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Bluebloods : Karaka 2010 Yearling Sale Preview
54 TOM MURTAGH he highest quality sales preparation service, producing the best results -- that was Tom and Shelly Murtagh's vision when they set up Esker Lodge in 1996, and it's a vision they have fully realised. The very first horse sold under the Esker Lodge banner at Karaka was a Grosvenor filly for long-time private breeder Betty Saunders. The filly made $115,000 and Esker Lodge has regularly appeared on leading vendor lists ever since. Shelly says, "Our relationships with our clients are very important to us. We want to achieve the best possible results for them, and we take great delight in seeing any of the horses we've sold go on and succeed on the racetrack. "People like Betty, and Gary and Lyn Witters have long since ceased to be only clients -- they've become real friends." Gary and Lyn bred the Zabeel-Foreign Copy colt that Esker Lodge sold at the 2000 Karaka Premier Sale for $1,500,000. Esker Lodge sold a second seven-figure colt at the 2008 Karaka Premier Sale. By Redoute's Choice from the New Zealand Derby winner Popsy, he's now named Maciano and is shaping up as a very exciting three-year-old this season. "We try hard to build a relationship of trust with the people who buy from us. Your reputation for honesty and providing quality, genuine horses that go on and perform is crucial. Hopefully we've achieved that, because people keep coming back and buying off us again." Tom and Shelly are among the few New Zealand vendors who specialise in sales preparation rather than breeding, and sell regularly at all New Zealand sales. Shelly says, "Good racehorses can come from any sale and we believe in targeting the right horse for the right market." That's what the Murtaghs had in mind when they sold a No Excuse Needed filly at the 2008 South Island Sale. Named Lesley Brook, she went on to win a Listed Race only 12 weeks later. Esker Lodge's top-priced horse at the 2009 South Island Sale, by Bel Esprit from Polar Sky, is already named Polar Esprit, and looks as if he may emulate her achievement. Over the last few years Esker Lodge has expanded in size, enabling Tom and Shelly to provide a more complete service for their clients. "We manage equine interests for several overseas clients and they range from foals through to racehorses." Headline performers sold by Esker Lodge are Bramble Rose (WRC New Zealand Oaks G1), La Bella Dama (VRC Mackinnon S. Gr. 1), Maroofity (three-time Group One winner), Rock 'N' Roll Kid (15 wins in Macau) and Group winners Bird Of Fire, Pentathon and Capecover. Current stars from Esker Lodge drafts are Given Vision (winner of two legs of the rich Singapore T ESKER LODGE Three-Year-Old Challenge, and second in the Singapore Gold Cup Sing-1), Who Knows (HBRI Gordon Kelt Memorial Gr. 3), Revolte (Singapore Guineas Gr. 3), and Naval Escort (3rd VRC Queen Elizabeth S. Gr. 3). KARAKA 2010 STANDOUTS: Fastnet Rock- Popsy colt -- "A strong, powerful, in-your-face, early running type." Pins-Kind Return filly -- "A lovely, strong, good- sized filly, she's all quality." She's the second foal of a Group One-placed Zabeel mare, herself a half- sister to Gr. 1 Kindacross and sister to Gr.2 Respect UNDER THE RADAR PICK: Snitzel-Lumir colt -- "He's done so well since he arrived here, and has developed into a lovely colt, a very smart type." He's the first foal of an Encosta de Lago half-sister to champion Australian two-year-old colt, three-year-old and sprinter Mahogany. AT THE END OF SALE DAY: "We normally use the evening to discuss and analyse our day, and strategise the next one. However, we always make time for Michael Clements, Jayven See and Dr K.C. Tan, who are good friends as well as long-time clients. "Don Campbell is another person we try to catch up with. An evening with Don usually leaves you wanting to go home and write a book about the experience!"
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