Perseverance pays off for Hutton
Vacation Hill returns after winning the NZ Trotting Oaks
12 May 2020
by Brad Reid
The old adage ‘you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone’ will ring true with many of New Zealand’s trotting breeders.
Muscle Hill is a sire who averages $100K+ with drafts of 100+ every year in North America. His service fee commands an undisclosed figure rumoured to be north of $40,000 and yet several of this year’s age group trotting winners couldn’t get near that figure at the NZ yearling sales when offered by their vendors.
Cracker Hill, the brilliant winner of the Hambletonian was passed in for $40,000.
Chloe Rose, a New Zealand record holder this term when winning the Sires Stakes Classique, was sold for $21,000.
New Zealand Two Year Old Trotter of the Year Bolt For brilliance was sold for $30,000.
Muscle Mountain was knocked down for $30,000 and Midnight Dash passed in for $40,000.
What do they all have in common?
They were all sold at the 2018 Premiere Sale in Christchurch and they have all exceeded $30,000 in stakes.
They have achieved this despite the limited prize money on offer for square gaiters in their two year old season and early into their three year old campaigns, with their lucrative three year old season riches of the Derbies and Sires Stakes Features yet to be run.
New Zealand Oaks winner Vacation Hill is another to add to the same list of Muscle Hill yearlings offered that year, and her breeder Bruce Hutton is still scratching his head as to how.
“I think they must have thought what is Bruce Hutton doing selling this horse when he keeps and races all of his, but I had already made the decision early on that she would be sold and she never got a bid,” he said.
Despite having no obvious faults, the daughter of Muscle Hill out of Vacanza, a Dream Vacation NZ record holder from the paternal family of Sundon and Pine Chip was unwanted.
“She was a lovely filly, and a couple of days later Kevin Townley called me to see if she was still for sale and he bought her over the phone.
“I got to break her in which was part of the deal and I remember Kevin coming to look at her and quite liking her,” said Hutton.
“He made the comment that his yearlings were usually bowling along a little more when he broke them in.
“I told him because the mother could pull, we’ve really kept her quiet and never told her that she’s got speed and I think he adapted that into his own training of her.
“She just had a great style and she was bred to be good as well. We just thought we will never tell her how fast she is,” he said.
Despite qualifying as a late two-year old, the decision was made to tuck the blue-blood filly away to allow her the time to develop into her big frame.
“We all knew very early on she would make a good filly and even as a two-year old Kevin really rated her. She will get better with time and she’s in the right hands with Kevin to do so. She was too big and immature to go early and he’s looked after which is what she needed.
Vacation Hill’s mother, Vacanza, was a late bloomer and never begun her race career until January of her four-year old season.
After wins at Geraldine and then Methven, she showed she wasn’t just a toff for the grass when she then broke the 1950m mobile record for trotting mares at Addington.
She trotted the sprint trip in 2.25.2 and a MR of 1:59, breaking a 12 year old record held by Valley of the Moon.
“She was a funny mare because she pulled terribly in the prelim but in a race she was a dream to drive.
“You put her in the paddock and she takes off at a thousand miles an hour, does one lap around the paddock and then she’s as good as gold. I dunno why she did it, cover on, cover off, it didn’t make any difference,” he said.
Vacanza (Dream Vacation) was in utero as a package deal when her mother Sunny Lane (2000 Lindy Lane) was purchased.
That was a great result in itself because like Vacanza, Sunny Lane was a nightmare to get in foal and only produced three in her time at stud from eleven years of trying.
“She was at Nevele R and she always had breeding issues and didn’t get in foal that easy. We just happened to fluke that she got in foal to Dream Vacation first go,” said Hutton.
Three years after Vacanza, Sunny Lane produced a Majestic Son colt called Solar Storm who won three but disappeared in Australia after being sold.
Three years later she produced a Muscle Hilly filly called American Jewel who was purchased as a weanling by Pat Driscoll of Yabby Dabby Farm.
“American Jewel was showing exceptional talent as a three year old and was just about to race, but injured herself in a pool accident and hence never made it,” said Driscoll.
“She was bred to Love You in 2018 but we lost the foal and is now in foal to Father Patrick, so hopefully all going well we have a healthy foal this spring,” he said.
Both Hutton and Driscoll will be hoping for some good fortune as American Jewel was where the road ended for Sunny Lane as a mare despite several more efforts.
Sunny Lane was bred by Jim Dalgety having successfully raced her dam, the exceptionally talented Sunny Action.
Sunny Action did a lot of her Open Class racing in Mark Purdon’s care, but ultimately won her three biggest races in the colours of Dalgety including the Yearling Sales Final and the NZ Trotting Stakes at three.
She was back in his colours with a young Terry Chmiel when she downed Lyell Creek in the 2000 NZ Trotting FFA, ending his unbeaten streak at 20.
The Sundon mare was line bred 2×3 to her grandam Roydon Gal and was one of the few bred on this cross by the great Sir Roy McKenzie to have much success on the track.
A few astute breeders will know this story but when researching the family I came across this nugget in Sir Roy’s book, The Roydon Heritage.
It details how fortunate we as an industry were in Sir Roy securing Roydon Gal for many reasons, none more so than the fact she left Arndon, and in turn Sundon.
“At the 1976 ‘Adios’ there was a yearling sale which featured a Super Bowl filly I was keen to secure. My aim was to help breed good young trotters. This was not a very attractive financial investment but probably necessary long term. As well as driving her before the sale, I drove a Noble Victory colt who impressed me as an ideal cross for our Game Pride mares and as a result, I had a difficult decision to make between the filly and the colt.
The sales area was crowded but my wife and daughter Robyn got seats and shortly before the filly came in, I gained one in front of them.
There was some quick and frantic bidding, but I finally secured her, though my family didn’t think so. She had cost more than I bargained for. The colt, Noble Art, sold for $4000 less later in the sale. He was purchased by Del Miller and the Grants and he became the top money winning two-year-old of 1977. He has earned over $100,000 and he will have a sub 2min record any day.
We named the filly Roydon Gal and she trained really well as a two-year-old but showed some soreness when due to race at that age. We later qualified her in 2:10 and she has now been bred to Arnie Almahurst to whom she is in foal. In 1979 she will be brought back to New Zealand. A full brother to Roydon Gal, Superbly sold at the yearling Sales for $70,000 in 1978.
The advent of time would tell us that Noble Art never broke two minutes and Roydon Gal would be one of the most influential, if not the most influential trotting mare to the New Zealand stud book ever.”
Unfortunately for Hutton, Vacanza has carried on the family tradition of struggling to get in foal.
“She’s been to some of the best vets and nobody seems to know whats wrong there.
“She doesn’t cycle or ovulate properly. We got her in foal first go with frozen semen (Vacation Hill) and thought it was easy, but she’s proved hard since,” he said.
Matings to frozen semen consorts in Muscle Hill (2017), Wishing Stone (2018) and Southwind Frank (2019) coupled with two seasons of trying the fresh semen route with Majestic Son (2020) all came up empty.
“We’ll try a few different things this year and see how we go,” said Hutton.
Hutton is perhaps best known for the deeds of his trotters from the wonderful producer, Belday.
He won the Yearling Sales Final for three-year olds with Rhythm of the Night as well as a heat of the Victorian Trotters Derby.
He still has a full-sister in Fire in the Night who was a bonnie mare and should have won a New Zealand Trotting Oaks if not for breaking in the run home where she still ran fourth and only six lengths from the winner, Commander Jewel.
Hutton has had better luck producing from this breed with three foals from Fire in the Night (in foal to Majestic Son) including a Muscle Hill mare Luminosity.
She was on track to clear maidens having run second four times in her last five starts before Covid-19 abruptly ended the season.
Injured while racing as an early two-year old, Luminosity was put in foal and produced a Love You colt that is doing its early education at the present.
“We like him but he’s not a natural trotter at this stage,” said Hutton.
“I’m also breeding from Insignificant who has a Southwind Frank colt on her and is back in foal to Majestic Son,” he said.
Hutton has never been shy when it comes to trying to improve his breed and has been one of the great disciples of Muscle Hill, well before his stock began to produce the results they have today.
His theories on breeding are simple.
“Both Fire in the Night and Insignificant are nice quality mares with a reasonable pedigree behind them. You’ve gotta try and back yourself don’t ya?
“Breed the best to the best and hope for the best. I sell a lot of horses up to American and I’ve got a lot of contacts up there who I’ve always spoken to about their breeding scene and what’s working well.
“I’ve been looking to see if I can find a quality horse up there to bring down and actually race here with a view to breed from, but of course with all the stuff that’s happening now it’s probably going to be prohibitive,” said Hutton.
Another prohibitive factor in recent years has been Hutton’s health with the Canterbury horseman battling cancer, but he is fighting back having recently undergone stem cell treatment.
It’s a good thing he’s a fighter, because Vacation Hill’s win in the Oaks provided him with his biggest thrill as a breeder.
“It was actually my first ever Group win as a breeder and was a massive thrill to see the horse win for Kev and connections,” he said.