Probabeel took the New Zealand Thoroughbred Horse of the Year honours for the 2020-21 season. The results were announced at a virtual event on Monday night.
Probabeel gained just over half over of the 57 votes cast when heading off her Matamata stablemates Avantage and Melody Belle for the top award. It was a trifecta for mares and for trainer Jamie Richards and Te Akau Racing.
It is the fifth successive year that a mare has been named the NZ Horse of the Year, following doubles by Melody Belle and Bonneval. New Zealand-bred mare Verry Elleegant was recently named the 2021 Australian Horse of the Year and a mare has won the Australian title 14 times this century.
Probabeel, who was also named Champion Sprinter-Miler, gained 29 votes for SENZ Horse of the Year, with 14 for Avantage and 10 for Melody Belle. Champion Three-Year-Old Aegon earned three votes, with one for Amarelinha, another from the Te Akau stable.
Probabeel, a $380,000 yearling buy, is raced by Cambridge Stud proprietors Brendan and Jo Lindsay, who were also named Owners of the Years. The Lindsay partnership had three individual Group I winners during the season – the other being NZ One Thousand Guineas winner Khama Lass; and a share-holding in Champion Two-Year-Old Sword of State – and seven Group-placed runners.
The other winners in the horse categories were Aegon (Champion Three-Year-Old), Melody Belle (middle-distance), The Chosen One (stayer) and The Cossack (jumper).
Premiership winner Danielle Johnson was voted Jockey of the Year and Shaun Fannin was Jumps Jockey of the Year.
Jamie Richards’ achievements as head of the Te Akau team were such that he was the sole nominee for Trainer of the Year, as was the case the previous season. He established new records for a New Zealand trainer in terms of wins, stake earnings and black-type wins.
Richards prepared the winners of three of the five HOY categories for flat horses, with the other two coming from the Murray Baker-Andrew Forsman team.
A big night for Te Akau Racing was completed when Ashley Handley, who was responsible for the day-to-day care of Probabeel during her Australian campaigns, was named Stablehand of the Year.
The LOVERACING.NZ Contribution to Media, Digital & Content award recognised Andre Neill’s passion project, Racing This Time. The judges acknowledging that Neill captured the raw emotion of a race’s aftermath, be it a Group race or a mid-week maiden.
The NZTR Award for an Outstanding Contribution to Racing went to Waikato identity David Smith.
Smith, the founder of the Dunstan Horse Feeds company, has also made a lengthy contribution as an administrator, including 11 years as Waikato Racing Club Chairman, and been prominent as an owner and breeder.
Probabeel did all her racing in the 2020-21 season in Australia and measured up in top company in both her spring and autumn campaigns. The Savabeel mare was Group I winner in Sydney and Melbourne and recorded four wins – all in the Group company – and two seconds from eight starts. No other New Zealand-trained horse won a Group I race in Australia during the season.
Probabeel won the Group I Epsom Handicap in Sydney and the Group I weight-for-age Futurity Stakes in Melbourne. She ended her four-year-old campaign when second, beaten a short-head, in the Group I Queen of the Turf Stakes. She has already franked that form in the new season, with two wins, including the Group I Caulfield Stakes, at the Melbourne spring carnival, taking her career earnings to $4.5 million.
Avantage, who was retired after one start in the new season, achieved the rare feat of winning five Group I races during the 2020-21 season, with an overall record of six wins, three seconds and a third from 10 starts.
However, Avantage did all her racing for the season at home and Probabeel’s feats in Australia were ranked higher in voting for both Horse of the Year and the sprinter-miler category. The margin was significant in both instances, with Probabeel earning 37 votes in the sprinter-miler category compared to 18 for Avantage.
Melody Belle, who has also finished her race career, won four Group I races in the 2020-21 term season and was placed in the Mackinnon Stakes in Melbourne. It was not enough to earn her a third Horse of the Year title, but she dominated the voting for the middle-distance category.
Along with her two Horse of the Year triumphs, Melody Belle won five other HOY awards during a career which featured 14 Group I wins. She was the champion two-year-old in 2017, the champion sprinter-miler in 2019 and took both the middle distance and sprinter-miler categories in 2020.
The Chosen One was voted Stayer of the Year for the second successive season, comfortably heading off Auckland and Waikato Cups winner Ocean Billy. The Chosen One was a winner at the Melbourne spring carnival but more significantly ran third in the Caulfield Cup and fourth in the Melbourne Cup. He was the best of the southern hemisphere contenders in the 2020 Melbourne Cup and the first New Zealand-trained horse finish in the top four since 2005.
Aegon, who gained 51 of the 57 votes for Champion Three-Year-Old, was unbeaten from four starts in New Zealand, including the Two Thousand Guineas and was a Group II winner in Sydney.
Sword Of State, a runaway winner of the Group I Sistema Stakes at Ellerslie, took the two-year-old award over stablemate and Karaka Million winner On The Bubbles.
The Cossack began the season as a maiden jumper but ended it ranked as New Zealand’s leading hurdler. He had five wins and a third from six starts over fences, with wins in the Great Northern Hurdle, Wellington Hurdle and Waikato Hurdle.
2021 NEW ZEALAND THOROUGHBRED HORSE OF THE YEAR AWARDS
SENZ New Zealand Horse of the Year: Probabeel (29 votes)
Also: Avantage (14), Melody Belle ((10), Aegon (3), Amarelinha (1).
NZTR Award for Outstanding Contribution to Racing: David Smith.
Champion Two-Year-Old: Sword Of State (41).
Other finalists: On The Bubbles (13), Bonny Lass (1).
Champion Three-Year-Old: Aegon (51).
Other finalists: Amarelinha (4), Rocket Spade (2), Need I Say More.
Champion Sprinter-Miler (up to 1600m): Probabeel (37).
Other finalists: Avantage (18). Melody Belle (1), Callsign Mav.
Champion Middle Distance Horse (1601m-2200m): Melody Belle (53).
Other finalists: Beauden (3), Avantage (1), Concert Hall (1), Royal Performer.
Champion stayer (2201m and further): The Chosen One (41).
Other finalists: Ocean Billy (14), Waisake (1), Savy Yong Blonk.
Champion Jumper: The Cossack (34).
Other finalists: Magic Wonder (23), Yardarm.
Jockey of the Year: Danielle Johnson (47).
Other finalists: Opie Bosson (9), Craig Grylls.
Jumps Jockey of the Year: Shaun Fannin (53).
Other finalists: Shaun Phelan (5), Dean Parker.
Trainer of the Year– sponsored by Dunstan: Jamie Richards (only finalist).
Owner of the Year – sponsored by TAB NZ: Brendan & Jo Lindsay Partnership (44).
Other finalists: Joan Egan (10), NZ Thoroughbred Holdings (1), Waikato Stud (1), Hermitage Thoroughbreds, Kevin Hickman, Jomara Bloodstock, Pencarrow Thoroughbreds, Kelvin Tyler.
LOVERACING.NZ Award for Contribution to Media, Digital & Content: Racing This Time (Andre Neill).
Other finalists: Auckland Racing Club’s marketing team, Louis Herman-Watt, Maija Vance, Richard Edmunds.
New Zealand Stablehand of the Year – sponsored by Martin Collins New Zealand: Ashley Handley (Te Akau Racing), Northern region.
Other finalists & regional winners: Central Region - Haseeb Hussain (Gary Vile Racing); Southern region - Oleskii (Alex) Dobrytskyi, (Robert Dennis Racing).
Jockeys’ Premiership: Danielle Johnson.
Trainers’ Premiership: Jamie Richards
Owners’ Premiership: Brendan & Jo Lindsay Partnership.
Apprentice Jockeys’ Premiership: Hazel Schofer.
Newcomer To Training – sponsored by gavelhouse.com: Peter Didham.