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Thompson hopes for more Millions momentum

3 minute read

Rich Hill Stud’s managing director John Thompson is hoping to make a habit out of million-dollar racetrack success on the eve of New Zealand Bloodstock’s National Yearling Sales.

Quality filly Prowess after winning the Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m) at Pukekohe on Saturday
Quality filly Prowess after winning the Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m) at Pukekohe on Saturday Picture: Kirstin Ledington

Members of the high-flying Rich Hill stallion roster sired both big winners at last year's Karaka Million meeting at Pukekohe. Satono Aladdin's son Tokyo Tycoon was a spectacular last-to-first of the Karaka Million 2YO (1200m), while high-class Proisir filly Prowess triumphed over an elite field in the Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m). For good measure, Proisir also sired the unlucky fourth placegetter Legarto, while Satono Aladdin colt Sacred Satono finished fifth.

It was only the second time in the history of the Karaka Millions that a single stud's stallion roster produced both million-dollar winners on one day. The only previous instance was in 2020, where Waikato Stud titan Savabeel sired both Cool Aza Beel (2YO) and Probabeel (3YO).

Those racetrack successes were a launchpad to an outstanding Karaka 2023 yearling sale for Rich Hill, who sold 28 yearlings for a total of $2.31 million and an average price of $82,536.

There was particular demand for standout stallion Proisir, whose flurry of big-race performers last season led to a 100 percent clearance rate for his 19 yearlings in Book 1 at Karaka. They fetched a total of $3.59 million and an average price of $188,947. That crop of Proisir yearlings were conceived at a service fee of only $9,000, and he now commands $70,000.

Fast-forward to 2024, and again Thompson is eagerly looking forward to Saturday's Karaka Millions. Rich Hill's stallions are strongly represented throughout the six-race card at Ellerslie, including $1.50 favourite Legarto in the inaugural $1 million Elsdon Park Aotearoa Classic (1600m), four runners headed by Ace High filly Molly Bloom in the $1.5 million TAB Karaka Millions 3YO (1600m), and proven Group One star La Crique in the Gr.2 Westbury Classic (1400m).

"It was an unbelievable day last year and a wonderful advertisement for the stud and our stallions just before the sale," Thompson said. "Now we're hoping to see something similar happen again this time around. We're certainly heading into the meeting with some strong chances for a number of our stallions.

"La Crique is going to be a very interesting runner in the Westbury. She's a Group One mare, and if she runs up to what she did in her trial win the other day, she's going to take some beating.

"In the three-year-old race, we all know what Molly Bloom has done in the 1000 Guineas (Gr.1, 1600m) and Eight Carat (Gr.2, 1600m), but there's also a bit of word around for her stablemate The Weapon. Lupo Solitario is in there again and never runs a bad race, and we know what Tokyo Tycoon is capable of. So that's going to be a fascinating race to watch.

"There's no certainties in racing, but Legarto has to be almost as close as you can get in the four-year-old race. She just looks bigger and stronger this time in, and I know Ken (Kelso, co-trainer) is very happy with her. This might set her up for some Group One targets over longer distances in the coming weeks as well, which is exciting."

Thompson has joined the chorus of acclaim for the series of initiatives that have boosted the racing industry since Entain entered its strategic partnership with the TAB last year. That includes Saturday's enhanced Karaka Millions programme, along with the recently announced Champions Day that will debut next season with slot race The NZB Kiwi (1500m) taking its place as New Zealand's richest-ever horse race.

"Entain have really been a breath of fresh air since they came on board," said Thompson, who also serves as president of the New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders' Association. "It's created a much more positive feeling about our future.

"I think it also reflects quite poorly on the previous regime, where there was clearly a real disconnect between the TAB and the industry. A thriving breeding and racing industry means better horses, which means people bet more. They're all intertwined, and I don't think the old regime fully understood that.

"We've had a bit of a lost generation from our industry, but with what's happening with the Karaka Millions and these other new initiatives, hopefully we can start bringing people back as spectators and having a wager, and then we can build on that from there."

Thompson hopes that positivity will lead into Karaka 2024, which kicks off at 10am on Sunday. Rich Hill Stud has 24 yearlings in the catalogue for Book 1 and 20 in Book 2.

"I'm very happy with our draft this year, and it's been really encouraging that the people coming to have a look at the horses are looking at all of them – especially the overseas buyers," he said.

"I think that's a reflection of what the likes of Proisir, Satono Aladdin and Ace High have achieved. Our draft mainly consists of our horses, by our stallions, and people now have a pretty good idea of what they're going to be getting.

"Satono Aladdin missed a season of shuttling during Covid, which meant we didn't have any of his yearlings to sell last year after his son Tokyo Tycoon won the Karaka Million. I think it's good for the whole industry that he's back again now, and I'm really looking forward to seeing his yearlings go through the ring.

"That's just part of an overall feeling that our stallions are on the up. Proisir's yearlings this season were conceived at a $12,500 fee, Satono's were similar, and Ace High has been around $10,000. The people that have supported our stallions at those levels are hopefully going to reap the benefits. We saw from the results that Proisir had on the Gold Coast that there is certainly an appetite there."

Four yearlings by Proisir  were sold during the Magic Millions Sale on the Gold Coast earlier this month, averaging A$282,500 and with a top price of A$450,000.

Thompson highlighted a filly by Satono Aladdin and a couple of colts by Proisir as potential standouts among Rich Hill's Karaka 2024 draft.

"We have a few that are likely to sell well this year," he said. "We have a lovely filly by Satono Aladdin out of Inthespotlight, catalogued as Lot 144. She's already been singled out as one of the nicer fillies in the sale.

"We've also got some outstanding Proisir colts, Lots 380 and 389, that I also have high hopes for. I think the big thing with Proisir is that all of his six Group One winners were bred from mares that were booked

to him at a $7,000 service fee. It means that buyers can have a bit of confidence with some of the better bloodlines that are beginning to come through in his later crops." 

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