A dual Gr.1 winner from the Last Tycoon male line, Grunt is Danehill-free but has a pedigree that should suit that great stallion’s descendants. He was one of the busiest sires in Australia in his debut season last year when he became the first sire on the Yulong Stud roster in Victoria.


First published in June 2020

A dual Gr.1 winner from the Last Tycoon male line, Grunt is Danehill-free but has a pedigree that should suit that great stallion’s descendants. He was one of the busiest sires in Australia in his debut season last year when he became the first sire on the Yulong Stud roster in Victoria.

CHINESE businessman Zuesheng Zhang could hardly have made a better selection than dual Gr.1 winner Grunt (NZ) as the first stallion to stand at his showcase Victorian stud farm at Nagambie. By a champion sire in O’Reilly (Last Tycoon (IRE)) and carrying a 3fx5f cross of 1989 NZ broodmare of the Year Hunza (Vice Regal (NZ)), this young sprinter-miler won five of his 12 starts and represents a powerful outcross to the all-pervasive Danehill (USA) line.

A quick look at his pedigree shows us that he should admirably suit mares from the line of that champion son of Danzig and with names like Try My Best, Mill Reef, Round Table, Storm Cat, Halo, Sir Tristram (IRE) and Nureyev in his first five removes, there’s plenty to tie in with most other pedigrees as well. Broodmare owners obviously thought so too as they sent 178 mares (at $13,750), to this handsome young brown stallion in his first season (2019) at Yulong Stud. Grunt, who stands 16.2 hands and cost $220,000 as a yearling at the 2016 NZ Bloodstock National Yearling Sale at Karaka, is out of the dual winner Ruqqaya, a daughter of Van Nistelrooy (USA) (Storm Cat-Halory by Halo) and the Zabeel (NZ) mare Sayyida, a dual winner to 1600m and a half-sister to NZ 2012-13 Horse of the Year Ocean Park (Thorn Park), whose eight wins (five Gr.1) included a Cox Plate-Gr.1.

Van Nistelrooy, a $6.4m Keeneland yearling buy in 2001, was a top class juvenile in Ireland where he won at Gr.2 level and was second in the National Stakes-Gr.1. He was also third in a Gr.2 at Royal Ascot. He’s sired the winners of more than $32m (52SW) and has worked with the Green Desert and Gone West male lines. Putting daughters of Green Desert son Invincible Spirit (and his son I Am Invincible) or Sepoy (a Gone West grandson out of a Danehill mare) to Grunt present a couple of options to duplicate those crosses.

Trained by Mick Price for a syndicate including high profile owners Rupert Legh and Andrew Ramsden, Grunt warmed up for his debut with a fourth in an 800m trial at Cranbourne before a good third on debut in the VRC Hall of Fame 2YO Trophy (1400m), beaten just over a length by subsequent Gr.1 winner Aloisia on a good track on May 20, 2017. He was put away until the following December when he made no mistakes in a 1400m Werribee maiden, strolling home by four lengths from Red Liberty in 1:24.68 on a good (4) track. Taken to Morphettville on Boxing Day and stretched out to 1600m, the three year-old colt again won easily with 3.25 lengths to spare over Too Tuff Tara on the line, running 1:35.88 on a good (3) track for Jason Holder.

Given a trial at Geelong in late January, he made it three wins in a row when he tackled black type company in the VRC The Debonair (C.S. Hayes) Stakes-Gr.3 1400m. He handled the task with aplomb and had three-quarters of a length on Cliff’s Edge (Muraaqeb third) as he led the 16-strong field over the line.

With three wins in succession, the last in a race known for being won by top class three year-olds, the previous three winners being Hey Doc, Tivaci and Wandjina, the two subsequent winners being The Inevitable and Alligator Blood and the honour board further back including Starcraft, Mossman, Mahogany and Zabeel, it was obvious to all that Grunt was pretty special. He confirmed that next time out when he faced 15 others in the $1m Australian Guineas-Gr.1 (1600m) at Flemington on March 3, 2018, winning by a length from Peaceful State, with Bring Me the Roses 1.5 lengths back in third and running 1:34.99 on a good (3) surface with Damien Oliver on board. It was the third Guineas win for the trainer and jockey and Oliver rode a superb race to have Grunt well placed in the race, despite coming from the widest barrier, as favourite Cliff’s Edge set a genuine tempo before fading and Grunt powered home.

“He’s a magnificent specimen of a horse and he deserved a really strong Gr.1 win like that today,” Oliver said. Price also rated the three year-old highly and pointed out that his “excellent temperament” would stand him in good stead as a stallion. Previous winners of this race include Zabeel, Flying Spur, Dash for Cash, Pins, Military Plume, Al Maher and Reset, all successful sires.

Sent for a break, Grunt was four when he reappeared with a fifth in the P.B. Lawrence-Gr.2 on August 18 and then he was mid-field in the Memsie-Gr.1 on September 1, before his second Gr.1 win in the VRC Maykbe Diva Stakes (1600m) on September 15. He defeated Kings Will Dream by two lengths in 1:34.91 on a good (3) track, with star New Zealander Jon Snow third. Damien Oliver said Grunt appreciated his return to the bigger Flemington track and he sat just off the pace in fifth before challenging at the 300m to burst clear for a convincing win. Favourite Kementari was fourth.

He was then sixth in the Underwood-Gr.1 (1800m) and a 10th in the Turnbull-Gr.1 (2000m) behind Winx ended that campaign.

Grunt was off the scene until March 2, 2019 and now racing with Yulong Investments as an additional owner, he resumed with a sixth in the Shaftesbury Avenue-Gr.2 behind Violate and he retired following his next start when fifth (of 14) in the All Star Mile, beaten three lengths by Mystic Journey. He was given a World Thoroughbred Ranking of 120 in 2018 and had five wins and a third in 12 starts for earnings of $1,382,450, retiring with a Timeform of 123.

“On type and pedigree Grunt suits a wide variety of mares, which is one of the major attributes that attracted us to him,” Yulong’s chief operating officer Sam Fairgray said when the star four year-old retired. “Yulong has strengthened its broodmare band over the past 12 months and we will be supporting Grunt in his first season with many of these mares. We will be active at the upcoming broodmare sales to ensure he has the best possible start to his stud career.”

Grunt has a fascinating, well-balanced pedigree and one that fits him well for a successful stud career. The key feature is his 3fx5f duplication of smart performer and outstanding producer Hunza (Pakistan II (GB)), second dam of O’Reilly and fifth dam of Grunt, with Grunt’s third dam Eastern Princess ranking as a three-parts sister to O’Reilly’s mother Courtza, both daughters of successful sire Pompeii Court who is duplicated 3fx4f in Grunt’s background.

Pompeii Court (Tell-Port Damascus by Damascus) was a tough miler in the US winning 13 of his 34 starts, most notable the 1982 Longacres Mile-Gr.2 and he broke the mile track record at Santa Anita, running the distance in 1:33.60. His Gr.1 winners included Courtza, her brother Our Pompeii and Pompeii Pearl (Harbor Prince; 4mx4m Princequillo), NZ’s Champion 2YO of 1987/88 and he is broodmare sire of O’Reilly and of Starcraft (Soviet Star). His sire Tell (Round Table-Nas-Mahal by Nasrullah) won nine from 18 including the Hollywood Derby and carries a 2mx3f cross of Knight’s Daughter (family 2f), winner of three of her four starts and 1959 US Broodmare of the Year. Her dam is important broodmare Feola (GB), a classic-placed daughter of Friar Marcus, whose descendants include Aureole, Doutelle, Nashwan, Unfuwain and Deep Impact. Feola’s dam Aloe is ancestor of the likes of Alcide, Known Fact and Gone West.

Hunza won the 1973 VRC Bloodhorse Breeders’ Plate (1400m) but she became far more important as a producer of five stakes winners, most notable of them the brilliant Courtza who captured the VATC Blue Diamond Stakes-Gr.1/STC Golden Slipper Stakes double-Gr.1 (1200m) and at the other end of the spectrum is Courtza’s brother, the stayer Our Pompeii, twice winner of the SAJC Adelaide Cup–Gr.1 (3200m) and also winner of the SAJC South Australian Derby–Gr.1 (2500m).

It comes as no surprise that Hunza founded a phenomenal family with Grunt’s dam Ruqqaya being a half-sister to five-time Gr.1 winner and New Zealand Horse of the Year Ocean Park (Thorn Park), now established as a successful sire at Waikato Stud where his stock include Epsom-Gr.1/Golden Eagle winner and $5.2m earner Kolding and Gr.3 winner Star of the Seas. Sayyida (Zabeel), winning second dam of Grunt, is a half-sister to the dam of Gr.1 winner Prince Kaapstad (Kaapstad), while Grunt’s fourth dam, useful Brisbane winner Benazir (by the NZ bred Relic-line sire Vice Regal), bred seven winners, most important of them Gr.1-winning mare Critic (Centaine), winner of nine races.

Grunt carries four crosses of Northern Dancer 4mx5m,5f,6m via Try My Best, Storm Bird, the mare Cold Reply and Nureyev, a powerful genetic mix in itself. Having a female strain of Northern Dancer to balance the male strains is a significant plus. The same comment applies to Grunt’s three crosses of hardy champion racehorse and sire Round Table, two male strains coming through Pompeii Court’s sire Tell and a female strain contributed by Sir Tristram’s dam Isolt.

More remote line breeding to Nearco, his sons, three-quarter brothers Nasrullah and Royal Charger, Princequillo, My Babu and to famous producer Almahmoud (by Mahmoud, a close relative of Nasrullah and Royal Charger), dam of Natalma and Cosmah, add to the power of Grunt’s pedigree.

Hunza’s dam Chatty Lady (Chatsworth II (GB)-Glamin by Instinct (GB)) has the imported Hebrew Maiden (GB) (Orion-Jewish Maiden by Sheen) as her sixth dam and that mare’s daughter Lovelorn (by Melton) as her fifth dam, the latter conceived in the UK. Lovelorn’s notable earlier descendants include the Melbourne Cup winners Skipton and Wotan, the Caulfield Cup winners Peter Jackson and Gaine Carrington, NZ champ Beau Vite and NZ Oaks winner Glamour Bay. As the taproot mare of both O’Reilly and Ruqqaya, Lovelorn exerts a powerful influence on Grunt’s pedigree. Her sire Melton won the 1885 English Derby by a head from Paradox after winning the Middle Park Stakes the previous year. He also won the St Leger and July Cup. He started his stud career in England and then spent seven years at stud in Italy before returning to stand successfully in Kent. A noted broodmare sire, his daughters included Yours, Miss Mildred and Absurdity, who produced the winners of six classic races.

The Chittick family has a long history of breeding good horses at Waikato Stud, Courtza and her son O’Reilly among them. O’Reilly (Last Tycoon (IRE)) was NZ Horse of the Year and Champion Sprinter/Miler in 1997 when racing for Gary Chittick, winning the Bayer Classic-Gr.1 at just his third start before trouncing the country’s best sprinters in the Telegraph Handicap-Gr.1 (1200m). Taken to Australia he was second to Mouawad in the Australian Guineas-Gr.1, his first defeat, and broke down next time out when unplaced favourite in the VRC Newmarket-Gr.1.

He retired to Waikato on a $NZ10,000 fee, covering 107 mares that first season and was enormously successful, becoming a multiple Dewar Award winner (Australian and NZ earnings combined). His 986 winners represent a very high 70.4% winners to runners and his progeny earning topped $136m. His 95 stakes winners (6.8%) include 15 Gr.1 winners, among them Silent Achiever, Alamosa, Sacred Falls, Shamrocker and Shamexpress. They are from daughters of Zabeel (two Gr.1), Centaine (a barn mate at Waikato, a cross that has produced more than 100 winners, three of them Gr.1), Redoute’s Choice (from the same female line as Try My Best, sire of Last Tycoon), Blue’s Traveller, Sound Reason, Grosvenor, Crested Wave, Golan, Bakharoff, Pins and Volksraad (Green Desert son).

O’Reilly’s sire Last Tycoon (IRE) (Try My Best-Mill Princess by Mill Reef) was bred at R.C. Strauss’s Kilfrush Stud in Ireland and trained in France for his breeder by Robert Collet. He won three of his six starts at two including the Prix d’Arenberg-Gr.3 (1000m, Longchamp) and Prix Pharel (1100m) and as a three year-old in 1986 he won five of his seven starts including the King’s Stand Stakes-Gr.1 (5f), a short-head from five year-old Double Schwartz, and York Sprint Championship (now Nunthorpe) Stakes-Gr.1 (5f, beating Green Desert, Double Schwartz) and then proved his versatility by heading to the US where he won the Breeders’ Cup Mile-Gr.1 (8f) at Santa Anita, beating Palace Music. His other wins during the season included the Prix de Saint-Georges-Gr.3 (1000m) and Prix du Gros Chene-Gr.3 (Chantilly, 1000m). He was rated World Champion Sprinter-Miler in 1986 and Champion Sprinter in England. His line is already well proven in Australia with runners like Horse of the Year Mahogany, Lady Jakeo, Tracy’s Element and Knowledge locally, to go with northern stars like Marju, Bigstone and Ezzoud. His current southern flag bearer is his grandson Written Tycoon (Iglesia), covering at $77,000 having moved to Arrowfield this season after tremendous success at Woodside Park thanks to the deeds of Written By (Blue Diamond), Capitalist (Golden Slipper), Luna Rossa, Booker, Pippie (the last two Oakleigh Plate winners), Tycoon Tara and Music Magnate among more than 450 winners.
Last Tycoon’s sire is the Dewhurst Stakes-Gr.1 winner Try My Best (Northern Dancer-Sex Appeal by Buckpasser), a brother to dual classic winner El Gran Senor (English 2000 Guineas, Irish Derby, sire) and has influential broodmare Best in Show as his third dam (also third dam of Redoute’s Choice).

Hunza, 3fx5f in Grunt’s pedigree has Glamor Girl as her third dam. She is by the 1926 English Derby winner Coronach (Hurry On-Wet Kiss by Tredennis) bred by whiskey magnate James Buchanan (1st Baron Woolavington) and presented to NZ in 1940 by his daughter Lady Macdonald-Buchanan. Already the sire of Arc winner Corrida and the Italian Derby winner Niccolo Dell’Arca in Europe, Coronach was a success in NZ before his death in 1949. Her daughter Glamin (by Blue Peter son Instinct (GB)), also remembered as the third dam on NZ Oaks winner Glamour Bay, produced handy performer Chatty Lady (Chatsworth II (GB)) in 1961. Chatty Lady won seven races from 6f-11f and while her winners also included stakes placed Hearts are Trumps, Kapelle Lady (dam of Kapchat and Noble Hero) and Lalos, her best runner was her brilliant daughter Hunza (Pakistan II).

By one of the great NZ sires Pakistan (Palestine-Tambara-Nasrullah), a terrific source of speed, his runners included Rajah Sahib, Wood Court Inn, Triton, Tropic Jewel, Zambari, Purple Patch and Zahedi, Hunza only won once in seven starts but was a top class juvenile, beating Love Aloft in the VRC Bloodhorse Breeders’ Plate-Gr.2 (1400m) at two when she was also runner-up in the Reisling Slipper Trial-Gr.3 (to Favourite Girl) and third (of 20) behind Poppy Show in the VRC Talindert Stakes (1000m) on debut. She was also fifth (behind Taj Rossi, New Gleam, Sincere Pride and Zahedi) in the Ascot Vale Stakes-Gr.2 (1200m) first up at three. Hunza was an outstanding broodmare with eight of her 10 foals winning, five of them stakes winners (two Gr.1 in Courtza and Our Pompeii) and two stakes placed.
It’s a female line that has stood the test of time and Grunt has a double dose of this good medicine thanks to Hunza. As a dual Gr.1 winner by a champion sire he is destined to succeed in Victoria and looks very good value at Yulong Stud at his 2020 fee of $13,750 including GST.