Cambridge aids Petagna’s shot at award

Lib Petagna (right) and his racing manager, Bruce Perry, could cap a huge season on Sunday.

Lib Petagna (right) and his racing manager, Bruce Perry, could cap a huge season on Sunday.

Being crowned the Fasttrack Insurance Owner of the Year at the New Zealand Thoroughbred Awards ceremony in Auckland this weekend would cap a spectacular 12 months for Wellington-based businessman Lib Petagna.

Petagna, under his JML Bloodstock banner, is one of ten well-credentialed nominees for the category that will be presented at New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing’s Annual Horse of the Year Awards function to be held on Sunday night.

With voting now complete for all of the award categories it is a nervous wait for nominees, but Petagna is taking it all in his stride.

“It certainly is an honour just to be nominated and it would be a real highlight to be named the winner,” he said. “However, there are others I believe are just as deserving as I am.

“I’m just so lucky to have such a wonderful group of consummate professionals around me.

“People like Bruce Perry, who buys and manages my bloodstock, along with trainers the calibre of Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman, Stephen Marsh and Kris Lees have all played a major role in our success over the past few years.”

Although Petagna has any number of highlights to choose from in the past year, one of them stands out like a beacon when asked to select his season’s most memorable moment.

Sofia Rosa (Hugh Bowman) winning the Australian Oaks.

Sofia Rosa (Hugh Bowman) winning the Australian Oaks.

“That day at Royal Randwick in April when we picked up two Group One victories through Sofia Rosa (trained by Marsh) and Lucia Valentina (prepared by Lees) was something very special,” he recalled.

“Anyone who has ever owned a horse knows how hard it is to win a race, let alone a Group One, and to have the experience of winning two Group One races on the same day is something I will never forget.

“Personally, I thought Sofia Rosa was our best chance just through the pattern of racing on the day and the exposed form in the race. When she won the Oaks it was such a surreal moment, but then when Lucia Valentina came out and put in her career best effort to knock off a really top field in the Queen Elizabeth I just couldn’t really believe it.”

While happy to reflect on last season’s achievements, Petagna is just as excited about the prospects for his racing team over the next 12 months and beyond.

“We’ve got a really great mix of established horses as well as some exciting youngsters to look forward to this season,” he said.

“Hopefully, Lucia Valentina can continue the form she showed in the autumn as she builds towards the Cox Plate, while Sofia Rosa seems to have come back in great order with a possible Caulfield Cup attempt on her schedule.

“Eleonora (trained by Baker and Forsman) is a three-year-old filly I race with Dame Lowell Goddard and we are hoping to have some fun with her this year. She ran second at Ellerslie in stakes company to close her season out and had her first outing this time in at the Te Teko trials (yesterday) where she went nicely for third.

“Murray Baker has told me she is a true staying filly in the making so we would like to get her to the Oaks at Flemington in November if we can.

“Another of our three-year-olds is Ugo Foscolo (from Marsh stable), who was unbeaten in his two starts last season. There’s a great bunch of owners involved with him and we have him earmarked for the 2000 Guineas at Riccarton.”

Petagna is also looking forward to the upcoming breeding season which has seen him expand his portfolio of broodmares to capitalise on the opportunity presented when he purchased a 50 per cent share in Matamata’s Blandford Lodge back in October 2014.

“I’ve always bred one or two mares, but since the investment in Blandford I’ve worked with Bruce Perry to increase our numbers so that we can make the most of our involvement.

“I think with the mares included I have something like 40 to 50 horses in my current racing and breeding team which has really made me concentrate on running it as business as opposed to just a hobby.

“One of the changes I’m likely to make is to race more fillies in the future with an eye to their breeding potential so I am looking forward to that challenge.”

Although things have definitely gone in his favour of late, Petagna does have one regret in that he won’t be in Auckland on Sunday to attend the annual Thoroughbred Awards dinner.

“I have a number of commitments closer to home so I won’t be able to make it on Sunday,” he said.

“Bruce Perry will be representing me and he will be on hand to accept the trophy for the New Zealand Bloodstock Filly of the Year that Sofia Rosa won and anything else I might be lucky enough to receive.”

– NZ Racing Desk