Karaka’s Huge Year of Group One Graduates

16 January 2024

Sharp N Smart pictured as a Book 2 yearling from Westbury Studs draft.

Throughout the 12 months between Karaka 2023 and this month’s Karaka 2024 yearling sales, there has been a long line of graduate Group One success across major carnivals in Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Melbourne, and New Zealand.

The last year has produced no fewer than 18 Group One victories by Karaka yearling graduates – nine in New Zealand and the same number in Australia.

That sequence of elite victories was kick-started by New Zealand’s reigning Horse of the Year, Sharp ‘N’ Smart (NZ) (Redwood). The Team Rogerson-trained superstar three-year-old was a class above his opposition in the Group One Herbie Dyke Stakes (2000m) at weight-for-age in February, then stepped back down to his own age group and captured the New Zealand Derby (2400m).

Sharp ‘N’ Smart was offered by breeders Westbury Stud in Book 2 of Karaka 2021, where he was bought for $55,000 by Rogerson Bloodstock. He has turned that into more than $3.1m in prize-money, winning five of his eight starts during his all-conquering three-year-old season including the Group One Spring Champion Stakes (2000m) in Sydney during the spring.

Sharp ‘N’ Smart was part of a stellar crop of three-year-old Karaka graduates during the 2022-23 season. He was joined by the fabulous fillies Legarto (NZ) (Proisir) and Prowess (NZ), who also became Group One winners on both sides of the Tasman.

Legarto (NZ) pictured as a Book 2 yearling on account of the Highline Thoroughbreds 

Prowess was a marquee performer for Cambridge trainers Roger James and Robert Wellwood, who secured her for $230,000 from Hallmark Stud’s Book 1 draft at Karaka 2021. Her 12-start career produced eight wins, three placings and more than $1.6m in stakes.

Group One placed in the New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) in the spring, Prowess strung together five consecutive stakes wins from January to March, including the Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m), the Group One New Zealand Stakes (2050m) against older horses, and a runaway performance in the Group One Vinery Stud Stakes (2000m) in Sydney.

Legarto was a $90,000 purchase from Highline Thoroughbreds’ draft in Book 2 of Karaka 2021. Matamata couple Ken and Bev Kelso guided her through a near-flawless three-year-old campaign, in which her only defeat was a luckless fourth in the Karaka Million 3YO Classic. She won all of her other five races, including a five-length demolition of her rivals in the Group One New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) and an extraordinary late burst from nowhere to become the first New Zealand-trained winner of the Group One Australian Guineas (1600m) at Flemington.

Legarto has won seven of her 10 starts overall, dwarfing her $90,000 purchase price with earnings in excess of $1.1m.

Syndicators Go Racing have achieved one of their greatest success stories with Atishu (NZ) (Savabeel), who they recruited for $260,000 from Waikato Stud’s Book 1 draft at Karaka 2019. She has won nine of her 37 starts and more than $3.7m in prize-money, which is more than 14 times her purchase price.

A consistent big-race performer throughout her first couple of seasons with champion trainer Chris Waller, Atishu stepped up and claimed a deserved Group One breakthrough in the Queen Of The Turf Stakes (1600m) during The Championships at Randwick in April.

Molly Bloom (NZ) pictured as a yearling from Seaton Park.

There were even bigger and better things to come in the spring, finishing second in the Group One Empire Rose Stakes (1600m) before going one better a week later with a brilliant finish in the A$3m Group One Champions Stakes (2000m) on the final day of the Melbourne Cup Carnival at Flemington.

Around the same time as those Atishu heroics in Melbourne, a talented three-year-old emerged as a strong candidate to continue this remarkable Karaka roll. Molly Bloom (NZ) (Ace High) produced an enormous finish from a long way off the pace to win the Group One New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton.

That classic triumph came at career start number five for Molly Bloom, who later added the Group Two Eight Carat Classic (1600m) on Boxing Day and has now earned more than $439,000 in stakes. She was bought by trainers Lance O’Sullivan and Andrew Scott for $150,000 from the draft of Seaton Park at Karaka 2022, and she appears to have an enormously bright future.

Other Group One victories by Karaka graduates during 2023 included a series of major triumphs in Australia.

Ruthless Dame (NZ) pictured as a yearling offered by Curraghmore.
  • The breakout star of the Queensland winter carnival was Kovalica (NZ) (Ocean Park), who was a $110,000 purchase by Mulcaster Bloodstock from Book 1 of Karaka 2021. He won six of his first nine starts, headed by the Group One Queensland Derby (2400m), the Group Two Queensland Guineas (1600m) and a third placing against older horses in the Group One Doomben Cup (2000m). He later placed in the Group One Epsom Handicap (1600m), and he has so far turned that $110,000 purchase price into A$1.59m in stakes.
  • Another three Group One winners joined the likes of Kovalica, Legarto, Prowess and Sharp ‘N’ Smart in a spectacular season for Karaka-sourced three-year-olds in Australia. Affaire A Suivre (NZ) (Astern) was bought for $75,000 from Book 1 of Karaka 2021 and has returned more than A$380,000, headed by a victory in last year’s Group One Australasian Oaks (2000m). The $40,000 Book 1 purchase Dunkel (NZ) (Dundeel) added the Group One South Australian Derby (2500m) to his highly promising record, which now features seven wins from 10 starts and A$769,375 in stakes. Completing a Group One treble for three-year-old Karaka graduates during the Adelaide carnival, Ruthless Dame (NZ) (Tavistock) beat a quality field of older mares in the Robert Sangster Stakes (1200m). She cost $90,000 at Karaka 2021 and has earned more than $1.1m.
  • The $100,000 Karaka 2019 purchase Explosive Jack (NZ) (Jakkalberry), who himself had been a dual Group One winner as a three-year-old in the Australian Derby (2400m) and South Australian Derby (2500m), added another elite triumph to his record in the Sydney Cup (3200m) last autumn. He has earned over A$3.1m.


There were also additional Group One triumphs on New Zealand soil in 2023 by the $70,000 purchase He’s A Doozy (NZ) in the Thorndon Mile (1600m), Te Akau Racing’s $50,000 recruit Romancing The Moon (NZ) (El Roca) in the Levin Classic (1600m), $60,000 buy Ladies Man (NZ) (Zed) in the Livamol Classic (2040m), and $150,000 purchase Desert Lightning (NZ) (Pride Of Dubai) in the Captain Cook Stakes (1600m). The Zabeel Classic (2050m) on Boxing Day was won by Campionessa (NZ) (Contributer), who was passed in with a $70,000 reserve at Karaka 2019 and has banked more than $936,000.

 Recently, Quintessa (Shamus Award) took out the 2024 edition of the Levin Classic at Trentham, to add Group One Glory to her CV. A $170,000 Karaka 2022 purchase by D C Ellis from Wentwood Grange's draft. 

Karaka 2024 kicks off with the Book 1 session from January 28 to 30, followed by Book 2 from January 31 to February 2.