South Island a Source of Supreme Stamina

14 May 2020

Southern-bred Etah James (NZ) dominated the A$1 million Group One Sydney Cup (3200m).
Southern-bred Etah James (NZ) dominated the A$1 million Group One Sydney Cup (3200m).

Unlike any other racing nation, the rugged terrain, cool artic environments and mineral-rich soils in the South Island of New Zealand gives the Southern-born and raised thoroughbred strength and stamina, reinforcing their immense staying power.

The pristine environment that runs the breadth of the South Island has become the home of an enviable product, with the quality Southern-breds like recent Group One winner Etah James (NZ) continuing to showcase their versatility and durability to perform on the international stage.

With New Zealand Bloodstock’s South Island Sale on Gavelhouse Plus next month, Australasian racing has been given a timely reminder of the staying superpowers of these South Island thoroughbreds.

They celebrated a dream result in the A$1 million Group One Sydney Cup (3200m) at Randwick on April 11, with both the winner and the runner-up carrying a significant southern connection.

The race was won by the quality Kiwi staying mare Etah James(NZ), whose sire Raise the Flag has produced a long line of accomplished stayers throughout his tenure at White Robe Lodge.

Runner-up The Chosen One (NZ) (Savabeel) was born and raised in Southland. His breeders and co-owners are the famed Dennis family, who have been responsible for dozens of black-type performers over many decades.

This was the second time in less than three years that the Sydney Cup has carried a strong South Island flavour. In 2018, the race was won by the top-class galloper Who Shot Thebarman (NZ) (Yamanin Vital), who was bred by White Robe Lodge.

In a long and decorated racing career, Who Shot Thebarman also won the Group One Auckland Cup (3200m) and placed in the Group One Melbourne Cup (3200m), Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m), and two editions of the Tancred Stakes (2400m) and Sydney Cup. He became a fan favourite on both sides of the Tasman and earned more than A$4 million in prize-money.

Six months after Who Shot Thebarman’s Sydney Cup triumph, Patrick Erin (Gallant Guru) followed in his footsteps and played a starring role in the 2018 A$750,000 Group One Metropolitan Handicap (2400m). He is now the winner of 11 of his 41 starts and more than $777,000 in stakes.

Etah James’ heroics this autumn have been ably followed up by another South Island-bred stayer by Raise the Flag – Ablaze (NZ).

Purchased privately in the South Island for $40,000, the gelding has won 13 races and more than A$600,000 in prize-money. He was an eight-length winner of this month’s A$315,000 Grand Annual Steeplechase (5500m) at Warrnambool, and he also won the A$300,000 Jericho Cup (4600m) in December.

Yogi (NZ) (Raise the Flag) has been another spectacular South Island success story in recent seasons. Bought for just $1000 at the NZB’s 2014 South Island Sale, he won eight of his 39 starts and more than A$600,000, including the Listed Sandown Cup (3200m) and Port Adelaide Cup (2500m).

Parthesia (NZ) (Raise the Flag) was a $20,000 purchase at the 2015 South Island Sale. She won three races and A$268,250 in stakes, capturing the Listed Bagot Handicap (2800m) and Tasmanian Oaks (2100m).

“When our horses get to a mile or middle-distances, we’re very competitive,” said Wayne Stewart, manager of White Robe Lodge. “We always have been and always will be.

“I think the Sydney Cup result, with Etah James winning and The Chosen One, another southern-bred running second, just shows our horses are more than up to it.”

But the South Island has also produced several impressive performers over shorter distances.

Shadows Cast (NZ) (Per Incanto) was passed in at the 2014 Sale with a reserve of $10,000. The star sprinter-miler has earned more than $500,000 to date, winning the Group One Thorndon Mile (1600m), Group Two Manawatu Challenge Stakes (1400m) and placing in the Group One Captain Cook Stakes (1600m).

A pair of half-siblings, Boots ‘n’ All (NZ) (Perfectly Ready) and Air Max (NZ) (Nadeem), were both passed in at the South Island Sale, with reserves of $5,000 and $20,000 respectively.

Between them they boast 12 victories and more than $350,000 in stakes. Boots ‘n’ All won twice at Listed level and placed in two editions of the Group Two Coupland’s Bakeries Mile (1600m), including a second behind superstar Te Akau Shark (NZ) (Rip Van Winkle). Air Max won last season’s Listed Gore Guineas (1355m) and Dunedin Guineas (1500m).

Time to Celebrate (NZ) (Per Incanto) sold for $82,500 at the 2015 Sale. He has become a star in Hong Kong, winning six races and more than HK$7.4 million – the equivalent of more than NZ$1.5 million and 18 times his purchase price.

A strong current performer in Australia Brilliant Venture (NZ) (Zacinto), was bought for $22,000 at the 2018 Sale. He placed in the Group Three Caulfield Classic (2000m) and has already earned more than A$75,000 in his short career.

Other stakes performers to come out of the South Island Sale in recent years include Rideitlikeustoleit (NZ) (Alamosa), Alyth (NZ) (Librettist), Battle Plan (NZ) (Battle Paint), Cantilena (NZ) (Per Incanto), Kubera Warrior (NZ) (Coats Choice), Technician (NZ) (Coats Choice), Ajay Tee (NZ) (Foxwedge), Pipiana (NZ) (Highly Recommended), Notabadidea (NZ) (Highly Recommended), Upscale (NZ) (Tavistock), Live Drama (NZ) (Ghibellines) and Fantastic Eclipse (NZ) (Iffraaj).

With a selection of progeny from leading southern sires, out of NZ-bred mares, the Sale highlights the unique characteristics that are abound in the southern product. 

Originally scheduled to be held in Christchurch in April, the South Island Sale will now be hosted online on the enhanced Gavelhouse Plus platform with entries closing on Wednesday 27 May, the auction launching on Thursday 28 May and running through until 5pm on Sunday 7 June. Vendors are encouraged to get their entries in well before the cut off date to ensure their yearlings are able to be viewed by a New Zealand Bloodstock agent during the week of 25 May.

To nominate your yearlings, please visit NZB’s online portal at

All yearlings offered through the 2020 South Island Sale on Gavelhouse Plus must be unbroken in order to be eligible for the lucrative Karaka Million Series.

For more information about the Sale, contact NZB Sales Representative Regan Donnison (+64 21 512 466 or email [email protected]).