Aegon: a quintessential Waikato Stud product

The win of Aegon (NZ), a son of the late Sacred Falls, in last Saturday’s Gr.1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) provided cause for triumphant reflection from powerhouse breeders Waikato Stud.

Bred and sold by the Matamata nursery, Aegon has come a long way in a short time for trainers Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman, with the latter joined in the ownership by the Zame family.

The unbeaten three-year-old defeated Bourbonaire (NZ) (Darci Brahma) in a close finish, reminiscent of their Gr.2 Hawke’s Bay Guineas (1400m) tussle back in September, giving the Chittick family-owned and managed farm their fourth win in the Riccarton three-year-old classic.

In addition to Aegon’s sire Sacred Falls, who won the 2012 edition, the farm has produced Embellish (NZ) (Savabeel) and Madison County (NZ) (Pins) to win the race.

Waikato Stud’s late sire Sacred Falls
Photo: Trish Dunell

“The 2000 Guineas is one of the ultimate tests for three-year-olds in our country,” Waikato Stud’s Mark Chittick said. 

“As well as it being the best horses that you can gather, and it was another good field on Saturday, most of them have that extra test of handling the travel south as well.

“We are just trying to breed the best racehorses we can and the consistency of results in a race like the 2000 Guineas helps you think that you are doing the odd thing right.”

Aegon is the quintessential Waikato Stud product. The Chitticks bred, raised, sold and stood his sire Sacred Falls at stud till he passed away prematurely in 2019 due to liver disease, while his dam Toss Up (NZ) (Zabeel) is a mare they bred and raced.

“Obviously, we get involved in these stallions for what is hopefully a long life and unfortunately it hasn’t been with Sacred Falls,” Chittick said.

“I think results like Saturday, and of recent times, tell us that once again we were on the right track.

“Whatever we did was not going to save Sacred Falls, though it is just lovely knowing we were on the right track when going through the whole process of purchasing him back for stud duties.”

Sacred Falls, a son of Waikato Stud’s champion sire O’Reilly, went on to win his first six starts for trainer Tony Pike before crossing the Tasman to join Chris Waller’s stable and going on to claim two editions of the Gr.1 Doncaster Handicap (1600m) and the Gr.1 George Main Stakes (1600m).

Aegon, who is out of Zabeel mare Toss Up, was purchased at New Zealand Bloodstock’s National Yearling Sale by Forsman for $150,000 and has now won each of his three starts and $329,400 in stakes.

“I really take my hat off to Andrew Forsman,” Chittick said. “He selected that horse, put his money where his mouth was, stayed in the ownership and trained him to win the 2000 Guineas.

“We do try to breed the best racehorses we possibly can and a lot of those great racehorses come out of that price bracket.”

Sharing in the ownership of Aegon is the Zame family from Gisborne, who Chittick has known since he attended boarding school.

“The big thing about this result is that it involved a whole lot of people and a massive part of the New Zealand industry,” Chittick said.

“It was a father and son that have now won the 2000 Guineas, both ridden by Leith Innes which is a huge feat, and bred by the same farm which we are very proud of.

“It is a long-standing family of ours that we originally became involved in with Chris Turner of Wanganui of Veandercross fame. We probably started breeding from that family thirty odd years ago.

“I went to school with one side of the Zame family that race him and used to spend the odd weekend at their family home which was pretty special.”

Aegon’s breeding aimed to replicate a successful cross that has produced the likes of Silent Achiever (NZ) (O’Reilly), O’Marilyn (NZ) (O’Reilly) and Collar (NZ) (O’Reilly).

Even as a youngster Aegon was similar in build to his sire, though to continue to replicate his race record will be no easy task.

“The O’Reilly/Zabeel cross obviously worked very well with the likes of Silent Achiever so I was looking for that sort of cross with Sacred Falls over a Zabeel mare,” Chittick said.

“Toss Up has a great family behind her, she always promised to leave a really good horse.

“As a foal he was a nice medium sized athletic horse, right through to the yearling sales, as he is now.

“They (Aegon and Sacred Falls) were quite similar in the sense they were both medium sized and very athletic, very light on their feet.”

Sacred Falls has been represented by a number of promising gallopers of late, including Sacred Caga (NZ) which has won on the first two days of New Zealand Cup week, while juvenile Miss Panema (NZ) won well at Te Rapa last Saturday and Viva Chef (NZ) saluted in Hong Kong on Sunday.

Another son Tommy Gold (NZ), who races in the colours of Waikato Stud, also finished runner-up in the Listed Springtime Stakes (1400m) at Flemington last Saturday while his daughter Salto Angel was runner-up in last week’s Gr.1 VRC Oaks (2500m).

His four-year-old daughter Icebath (NZ) went within a whisker of winning the A$7.5 million Golden Eagle (1500m), while Hong Kong trainer John Size has a good opinion of stunning debut winner Courier Wonder (NZ).

“Sacred Falls just left nice types of horses,” Chittick said. “He was an easy horse himself and easy to breed to.

“We had the last of them born on the farm a couple of weeks ago and it was a bit of a sad moment.

“At the end of the day he gave us some huge thrills when he was racing and we have the future ahead of us with his progeny out there giving us the results like what happened on Saturday.”

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