Sir Peter’s fascination with Frankel and Europe could be set to pay off big time

Eminent’s owner Sir Peter Vela, principal of New Zealand Bloodstock, has only missed one Royal Ascot in 27 years. Photo: Trish Dunell

New Zealand Bloodstock principal Sir Peter Vela is great student of racing history so he well knows the significance of what his colt is on the cusp of achieving this weekend. Sir Peter races the Frankel colt Eminent, currently 5-1 fourth favourite for the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket on Saturday.

Trained by Martyn Meade, Eminent followed an easy 2¾-length debut win at Newmarket in maiden company with a 1¾-length win in the G3 Craven Stakes at the same track last start over the Guineas distance of a mile.

The colt will have the services of British champion jockey Jim Crowley in the classic, which has drawn a field of 12, headed by the Aidan O’Brien-trained Churchill, a winner of five of his six starts, including the G1 double of the National Stakes at the Curragh and the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket last season.

A bold showing from Eminent this weekend could see him go on to contest the Derby at Epsom on June 4.

Giant step

“Eminent showed he was a nice athlete early in the piece and that he would get a trip in the fullness of time,” said Sir Peter, owner of the showpiece Pencarrow Stud in Hamilton, New Zealand. “It was a giant step from his maiden win to the Craven, but he took it in his stride, running the fastest time in over 50 years.

“The Guineas is another big step up and the favourite looks very hard to beat, but it’s great to have a chance and we are looking forward to Saturday. I have been delighted with the support and good wishes from back home in New Zealand.”

Sir Peter has long held a fascination with European racing. He has only missed one Royal Ascot in the past 27 years, and he and his late brother, Philip, have enjoyed success there.

Sir Peter and Philip, in partnership with New England Stud in Newmarket, bred G1 Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp winner Maarek.

Only last week, Sir Peter enjoyed G3 success in Ireland through Torcedor, a 5-year-old Fastnet Rock gelding he races as part of a Te Akau syndicate along with the likes of Sir Patrick Hogan and Laurie Laxon.

“Philip and I raced a few in Europe for many years and have had some luck with an Ascot winner and a Group winner in France, but this is the first venture into a colt that could perhaps be made into a stallion,” Sir Peter said of Eminent.

Astute purchase

“I do keep a few mares at New England Stud and tend to race the fillies and sell the colts. I have always held Frankel in the highest regard having been lucky enough to see him win on a number of occasions and I sent two of my Pencarrow Stud mares up to England in his first season at stud.

“When his 2-year-olds first appeared on the track in the UK, I asked a good friend, Hubie de Burgh, to keep an eye out for a colt with a nice pedigree which I could buy. He found Eminent as an unraced horse who fitted the bill.”

That astute purchase is now a contender for the 2,000 Guineas and the Derby, and success in either would seal his future as a stallion. By Frankel out of the G1-placed Kingmambo mare You’ll Be Mine and from the family of Ballydoyle champions Quarter Moon and Yesterday, Eminent is highly likely to eventually find a Southern Hemisphere base at stud in Sir Peter’s homeland of New Zealand.

Sir Peter’s interests won’t be just restricted to the classic races, with the Jessica Harrington-trained Torcedor on track for a Royal Ascot date.

“Torcedor is really enjoying racing this season and holds an early nomination to the Ascot Gold Cup,” he said.

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