An early cab off the rank for All Stars among the three year old Sires Stakes contenders is Fortify who won a trial in sharp time at Ashburton Tuesday.

That came as no surprise to co-trainer Nathan Purdon who said the stable had held the youngster in high regard for some time.

“She has been shaping like a Sires Stakes contender and that trial just confirmed she is on the right track” Nathan said.The series starts at Addington at the end of the month.

The public Fortify, purchased by New Zealand Owner of the Year Jean Feiss for $140,000 as a yearling from Renwick Farms, qualified first time of asking on February 14 with no workout background, unusual for the stable.

Fortify is one of the closest relations to the superstar filly Under Cover Lover in commission, her dam, Fortune Lover, now 17, being a daughter of that outstanding performer.

Under Cover Lover was a sensation on the track,and few will forget the thrill of watching her live on Trackside taking on the best Australian and then American fillies and acquitting herself so well.

She was by In the Pocket a landmark “outcross”stallion in New Zealand  with a low key start.Because she was bred to American time (and still too good for locals, and most Australians,  in spite of that disadvantage)  she was on level footing with the US fillies. She was co-bred,co-owned and managed by Graham Pearson (with Jerry Tulley) and Graham did a superb job of directing her travelling and racing across the world, usually with Anthony Butt in the bike.

Under Cover Lover as is a trend with many top tier race mares, has been productive at stud leaving 10 winners but no big  headline horses in her own tradition. Fortune Lover has followed the same trend  though a Group 2 Perth performer, Vampero,  won nearly $700,000.The mare’s status already established in recent years at Sales (though her 2023 entry was passed in)  could be in for an upgrade soon.

That she was by Artsplace would have made appeal to Jean Feiss who would have been well aware of the American stallion’s impact in Australia and New Zealand in spite of limited bookings because of price,availability  and frozen semen-which was still available here a remarkable 9 years after his death.

Artsplace was widely regarded as a disappointment in his impact on NZ racing but once his stats are analysed you realise he was anything but.

While available over many seasons he only left 184 foals here, 79 won races, all but one pacers. But it is as a broodmare sire that he has proven gold.

Border Control,still our fastest race miler, Carabella and Bettor Twist are just three other stars who were sired by Bettors Delight.Sucitra and Samhara are two other  All Stars members bred on the  cross. Several others on the cross are $100,000 + winners.

Artsplace’s best overall winner by stakes here was All Stars- trained Twist and Twirl with O Baby close up. Artsplace mares have produced Captain Treacherous and Always B Miki among leading stallions currently available.He was of course also sire of Art Major and a number of top stallions.

Further, as is well known, this is a “filly” family. Fortune Lover was unraced as was  Under Cover Lover’s dam Vain Franco (Holmes Hanover)- she  showed real ability but suffered an injury-but the next dam, Van Glory, was an accomplished open class pacer when the mares had to race against the males on equal terms. That was also is true of the earlier dams in her line whose records would have been much more impressive looking in today’s separate sex world.

Van Glory won the second running of the Standardbred Breeders Stakes and the first under two minutes, a race introduced to address the  situation mares faced in general racing. She won a Pascoe Northern  Oaks  and placed in the Woodlands Northern  Derby and NZ Oaks (to Ar Miss). She won the Metropolitan Three Year Old Championship as well placing in several major Cup races  in later years and winning against the  best company for Nick Matyasevic.

A colourful restauranteur described by Van Glory’s trainer, Denis Nyhan, as “a real gentleman” Nick  bred three of the dams in this pedigree,remarkable given the relatively small numbers he bred and raced.

Van Glory’s dam, Malabella,was placed in both the Oaks and the Derby, her Derby defeat being avenged by her daughter Bellajilly, famously brought back from the US by Jim Dalgety to leave Jovial Jeannie etc.

Malabella’s dam, Mala, one of the first horses trained by a young Ken Chapman at Tai Tapu, was  a top flight juvenile with unreal speed but a trifle erratic.However her three named foals were Malabella, Princess Grace, dam of the outstanding pacer Vanadium,and Young Dieman a very good winner.

The foundation mare,Krina, a  grey, won good class races in both islands  and took a mile time of 2.10 when that was top stuff in the 1920’s.She left several fine foals, most notably Sprayman a top pacer of his era.

So count up the family stars and they are mostly female -and bright stars at that.

Can Fortify join the list ? With Millwood Nike and co to beat it is a tough row to how. But a fascinating one for  2023


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