Kia Ora Stud enjoyed a red-letter afternoon at Caulfield on Saturday courtesy of stakes wins from million-dollar yearling purchase Eneeza (Exceed And Excel) and farm graduate Serasana (Snitzel). The Thoroughbred Report spoke to the operation’s racing manager, Luke Wilkinson, to find out more about two very valuable fillies with bright futures.

The day got off to the perfect start for Kia Ora when expensive yearling recruit Eneeza built on the promise of her debut effort to justify short-price favouritism in the Listed Merson Cooper S., a race won last year by subsequent G1 Blue Diamond S. hero Little Brose (Per Incanto {USA}).

Sent off at prohibitive odds of $2.40 having beaten all bar smart juvenile Karavas (Alabama Express) on debut in the G3 Ottawa S., Eneeza put her race experience to good use and ran out a most comprehensive winner of the Listed contest, beating Flattered (Yes Yes Yes) – a three-quarter sister to multiple Group winner Rubisaki (Rubick) – and a host of other well-credentialed 2-year-olds in the process.

The Peter Moody and Katherine Coleman-trained filly certainly didn’t have everything go her way, running four-wide and without cover for the duration of the contest, which makes the manner of her emphatic 2.25l victory all the more meritorious in the eyes of Wilkinson.

“She was very impressive,” he said. “She didn’t have any favours in the run, not that being wide over 1000 metres at Caulfield is a nightmare, but she’s a 2-year-old so she still had to be pretty professional to be wide and hit the line.

“Her work on Tuesday leading in suggested that she’d be terribly hard to beat. I always like it when a 2-year-old beats an older horse in a gallop, and she did that pretty convincingly at Pakenham on Tuesday.

“I know there was a bit of hype on a few of the first starters, but for me experience is very beneficial for young horses and she’d had that run at Flemington, where she was quite good. The leader in that race leant all over her for the last 200 metres and she still found the line pretty well, only to be swamped by a nice horse from South Australia (Karavas).

“We’re very happy with her so far.”

By one of the world’s greatest 2-year-old sires in Exceed And Excel out of the Listed Maribyrnong Trial S. heroine Sweet Sherry (Bel Esprit), it’s no surprise that Eneeza is showing such abundant talent so early in her racing career.

After making her stakes breakthrough on debut, Sweet Sherry went on to finish sixth and seventh respectively in the G1 Blue Diamond S. and G1 Golden Slipper S. later in her juvenile season, and Wilkinson confirmed that both those races are now under consideration for the precociously bred Eneeza, as is the lucrative R. Listed Magic Millions 2YO Classic on the Gold Coast next month.

“From day dot she has always shown a high level of ability,” Wilkinson said. “Sarah from Hinterland Thoroughbreds said she was very professional, and Peter Moody and Katherine Coleman have also said that every gallop and jump-out has been of a high level.

“She’s qualified for the Magic Millions now but she might be a Blue Diamond into a Golden Slipper type of horse instead. We’ll sit down with the owners together with Pete and Katherine and make a call.

“We’ll let the dust settle, but those are the options – Magic Millions or a Blue Diamond-Golden Slipper path.”

A win in any of those three lucrative juvenile contests would see Kia Ora and Tony Fung Investments (TFI) recoup all of the $1.1 million the partnership paid for Eneeza at the Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale earlier this year, where she was consigned by Silverdale Farm.

Having sold her year-older half-sister to Badgers Bloodstock and Glentree Thoroughbreds for $1.35 million in 2022, Eneeza’s dam Sweet Sherry has proved to be a real money spinner for the Southern Highlands-based operation, whose average price of $483,333 at the Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale in 2023 was bettered only by Segenhoe Stud.

The $1.1 million outlaid for Eneeza – who is the first stakes winner bred on the Exceed And Excel-Bel Esprit cross that boasts a 100 per cent winners to runners strike rate – undoubtedly went a long way to helping Silverdale achieve such an impressive average figure at last year’s Gold Coast auction, and Wilkinson believes the farm deserves significant praise for raising such a talented filly.

“I think Eneeza was on everyone’s list at the sales, she was very forward,” Wilkinson recalled.

“That draft at Silverdale was quite good and it’s a testament to the team there. She was one of about four or five standout horses in that draft and she made $1.1 million.

“I reckon blind Freddie could have seen her at the sales. A lot of people liked her.”

Eneeza was one of four yearlings signed for by the Kia Ora-TFI partnership at the Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale earlier this year, a quartet that was spearheaded by the $1.8 million purchase of an Exceed And Excel half-brother to last season’s runaway G3 Breeders’ Plate winner Empire Of Japan (Snitzel).

Kia Ora and TFI also teamed up to purchase a further six yearlings in partnership with some of Australia’s leading stables, including the likes of Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott and Ciaron Maher and David Eustace, for a total combined spend of $7.65 million across 10 horses.

Eneeza could just be the tip of the iceberg according to Wilkinson, who revealed that several of those purchases from Magic Millions earlier this year could be making their presence felt on racetracks across Australia very soon, with a Pierata colt out of Group 2 winner and G1 Coolmore Classic runner-up Oregon’s Day (Domesday) singled out as a horse of particular promise.

“It’s a great partnership that’s going really well so far and there’s a few lovely animals to come that are about to step out,” Wilkinson said.

“The one that has really caught my eye is Pushpa. She’s by Pierata out of Oregon’s Day and is a lovely filly with Annabel Neasham.

“I had a lot to do with Oregon’s Day when she was at Mick Price’s yard and this filly very much reminds me of her.”

Although much was expected of Eneeza on Saturday, the same cannot be said of Kia Ora’s other stakes winner on the Caulfield card, Serasana (Snitzel), who sprung a minor surprise with the ease in which overcame a wide barrier to storm to a 2.5l victory in the G2 Sandown Guineas.

Bred, raised and sold as a yearling by Kia Ora, who retained a share in the daughter of Snitzel, Serasana was purchased by her trainers Griffiths de Kock Racing in conjunction with MDK International and Peter Ford Thoroughbreds (FBAA) for $400,000 at the Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale.

An impressive winner on debut as a 2-year-old, Wilkinson and co-trainer Mathew de Kock identified Saturday’s Group 2 contest as an ideal opportunity to secure some valuable black type for the lightly-raced Serasana, who is raced by a partnership which includes hugely successful South African breeders Drakenstein Stud.

“She was the last yearling to go through the Easter Sale in her year,” Wilkinson recalled. “Robbie (Griffiths) and Mat bought her and we’re appreciative of the support from trainers who buy off us, so we were happy to stay in for half of her.

“Straight after her last start over 1400 metres at Sandown, Mat de Kock and I discussed this race meeting. It was either the Twilight Glow or the Sandown Guineas, and we both agreed that it might be a good opportunity to step her up to a mile because there hadn’t been a real dominant colt that was going that way.

“We had respect for Arkansaw Kid, but we weren’t 100 per cent convinced that he was going to be strong at a mile. She had trained well since her last start and when we went through the fields in the lead up the only concern was that we didn’t draw a good barrier.

“We spoke to Johnny Allen before the race about tactics and going forward, and it worked out perfectly. I’ll be honest, I thought she might run third, but to win was a great surprise.”

After returning from a setback incurred after her second and final start as a juvenile, Serasana hadn’t pulled up any trees in her three subsequent outings prior to Saturday’s victory, but the daughter of Group 2-winning juvenile Twilight Royale (Testa Rossa) took an almighty step forward on her first crack at 1600 metres, something which Wilkinson feels her trainers deserve a huge amount of credit for.

“She chipped a knee after her second start in the Chairman’s (Stakes) and she had surgery, so we gave her some serious time off,” he revealed.

“Our aim had always been to try and get her to the Thousand Guineas, which had been pushed back this year, but she just needed a bit of extra time and hadn’t set the world on fire after that long break.

“Saturday was testament to the training effort of Robbie Griffiths and Mat de Kock, because they had her ready to go in a Group 2 and now they can never take that off her, which is fantastic for her pedigree.

“It was a very good win for the team and good for the product of Kia Ora Stud.”

Serasana will now bid to add further black type to her pedigree page next preparation, where a trip interstate could be on the cards for the sister to Listed Weetwood H. placegetter Royal Hale (Snitzel).

“We’ll probably go to the paddock now and there’s quite a few nice 3-year-old Group races in South Australia that might suit her in the new year,” Wilkinson added.

“We’ll be taking gradual steps and I think she could really build on her pedigree in those stakes races for 3-year-old fillies going up to a mile in South Australia. I think she should be suited by the trip up there.”

Serasana’s dam, Twilight Royale, has a yearling filly by Kia Ora’s resident stallion Farnan heading to the sales next year, and with next month’s Magic Millions Gold Coast Yearling Sale rapidly approaching, excitement is beginning to build around the Kia Ora paddocks as the team prepares to watch 39 of the G1 Golden Slipper winner’s first yearlings make their way through the ring.

Farnan’s barnmate, Prague, also has a healthy 14 of his first-crop yearlings bound for the Gold Coast auction, spearheaded by a filly out of the multiple Group-winning Street Cry (Ire) mare Sabatini, whose first foal to race, Fire Star (Deep Field), made a winning debut at Wyong earlier this year.

All the team at Kia Ora will have been buoyed by the start that Alabama Express, who like Prague is a son of Redoute’s Choice, has made to his burgeoning stallion career, but no one more so than Wilkinson, who had plenty to do with the purchase of Alabama Express during his tenure at Yulong.

“I’ve been following him closely and Sam Fairgray text me when he had his first winner,” Wilkinson said of Alabama Express.

“He’s going really well and we’re excited for Prague on that same sireline. He gets good, strong types and they look exactly what trainers look for – really strong and forward.

“The Prague filly out of Sabatini is a very nice horse.”

Wilkinson is very happy with the overall quality of Kia Ora’s 12-strong draft bound for the Gold Coast next month, and is keen to get a feel for how those in Kia Ora’s barn stack up against those from other farms when the team hits the road for yearling inspections later this week.

“There’s lots of nice Farnans out there and our Magic Millions draft includes some really nice Pragues – we’re very happy,” he added.

“Sometimes if you’re just looking at your own horses and they’re all pretty nice, you want to see them against other nice horses and get a feel for where they are at, so we’re very excited to be starting our outside inspections next week in the Southern Highlands.”

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