Pencarrow 19

Foundations: Richebourg and the story of Pencarrow Stud

Surrounded by daughters and granddaughters, a 26-year-old mare happily wanders the paddocks of Pencarrow Stud. The multiple Group 1-winning successful broodmare is seeing out her days in the place of her birth - a farm that was also home to her dam and her grandam - both of whom were also high achievers on and off the track.

Kristen at TTR writes:

Pencarrow Stud - one of New Zealand's steadiest sources of high-class performers. Many of who descend from just two broodmares purchased by the Vela brothers in the late 1970s and early 1980s. One of whom is the grandam of the 26-year-old mare mentioned above.

The mare we are talking about is of course the wonderful Ethereal (NZ) (Rhythm {USA}), the Sheila Laxon-trained New Zealand Racing Hall of Fame member who took Australian racing by storm in 2001.

Arriving on our shores as a three-time winner in restricted class, she was straight into form taking out the G3 Doomben Roses before her jaw-dropping performance in the G1 Queensland Oaks.

An effort made all the more meritorious when considering that her plans had been interrupted by a cancelled plane - she was due to run in the G3 Grand Prix S. the week before the Roses with Sheila Laxon wanting her runs spaced.

“Generally after a run we'd put her out for a week as she was quite lightly framed. So we thought we'd run in the Roses and take it from there.”

As it turned out Ethereal pulled up better than ever after her Roses success - “After the race she was walking on air - she absolutely loved being in Australia!” Sheila laughed.

Bringing that form to Melbourne in the spring, Ethereal famously took out the G1 Caulfield Cup and G1 Melbourne Cup double and in Sydney the following autumn she retired on a high note winning the G1 BMW at Rosehill in spectacular fashion, overcoming trouble in running.

It is that success of which Sheila is most proud, “I was gob-smacked by that win,” she said of the race in which Ethereal struck interference in the run home. “I could not believe that she had got up and won, it showed how gutsy, how competitive she was.”

Proud moments for Sir Peter Vela who still takes great pride in his prized mare, Pencarrow's long time stud manager Leon Casey telling TTR AusNZ that, “He loves it when visitors want to see Ethereal, he gets down there in the paddock with them and gets a big thrill out of it.

“It is a connection that spans generations,” Casey noted as he looked back at the history of the family that produced the winner of Australia's most famous race.

It was in 1982 that Leon, at the time working for Chequers Stud, led a Vice Regal (NZ) filly through the ring, a filly who caught the eye of the Vela brothers whose interest in racing had begun by “racing a few geldings with friends.”

A hobby enjoyed so much that it led to the purchase of Pencarrow (where Leon has been at the helm since 1988) with a major focus to be on securing well-bred fillies who could go onto broodmare careers.

At that task they absolutely excelled with that daughter of Vice Regal being the second of three fillies purchased around that time who would go on to shape the success of the stud... their first Group 1 winner Noble Heights (NZ) (Sir Tristram {Ire}) and the G2 Wakeful S. winner Our Lafite (NZ) (Sovereign Edition {Ire}) the others.

But back to the Vice Regal filly. Christened Richebourg (NZ), the Jim Moloney-trained brown mare would win five races including the G3 Tranquil Star S. (with Pat Hyland aboard) before embarking on an outstanding broodmare career - nine of her 10 named foals making it to the track with six of those being winners.

The first of those - Sir Rhine (NZ) (Sir Tristram {Ire}) showed enough to contest a G1 Western Australian Derby in which he finished fourth. Next up was La Tache (NZ) (Danzatore {USA}) who was only placed but who did contribute to the fortunes of the family as grandam of the G2 Rose Of Kingston S. winner Bellini Rose (NZ) (Faltaat {USA}) who in turn produced the G1 South Australian Derby winner Howard Be Thy Name (Redoute's Choice).

It was Richebourg's third foal that would really stamp her as an outstanding broodmare - her daughter Romanee Conti (NZ) (Sir Tristram {Ire}) winning two Group 3 races and a Listed contest in New Zealand as well as the Listed Emancipation S. and the G2 Queen of the Turf S. in Sydney.

And she was part of the dominance of the New Zealand-bred horse in the early days of the G2 (now Group 1) Hong Kong International Cup - taking out its sixth running. It was a race the Velas would later aim Ethereal at but - fortunately for racing history - she stayed in Melbourne for a crack at a race at Flemington!

Romanee Conti didn't take long to make her mark at stud, in fact Ethereal was her first foal. Her other daughters were not as successful although the G1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas placegetter Velvet And Satin (NZ) (Carnegie {Ire}) produced the Listed winner Configure (NZ) (Pins).

Ethereal, meanwhile, is contributing nicely to the family's longevity as the dam of the Listed Marton Cup winner Seraphim (NZ) (Rip Van Winkle {Ire}) and the G1 New Zealand Derby placegetter Uberalles (NZ) (Giant's Causeway {USA}). And she is grandam of the Group winners Supera (NZ) (Savabeel) and Eleonora (NZ) (Makfi {GB}).

In winning the G3 Ethereal S. at Caulfield, the latter provided the Pencarrow team with quite the thrill - “We had sold her as a yearling but you still get a big buzz out of wins like that,” Casey said, also delighted with the form of the lightly raced and exciting 3-year-old Ethereal Star (NZ) (Snitzel).

A daughter of Eleonora, the Listed Challenge S. winner is being set for a Melbourne spring campaign, trialling nicely only recently for the Andrew Forsman stable.

Eight years after producing Romanee Conti, Richebourg - upon her second visit to Zabeel (NZ) (she had missed to him the previous season) - foaled Grand Echezeaux (NZ). The winner of four of her 14 starts, she hit a great purple patch of form in the first half of 2000, winning the G3 Auraria S. enroute to success in the G1 Australasian Oaks.

The first Group 1 winner for Craig Williams, Grand Echezeaux was trained by Lee Freedman who had some foresight on the day - noting that, “This was a very impressive win and also an important win from a breeding perspective.”

Indeed it was with Grand Echezeaux going on to be so well-represented by two sire sons - Darci Brahma (NZ) and Burgundy (NZ).

A NZ$1.1 million yearling foaled at Pencarrow Darci Brahma was a horse who really knew how to find the line, successful at 10 of his 19 starts with five of his successes coming at the elite level.

From his base at The Oaks Stud, Darci Brahma excelled with 12 Group 1 winners amongst his 57 stakes winners. Having suffered from an infection that has effected his fertility, the 21-year-old faces retirement with General Manager Rick Williams telling us that, “We will test run a few mares in a few weeks' time to see if a miracle has occurred."

Whatever the results, Darci Brahma is a horse who has made his mark, not only with his results on and off the track, but as a personality.

“As a racehorse, he danced every dance,” Williams said. "And throughout that time and since he has been an absolute gentleman.

“And he passes his beautiful nature on to his progeny. The are straightforward horses who have done well in Hong Kong and Singapore which shows just how well they cope with the racehorse life.”

Rick is looking forward to watching what Darci Brahma's final crops can achieve whilst also enjoying his early success as a broodmare sire.

“He is young in that department but has been creeping up the sires' charts which is very promising.”

A Group 3 winner, Burgundy may've lived a bit in the shadow of his older half-brother but the former Cambridge Stud horse (he died in late 2019) was somewhat of a quiet achiever with his 10 stakes winners including the Group 1 fillies Belle En Rouge (NZ) and Maven Belle (NZ).

Leon Casey enjoyed the successes of both Darci Brahma and Burgundy, seeing in their progeny the same traits other members of the Richebourg family have exhibited.

“It is such a hard-wearing family and they are horses who have that great mix of speed and stamina. They are strong and sound and so very, very competitive.

“I have seen those qualities - toughness and versatility - in the progeny of Darci Brahma and Burgundy,” Casey said, proud to be involved in the careers of horses who made such a mark on New Zealand breeding and racing, noting that “There are not too many families that have produced high-class racehorses, broodmares and stallions.

“Getting to know the horses through the generations adds a whole new dimension to breeding. And some of the things I enjoy seeing most are the quirky things passed on.

Such as the Richebourg family trait of “not waiting well.”

“They just like to get on with things,” Casey said, pointing to Ethereal's well known and somewhat amusing trait of exaggerating her gait as she walked around the mounting yard.

“Quite a few of her family do that marching thing, I think it is just part of the competitive part of their nature - they want to get going!”

Something Sheila Laxon knows only too well, noting that her famous charge was rather ambitious from the get-go.

“I broke her in and absolutely loved her from the start, she recalled. I adored her attitude, her character. It was like she was telling me that I didn't have to show her much, she was, 'Yeah, yeah I know what to do!'

“She treated me with disdain really - her mum was the same, they saw people as their slaves!”

Which is a trait Sheila likes, keen to encourage the egos of horses who have that special bit of spark.

Considering herself “absolutely privileged” to have gone on Ethereal's journey, Sheila is thrilled that the mare is still going strongly - what a lovely life she has led at Pencarrow, it is like she has spent her days living at the Hilton!

Whilst Our Echezeaux (NZ) may not have been as talented as her full sister Grand Echezeaux she too fared well at stud with three stakes winners - the G2 Dulcie S. winner Dolmabache (NZ) (Redoute's Choice), the G3 Gold Trail S. winner Pure Elegance (NZ) (Redoute's Choice) and the Listed Matamata Cup winner Cote D'Or (NZ) (Makfi {GB}).

The latter is part of Richebourg's lasting legacy, one of 46 mares due to foal at Pencarrow this spring. And one of the 11 of those who are her descendants (she and two others being stakes winners) of Richebourg.

And the future looks bright for the family, these mares served by the likes of Almanzor (Fr), All Too Hard, Vadamos (Fr), Turn Me Loose (NZ), U S Navy Flag (USA), Super Seth, Eminent (Ire), Hello Youmzain (Fr), Proisir and Home Affairs.

Traditionally Pencarrow keeps around a third of its horses, selling the other two-thirds with enjoyment to be had from “watching other people enjoy success with our families.”

With so many good horses descending from those original mares, Leon is spot on when he says “to a broodmare farm, a top class broodmare is as vital as a champion stallion is to a stud.”

And Richebourg was one such mare.