Just two weeks ago he was favourite for G1 glory in one of New Zealand’s biggest races, but Xtravagant’s shock withdrawal, and subsequent retirement, while bad news for backers, may turn out to have been really good news for breeders.
Rather than racing on, last season’s champion New Zealand 3-year-old will be standing at Newhaven Park stud in New South Wales for the 2017 Southern Hemisphere breeding season. And the colt has the potential to be a valuable option for the large number of Australian breeders with Danehill line mares.
Xtravagant retires not only as the the highest rated Kiwi 3-year-old since the renowned 1986 Cox Plate hero Bonecrusher, but also as one of the fastest runners to come out of a country where the racehorses are renowned more for staying prowess.
It may not have been the hottest Group 1 in the world when he won the New Zealand 2000 Guineas at Riccarton Park in November 2015, but he won like he was Frankel - by 8½ lengths - setting a race record on the way (see the YouTube video below).
The following February he backed that up by putting older horses to the sword with an equally spectacular 8-length triumph over 1400 metres (YouTube video below). That was in the G1 NRM Sprint at Te Rapa, and the 2017 edition of that event later this month was mentioned as a possible alternative target for Xtravagant after he was pulled out of the G1 Telegraph at Trentham on January 21.
Trainers Stephen Autridge and Jamie Richards (their partnership is currently at #149 in the global trainers’ rankings and third in the TRC’s New Zealand standings) decided a few days before the race that the colt’s work didn’t quite warrant a bid for the Telegraph. The decision to retire him, which came soon after, was understandable considering his obvious appeal to breeders.
The son of the King George and Irish Champion Stakes winner Pentire, sire of Melbourne Cup winner Prince Of Penzance, out of the Zabeel mare Axiom, Xtravagant has had a high profile ever since he was bought for NZ$375,000 at the New Zealand Bloodstock National Yearling Sale at Karaka in 2014 (the 2017 sale has been taking place this week).
That was the highest price paid anywhere for a Pentire yearling in 2014. He raced in the colours of the Te Akau Racing group, which has a stud in New Zealand and races horses there and in Singapore, having been purchased by Te Akau’s principal, David Ellis, one of the most successful buyers - and most astute judges - down under.
“He is a wonderful example of equine excellence, has a wonderful temperament and I will be sending mares of my own to Australia to mate with him,” said Ellis.
Xtravagant will stand for a fee of $15,000 (plus goods and services tax). Newhaven’s John Kelly said: “He is a superb looking individual with a truly international pedigree that is an outcross for Australia’s Danehill line mares. We thought he was a wonderful opportunity that should not be missed. [His fee] will offer Australian breeders great value given his credentials.”
Xtravagant is a full brother to multiple G1-placed and G3 winner He’s Remarkable, and his 3-year-old half-sister Axiomatic is regarded as a likely stakes performer during the Sydney Autumn Carnival for Chris Waller.