Exciting Awapuni filly Dijon Bleu is flying the flag proudly for Dave Duley’s Landsdowne Park as the former Waikato Chiefs lock packs down with his biggest draft for the New Zealand Bloodstock National Yearling Sales series at Karaka.
She was sold through his 2016 draft for $26,000 to trainer Lisa Latta and has gone on to provide a host of highlights for her connections, none more so than her dominant win in last Saturday’s Group 3 Desert Gold Stakes (1600m) at Trentham.
“She’s the best filly in the country and it’s exciting for us,” Duley said.
Dijon Bleu, a daughter of Burgundy and Pristino, has taken her record to five wins and three placings from 10 starts and is a clear leader in the New Zealand Bloodstock Filly of the Year series.
As well as wins in two Group Threes and two Listed races, she finished second in the Group 1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) and the Gr.3 Eulogy Stakes (1550m).
Dijon Bleu is eligible for the Karaka Million 3YO Classic (1600m) next Saturday, although Latta is delaying a decision on whether she runs at Ellerslie or waits for the Group 2 Cambridge Stud Sir Tristram Fillies Classic (2000m) at Te Rapa on February 10.
“I’ll make a decision on Tuesday,” Latta said. “If it wasn’t for the big money at Ellerslie there wouldn’t be anything to decide. She would be going to Te Rapa to chase the Filly of the Year award.”
If Dijon Bleu does back up on Saturday, Landsdowne Park will have a double interest in the Karaka series features as Hattie Bee, a Bernadini filly trained at Cambridge by Emma-Lee and David Browne, will run in the Karaka Million.
They sold Hattie Bee for $115,000 at last year’s Premier Sale and she has been placed twice in her three starts, including an unlucky last-start fourth at Trentham.
Last year, Dijon Bleu was one of two Landsdowne Park graduates in the Karaka Million, the other being the Sydney visitor, Te Amo, who had been bought at Karaka for $220,000.
“For a small operation like ours, having three horses in it in two years is a big thrill,” Duley said.
“Hattie Bee is raced by a syndicate of all women, about 65 of them (the Fun & Fascinators No.1 Syndicate), and they’ll all be dressed in pink. It’s going to be a lot of fun for them.”
Whatever path Dijon Bleu takes, she has already boosted the profile of her Proisir half-brother being offered by Landsdowne Park in Book 1.
“He’s a lovely, big, scopey horse and there has been a lot of interest in him,” Duley said. “He’s got a bit more substance than Dijon Bleu, but what she had was a nice walk. She was small but very athletic.”
Landsdowne Park sold a half-brother by Shocking to Dijon Bleu at last November’s Ready to Run Sale to Queensland’s John Foote Bloodstock for $140,000.
As well as Dijon Bleu’s sibling, Landsdowne Park will be offering yearlings by Sacred Falls (two), Reliable Man, Stratum, Exceed And Excel, Charm Spirit, Pins, Zoustar and Ocean Park in Book 1 and a further nine in Book 2, with an assortment of sires represented, including Tavistock, Jimmy Choux, Pluck, Poet’s Voice, Pentire and Darci Brahma.
“Since we started out about 10 years ago we’ve slowly built up our client base and this year we’ve got the best draft we’ve had to offer,” Duley said. “It’s great to get that many in Book 1.”
A High Chaparral yearling sold in Australia in 2011 for $245,000 was Landsdowne Park’s first significant sale and that figure was topped at Karaka in 2016 when Duley sold a Tavistock colt to Ciaron Maher Racing for $260,000.
In the decade since its inception, Landsdowne Park operated initially from Landsdowne Road, Walton, on the outskirts of Matamata, and for the last few years from Duley’s new 50-acre property at Mystery Creek, near Hamilton.
It was successfully pin hooking a few fillies that got Matamata-born Duley entrenched into the thoroughbred scene after a career as a professional rugby player.
“I did pony club and I’ve always loved horses and working with them,” he said. “I moved to Australia playing Aussie schoolboys’ rugby and from there my rugby career took off. Bay Of Plenty had gone up to the first division and Gordon Tietjens rang me to play for them.”
Duley spent two years with Bay Of Plenty from 2001, then the next two years with the Waikato Chiefs before shifting to the UK and living in Scotland playing for the Edinburgh Gunners under coach Todd Blackadder (the former All Black captain) in the Celtic league and Heineken Cup for three years.
He then answered the call from former Waikato halfback Kevin Putt, who was then coaching Counties-Manukau, and captained that side for a few years.
However, throughout his rugby days he maintained his interest in horse racing and when it came time to hang up his boots he didn’t hesitate to chase his dream.
“I had got to know Rodney Schick and he offered me a job in the yearling barn at Windsor Park,” Duley said. “I did a couple of seasons there and learned from others, too. Then we bought the farm at Landsdowne Road in Walton and it went from there.”
Duley has also dabbled in racehorse ownership with his most significant investment being a share in Jack Romanov, who provided him with a thrill of a lifetime when winning the 2015 Great Northern Steeplechase after also taking the Pakuranga Hunt Cup at Ellerslie the previous start.
He has also tried his hand as an owner-trainer, preparing Assassin, but that was short-lived.
“He won his first trial and I thought I was the man, but I soon learned it wasn’t that easy,” he said. “He didn’t do much (a couple of placings) so I sent him down south and he won a couple of races down there.”
Duley is now sticking to sales preparation and agistment and this year he will be lining up against his old employer, Windsor Park Stud, with his strongest Book 1 draft.
“This is what I want to do and each year and I love going to the sales,” he said.