Renowned Australian Veterinarian Dr Chris Lawler admits to initially being reluctant to venture into the breeding game though after breeding Group One-winning filly Gypsy Goddess, he is enjoying the ride.
Since her debut last October, Gypsy Goddess has been beautifully managed by David Vandyke to race nine times for six wins and three placings.
She was unbeaten in her first five starts in Queensland, which included a win in the Gr.3 BRC Grand Prix Stakes (2100m).
A trip to Sydney followed where she encountered wet tracks but still managed to place in the Gr.1 Vinery Stud Stakes (1850m) and the Gr.1 Australian Oaks (2400m).
Back in Queensland again on a very rain-affected track she ran second in the Listed Gold Coast Bracelet (1800m), and a month later she rounded out her successful three-year-old season with an impressive win in the Gr.1 BRC Queensland Oaks (2200m).
”I tried my best not to get involved in the breeding game,” Lawler said.
“I am a reluctant breeder and I would rather try to buy the apples at the market than grow the apples, but due to interests in Tarzino and Hellbent my hand was forced but I am enjoying it.
“My family was involved in horses, my uncle Kevin Robinson was a great all-round horseman. He was an accomplished trainer/driver in the harness racing code before making the transition to thoroughbreds.
“My parents stressed that education was important and necessary to succeed, and there was no way they would entertain me being involved in the industry working in a stable or stud, so the only way to keep me happy and to keep them happy was to study veterinary science.”
Lawler went on to own the Randwick Equine Centre which he sold in 2009. He then consulted from there for two years and kept his hand in at a couple of racing stables all the way through.
These days he is not the guy you call out if you have a colic, instead he mainly consults and gives advice at the various sales series.
It was in this role that he came across Tarzino in Book 2 at the New Zealand Bloodstock Sales at Karaka in 2014.
“I bought Tarzino for $45,000 under the banner of Rick Connolly Bloodstock,” he recalled.
“To me he was everything that his damsire was. At any yearling sale I always seek out any mares by Zabeel and look at their progeny, and I reckoned this fellow was a lot like Zabeel and his dad Sir Tristram.
“I had a client that had given me an open cheque book for a nice New Zealand stayer, I called him and he said buy and he was going to square it away. So, I bought him. Three weeks later the client was killed in a car accident and he had a family with no involvement in the industry so that put me in a difficult situation as I needed to pay for him.
“I called Harry Mitchell and asked him if I could put him in his draft for the Magic Millions winter yearling sale, which he did.
“The only time he came out of the box was when I dragged Mick Price literally by his lug to look at him.
“Needless to say, he didn’t sell, and I approached Mick and he said ‘will you stay in’ and I said ‘yes’, and the rest is history.”
Tarzino went on to win the GR.1 VRC Derby (2500m) and the Gr.1 Rosehill Guineas(2000m) before retiring to stud at Westbury Stud in 2017. Gypsy Goddess is from his first crop and took out the Oaks a month after Jungle Magnate won the Gr.1 SAJC South Australian Derby (2500m), giving him two Australian Group One winners from his first crop, the first stallion since High Chaparral did the same in the 2009-10 season with Monaco Consul and So You Think.
Along with Jim Bergin, who was also a shareholder in Tarzino, the pair set about buying some mares to support Tarzino. Invisible Coin was one of three mares he purchased and sent to Gordon Cunningham’s Curraghmore. Lawler purchased the mare bred by MuzzafarYaseen’s Teeley Assets - breeders of the likes of Redoute’s Choice.
She had a good pedigree and was a winning full sister to the Gr.1 AJC Flight Stakes (1600m) winner Cheeky Choice. She was from a good New Zealand family that had produced the Group One performer Danasia who produced the Group One winner Zabrasive.
“We were looking for something physically similar to Zabeel and looking for a Danehill line to cross with Tarzino,” Lawler said.
“The Danehill-Zabeel cross works in both directions. We bought her at the NZB Mares sale in foal to Charm Spirit for $60,000 from Windsor Park Stud who were selling her on behalf of Qatar Bloodstock.
“We sold that foal through Lansdowne Park and as Invisible Spirit he has won three races. His older sister, the second foal Empires Collide, has also won.”
Lawler recalls Gypsy Goddess as a young horse that was fabulous from the chest down with great limbs but a parrot mouth.
Curraghmore’s Gordon Cunningham remembers her as a progressive type of foal with athletic strength. “We were very pleased with the way she presented at the sales,” recalled Cunningham.
“I knew there was every chance she would be a good racehorse.
“Having her passed in, while disappointing, has led to wonderful things for Chris and his partners. We are very proud to see the filly and what she has achieved. Just like the horses we breed here that we believe in, she has a great future and she epitomises what horses are like that come from not just our farm but most New Zealand farms.
“So many good horses like her come out of New Zealand.”
After Gypsy Goddess was passed in at the yearling sales Lawler went about finding a suitable trainer for the filly.
“David Vandyke was a client of mine when I set up in 1986 and we have stayed friends ever since even though our lives have taken different paths,” he said.
“David had bought a number of good horses in New Zealand including some for Bob Jones, when we had to take Gypsy Goddess home Bob Jones came into mind, so I rang David and asked him if he was interested. Once he had Bob on board, we knew we had a ready-made syndicate.”
Invisible Coin returned to Tarzino and produced a colt, also with a parrot mouth, and he was sold as a weanling for $4300. The partners then decided on a change of tactics with the mare and swapped a service for Tarzino with one to Belardo with Haunui Farm.
Invisible Coin developed a runny nose, which turned out to be a tooth problem, but despite two operations the runny nose persisted. Lawler recalls that she was feeding a parrot mouth weanling, trying to grow a foal and not surprisingly didn’t look in the best nick.
“NZB had said that although Gypsy Goddess had been a K2 filly, she hadn’t done enough to ensure that the next foal would make K2, and that she had had enough chances to make K1, so we decided to let Invisible Coin go.
“She went on Gavelhouse and sold for $7000 to clients of Haunui. She went on to have a lovely colt which made K2 this year and sold for $115,000. To be fair we knew that there would be some consolation if she left a good one as we have this filly.
“Little did we know she would be the elusive black-type winner that would upgrade the family.
“I did a similar thing with another Redoute’s Choice mare from another good New Zealand family in Brambling. I bought her on an Inglis online sale and the next day they rang me and said a New Zealand client had been trying to bid on her but due to lagging had missed out and made me a profitable offer.
“I took the profit and Jen Campin bought the mare and the Tosen Stardom colt she was carrying sold for $180,000 at Karaka this year. It’s all swings and roundabouts.”
For the record Invisible Coin has produced another colt to Belardo and is in foal to Ribchester and remains a resident at Haunui Farm, and may have a date with Tarzino again. Tarzino will stand at $15,000 +GST this year and is attracting a lot of attention from local and Australian breeders.
“The announcement of his stud fee came out before those two Group One winners so he should be well supported this year,” Lawler said.
“I know a number of Australian breeders who are going to visit him. New Zealand suits him as New Zealanders have a great desire to breed a staying horse, they have the patience and the climate and environment, everything is falling into place for him to be a successful sire.”
The Lawler-Bergin partnership have a dozen mares, six domiciled in New Zealand at Wentwood Grange and Curraghmore who will visit Tarzino, and six domiciled at Mick and Michelle Talty’s Edinglassie Stud in Musswellbrook. – NZTBA