Emerging Vendors Looking to Make their Mark at Karaka 2023

17 January 2023

Karaka 2023 is set to showcase the drafts of a diverse blend of vendors, with the established and respected big names being joined by a number of relative newcomers who are just beginning to make their mark.


Sassy Merlot (NZ). Photo: Trish Dunell

Karaka 2023 will be the third yearling sale for Aimee Peterken’s boutique thoroughbred operation Advantageous Ventures, and this year marks her debut in Book 1.

Peterken was brought up breeding and riding sport horses, but has only moved into the thoroughbred sphere within the last decade. She made her Karaka debut in 2020, selling a filly by Burgundy (NZ) out of Saveadance (NZ) (Savabeel) for $24,000 during Book 3.

Bought by Paul Moroney Bloodstock and Ballymore Stables, that filly was named Sassy Merlot (NZ). Her 14-start career to date has produced three wins and $97,435 in stakes, including black type placings in the Group Two Wellington Guineas (1400m), Group Three Desert Gold Stakes (1600m) and Group Three Rotorua Stakes (1400m).

“My background was breeding sport horses from a young age, alongside my competitive horse-riding career and becoming known for leading the way in horse presentation,” Peterken said. “My passion has always been horses, and making a difference is my mantra in everyday life.

“I was introduced to the industry by Micaela Murray. A new industry excited me, although it was challenging – I had to learn the secrets of success and couple them with my understanding of breeding and my experience of handling, training and showcasing youngsters. 

“I always felt if I could commercialise my love, I would never have to work a day in my life! Breeding racehorses opened up this dream to me, prompting me to put aside my marketing consultancy.

“I do my research, but type and temperament combined with a little bit of instinct – or intuition – plays an important part in my breeding decisions. My strength is training and handling youngsters, as I work with them every day from birth right up until the sales. I do no more than two yearlings a year, as for me it’s all about producing quality and doing it 110 per cent well.

“I took a risk with Saveadance, as she was unsuccessful as a racehorse, but I was drawn to her given her family lineage. Understanding her type and successful family crosses, Burgundy was the perfect suitor at the time.

“Not being an established name in the industry, there were only about four people who came and looked at Sassy Merlot in the lead-up to that sale. But it meant a lot to me that she was noticed and recognised by Paul Moroney, and it’s been great to see her go on to perform on the track.

“With the loss of Burgundy and the introduction of Ace High as a new sire, I believe his Redoute’s Choice lines combined with High Chaparral lines presented an even stronger cross for Saveadance.

“Karaka 2023 sees me presenting an upstanding filly again from Savedance (Lot 486), who I have handled from birth. Her progeny is consistent, they have the right attitude and are true to the Zabeel (NZ) type. This filly has a bit more height than her previous progeny, including Sassy Merlot. So I am pretty excited about what her future holds, alongside what Sassy Merlot has achieved.”


Lib Petagna (right) of Elsdon Park. Photo: Trish Dunell

Elsdon Park is the new venture of prolific racehorse owner and breeder Lib Petagna and his wife Katrina, who purchased the former Valachi Downs property in Matamata. 

The green, blue and yellow racing colours of Petagna’s JML Bloodstock have become instantly recognisable across Australasia, being associated with a long line of Group One performers such as Lucia Valentina (NZ) (Savabeel), Sofia Rosa (NZ) (Makfi), Tivaci (High Chaparral), Crown Prosecutor (Medaglia d’Oro), Nicoletta (Savabeel) and many more.

Karaka 2023 marks a landmark moment for Elsdon Park, with its debut yearling draft of 15 well-related yearlings going through the ring during Book 1.

“This represents a huge step for Elsdon Park,” farm manager Kerrie Cox said. “Of course, Lib already has a well established and highly successful broodmare band, but to be able to offer a quality group of yearlings under the name of his new farm is a very exciting time for all of us.

“We’ve been really, really happy with how the sales preparation has gone. Our goal this year was to showcase a quality line-up of horses that look like they can go on to become good, sound and fast racehorses, and I think the 15 yearlings that we’re taking to Karaka this year really fit that bill.

“The feedback has been very positive. We look at the horses and see quality, and it’s so encouraging that our draft is also resonating with people in the industry that have come to see them.

“We want the horses to go to the best possible homes, where they’re going to be given every opportunity. We can’t wait to see them all go through the ring at Karaka.”

This Saturday’s Karaka Million twilight meeting at Pukekohe could serve as a dream Karaka 2023 curtain-raiser for Elsdon Park, with the Petagna-bred Ethereal Star (Snitzel) among the leading contenders for the $1m DoubleTree by Hilton Karaka Million 2YO (1200m).

A daughter of Petagna’s multiple Group Three winner and Group One VRC Oaks (2500m) placegetter Eleonora (NZ) (Makfi), Ethereal Star was a smart last-start winner of the Listed Barfoot & Thompson Challenge Stakes (1100m) at the Karaka Million course.

“It’s so exciting to have Ethereal Star lining up as one of the favourites for the Karaka Million,” Cox said. “We’ll all be cheering her on, and it’s a special way to kick off a big few days for the farm.

“She was sold under the banner of Blandford Lodge, which Lib part-owned at the time. Eleonora was a high-quality racehorse herself, and it’s pleasing to see that her daughter was bought by a great judge in Andrew Forsman and that she has made such a strong start to her own racing career.

“Eleonora doesn’t have a yearling this year, but we have a lovely Wootton Bassett that we’re looking forward to taking to Karaka next year,” Cox said.


I'm Thunderstruck (NZ).

Epona Park is a boutique 40-acre property in Cambridge owned by Tony Forlong and Jennifer Jones, who have been thrust into the spotlight as the breeders of I’m Thunderstruck (NZ) (Shocking).

The couple initially raced the gelding, who scored a three-length trial win at Te Aroha in July of 2020 before he was sold to Australian syndicators OTI Racing.

Trained by Mick Price and Michael Kent Jnr, I’m Thunderstruck has had 20 starts for seven wins, seven placings and more than $8.1m in stakes. His wins include the Group One Toorak Handicap (1600m), Group One Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) and A$7.5m Golden Eagle (1500m), while he has also picked up Group One placings in the Cox Plate (2040m), Doncaster Handicap (1600m), Memsie Stakes (1400m), Caulfield Stakes (2000m) and Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes (1400m).

Epona Park made their debut as vendors with two yearlings at Karaka 2022, and they are back with a well-credentialled draft of four yearlings for Karaka 2023.

A half-brother to I’m Thunderstruck by Ocean Park (NZ) will be offered as Lot 437 in Book 1. Epona Park’s three yearlings in Book 2 include Lot 848, an Ardrossan half-sister to recent Group Three winner Dionysus (NZ) (Ocean Park).

“I’m Thunderstruck has really put us on the map, he’s done such a fantastic job,” Forlong said. “The Price stable also has his full-brother (three-year-old gelding Struck Twice (NZ), also by Shocking). Hopefully they might have a bit of success with him too.

“We’re very happy with our draft for Karaka this year. It’s an exciting time of the year. It’s pretty busy too – we’re only a small operation, it’s just the two of us, so it’s a lot of work.

“We’re selling the half-brother to I’m Thunderstruck by Ocean Park, along with a half-sister to Dionysus by Ardrossan, a half-brother to the Australian Group Three winner Purple Sector (NZ) (Pins) by Mongolian Khan, and a strapping young man by Tivaci as well.

“I think the half-brother to I’m Thunderstruck is actually very similar to I’m Thunderstruck. Struck Twice was always a much longer horse, who Mick Price believes is going to run over a distance. This one is the same shorter couple as I’m Thunderstruck and reminds me a lot of him at the same age.

“We were actually tossing up whether or not to take him to Karaka. The family tend not to grow quite as quickly into yearlings as they do when they’re going into work. Once they’re up over 18 months old, that’s when they grow into big beasts. That’s just a trait that the family has. This one was also a November foal, which means he just hasn’t quite had that extra time.

“But he reminds me very much of I’m Thunderstruck, and I’m hoping that whoever buys him will be buying a very good horse.

“We’ve had nine foals born this season as well, and probably a good deal of them will be going to Karaka as yearlings. We’re slowly building and increasing our draft year by year.

“We’re hoping for a bit more luck than in our first sale last year – that was quite hard going without the Australian buying bench. But I hear the Hilton is totally booked out, so the Australians might be here in some good numbers this time around.”


The likes of Little Avondale Stud, Fairdale Stud, Goodwood Stud and many others have contributed to a proud record of Karaka success for the lower North Island, and HGT Bloodstock will be out to add to that tradition at Karaka 2023.

The Feilding operation made its first appearance at Karaka 2022, selling 12 yearlings in Book 2 including a Time Test colt that was bought by Paul Moroney for $110,000.

Operated by Helen Phinney, Georgia Brown and Thomas Johnston, HGT Bloodstock is back in even bigger numbers in 2023, with 16 yearlings in Book 2 along with their first two yearlings in Book 1. Lot 260 is a filly by Proisir out of a three-quarter-sister to multiple Group One winner Madison County (NZ) (Pins), while Lot 321 is a filly by Per Incanto out of a three-quarter-sister to Group One placegetter and sire What’s The Story (NZ) (Savabeel).

“We sold our first yearlings ever at Karaka last year, and having the Time Test colt sell to Paul Moroney for $110,000 was great,” Georgia Brown said.

“Our draft this year is kind of like a melting pot of the central districts. Duncan and Lucy Fell from Fairdale Stud have young kids now and don’t have quite as much time on their hands, so they’ve kindly put some of their yearlings in our draft. We also have a filly from Goodwood Stud and some for Newmarket Lodge as well, so we’re representing a few different farms from the central districts.

“I’ve been really happy with the build-up these yearlings have had. They’re just starting to peak now, which is great, and we’re looking forward to seeing how they go in the ring.

“Thinking longer-term, we probably won’t want to ever be taking too big a number of yearlings to the sales. This draft is probably about as big as we’d ever want to be.

“But as we go on, we’d love to build up the quality as much as we can and start to see more and more of our yearlings making it into Book 1.”


Former Super Rugby player Nick White and his wife Nicky are first-time vendors at Karaka 2023, selling under the banner of Kaha Nui Farm.

The Whites will offer five yearlings, with two in Book 1 and three in Book 2. Both of their Book 1 entries are pinhooks that they bought as weanlings.

Lot 394 is a filly by Almanzor out of a stakes-performed mare who is the dam of two winners from two foals to race. Lot 517 is a Capitalist filly out of the Snitzel mare Shuwaamekh, who is a daughter of three-time Group One winner Shamekha (Secret Savings). Shuwaamekh is a half-sister to two stakes performers including Group Two winner Shumookh (Dream Ahead).

“It’s pretty exciting to be taking yearlings to Karaka for the first time this year,” Nicky White said. “We’ve had some great encouragement from people in the industry to give it a good go, and they’ve given us some really neat support as well, which has been so helpful.

“We moved to this property about 12 months prior to Covid, looking for a change of lifestyle. We walked on to the land, and it didn’t have a house or anything that we needed, but we absolutely loved the land. My husband refenced the whole farm to make it safe for horses, and our son and his partner have also done a lot of work to bring it all together, so it’s been a real family affair.

“We had a lot of fun creating the brand. Kaha Nui means ‘great strength’, and our byline is ‘nurturing great strength’.

“We’re delighted to have a couple from our first draft make it into Book 1. We think the little Capitalist is a pretty exciting prospect, being out of a Snitzel mare and from a good family. We’re looking forward to taking him through the ring.”


Sam Beatson of Riversley Park. Photo: Trish Dunell

Sam Beatson’s Riversley Park needs no introduction when it comes to the Ready to Run Sale, where it has been leading vendor for the last six years in succession and its graduates include Hong Kong megastar Golden Sixty (Medaglia d’Oro).

But Karaka 2023 marks the first time Riversley Park has featured as a vendor at a yearling sale, consigning a draft of two colts and two fillies – all in Book 1.

Lot 86 is a full-brother to Group Three winner Bonita Aurelia (NZ) (Sweynesse), while Lot 200 is a filly by So You Think (NZ) out of a full-sister to multiple Group One winner Shillelagh (NZ) (Savabeel).

“We thought we’d try something a little bit different this year,” Beatson said. “It’s just a small, boutique offering of yearlings, and it’s a bit of an experiment to see how it might fit into our system.

“I’m just putting my foot in the door when it comes to yearling sales, and it’s a chance to see if it might be another option we can have available to us.

“We’ll see how it goes, and then we can decide whether or not we try to grow it for future years.

“The sales preparation process has been good. You don’t have to break them in and truck them over to the track every morning, so it’s made life a bit easier from that point of view.

“We break a lot of horses in, so we’re well set up for the early education process and have all of those facilities available to us. I think it’s all worked out quite well.

“I’m happy with the draft that we’re taking to Karaka – two nice strong colts and two lovely athletic fillies. The feedback has been encouraging, so I’m looking forward to it.”

Book 1 of Karaka 2023 will run from 29 to 31 January, followed by Book 2 from 1 to 3 February. Selling will start at 11am each day.

All yearlings in Karaka 2023 will be inspected by NZB and NZ-based agents who are available to assist buyers with any queries or to bid on their behalf.

For general sale enquiries, contact NZB’s Kane Jones on +64 27 274 4985 or Regan Donnison on +64 21 512 466.

International buyers wishing to physically attend the Sale can enquire about accommodation options by emailing [email protected].

Online bidding is available for all prospective purchasers via bidonline.nzb.co.nz, plus an extensive online catalogue that will host pedigrees, parade videos and photos, updates and important information to assist your buying decisions.

The catalogues for Karaka 2023 can be viewed online here.

Important Dates

2023 Karaka Million Twilight Meeting – Saturday 21 January

Book 1 Sale – Sunday 29 January to Tuesday 31 January

Book 2 Sale – Wednesday 1 February to Friday 3 February