Farmers chasing Cup reward

Zacada, who carries Cambridge’s big hopes as an outsider in tomorrow’s Melbourne Cup.

The O’Leary brothers won’t be the only New Zealand farmers cheering on a horse they own in tomorrow’s A$7 million Lexus Melbourne Cup (3200m) at Flemington.

Dan, Humphrey, Michael and Shaun O’Leary have become well-known as the owners of the warhorse Who Shot Thebarman, who will be having his fourth crack at the Melbourne Cup in a bid to better his best result, third in 2014.

One of the opposition this year is Cambridge stayer Zacada, who is owned by Rotorua dairy farmers Andrew Bryant and David Armstrong along with Sir Patrick and Justine, Lady Hogan.

“We got to know the Barman boys when we ran in the Sydney Cup (3200m),” Bryant said. “They won it and we came so close (beaten a nose). It was such a huge thrill.”

There has been had no joy in four starts with Zacada since the Sydney Cup and his owners were on tenterhooks awaiting confirmation of a place in the Melbourne Cup field until late Saturday.

“It was an absolute roller-coaster,” Bryant said. “One minute we looked like we’d just get it then there was a doubt.

“When we got it we had a big night on the town on Saturday night. (Sir) Patrick joined us and we celebrated, mind you we kept reminding him of the ‘beautiful’ draw he drew for us– 24 out of 24..

“It’s such a huge thrill to have a runner in a Melbourne Cup. (Sir) Patrick has been there and done that before, but it’s a first for David and I, even though he’s rated a 200/1 chance. He wasn’t fancied either when he ran in the Sydney Cup ($91).”

Like the Who Shot Thebarman camp, Bryant and Armstrong also have a strong support group on hand to cheer on Zacada on Tuesday.

“There are 30 family and friends who have come over for it, some of them farmers from around the area,” Bryant said.

”It’s great for us to have them here. Now we’re looking forward to Cup day.

“Murray says Zacada is a happy horse and the forecast is for a bit of rain and that would help him. We know he stays the distance.”

Bryant, Chairman of Racing Rotorua, and the Hogans have been friends for 40-odd years, having been neighbours in Cambridge from the late 1970s for many years before the shift to the Rotorua region.

Bryant and Armstrong have enjoyed Group One success as breeders of the New Zealand Oaks (2400m) winner Midnight Oil and just missed out by a matter of hours doubling that celebration as owners. “Her sale went through the morning of the Oaks,” Bryant said.

They bought Zacada’s dam, Lacada, a Giant’s Causeway daughter of the dual Gr.1 winner Showella in foal to Holy Roman Emperor, from Coolmore Stud during a trip to the Hunter Valley.

After breeding a couple of foals, including Iking (11 wins in Australia, Malaysia and Singapore), they then entered in a foal-sharing arrangement to Zabeel with the Hogans and bred Gr.2 Waikato Guineas (2000m) runner-up Giant Turtle (six wins)  and Zacada, whose best win is the Gr.2 Avondale Cup (2400m).

Zacada, the winner of almost $650,000 in prizemoney, traces directly back to Show Gate, one of New Zealand’s greatest mares who won 30 races and was twice NZ Horse Of The Year, while Lacada is a half-sister to Showcase, whose wins included the Gr.3 New Zealand Cup, Gr.2 Avondale Cup (2400m) and Gr.2 City Of Auckland Cup (2400m).

“We lost Lacada last year. Her Dissident foal was born dead then she died,” Bryant said. “But fortunately we’ve got two of her daughters, one by Encosta de Lago that we’ve leased out, and Declarada, by Declaration of War who is spelling and will go into work with Murray and Andrew.”

For now, though, it’s all focus on Zacada and his longshot crack at the legendary Melbourne Cup.