Ronaldo kicks a goal for Central Otago farmers

By Peter Wharton

The Alta Christiano gelding Ronaldo, a very impressive winner at the Group meeting at Albion Park recently, is providing a group of Central Otago sheep farmers with plenty of excitement.

They are Neville Armstrong, Russell Nevill and Kim and Mary Heaney, who bred the five-year-old from an unraced Live Or Die mare, Heavenly Bliss, a descendant of the noted foundation mare Miss Kate.

Ronaldo winning at Albion Park
(c) Dan Costello Photography

“Heavenly Bliss was our first venture into buying a yearling,” Armstrong said. “We bought her for $10,000 at the National Sale in Christchurch on the day of the earthquake.”

“She was a nice horse to do anything with but she hit a knee and as such we were undecided whether to breed from her.”

Heavenly Bliss’s first mating, to Santanna Blue Chip, produced a filly, who did not race and had to be put down.

Three years later she was sent to the court of Alta Christiano and Ronaldo was the result.

“He was an outstanding individual from day one. He had a lovely gait with high speed,” Armstrong said.

Ronaldo qualified as a two-year-old for Brad Williamson at Oamaru.

“He had three trials and then we received a really good offer from a client of the Butt stable and decided to sell,” Armstrong said.

Ronaldo won at only his second appearance at Menangle as a three-year-old clocking a career-best 1:52.7 for 1609 metres in defeating Mach Da Vinci. He won another race at Menangle at three and notched four wins from 14 starts at four.

In all, he has won seven races and been seven times placed from 26 starts for $56,841 in stakes.

Since producing Ronaldo in 2016, Heavenly Bliss has left the three-year-old filly Aint No Angel (by Raging Bull), a winner at Invercargill in April, a yearling colt by Raging Bull and is back in foal to him.

“The yearling was passed in at this year’s sale and later purchased by clients of Southland trainer Robin Swain,” Armstrong stated.

Heavenly Bliss is a member of one of NZ’s most successful families. She ranks as a half-sister to the Menangle and Melton winner Vandanta 1:50 ($300,635), now racing successfully in America, the Pinjarra 4YO Classic winner Howard Hughes 1:53 ($120,433), Dachy 1:55.6 (9 wins), Turing Express (1:56.1) and Heavenly Cullen (1:54.8), dam of this year’s Ouyen Cup winner Equity Stride.

Their dam, the Falcon Seelster mare Heavenly Franco, was a sister to the Victorian Group 1 placegetter Sheez The Barmaid (1:56.7) and Hi Life Franco, dam of the WA Listed winner Silent Major (1:55) and Heretic Franco 1:52.2 (USA), and a half-sister to the Victorian Listed winner Franco Harbourmaster and the Albion Park winner Franco Harvard.