Libby and Sam Bleakley’s Highden Park has built up an impressive roll of honour in a relatively short space of time, and they are hoping to add to it with their draft of yearlings at Karaka 2020. Their sale graduates include two-time Hong Kong Horse of the Year Beauty Generation, Hong Kong Derby (2000m) winner Ping Hai Star, and other stakes performers such as She’s Poppy, Monster Kaka, Orbity, Milseain, Harlow Gold and Glorious Beijing.
They also raised another Hong Kong Horse of the Year, Werther. “For a farm that’s still pretty young, we’ve had some great results,” Libby Bleakley said. “Our winners-to-runners strike rate is about 75 percent, which we’re really proud of. Getting horses to the races is one thing, but to then get those results as well is another step beyond that. We keep adding to our stream of stakes horses as well, which is fantastic. “When people see those sorts of results, they know that they can buy from us with a little bit of confidence.”
At the same time as they prepare the latest batch of budding stars to send through the sale ring, the Bleakleys have also welcomed back an old favourite. “Ping Hai Star is retired and he’s back on the farm now,” Libby Bleakley said. “He arrived in the middle of December, and he’s currently nannying our daughter’s foal. They’re a bit of an odd couple. “It’s lovely to have him home, sound, well and happy. It makes our day seeing him out the kitchen window every day. It’s a big part of why we do what we do, and why we love it.”
Highden Park will showcase their Karaka 2020 yearlings in an open day at their Rongotea farm on Friday. “We’re going with a bit of a different formula this year,” Bleakley said. “Parades are usually quite structured, and you have to be at a certain place at a certain time. That can be a bit difficult, and we’ve had dwindling numbers at parades in the central districts in recent years. A lot of your prospective audience, like trainers, are often very busy and have other places they need to be. “So we thought it might work better to have an open day, where people can drop by any time that suits them during the day. “We also did it with Trentham in mind. It’s a very big raceday there the following day, and we thought a lot of people might be travelling down from Waikato. This could be a great chance for them to stop off for some lunch or morning tea, have a break from the drive, take a look at our yearlings and then get back on the road whenever they like.
“It’s also good for the horses, because it’ll be great practice for Karaka, where you don’t have structured parades and you’re just bringing horses out at various times during the day. “I also find that, when you’re just having a parade in front of a bigger group of people, you can only make very broad comments about each horse. “This way, people can spend a bit of time with each horse, and we can provide some information on a one-on-one basis – things like the horse’s nickname, the quirks they might have, and the attributes they may have that we particularly like.”
While Highden Park will present two yearlings in Book 1, Bleakley was keen to emphasise the quality of their seven-strong draft in Book 2. “If you look at what’s happened on the Gold Coast this week, an Iffraaj topped the Book 2 sale over there,” she said. “I think there’s something to be said for being a big fish in a small pond. There are some horses that could qualify for Book 1, but are better being held back for Book 2. “The catalogue for Book 1 is quite large, and some horses could get a bit lost in it. We’re very happy with the draft we’re offering in Book 2, and it should be fantastic buying. A lot of the stallions have sold particularly well on the Gold Coast, like Real Impact and Brazen Beau.”
Highden’s Book 1 draft includes Lot 448 – a son of American Pharoah. The Coolmore shuttler was a sensation on the Gold Coast, selling 20 yearlings for a total of $7 million, including three who fetched $750,000 or more. A very close relation to Highden Park’s colt, by American Pharoah out of the colt’s granddam Azumi, sold to Hawkes Racing for $750,000. “Seeing what happened with the American Pharoah yearlings on the Gold Coast, we’re hugely excited to be selling one at Karaka,” Bleakley said. “He’s a lovely, big colt and a great cross with Fastnet Rock. “We did a side-by-side comparison the other day, and he’s the spitting image of his father.
“We also have a beautiful little Tavistock filly (Lot 608). The owners of Tavistock have been very loyal clients of ours over a number of years, and we reckon the only ones who have seen more Tavistocks than us are Cambridge Stud themselves. “So we’ve got a pretty good eye for a Tavistock, and we think this is a particularly nice one with a bit of speed and precociousness.”