A chat with Chitty: Orchestral and Linebacker top a big run for Haunui

10 min read
Haunui Farm Managing Director, Mark Chitty, delved into the backgrounds of Orchestral (NZ) (Savabeel) and Linebacker (NZ) (Super Seth) after their respective victories on Saturday capping a brilliant run for the New Zealand nursery.

Cover image courtesy of Ashlea Brennan

The standout performances of Orchestral (NZ) (Savabeel) and Linebacker (NZ) (Super Seth) this past Saturday marked the continuation of an impressive streak of successes for graduates nurtured at the Chitty family's Haunui Farm.

Mark Chitty, the Managing Director and third generation stud master, shared his reflections on this remarkable achievement with TTR AusNZ.

Orchestral made a striking Australian debut by clinching the G1 Vinery Stud S., securing consecutive wins in the event for trainers Roger James and Robert Wellwood, who had previously triumphed with Prowess (NZ) (Proisir) last year.

On the same program at Rosehill, Linebacker showcased a remarkable progression from a maiden win to a Group 3 victory, displaying tenacity in the G3 TL Baillieu H. This further amplified the promising start by Waikato Stud's first-season sire, Super Seth, who celebrated his inaugural stakes success as a sire.

Linebacker (NZ) (yellow cap), winner of the G3 TL Baillieu H. at Rosehill on Saturday | Image courtesy of Ashlea Brennan

Prior to these recent achievements, Haunui Farm had already been enjoying an extraordinary run of success with notable graduates such as Militarize (NZ) (Dundeel), Snow Patrol (NZ) (Contributer {Ire}), Sudbina (NZ) (Almanzor {Fr}), and Savannah Cloud (NZ) (Savabeel) all having success recently.

A rare filly

Chitty expressed disbelief at the remarkable trajectory taken by Orchestral, considering the filly had her first start in April last year. While she finished second to Just A Floozie (NZ) (I Am Invincible), she notably defeated the subsequent G1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas winner, Molly Bloom (NZ) (Ace High), albeit in a three-horse field at Avondale.

Following her debut, the daughter of Savabeel secured her maiden success in her next outing at Hastings. However, she faced a setback in the G3 Gold Trail S., where she failed to place as Quintessa (NZ) (Shamus Award), a future Group 1 victor, claimed the title.

Orchestral's fortunes dramatically shifted from January onwards, embarking on an impressive five-race winning streak. Her winning spree commenced with a victory in the 3-year-old Plate at Pukekohe, followed by a triumph in the R. Listed Karaka Millions 3YO. She then dominated the G2 Avondale Guineas, winning by a 4l, before etching her name in history by becoming the first filly since Silent Achiever (NZ) (O'Reilly {NZ}) to conquer the boys in the prestigious G1 New Zealand Derby.

“It is rather hard to believe she’s now a dual Group 1 winner. This time last year we hadn’t actually seen her on the racetrack. She has just done an amazing job.

“She’s a credit to Roger James and Robert Wellwood and their management. The early part of the spring didn’t go quite according to plan. They pulled up stumps and reset and she’s just gone from strength to strength.

“On Saturday, Orchestral had to come back from 2400 metres of winning a Derby to the 2000 metres and having travelled from New Zealand to Australia, which is no easy feat. But certainly, when J-Mac (James McDonald) has that confidence in them and switches his whip to the left hand and asks them for something they often deliver on that.”

Mark Chitty | Image courtesy of Trish Dunell

Quality evident

Orchestral was acquired by Roger James and Robert Wellwood for NZ$625,000 from Haunui Farm's draft at the 2022 New Zealand Bloodstock National Yearling Sale.

Like her career to date, Orchestral’s yearling price exceeded what Chitty and his team had initially estimated.

Looking back on the dual Classic winner's early days as a yearling, Chitty commented, “We are very lucky we’ve got great clients that allow us to manage their horses.

“When you’re competing and winning in the grades that a couple of those horses are running in - it’s very satisfying. Orchestral came to Haunui Farm from Waikato Stud in the winter. They only sell their own yearlings and had previously done a little bit of work for the Barnswood Farm team (Chris and Sarah Green) and Ger Beemsterboer had previously bought a couple horses of us and we had managed a few of theirs also.

“When you’re competing and winning in the grades that a couple of those horses (Haunui graduates) are running in - it’s very satisfying.” - Mark Chitty

“When she arrived in mid-winter Orchestral was a very strong filly physically. She was around 15hh and 470kg as a yearling filly, which is above average.

“In late January she was a lovely filly. We were the second-last lot to be sold at the 2022 New Zealand Bloodstock National Yearling Sale and we had to declare a little earlier what sort of money we would put her on the market at and because there was no other fillies thereafter, we sorted a price and well, she surpassed it at that NZ$625,000.

“Obviously, since she had been sold the pedigree has really gone 'boom!' with the likes of Atishu and Savaglee winning very good races recently.”

Orchestral (NZ) as a yearling | Image courtesy of New Zealand Bloodstock

GSA mares produce the goods

Linebacker is the third foal from the Oasis Dream (GB) mare Garden Of Swans (GB) who was unraced and purchased by Dean Hawthorne (BAFNZ) for 160,000gns (AU$323,000) at the 2017 Tattersalls December Mares Sale.

Garden Of Swans is a half-sister to Mukhadram (GB) (Shamardal {USA}), a victor of five races, including the G1 Eclipse S. at Sandown. She is one of several mares owned by Jonathan Munz’s GSA Bloodstock who spend their time in New Zealand at Haunui Farm.

Linebacker was purchased for NZ$160,000 by John O’Shea Racing and Suman Hedge Bloodstock (FBAA) from the draft of Haunui Farm at the 2023 New Zealand Bloodstock National Yearling Sale.

Linebacker (NZ) as a yearling | Image courtesy of New Zealand Bloodstock

Chitty commented, “Haunui Farm has been lucky enough to manage GSA Bloodstock’s portfolio in New Zealand with Dean Hawthorne, his manager.

“So Linebacker was one of those born and bred here. We had about six or seven by Super Seth in that year and a few of them had later foal dates but Linebacker was a real standout.

“$160,000 is $160,000 but we thought he might have made a little bit more in the marketplace. Good on John (O’Shea), Suman (Hedge) and the team because they brought a really nice horse.

“He was actually a pretty easy yearling to prepare. What I loved about the Super Seth progeny is they just love the work and what you ask them to do. They are good eaters, they have good temperaments and fundamentally they were very good horses on the move. It has been no surprise the good start he’s made.

“He (Linebacker) was actually a pretty easy yearling to prepare. What I loved about the Super Seth progeny is they just love the work and what you ask them to do. They are good eaters, they have good temperaments and fundamentally they were very good horses on the move.” - Mark Chitty

“We actually raised Super Seth’s first winner and stakes-performed horse, Poetic Champion (NZ). So the stallion has started off well. Getting a Baillieu winner is awesome and also a big credit to Linebacker given he’s one of the few juveniles to run down a Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott-trained 2-year-old (Anode) this season - they aren’t easy to get past.

“I felt that made the win even more meritorious.”

Another GSA Bloodstock/Hanuni Farm graduate is Militarize (NZ) (Dundeel {NZ}). The Chris Waller-trained 3-year-old colt was sold for $550,000 to China Horse Club, Newgate Bloodstock and Trilogy Racing from the draft of Bhima Thoroughbreds at the 2022 Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale.

“Militarize was born and raised at Hanuni Farm but all the GSA Bloodstock horses go to Mike and Kate Fleming’s Bhima Thoroughbreds if they go to Australia. He’s been a fantastic colt and is bloody knocking on the door.

“He was a really nice horse, always a bit of a standout in the paddocks. That probably goes to show Jonathan’s (Munz) investment in bloodstock and mares. They are quality horses and he was one which is backed up by the $550,000 he made. Militarize has gone on with it and hopefully he clinches another major this preparation.

“He’s been very competitive and tenacious in good races without winning one but sometimes those horses put it all together in their grand final.”

Market is a 'brutal' judge

Hanuni Farm currently stands one stallion in conjunction with Darley, Ribchester (Ire). A four-time Group 1 winner on the track, the son Iffraaj (GB) became a Group 1-producing sire when his son Facteur Cheval (Ire) won the G1 Dubai Turf at Meydan Racecourse.

The success has enhanced the faith Chitty has shown in the stallion, “Facteur Cheval has been a leading performer for Ribchester in the Northern Hemisphere. He had been Group 1-placed on several occasions and beaten by some pretty short margins.

Ribchester (Ire) | Standing at Haunui Farm

“So, to finally tick that box as a stallion is a great result. In the Southern Hemisphere he has Red Card, who is a very good sprinting mare. They are only 4-year-olds so I think they’re going to continue to improve and being a son of Iffraaj, who we had a lot to do with, we have our fingers crossed he can get a few more runs of the board.

“Hopefully can materialise for Ribchester over the next 12 to 18 months. It is a brutal market but it’s not always right and you’re playing the long game.

“A horse like Snow Patrol is a great example. We offered him in the COVID-19 year. He was a nice son of Contributer and we couldn’t get NZ$50,000 for him. We then took him through the next stage educating him through Derek and Sophia Nolan’s Lilywhites Lodge.

“We probably have anywhere between 30 and 35 yearlings educated for clients and either retained to race or maybe looking at a ready to run market. Snow Patrol went through there and had the ultimate operation (gelding) and he made NZ$170,000.

“He’s been a very nice horse for Mick Price and Michael Kent Jnr and looks to have plenty of upside.”

Snow Patrol (NZ) (white cap), winner of the G2 Autumn S. at Caulfield in February | Image courtesy of The Image Is Everything

Punter experience important

Chitty also touched on the recent developments from his perspective.

“I think there is no question Entain coming in and managing the New Zealand TAB has been an immediate game changer in terms of state money offered.

“It’s all risk and reward and it's going to take a little time to filter through to breeders because we’re playing the long game with breeding decisions made today, you’re not seeing the result for several years.

“It’s all risk and reward (for Entain) and it's going to take a little time to filter through to breeders because we’re playing the long game with breeding decisions made today, you’re not seeing the result for several years.” - Mark Chitty

“So that will take time, but I’ve been fortunate enough to involved in the little bit of changing landscape - the way of the racing clubs and the formation of the Auckland Thoroughbred Racing and then our development of the StrathAir track, which is I’m sure is going to bear dividends and we goes forward.

“Obviously Entain need to get a return, but I think those developments will give punters confidence because ultimately, we get funded by the wagering dollar, so it is important anything in that space to enhance that is looked at.

“The signs are very encouraging and we’re starting to not look like we did 20-years ago, so that’s a good thing.”

Mark Chitty
Haunui Farm