Steve Bruhn's decision to extend his racing ownership interests into breeding could be set to pay a massive dividend in Saturday's G1 Barnswood Farm New Zealand 1000 Guineas, with the filly he bred and owns, There You Go (NZ) (Niagara), a leading chance in the Riccarton feature.
Melbourne-based Bruhn has been involved in owning five or 10 per cent shares of racehorses for a long time, including in Group 2 winner Niagara, and when the son of Encosta De Lago was retired and sent to stud in New Zealand in 2013, he took it as his chance to dabble in the breeding game.
Niagara, pictured at The Oaks Stud (pic - Trish Dunell)
"We had shares in Niagara, which Gai Waterhouse trained. He was a very talented horse but had a few issues and he had to be retired to stud. My son, Adam, decided it would be a good idea to keep a share in the stallion," Bruhn told TDN AusNZ.
"He was sold to New Zealand, and we stayed in for a share. We are not breeders, but we decided we wanted to get an Australian mare with a bit of a different pedigree than what you would see in New Zealand to go to him and we had a limited budget."
It was through agent Sheamus Mills that Bruhn sourced a Not A Single Doubt mare, Not A Dancer, who had been a seven-time winner for trainer Matthew Dale. He sent her to Greg and Jo Griffin's Lime Country Thoroughbreds at the old Okawa Stud, where Niagara initially stood.
"Greg and Jo Griffin looked after us exceptionally well through that whole time. We knew nothing about breeding, but they did," Bruhn said.
"We were fortunate that when Greg and Jo moved to Australia, Rick Williams at The Oaks Stud took us under his wing. We've left it up to Rick in terms of what to do, when to do it and how to do it."
Not A Dancer's first two Niagara foals were colts, but neither reached any particular heights on the racetrack and ended up in the picnic circuit in Victoria. Her third foal, a filly, had some issues which prevented her from racing.
After the mare then missed to Niagara, Bruhn was beginning to think this breeder caper wasn't for him but decided to have one more shot at the stumps with the mating and she produced a filly in 2018.
"We sold Not A Dancer on after that and we found a home for her. We thought that if this filly was any good, we would still have the family to breed from down the track," Bruhn said.
Strong early signs
The feedback from Williams on the filly was very positive and it soon became apparent that they might have finally found one that could measure up in better races.
"Rick identified fairly early on that she was nice. When Clayton (Chipperfield) broke her in, Rick said to me that she was the nicest filly he had broken in all year. He said, 'you might have struck the jackpot, goodness knows you deserve it'," he said.
"Rick has been very confident all the way along that she is a talented filly."
There You Go (NZ) (Niagara) started off with Chipperfield but when he decided to step back from training, the promising filly was placed with Tony Pike.
Off a strong trial win, she debuted in stakes company in May, finishing third in the Listed Auckland Futurity S. at Ellerslie. She was then spelled and resumed in September with a close-up fourth in the Listed The O'Learys Fillies' S. at Wanganui.
But it was her 5.25l maiden win at Riccarton in early October which showed she was a filly of significant promise and it was at that point, Bruhn's phone started ringing.
"Since she won her maiden so well, we have had people trying to acquire her and bring her to Australia, but we started out with a plan to win this Thousand Guineas and we wanted to find out if she was good enough to do it," he said.
"We didn't want to deviate from the plan. When you make decisions on the fly, they usually turn pear-shaped on you."
There You Go then stamped herself as one of the top chances for this Saturday's race with an all-the-way success in the G3 Barneswood Farm S. at Ashburton.
"The stable couldn't be happier with her. The preparations have been timed to the minute. She had a top-up trial last week," Bruhn said. "They were happy with her work this week.
"There are some serious other fillies in the race, including three or four from Te Akau. We are under no illusions that we are just going to roll up and win.
"If she ran in the first three that would be a victory for us, anything above that would be the icing on the cake."
Bruhn holds no regrets about selling There You Go's dam Not A Dancer for NZ$500. Having missed to Embellish (NZ), she was subsequently sold for NZ$250 on Gavelhouse to Adrianne Gemmell, and recently produced a Proisir colt who on Saturday may well be a valuable half-brother to a Group 1 winner.
Bruhn said the whole experience to this point has been everything he could have hoped for.
"We’ve had a lot of fun along the way. We've met some good people with Greg and Jo Griffin and Rick Williams and the like. It's been a great experience, regardless of what happens on Saturday," he said.
-Bren O'Brien, TDN