Hall of Fame Honours for Mufhasa (NZ) and Starcraft (NZ)
5 May 2021
A pair of champion racehorses bought at Karaka for a combined total of only $130,000 have been enshrined in New Zealand racing history with induction into the New Zealand Racing Hall of Fame.
Between them, the pair won 15 Group One races in multiple countries, earning a total of more than $6 million in stakes – almost 50 times their combined purchase price at Karaka.
A brown gelding by Pentire out of Sheila Cheval (NZ) (Mi Preferido), Mufhasa was bred by Rich Hill Stud principal John Thompson and his father Colin. Offered by Rich Hill at the 2006 Select Sale at Karaka, Mufhasa was a $50,000 purchase by his owner, David Archer.
Trained for the majority of his career by Stephen McKee, Mufhasa had 62 starts for 20 wins, nine seconds, six thirds and $3.63 million in prizemoney.
First rising to prominence with a scintillating win in the Group Two Coupland’s Bakeries Mile (1600m) at Riccarton in November of 2008, where he clocked a sizzling 1:32.83, Mufhasa developed into a top-flight performer on both sides of the Tasman.
He became an eight-time Group One winner in New Zealand, capturing two editions of Trentham’s Telegraph Handicap (1200m) and Te Rapa’s Waikato Sprint (1400m) along with the Captain Cook Stakes (1600m), Makfi Challenge Stakes (1400m), Windsor Park Plate (1600m) and WFA Classic (1600m).
Mufhasa also shone at the highest level in Australia, collecting a further two Group One victories in the Futurity Stakes (1400m) and Toorak Handicap (1600m) along with three placings in the Group One George Ryder Stakes (1500m) and another third in the Futurity Stakes.
Mufhasa was a two-time New Zealand Horse of the Year, achieving that accolade in the 2008-09 and 2011-12 seasons.
Archer told Love Racing on Sunday evening that he was drawn to Mufhasa through knowledge of the family, having raced his six-race-winning half-sister Belle Joie (NZ) (Mellifont).
“We’d bought a filly called Belle Joie, and she was really nuggety and fast,” he said. “Two years later, we saw her half-brother, and he was a slightly better build. We thought, ‘If she was that good, he could be three lengths better.’ In the end we bought him for only $50,000, so he was a real bargain.
“He was one hell of a warrior, and we were very lucky to have him. He won races for seven years in a row, and he won Group Ones for five years in a row. He just kept running.”
Bred by Waikato Stud’s Garry Chittick and offered by Waikato at the 2002 Premier Sale at Karaka, Starcraft (NZ) (Soviet Star) was bought for $80,000 by the Robt Dawe Agency.
The chestnut won 11 of his 22 starts and more than $3 million for owner Paul Makin, including five Group One victories in four different countries.
Starcraft was trained by Garry Newham through an Australasian career that began with Group One victories in the Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m) and Australian Derby (2400m) as a three-year-old. He also placed in the Group One Australian Guineas (1600m).
Sent back across the Tasman to the country of his birth to kick off his four-year-old spring, Starcraft scored a breathtaking win from nowhere in the Group One Mudgway Stakes (1400m) at Hastings. He struck again next start in the Group Two (now Group One) Stoney Bridge Stakes (1600m), then placed in the Group One Kelt Capital Stakes (2040m).
Further placings followed in the Group One Caulfield Stakes (2000m) and Cox Plate (2040m) back in Melbourne, before Starcraft was sent to the other side of the world and joined the Newmarket stable of legendary trainer Luca Cumani. There, Starcraft became the first New Zealand-bred horse to win at Group One level in Europe.
Starcraft scored brilliant victories in the Group One Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (1600m) at Newmarket and the Group One Prix du Moulin (1600m) at Longchamp – the latter in track-record time. He also placed in Royal Ascot’s Group One Queen Anne Stakes (1600m).
Starcraft received multiple accolades during his globe-trotting career, being named Champion Three-Year-Old in Australia in 2003-04, Champion Sprinter in New Zealand in 2004-05, and Champion Older Male Miler in France and Great Britain in 2005.
He has gone on to a successful career at stud, siring 338 winners from 566 runners to date. His 20 individual stakes winners include Group One winners We Can Say It Now and Star Witness.
Waikato Stud’s Mark Chittick said on Sunday evening that Starcraft’s trailblazing feats have earned him a special place on the stud’s star-studded roll of honour.
“To win five Group One races in four different countries, he’s certainly up there with the best we’ve bred,” he said. “He’s the only horse we’ve ever bred to win Group One races in that many different countries.
“He wasn’t anything special as a young horse – he was an immature, big, lanky boy. But as he got older and filled out, he developed into a beautiful, athletic horse.
“He became an unbelievable athlete, and Paul Makin took him around the world.”