Swettenham silks winning in New Zealand

A famous set of racing colours which dominated international racing for decades has popped up in the winners’ circle in New Zealand.

The distinctive emerald green body, royal blue sleeves, white with green spotted cap silks of Robert Sangster were carried to successive victories by Irish-bred import Sinnfonia at Te Aroha and Tauranga late last year.

Sinnfonia is part-owned by Robert Sangster’s son Adam who bought the family’s Swettenham Stud business in Australia following the death of his father in 2004.

Irish bred Sinnfonia (Sinndar) is the first to carry the Swettenham colours in New Zealand since Robert Sangster purchased stakes-performed filly Venus Was Her Name as a three-year-old in 2002.

Venus Was Her Name ran fifth for Swettenham Stud in the 2003 New Zealand Oaks from Mike Moroney’s Ballymore Stables.  That same Matamata base is where Sinnfonia is trained in partnership with Chad Ormsby.

Robert Sangster was five times champion British owner within a seven year period from 1977-1984 and won many of the major races in England, Ireland and France.  He raced no less than 17 Classic winners with horses like Assert, Caerleon, El Gran Senor, Golden Fleece, Jaaziero, King’s Lake, Las Meninas, Law Society, Lomond, Prince of Birds, Rodrigo de Triano, Sadler’s Wells and The Minstrel.

Other top-class racehorses included dual Prix de I’Arc de Triomphe winner Alleged, conqueror of Kiwi hero Balmerino in the second of them, champion sprinting mare Committed, another Arc winner Detroit, dual Ascot Gold Cup winner Gildoran (once in the hands of NZ Racing Hall of Famer Brent Thomson) and Royal Academy.

In the early 1970s, Robert Sangster formed an alliance with two Irishmen, then 23-year-old breeder John Magnier and leading trainer Vincent O’Brien, and this trio, nick-named “The Brethren”, set up the current breeding juggernaut Coolmore Stud.

Many of Sangster’s champion colts retired there after being developed as racehorses at the Ballydoyle training establishment.

Robert Sangster’s attentions turned towards Australia in the late 1970s and his colours quickly earned fame Down Under when import Beldale Ball beat top Kiwi mare (Our) Blue Denim in the 1980 Melbourne Cup.

New Zealand’s standing on the Australasian breeding and racing landscape didn’t escape Sangster’s notice and his first racehorse purchase there resulted in a 1983 Group 1 Caulfield Guineas win with Beechcraft.

That year, Robert Sangster formed a partnership with Australian breeders Norman Carlyon and Ananda Krishnan plus Pencarrow Stud’s Peter and Phillip Vela to buy four racing fillies at Tattersalls December sale in England.

From that group sent to New Zealand to race in Sangster’s colours emerged G2 winner Belfe, G1 placed La Grigia and Country Charm, later dam of four-time G1 winner Riverina Charm.

However, Robert Sangster’s biggest legacy to New Zealand breeding and racing came in the shape of another import, this time a well-bred broodmare from England via Australia – the internationally recognised Eight Carat (GB).

Eight Carat arrived under Swettenham Stud’s ownership in 1983 and her first covering to Sir Tristram at Cambridge Stud produced another top-liner to carry the Sangster silks in Kaapstad.

Cambridge Stud’s Patrick Hogan acquired Eight Carat shortly afterwards and, coincidentally, Adam Sangster arrived at the stud for work experience not long after Kaapstad’s birth.  The 1987 VRC Sires’ Produce Stakes winner was the first horse Adam raced.

While in Cambridge, Adam formed a friendship with bloodstock consultant Paul Moroney who was a senior racing reporter for the Waikato Times at that time.

Paul’s purchase of Sinnfonia at last year’s December Sale in England instigated the revival of the Sangster colours in New Zealand.  “I bought Sinnfonia and offered her to Adam,” Paul explained.  “She was particularly well-bred and a cracking type.  I believed she still had a bright racing future despite injury halting her career up north after one run at two in what had become a strong form-line race.”

Adam bought 50% of Sinnfonia with Ballymore Stables Australia and not only does she looks stakes class herself, a half-brother, Burano, has since won a stakes race in Dubai.

“Sinnfonia was already a half-sister to a stakes place-getter in England, her dam is half-sister to dual Group 1 winner, Kalanisi, and it’s a high-class Aga Khan family so everyone’s delighted,” Paul added.

“Adam was over the moon when he rang after her second win as it was the first time he could recall the colours winning consecutively anywhere since Beechcraft in the early 1980s.”

Sinndar filly carries the famous Swettenham silks to victory at Te Aroha

Photo / Tracksnaps