Pheobe and Beckett Make Premier Debut

Frank Marrion
NZ Harness Racing Weekly – March 3, 2010

Cheviot has never exactly been a hotbed of Standardbred breeding, but Grant Beckett has been doing his bit to get the locals enthused.

Beckett is breeding from five trotting mares these days, and made his debut as a vendor at the Premier this year with two colts and two fillies from them after another was withdrawn.

He did relatively well in that respect with collective sales of $48,000 from three yearlings by Monarchy and one by Sundon, having raised and prepared them himself, but Beckett is still building towards offering at least half a dozen trotting colts a year and better quality again.

His colts for next year include a Quite Easy from the good race mare Kazzle Dazzle, while Take A Moment’s half-sister Juvena, whose first five foals are winners, and is in foal to Love You, so he is heading in the right direction.

Just escaping from this year’s Premier with the shirt on his back was no mean feat.

“There is obviously a much bigger and better buying bench for pacers, but they are a dime a dozen too and the trotters seem much more interesting to me,” said Beckett.

“Still it seems you also have to think a little outside the square to come up with a trotter that is going to sell well, just like the pacers.

“But I think there are more opportunities for progress with the trotters when you look at the sort of sire we can access now.

“It is getting quite exciting actually, and there is obviously enough money around for a good trotter,” he added.

Beckett and his wife Di are fourth generation sheep farmers at Phoebe just out of Cheviot, and this degree of involvement really only began a few years ago when they acquired four of those mares.

We breed sheep on three hundred acres after selling off a block of two hundred about eighteen months ago and in some ways there’s not a lot of difference between breeding sheep and horses.

“We cross Suffolk and Texels and cull heavily before breeding from about thirty percent of the rams, and much of it is about type.

“We also have a special needs daughter confined to a wheelchair who has just turned seven, and while you wouldn’t change anything there, it’s still a lot of work as well.

“So the trotters are my interest and hobby now – an out from the usual grind if you like.”

Beckett’s grandfather Jim also bred horses on the farm as a hobby, and among those was Sure Phoebe, a daughter of Quite Sure who won five races while on lease to George Murfitt, later producing the top mare Harbour Light (14 wins, two Canterbury Park Trotting Cups) and useful sorts in Phoebe Brigade and Phoebe Martial.

But Grant only got involved about seven years ago when leasing and then racing the good pacing mare Sue Dreamer, as part of the 13 member Cheviot Magpies Syndicate along with Mallen Streak (@ wins) also from Dean Taylor’s stable.

Beckett, the Vice President of the Cheviot TC, says that syndicate of locals was put together to promote interest in the game around town, and nowadays some of those people are also into breeding and working horses up.

Sue Dreamer won four races for Taylor including two at Addington before going north to Dave and Clare McGowan, for whom she has had two good wins in Auckland.

The first for a premier stake where she had a two-length romp over Maheer Dream and Western Dream at odds of 27-to-one in a mile rate of 1.59 for 2200m, while a month later she won the Group 3 NI Breeders Stakes, downing Waitfornoone by over two lengths.

The daughter of Dream Away and top filly Adios Trick then went to stud for the syndicate, which now numbers 5, and they have a colt foal by Bettor’s Delight.

“I’m not sure if he will go to the Sales – some of the syndicate members are getting on now, and won’t get the chance again to race such a good prospect.”

Sue Dreamer was the ninth and last foal from Adios Trick, an Australian bred daughter of Overtrick whose first four foals had been winners including Hanover Trick (5 NZ wins, US1.54.6)

Sue Dreamer has now gone back into the ownership of Delvin Dickerby’s estate.

While this was going on with Sue Dreamer and Mallen Streak, who won twice at Forbury Park a bit earlier, Beckett ventured into the breeding side of the game by acquiring Ashley Sunset, a first crop daughter of Sundon and Harbour Light’s daughter Life Line (4 NZ wins) who had won a race for Frank Murfitt at Forbury Park.

Life Line, a daughter of Tuft, also recorded 26 placing’s and produced Dominion and Inter-Dominion winner William Dee along with useful sorts in Great Life and Ashley Blossom.

The latter is the dam of Don King (15 Aus. wins $120,100), the sun of Sundon who won the Group 1 Dullard Cup beating Acacia Ridge in January before competing in the Iner-Doms.

“When I saw her advertised in the Harness Racing Weekly, I jumped at the chance because of the link to my grandfather’s old mare.

Frank (Murfitt) was thrilled about it too, because she was going to a good home.

Bringing in his uncle John Honeybone, Ashley Sunset was bred to Continentalman initially for two colts and they raced the first in Phoebe Sunset for five wins, three from Dave Anderson’s stable and two for Nicky Chilcott before he was sold to Australia last year and won twice at Harold Park.

Like pretty much anyone in the game, the highlight of Beckett’s involvement to date has been Phoebe Sunset’s first win, particularly when it came at a Cheviot meeting as a 3-year-old, before then lining up in the Trotting Derby.

“We had a lot of fun with Sue Dreamer, but your first win as a breeder is something else again, and we made the most of it with family and friends.

“He later went north because he was proving hopeless from stands down here, but he turned into a great standing start horse for Nicky and only had one mobile from twenty-six races for her.

“The second colt was Phoebe Gladiator, who was bought for $15,000 ‘on spec’ by Tony Herlihy at the Premier.

The 5-year-old had a win at Alexandra Park and several placing’s before being transferred to Dane Alexander just recently.

Ashley Sunset then had a dead foal however and she has proved difficult since, only producing fillies by Wrestle and Monarchy.

The Wrestle filly Phoebe Revival started in a non-tote 2-year-old trot at Addington a few weeks ago but has been turned out to strengthen up, while the Monarchy filly was the withdrawal from the Premier Sale “as we already had some money in that kitty from the sale of Sunset”.

Beckett and Honeybone take turns choosing the sires for Ashley Sunset and she is now in foal to the latter’s choice in Thanksgiving.

Honeybone has a yearling colt by Thanksgiving from his own mare in Neroli Rush.

It was in the spring of 2007 that Beckett went looking for more trotting broodmare prospects and started with Juverna, who had a 10-day-old Sundon filly on her when she was offered at a dispersal sale of Bill Cameron and bought for $6200.

“That season there was a two-for-one deal going with Monarchy so I then leased French Connection.

“The Sundon filly is now the 2-year-old Sunny Moment, who is spelling after a nasty kick, while to Monarchy, Juverna produced the colt which sold for $20,000 at the Premier last month.

She left a filly by Quite Easy this season and is back in foal to Love You, and Beckett is now pretty keen to ‘protect’ this family now.

Her fifth foal and fifth winner is the Sundon gelding Cameo’s Moment, a promising 3-year-old in Victoria.

He won his 2-year-old debut at Bendigo in June, and won at Cranbourne and Maryborough when resuming late last year.

Juverna’s first two foals have been handy trotters in Kevies Moment (2 wins to date) and Bankers Moment (4 wins to date), while the fourth in Eight Double Eight is going much further than his two recent wins over Vulcan and The Tower.

When he came from behind the latter to score at Ashburton on Boxing Day, Eight Double Eight trotted his last quarter in about 26.5 to beat him and close relation The Moment.

The Love You foal from Juverna, who is also from a half-sister to the dam of Stig, will have two lines of French blood in her pedigree, as her dam Nakura is by Jet d’Emeraude.

French Connection would leave a filly by Monarchy which as Ms Sarkozy, sold for $4000 late in the piece on the third day at the Premier, but she now has a Monarchy colt and is in foal to Continentalman for a foal which will be a three-quarter to Chocolate Brownie.

Away Away, a half-sister to Locofoco (US1.53.8, 6 NZ & 2 Aus wins, Breeders Crown 3yo) and Lockerup, the dam of Sovereignty, La Femme D’Argent and The Tower from her first three foals by Monarchy, was then purchased at the 2008 Mixed Sale in foal to Monarchy for $4500.

That resulted in the filly Zara Philips, who was also sold on the third day in Christchurch for $7000, while she is back in foal on a free return to Monarchy.

Away Away first left four straight foals for Keith Gibson, where the last of them in Prince Harry won his ninth race last Saturday, but she has been slipping every second year for Beckett.

“Gael Murray led her into the ring at the Sale and later warned me she was proving a bit difficult.

“I went to school with Gael’s sister, and she was a few years behind us.

“She looks after my mares at stud now and from having thirteen in total there this season, thirteen are in foal, so mine won’t be going anywhere soon.

“Kazzle Dazzle came later that year after being advertised in the Weekly as well, and she dropped a Sundon colt a month later which sold for $17,000 late in the day at the Premier.

A winner of five races and a half-sister to good sorts in Avatar and What Ever You Are, Kazzle Dazzle has left just the one winner from four foals of racing age, but the other three are fillies which haven’t had much luck.

Beckett has her back in foal to Muscle Mass, who shares the same third dam in Keystone Profile as Quite Easy.

“The trotters have been more affordable, but I now see a need to be involved in the better end of the market.

“I think we’ve bought into reasonably commercial families, so now it’s just a matter of breeding them right and hopefully keeping the right fillies to go on with one day.”