The Chris Waller-trained Kovalica ran out an arrogant winner of the Gr.1 Queensland Derby (2400m) at Eagle Farm on Saturday, with the son of Ocean Park always travelling like the winner from the moment the barriers opened.
The rising star became the third successive New Zealand-bred winner of the three-year-old feature, following Pinarello (2022) and Kukeracha (2021).
Fittingly, Kukeracha, who also races in similar ownership, was back in the winner’s circle at Eagle Farm on Saturday with a narrow victory in the Gr.3 Premier's Cup (2400m). It was his fifth career victory as he topped A$1 million in prizemoney, with four of those wins coming in the Sunshine State.
While Kukeracha races solely for Queensland owner Neville Morgan, he is joined by friend David Devine in the ownership of Kovalica.
Both horses were identified by astute-judge Guy Mulcaster, with the bloodstock agent thankful for Morgan’s long-time support.
“He had Rangirangdoo when I first started and once I started buying horses for Chris (Waller) he gave me the orders and it has been a very successful relationship,” Mulcaster said.
“They buy horses with me every year. They like buying horses in New Zealand, they like buying horses at the other sales too, but they are always good for two or three horses in New Zealand every year. I know what sort of money they want to spend, and we know what sort of horses we are looking for with them.
“I bought Kovalica in New Zealand. I bought him off (Greg Tomlinson’s) Nearco Stud and they have been great breeders. They put a lot of money into the industry.
“He was bred and raised at Curraghmore and I love buying horses from Curraghmore because we have done so well out of them. They have been well looked after, they sell well and they race well.
“I only saw him once. I saw him on farm, and I wasn’t at the sale. I bought Kovalica and Osipenko from the same sale, plus a filly in the Oaks next week called Super Chilled, who is already stakes placed.”
Mulcaster has previously done well sourcing the stock of Ocean Park, with Kovalica becoming the fourth Group One winner for the Waikato Stud stallion.
Triple Group One winner Kolding is another purchased by Mulcaster for Morgan, with the gelding an 11-time winner with A$6.7 million in prizemoney.
“Every stallion that Waikato Stud stands has a very good chance. They can go through troughs and come out the other side,” Mulcaster said.
“They have got a great broodmare band and if you stick with Waikato Stud, you’re going to go a long way.”
The Queensland Derby victor is yet another quality graduate from Gordon Cunningham’s Curraghmore and is one of three Australian Group One winners to come off the Te Awamutu farm this season, joining Ruthless Dame and No Compromise.
“It is very satisfying. I am delighted for Greg Tomlinson, who bred the horse, and whose horses are a big part of our farm,” Cunningham said.
“He has had great success. He bred Beauty Generation who was born and raised at Libby Bleakley’s Highden Park. He has bred a number of good horses, including Kahma Lass, who won the New Zealand 1000 Guineas (Gr.1, 1600m) and Provocative, who won the Queensland Oaks (Gr.1, 2400m).
“He also bred Annavisto, who is a multiple Group Three winner and wasn’t far away when runner-up in the Queen Of The Turf (Gr.1, 1600m), plus Caboche was third in the Queensland Derby last year, bought and raced by the same connections.”
Purchased for $110,000 from Curraghmore’s 2021 Karaka Book 1 Yearling Sale draft, Kovalica is out of the Makfi mare Vitesse, a half-sister to triple Group One winner The Bostonian.
“The horse was very typically an Ocean Park,” Cunningham said. “He always looked like a mile plus, progressive horse. We were actually surprised that he wasn’t in more demand at the sales, but it was a year when people were faced with all of the COVID restrictions.
“Vitesse didn’t have a foal this year, but she is thankfully back in foal to Ocean Park with an early due date.”
Cunningham, who bred Ocean Park’s four-time Group One winner Tofane, is an unabashed fan of the sire.
He was also quick to deflect praise to Mulcaster and Waller, who have enjoyed great success buying horses off the farm, including Gr.1 Australian Oaks (2400m) winner Unforgotten.
“Guy is a terrific judge and you can’t say enough about Chris Waller and his ability to get the best out of his horses,” Cunningham said.
“I am delighted for all of our staff, who work tirelessly to give these horses the best start. Kovalica is another good New Zealand bred horse that has been bought at Karaka and we’re very proud of all of the successes that the New Zealand breeding industry enjoys.” – NZ Racing Desk