Show-jumping prize paves way to Winter Cup breeding success

Dez
Dez (inside) winning the Group 3 Winter Cup (1600m). Photo credit: Race Images South

Saturday’s Group 3 Winter Cup (1600m) added some black-type lustre to a brief foray into thoroughbred breeding for Carole and Doug Isaacson. The time-honoured Riccarton feature was won in strong style by Dez, who was bred by the Dannevirke couple in unusual circumstances.

Doug Isaacson is a respected name in show-jumping, where he competed with distinction for several decades before retiring earlier this year at the age of 71. One of his many victories in that arena came in Masterton a decade ago, where the winner’s prize set the Dez story in motion.

Doug Isaacson is currently in Scotland, but Carole reflected this week on how the unusual story played out. “It all started with a prize that Doug won, but he didn’t really want to breed a racehorse and I did,” she said. “Doug was competing in a Grand Prix during a show in Masterton, and Sam Williams from Little Avondale Stud walked up to the announcer and said he’d add a service to Zed to the prize. Zed was standing at Little Avondale at that stage. “Doug won that competition, and then we had to choose a mare for the service to Zed. I happened to see a mare advertised somewhere, where the lady that owned her said she was upsetting a gelding that she had. I did some research and saw that this mare had won a couple of races, and I thought she might be suitable.”

The mare was Black Falcon, a daughter of Felix the Cat. From 25 starts in the Karen Zimmerman stable, she recorded two wins and four placings. The victories came over 2060m at Wanganui and 2200m at Awapuni, both in 2006. “When we got the mare, Doug commented on what a lovely mare she was,” Carole Isaacson continued. “Then he got on her and said she felt terrific to ride, and he thought she was a very good jumper too. I said, ‘Too bad – she’s going in the broodmare paddock.’ “Unfortunately, Dez was the only foal we were able to breed from her. We lost her the following year while she was foaling a warmblood. That’s the sad thing about it.”

When the time came to start preparing Dez for a racetrack career, the Isaacsons had their hands full with their show-jumpers. The beneficiary of that was Simon Wilson, an old friend from equestrian circles. “Once he was a rising two-year-old, we were busy with our show-jumpers and knew we weren’t going to be able to do both,” Isaacson said. “Doug knew Simon well from show-jumping, and when he was over in Waipukurau one day he offered to sell him the horse.”

Wilson shares ownership of Dez with friends Sam Lennox and Paul Mitchell, and he trains him at Waipukurau. Nursed back to health after a tendon injury in the early stages of his career, the now eight-year-old gelding has won seven of his 17 starts. He finished third in last year’s Winter Cup before going two better on Saturday. “We’ve been very proud to watch everything that he’s done,” Isaacson said. “We’ve followed him closely all the way through and we’re really pleased. Simon has done a great job with him and it’s been fantastic to watch. “Saturday’s win was special. He’s a horse who clearly loves racing and tries so hard.”

While watching Dez is enough for now, Isaacson has not ruled out dipping her toes into thoroughbred waters again in the future. “We’ve had a bit to do with racing over the years without being directly involved – Doug’s dad was very much into it,” she said. “The only breeding we’ve done in recent years is a few crossbred horses, who we’ve sold. “But, now that Doug’s not doing the show-jumping any more, you never know.”

Dez becomes the 11th stakes winner for Grangewilliam Stud stallion Zed, the well-bred son of Zabeel who has continued to deliver quality middle distance horses, stayers and jumpers. Standing at $6,000+GST this season, Zed is the sire of dual Group 1 winner Verry Elleegant, who is nearing a return and expected to be a major player in Australia in spring.