Welcome to Valachi Downs
Valachi Downs is a boutique thoroughbred stud located near Matamata, in the heart of New Zealand's thoroughbred nursery: the Waikato. Established from modest beginnings, the farm has grown from the original 50 acre dairy farm purchased in 2005, and has developed into a 270+ acre horse breeding operation. The stud has been purpose built from the ground up and reflects the many terrains of the region. Hill country, rolling pastures and lush flat lands make up the landscape of the farm, along with first class stabling facilities and kilometres of post and rail fencing. The stud reflects the focus on quality and attention to detail that is synonymous with the co-founder of Ryman Healthcare and stud owner Kevin Hickman.
Valachi Downs has enjoyed success, in both the sales ring and on the racetrack.The stud's first draft at the New Zealand Bloodstock Yearling Sales in 2008 saw a record high Select Sale price of $300,000 for a Scardee Cat colt from Valachi Downs mare My Kinda Girl. Then in 2011 and 2012 it was Derby winners that bought the stud to the fore. Australian Derby winner Shamrocker was raised at the stud and sold through the Select Sale for $65,000 for Valachi clients.
Press Release - Gareth Downey
Following seven years as Business Development and Client Services Manager at Waikato Stud, Gareth Downey is a welcome addition to Valachi Downs in Matamata.
“Gareth was looking for a change, identified the growth in Valachi and it’s a great opportunity for us to employ someone with his experience and depth of knowledge to help us with our development,” said Valachi general manager Jonathan Scully.
“The appointment couldn’t have come at a better time,” he added, referring to Valachi entering the breeding fray this season with freshman sire Savile Row (Makfi) and proven stallion Zacinto (Dansili) who is relocating from Inglewood Stud in North Canterbury.
Downey trained as an accountant and spent time working in the manufacturing and biotech industry, but always had huge passion for racing and breeding and first gained the chance to be involved full-time after approaching Mark Chittick (Waikato Stud).
“When I started there (Waikato Stud), it was superb, because initially I was out on the farm, hands-on, actually learning what working in the industry was all about, then liaising with clients in pedigree analysis, while learning off Mark, Garry (Chittick), and the whole team.
Through the experience, Downey admits that his confidence levels within the industry are infinitely better now than when he first started.
“It takes awhile to get a proper understanding of how the industry works and dealing with breeders and yearling buyers is certainly a highlight,” he said. “You develop wonderful relationships with these people, while hopefully playing a part in helping them achieve their goals.
The change comes about for Downey at an ideal time for him to impart the knowledge and skills he has developed.
“I approached Valachi, as the launch of their new stallion venture looks exciting and they are certainly expanding,” Downey said.
“I feel there is a strong philosophical alignment with how Kevin & Joanna (Hickman) want to develop Valachi. It’s a wonderful opportunity for me, it will be great to research the two new stallions and help breeders with their mating to them and a key part to me joining Valachi is the belief I have in both Savile Row and Zacinto.
“It’s a perfect way for Valachi to launch into the stallion business, with a proven and a first season sire. Savile Row is a magnificent looking horse with a beautiful head. He looks immaculate, has a great nature, good size, very close to being a dual Group One winner and he looks perfect heading into his first season.
Downey said that Zacinto is “probably a much more successful stallion than people give him credit for”.
“I did some updated stats on stallions standing this year in New Zealand (44 believe it or not) and if you rank them all according to percentage stakes winners to runners, which is probably the fairest measure, Savabeel is obviously number one, which everybody would know, but Zacinto is number two and I don’t know how many people would be aware of that,” he said.
“He’s had five stakes winners from 58 runners, which is over 8%, and there are only six stallions in all of Australasia above that mark so it puts him in elite company. Although he hasn’t served big numbers he’s still managed to get five stakes winners. But, he has been supported by astute breeders and that would have helped.”
Already sire of 2000 Guineas (Gr. 1, 1600m) winner Ugo Foscolo, one of the rising stars for Zacinto is two-year-old colt Vassilator, winner of the Anzac Stakes (Listed, 1400m) in April and another $100,000 race, both at Flemington, trained by Colin Little, and just returned to training as a potential $2m Caulfield Guineas (Gr. 1, 1600m) contender on 13 October at Caulfield.
“He had three weeks out in the paddock after his last win,” Little said. “The horse was going quite well, but we couldn’t contemplate going all through the winter and into the spring. We think he has a presence in the spring, so that’s why he had three weeks and he’s been back in the stables for two weeks.
“We’re happy with him and he’ll go into the spring, possibly Caulfield Guineas, but I’ll just take him along and see how we go. We’ve got a high opinion of him and he’ll remain a colt. We don’t expect any problems there.”
Out of the High Chaparral (Sadler’s Wells) mare Highlights, Little bought Vassilator for $25,000 at the 2017 New Zealand Bloodstock Select Yearling Sale, from the draft of Windsor Park.
“He’s a nice horse, laidback, great temperament, very strong, and we certainly like him,” Little said. “We think he can get over a fair bit of ground. He got a lovely attitude, relaxed and can quicken. Not sure how far, but 2000 metres doesn’t present any problems in my opinion.”
Little was drawn to Zacinto after training a filly named Soft Sand, by his sire Dansili (Danehill), and from his first crop bought Navagio (ex. Pikea, by Anabaa), also at Karaka.
“I’ve bought two Zacinto’s and both are Flemington winners, so I’ve got a soft spot for the stallion. Soft Sand was a very, very good filly, just beaten an inch in the Myer. I’ve always thought Dansili was one of the best stallions in the world, so that’s where I’ve started with Zacinto.”
Contact Gareth Downey: 0272 056 687
Zacinto has done a magnificent job with mainly South Island mares and now gives North Island breeders a better opportunity, standing this season at Valachi Downs Stud in Matamata.
Zacinto is second ranked to Champion stallion Savabeel (Zabeel) in percentage stakes winners to runners – over 8% which places him in elite Australasian stallion company.
“He upgrades type, he upgrades ability, upgrades the general conformation of the mare and temperaments as well,” said Inglewood Stud general manager Gus Wigley, of Zacinto who commenced stallion duties in 2012.
“You can put a rough, angry mare to him and he throws a good natured foal. Those have been his real strengths, so far, and he can really tidy up the progeny of big, scopey mares, and has shown to really suit them.
“Anyone that has handled his progeny loved them and it’s the main reason why clients kept coming back to support him when he was here in the South Island. A lot of them are breed to race people, have to handle the foals, so when they’re easy natured and willing horses people like dealing with them.
“The timing is good for him to get his chance in the North Island. It’s opened up a new and bigger pool of mares, some better quality ones, so it’s exciting to give him that chance,” Wigley said.
Wigley said that breeders are buoyed by results in Australia, and hence why Zacinto progeny averaged $116,000 this year at Karaka.
“Zacinto could have a big spring,” Wigley said. “Two-year-old stakes winning colt Vassilator is back in work, aiming towards the Caulfield Guineas, Odeon, the Caulfield Cup, and Navagio is a pretty serious horse.
“He’s left five stakes winners so far, and four of them have a double of superior mare Special in the pedigree. So, anything with Sadler’s Wells, Nureyev, Encosta De Lago, Testa Rossa, and mares by any stallions that go back to Special just seems to click really well.
“Those with Special in the pedigree, you can pick them out in the paddock: they’re absolute standouts on type. We have loved breeding back to blue hen mares with Zacinto and it’s worked really well, with a clear pattern of success.
“His 2000 Guineas winner Ugo Foscolo is out of a Stravinsky mare, which has a 3 x 3 sex balance double to Nureyev, so that has been a good cross.
“Canny Lad has also crossed well with Zacinto. He appears in the pedigree of Ugo Foscolo and also Zavagio, a filly that won a $100,000 race over 1100 metres on debut at Flemington,” he said.