equine talent at a young age, and that was emphasised again yesterday when Leicester took out the Gr. 1 South Australian Derby at Morphettville.
Willetts identified the promising stayer during the 2015 Inglis Weanling Sale in Sydney, where he paid A$10,000 for the son of Australian sire Wanted and the Galileo mare Defy The Odds.
“He was a pretty cheap buy, as no one was really that interested in his sire at the time,” he said.
“When I inspected him he looked far more like his damsire, Galileo. He was out of young mare who has a superb European pedigree, so I decided to take a punt on him.
“At $10,000 he was a pretty cheap buy that looks even better now on what he has achieved.”
Willetts races the horse with West Australian businessman Gary Johnson, who he met through a mutual association with a property in Australia.
“I utilise the services of a farm in Victoria to spell and agist horses and that’s where I met Gary,” he said.
“We agreed we would put him away and race him ourselves with the option to sell him off the track once he was underway.
“When he won his maiden we thought about what he had been showing and decided we weren’t going to just give him away. Since then he has gone from strength to strength, so I’m pretty happy we kept him.”
Willetts is quick to admit the decision to retain the horse after he opened his account with a maiden win over 1400 metres at Terang in January drew some good-natured ribbing from some of his associates.
“I guess when people saw he had won his maiden at Terang they didn’t place much stock in that result, but when you look at the form out of the race it makes for impressive reading,” he said.
“He beat Sopressa that day, who won the Oaks at Morphettville a week ago, and Exceltara, who won at Caulfield in a strong race yesterday. I would say that is pretty handy form for a Terang maiden now.”
Willetts, who has purchased successful horses such as Gr. 1 Toorak Handicap winner Solzhenitsyn as weanlings, was back in action at the recent New Zealand Bloodstock Karaka May Sale, where he was delighted with the quality of the catalogue on offer.
“I thought it was a very good sale with some great buying to be had,” he said. “I ended up taking home five weanlings and a broodmare from the sale, which was pleasing. From a buyer’s perspective it was a good sale as the prices were reasonable, although many of the vendors may not have felt the same.
“I don’t really specialise in weanlings, but I do like to buy horses at a young age as I think it allows you to develop them in a manner that suits your requirements.
“Some of the weanling purchases I made will be back at Karaka for the yearling sale next year for clients who like to pinhook from this sale, while the others will be given plenty of time to mature and then we will see where to go from there.”