Jeffries family fizzing after Australian Guineas triumph

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  • March 07, 2023
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They may be 18,000km apart, but Legarto’s win in the Gr.1 Australian Guineas (1600m) brought Warwick and Alice Jeffries a lot closer on Saturday.

The father and daughter duo have a shared love of thoroughbreds, and have a particular bond with Legarto, Warwick having bred the now dual Group One winner and Alice having played a pivotal role in her early education.

Jeffries sold Legarto through Highline Thoroughbreds’ draft at New Zealand Bloodstock’s 2021 Book 2 sale to Ancroft Stud for $90,000, and the pair have kept a keen interest in her development.

She has given them a great thrill to date, winning her first five starts, including the Gr.1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m), Gr.2 Eight Carat Classic (1600m), and Gr.3 Soliloquy Stakes (1400m).

Legarto was an unlucky fourth in the Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m) before the decision was made by trainers Ken and Bev Kelso to test her on the international stage in the Gr.1 Australian Guineas (1600m).

Last year Alice was awarded the 2023 Irish National Stud Scholarship by the New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association and flew to Ireland in January to commence the six-month diploma course.

While halfway around the world, she kept a close watch on Flemington on Saturday, as did Warwick and the rest of the family back in New Zealand, and all were overcome with emotion after cheering home their pride and joy to a thrilling win in the A$1 million Classic.

“It was outstanding, it took me a long time to settle down to be fair,” Warwick Jeffries said.

“She has just been unbelievable. The whole family is proud. We are farmers first, but horses are our passion.

“My daughter, Alice, did all the work with this filly, right through from when she was a foal.

“Alice is over in Ireland now at the Irish National Stud, she was lucky enough to get that scholarship to go over.

“She has been her little pet project right from when she started handling her (as a foal).”

A sheep and beef farmer from Tauranga, Jeffries has always had an interest in horses, which was piqued by his father’s involvement.

“I had horses as a kid and my Dad got involved. I just love pedigrees and breeding animals, that is my main interest. We had a Romney Sheep Stud so I have always had that interest (in breeding),” Jeffries said.

Jeffries has enjoyed breeding thoroughbreds over the years and added to his stock when he went to Karaka in 2005 where he purchased Legarto’s dam Geordie Girl out of Little Avondale Stud’s New Zealand Bloodstock Select Yearling Sale draft for $60,000.

“I bought her as a yearling, that was when Rapid Kay was going well and placed in a few Group Ones, that is her full-sister. I just went to the sales and picked her out,” he said.

Geordie Girl went on to win two and place in five of her 20 starts for trainer Lance Noble before entering the next stage of her career as a broodmare.

She didn’t have the best of luck, with 10-win gelding Locally Sauced being her only progeny to make it to the races from her first six foals.

“I have always rated Geordie Girl really highly, I thought she could be my best broodmare, but we have just had bad luck,” Jeffries said.

“We have had to euthanise a couple for different reasons, none of which were her fault.

“A couple we got a heads up that they were really nice and then next thing you know they have had an accident.”

However, her luck was set to change with her next two foals. Jeffries leased out Emanon to Lionel Dobbs and she has won five races for the Orari trainer, while Legarto has been a standout on the track for the Kelsos.

“Emanon came out in her first start as a two-year-old and I thought ‘she has come out early’. I have got her leased out down south. She has got unbelievable natural speed and I think she will make a very good broodmare,” Jeffries said.

“Legarto has got a lovely temperament, like her mother, and we have always liked her. You never expect them to be a Group One winner and to be as good as she is, but we have liked her all the way through.”

Jeffries is a shareholder in Legarto’s sire Proisir, and the Tauranga breeder has been rewarded for his early patronage of the Rich Hill Stud stallion.

While Jeffries has enjoyed the Group One achievements of Legarto this season, he also celebrated the success of another product of his farm, Dark Destroyer, a son of Proisir.

The Lance O’Sullivan and Andrew Scott-trained gelding performed well as a three-year-old, winning the Gr.2 Auckland Guineas (1600m), Gr.3 Rough Habit Plate (2143m) and Gr.3 Bonecrusher Stakes (1400m), before going to new heights this term when taking out the Gr.1 Tarzino Trophy (1400m).

“I was lucky enough to breed Dark Destroyer, so we got two Group One winners this year from half a dozen mares,” Jeffries said.

“It is unbelievable to get those Group Ones, we are all pinching ourselves.

“Proisir is outstanding and he is going to keep on improving. I had a share in Proisir right from the start and I managed to get another last year.

“Geordie Girl is back in foal now to Proisir.”

Highline Thoroughbreds principals Cam and Eva Heron were also celebrating Legarto’s success, having sold her through their Karaka Yearling Sale draft.

The Waikato couple were in full voice as they cheered Legarto home when trackside at Flemington on Saturday.

“It was a big thrill,” Cam Heron said. “Eva and I went to Flemington to watch her, which was a bit of fun. They do it well and there was a really good atmosphere.”

The Herons have always held Legarto in high regard and have been excited to watch her progress since leaving their care.

“We foaled her down at Highline,” Heron said.

“As a young horse she was a good size and went well on her mother. Geordie Girl is an older mare, but she is one of those mares that does put a lot into her foals, so you have to look after her.

“Through the yearling prep she was very good, nothing was a problem. We can’t recall anything on the negative side, she was amazing.

“She was in Book 2 and there was plenty of interest in her. Proisir was starting to pop his head up as a sire, so people were looking around for a nice Proisir filly and in our view she was one of the nicer ones there. The same year Roger James bought Prowess out of the same sale.”

The Herons have developed a strong relationship with Jeffries and the partnership has reaped some great rewards in the last few years.

“We foaled down some mares for him (Jeffries) and then we prepared Dark Destroyer for the sales and it all grew from there,” Heron said.

“We also sold Alabama Gold for Warwick and he won the Matamata Slipper (Gr.3, 1200m).

“We only really foal down our own mares and Warwick’s mares.

“We know what he expects and requires, and the horses go back and forth between our properties. He has got a beautiful farm over in Tauranga. He really enjoys it and we get on well.”

Heron said Saturday’s result was a great tonic for the New Zealand breeding industry.

“It is good for New Zealand and the NZB Karaka yearling sale,” he said. “To have horses go out and do it in Australia is a big plus and keeps people coming back to the sale.”

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