Best On Breeding

Mark Smith - Wednesday March 6

Like many others, I was saddened to hear of the recent death of Les Carlyon who wrote this humorous piece in the Age after Nick Columb’s $300,000 New Zealand purchase Courtza had won the 1989 Blue Diamond Stakes - Courtza is the great-granddam of this week’s Best On Breeding selection.

Carlyon wrote:

"But, with due deference to our sponsor, the Blue Diamond is not the story of Merv Brown but of Courtza, elegant and sensible, and of Nick Columb, her owner, who used to be called "Mr Lucky" but now answers to "Your Grace" because he is still a few rungs short of infallibility.

Nick, a battling millionaire, says he must use a "rifle rather than a shotgun" in his yearling purchases because he cannot compete with the rich blokes.

He tends to buy one filly a year in New Zealand and gets it pretty right with Caulfield Cup winners like Imposera and Tristarc. Courtza, bred to win an Oaks, may well be the best of all.

Again, the moral is simple: if you see Nick Columb bidding, be there. It could change your life. An hour after the Blue Diamond, Columb came out of the bar, relaxed, his shirt stained with sweat, and briefly held court. Chris Biggins came up and said: "I want to shake your hand for luck. I've got an Imposing in the next"

Nick shook his hand and pronounced imperially: "You'll win." Super Impose, part-owned by Biggins, won the Carlyon Cup and knocked half a second off the track record."

Courtza went on to win that season’s Golden Slipper. While Columb enjoyed great success with Courtza on the track he had no luck with the daughter of Pompeii Court in the breeding shed.


Her first foal was a filly by Danehill named Danziga, who never raced, and was killed by lightning at three.

After missing to Danehill, Courtza was covered by Last Tycoon and sent back to the place of her birth, Waikato Stud. When Garry Chittick purchased Waikato Stud lock stock and barrel in 1994, Courtza was in a paddock alongside her weanling Last Tycoon (IRE) colt.

That colt was, of course, O’Reilly who the Chittick’s, wisely, elected to retain. Honoured as New Zealand Racehorse Of The Year in 1996-97, O’Reilly was unbeaten in four starts in New Zealand including the Group1 Bayer Classic and the Group1 Telegraph. He lost his unbeaten tag to Octagonals’ brother Mouawad in the Australian Guineas at Flemington before his career came to a tragic close in Australia when he ruptured a suspensory ligament in the Newmarket Handicap in just his sixth start.

The phenomenal success of O’Reilly at stud makes Courtza’s own broodmare career a little more heartbreaking.

After foaling O’Reilly, she had a Sir Tristram colt that sold for $260,000 but he came to an untimely end when being broken in.

She then had a dead foal by Centaine before producing a filly foal by the son of Century in 1996. She was named O'Really and was retained by the Chitticks. After making a winning career debut at Avondale, O’Really had just two more starts for a fourth and a second but her worth was at stud.

After missing to Centaine again the following season, Courtza returned to Australia for a date with Last Tycoon (IRE). On return to New Zealand, she foaled a colt named Kingmaker. From three starts, Kingmaker won at Bendigo and Seymour before being beaten into second place at Sandown and did not race again.

After missing in 1999 and 2000, Courtza was euthanased at Waikato Stud the following season after she contracted peritonitis and had to be put down soon after foaling. Her Danasinga foal also died.

So Courtza departed with a record of three winners from her four foals.

Being the only filly from such a wonderfully performed and beautifully related mare, O’Really was saddled with a heavy burden. She performed admirably. Of her eight foals, seven got to the track and all won.

They were headed by the Danny O’Brien-trained Keano, a talented son of Pins, who was a $450,000 purchase at the 2007 Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale.

He won six and placed in five of his 27 starts, highlighted by a Listed win in Brisbane, wiping $380,787 of his purchase price.

Then there was the stakes-placed Flemington winner Be Delicious (Danasinga) who was second in the Group III VRC Vanity Stakes and third in the Group III Let's Elope Stakes.

O’Really’s winning daughter Aroon (Volksraad) is the dam of the Group III VRC CS Hayes Stakes winner Take The Rap (No Excuse Needed) whose unraced sister Red Delicious has revived the family fortunes as the dam of the Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman-trained Pins gelding Madison County. (photo Race Images). 

Winner of this season’s Group 1 New Zealand Two Thousand Guineas and Group 1 Levin Classic, Madison County crosses the Tasman to take on Australia’s best three-year-old, the $700,000 yearling purchase, The Autumn Sun in Saturday’s $1 million Group 1 Randwick Guineas (1600m).

The China Horse Club have been big spenders worldwide but Madison County is proof you don’t always need to be shopping at the top end to get a class performer.

Bred by Garry Chittick, the son of Pins was a $36,000 purchase by Michael Wallace on behalf of the China Horse Club from Waikato Stud's Select Sale draft at the 2017 National Yearling Sale at Karaka.

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