War Decree to fly southern flag at Karaka

War Decree
Inglewood Stud stallion War Decree. Photo: Supplied

Inglewood Stud moves into a new era this year with the first yearlings by War Decree going through the sale ring. The North Canterbury nursery helped to raise the profile of South Island breeding by standing Zacinto from 2012 until his move north to Valachi Downs in 2018.

He has sired 68 winners from 135 runners among those southern crops, five of them at stakes level including the Group 1 star Ugo Foscolo. Inglewood Stud recruited War Decree as Zacinto’s replacement, and there are promising signs that he will be a worthy successor.

Later this month, Karaka 2021 will feature 17 members of War Decree’s first yearling crop, including nine in the catalogue for Book 1. “This is an exciting time for us,” said Gus Wigley, who owns and operates Inglewood Stud in partnership with his wife Bianca. “We’ve made a concerted effort to support him with Book 1-quality mares, and it’s worked out really well. From his first season here, we’ve sent half of our mares to him and the other half to other stallions, then swapped them over the next year.

“It’s all been about doing everything we can to try to give him the best possible start. We’re rapt to have nine of his yearlings in Book 1, along with some lovely yearlings in Book 2. That’s a great result for a stallion that stands down here in the South Island.

“I’ve been particularly encouraged by how strongly New Zealand Bloodstock have supported the stallion. They’ve looked at a lot of his progeny and have got right behind the horse. That level of support gives you a real boost when you’re a studmaster standing a young sire.”

Standing for a service fee of $4,500, War Decree won three races in Britain and Ireland including the Group 2 Vintage Stakes (1400m), defeating the two-time Dubai World Cup (2000m) winner Thunder Snow, along with the Group 3 Dundalk Diamond Stakes (2150m). He placed in another two Group 2 events.

War Decree is by the influential stallion War Front, while his dam is a daughter of multiple Grade One winner Ticker Tape and comes from a family stacked with black type. “At the time we secured War Decree, the War Front sire line was going very well in the northern hemisphere,” Wigley said.

“Since then it’s become firmly established and really hot in this part of the world, particularly thanks to what Declaration of War has done with the likes of Vow and Declare and Warning. “There’s been great feedback about the types of horses War Decree is leaving. He has a lovely walk himself, and he’s leaving very nice, natural, athletic individuals.

“One of the things I look for in a stallion is a horse who himself can run as a two-year-old and can leave two-year-old types, but they can then run in the Guineas as spring three-year-olds and hopefully carry on to the Derby and Oaks later in their three-year-old seasons.

“Zacinto was certainly that type of horse, and I think War Decree is too. War Decree is possibly leaving more precocious types than Zacinto did. They’re very natural athletes and look like they’ll get up and go early.”

Wigley has been delighted with breeders’ ongoing support for War Decree. “He’s served another really good book this season, as he has every year he’s been here,” he said. “He’s amazingly fertile. We only missed with a couple of mares this season, which is remarkable for a commercial stallion. It’s almost like he just looks at them and gets them in foal.

“He’s had great support. Kevin Hickman sent another 10 mares with outstanding pedigrees down to him this season. “It’s great for commercial South Island breeders to have a stallion like him right on their back doorstep. It’s a much more cost-effective option for them than sending their mares up north. “He’s got a great temperament as well, and is throwing that to his stock. I really hope that he makes it as a stallion, because he’s just such a neat horse to have around.”

The unveiling of War Decree’s yearlings continues a special season for the family-run Inglewood operation, which was founded by Wigley’s great-grandfather Ken Austin in 1938. In October, Inglewood homebred Matchmaker scored a fitting victory in the Listed Canterbury Belle Stakes (1200m) at Riccarton.

Matchmaker was co-trained by Wigley’s father Nick, who raced Canterbury Belle throughout her exceptional career in the 1980s. “That was really cool,” Gus Wigley said. “It’s a race that’s certainly been on our bucket list for a long time, so it was quite emotional for our family to win it. It was also really nice that it was a first stakes win for Kayla Milnes, who now trains in partnership with Dad. She does a lot of work here on the farm, and she was involved with this filly all the way through – breaking her in and doing a lot of the early work with her.”

The family sold 50 percent of the ownership of Matchmaker to Australian businessman Manoj Wanzare earlier in the season, and after contesting the Group 1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) in November, the filly relocated across the Tasman. “She went over to Australia in mid-December,” Wigley said.

“She’s been through her pre-training and then joined Chris Waller’s stable about a week ago. All of the reports have been good so far. She seems to have settled in really well. “It sounds like they’ll look at trialling in the first half of February, then potentially racing in the second half of the month. So we won’t have to wait long to see her in action, which is very exciting.

“Since selling a share in the ownership to Manoj, we’ve struck up a great relationship with him. He’s a fantastic guy. I guess we were the racing managers for the filly while she was over here, and now we’ve handed the reins over to him. We can’t wait to see what she does.”

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