By Emma Berry
As Covid travel restrictions prompted delays and relocations, last season's breeze-up sales were anything but plain sailing for many consignors. Some consolation was found on Thursday at Chantilly for Tom Whitehead of Powerstown Stud, who celebrated two first-time-out winners with Keeneland yearling purchases.
The first race of the day, the Prix du Rond du Manege, went to Bellharbour Music, a May-foaled colt from the first crop of Mshawish, bought in September 2019 from Brookdale Sales for $30,000. Now trained in Chantilly by Alessandro and Giuseppe Botti, Bellharbour Music is still in Whitehead's ownership having picked up a small injury prior to his intended appearance at the Arqana Breeze-up, which last year was held at Doncaster in July.
He is the first runner and winner in France for his second-crop sire, who was himself a breeze-up graduate from the Arqana sale having been bought in Kentucky by Whitehead's friend and colleague Johnny Collins for just $10,000. A profitable pinhook, Mshawish was then resold at two to Nicolas de Watrigant on behalf of Al Shaqab Racing for $170,000 and went on to win a listed race in Deauville before becoming a dual Grade I winner in America.
After his victory in the GI Donn H., Mshawish closed out his career by running sixth to California Chrome in the Dubai World Cup of 2016 and both stallions then retired to Taylor Made Farm in Kentucky the following year. Their names were linked again at Chantilly when, two hours after Bellharbour Music's win, California Chrome's 3-year-old daughter Injera made a similarly impressive debut. The filly, trained by another French-based Italian, Gianluca Bietolini, triumphed in the Prix de la Croix Vaillant to become the first European winner for her sire, who is now at Arrow Stud in Japan.
“The colt just had a minor setback and he couldn't go to the sale. I sold the filly privately when we didn't know if the sales were going to go ahead,” explained Whitehead. who is based in Co Kilkenny, Ireland.
“I sent them both over to France around Christmastime so they've been there around six weeks. They weren't worked hard at home but by jockey bookings and betting they were both fancied so they must have been doing some nice work. I know it's only February but it's never easy winning in Chantilly.”
Whitehead is a regular at Keeneland and works the yearling sales in tandem with Nancy Sexton. He bought last season's GII Fountain of Youth S. winner Ete Indien (Summer Front) at the September Sale for $80,000 before reselling him at Arqana to Patrick Biancone for €240,000.
Casting his mind back to the purchase of Bellharbour Music, he said, “I knew the stallion Mshawish when Johnny sold him at the breeze-ups and I followed him through his racing career. When the first crop came up for sale in America I knew he was a good horse and I thought why not buy one. He won on dirt and turf and he was tough, racing until he was six.”
Whitehead's Powerstown Stud will have a team of 25 juveniles to offer at the forthcoming breeze-up sales. He added, “We're happy enough for now but the next month or two will tell. They are roughly half and half American and European horses. Now we just need lockdown to end and to get people back racing.”