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Willie Cazals gives connections heartwarming win at Hastings
03 Oct 2016

Being on course for Willie Cazals' win in the Group I Livamol Classic gave Waikato bloodstock agent Stuart Hale has greatest moment in racing.

Hale bought Willie Cazals for clients of Hong Kong trainer Tony Cruz after his second in the Derby Italiano in Rome in 2011. Willie Cazals broke down in Hong Kong and came to New Zealand to recover before joining Matamata trainers Lance O'Sullivan and Andrew Scott 12 months ago.

A carefully-designed training programme, which includes a lot of swimming, led to the 9-year-old's brilliant win in the $250,000 Livamol Classic at Hastings on Saturday.

Stuart Hale at Hastings beside the statue depicting the racing colours of Willie Cazals.

Stuart Hale at Hastings beside the statue depicting the racing colours of Willie Cazals.

"I was quite emotional to be honest, I screamed [for Willie Cazals] all the way up the straight," said Hale, a bloodstock for 30 years.

"I knew he had a Group I win in him but I thought it was getting a bit late [in his career]."

Hale was told about Willie Cazals when the grey raced in Italy. His record there was four wins and a second from five starts. 

When Willie Cazals finished second in the Derby Italiano, the third horse home, Danedream, was four lengths back. Danedream went on to win a big race in Germany and the famous Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in France.

Hale transacted Willie Cazals sale for NZ$1.5 million from an Italian owner to the Hong Kong buyers, Hermitage Thoroughbreds Pty Ltd. The stayer had 16 starts in Hong Kong before bowed tendons forced his retirement there. He had one win for trainer Cruz and chalked up second placings in a Group I and a Group III.

"He beat Red Cadeaux three times [in Hong Kong]," Hale said.

 Red Cadeaux was second in three Melbourne Cups.

Willie Cazals' win in the Livamol Classic came at his fourth New Zealand start. He resumed racing after an 18-month break with a ninth in the Group II Foxbridge Plate (Te Rapa, August 13), followed by an eighth in an open 1600m (Hastings, August 27) and a third in a Listed open 1600m (Pukekohe, September 18). 

Hale said Willie Cazals had to be led to the start by the clerk of the course and jockeys had to ride him patiently early in races, otherwise he fired up and overraced.

The bloodstock agent had a good feeling about Willie Cazals before the stayer stepped on to the track on Saturday. O'Sullivan and Scott presented him in mint condition.

"He showed his international class yesterday," Hale said of Willie Cazals.

"He's got a great finish." 

Willie Cazals raced as Cazals in Italy but when arriving in Hong Kong, one of his owners changed it in memory of a friend who died.   

Hale reckoned he had sold between 30 and 40 horses to clients of Tony Cruz. The first, Coup Stravinsky, won two of six starts for Christchurch trainer Michael Pitman before Hale negotiated his sale.

Coup Stravinsky was a big winner in Hong Kong racing as Regency Horse.

Hale's biggest thrill in racing before Willie Cazals nailed the Livamol Classic was as breeder of the 1987 Melbourne Cup winner Kensei.

"I've got a wonderful clientele and Tony's my No 1 client," Hale said. 

Cruz, who is equal fourth with three others on the Hong Kong trainers' premiership this season, was unable to crack a win at Sha Tin on Saturday night. However, he managed two seconds and three thirds.