No reason to Grunt for Yulong as Veight continues to purr

Having flown the flag for his first crop last year, Veight handed Yulong sire Grunt (NZ) another welcome boost on Saturday after he motored home to land the G3 McNeil S. at Caulfield. We caught up with Yulong’s Chief Operating Officer, Sam Fairgray, to discuss the hugely talented colt and a particularly gratifying success for the Nagambie-based operation.

A devastating 6l maiden win and a similarly impressive victory in the G2 Sires’ Produce S. at Flemington was enough to ensure that Veight exceeded many people’s expectations during his juvenile campaign, including those that bred him.

After rounding out his 2-year-old season with a more than creditable fourth in the G1 Inglis Sires’ at Royal Randwick, Veight was sent to the paddock for a spell with expectations understandably higher for his Classic year. Much to the delight of his connections, the Tony and Calvin McEvoy-trained colt delivered on those expectations on Saturday when claiming the scalp of the previously unbeaten Legacies (Justify {USA}) and last season’s G1 Blue Diamond S. hero Little Brose (Per Incanto {USA}).

Having already won over 1400 metres as a 2-year-old, Veight could easily have been forgiven for finding the 1200 metres of Saturday’s G3 McNeil S. a tad on the sharp side, but any such fears were quickly put to bed when the son of Grunt (NZ) burst through a gap at the 200-metre mark, before lengthening impressively to score by 0.75l.

It was a performance that signalled a statement of intent for the spring, according to Yulong’s Sam Fairgray, who has every reason to believe that Veight will take another step forward when he gets out over further in the coming weeks and months.

“It’s always great to see them come back from their 2-year-old year, and the way he did it today was very impressive, knowing that he’s only going to improve,” Fairgray said.

“The McEvoys have always thought that as he steps up in distance, he’s going to be more and more dominant.”

That assertion is in keeping with Veight’s pedigree, with his dam Neena Rock (Fastnet Rock) a two-time stakes winner over a mile and his sire Grunt racing exclusively over 1400 metres or further throughout his hugely successful career on the track.

With that in mind, Veight looks very well-positioned to feature prominently in both the G3 Caulfield Guineas Prelude and G1 Caulfield Guineas later in the spring – the two races that have been identified as his most likely next assignments.

Veight’s co-trainer Calvin McEvoy was also heard mentioning the G1 Cox Plate as a potential target for the talented colt, a race for which another of Grunt’s promising 3-year-olds – last month’s runaway Pakenham maiden winner Akicita – is also nominated.

Sam Fairgray | Image courtesy of The Image Is Everything

“Obviously, it’s a big call for a 3-year-old, but the good ones can do it, and the McEvoys know the horse very well. They have a lot of faith in him,” Fairgray said of Veight. “If that’s where they think he’s up to, then that’s fantastic.

“I’m not sure where he’ll go next, but with Grunt being our inaugural stallion, for him to have a horse like Veight be his lamplighter from his first crop is a very, very good result for the farm.

“There’s every possibility that Grunt may have two runners in the (Caulfield) Guineas, with Akicita also heading down that path.”

Testing the waters

Having been bred and raised by Yulong, Veight was one of a select group of Grunt’s first-crop foals that were sent to the weanling sales in 2021, where he duly fetched $100,000 to the bid of Sledmere Stud and Cangon Stud.

Offered by the former nine months later at the Inglis Classic Yearling Sale, Veight was shrewdly secured for $220,000 by his trainers in conjunction with Damon Gabbedy’s Belmont Bloodstock (FBAA), a figure which represented the joint highest of Grunt’s seven yearlings to sell at the Riverside Stables auction.

Should he continue to progress as expected, Veight will almost certainly be subject to plenty of interest from potential stud suitors, and given that Yulong already has a close association with the powerful colt, Fairgray refused to rule out a return to where it all started for Veight at the culmination of his career on the track.

Veight as a yearling | Image courtesy of Inglis

“We wanted to take a couple of really nice Grunts to the market and let them see the type that he can leave. That was the idea behind selling him as a weanling,” Fairgray recalled.

“It was nice to take a good colt like him to the sales, and we were delighted with the price that he reached. Good judges in Royston and Treen (Catriona) Murphy bought him, and he sold so well for them at the Classic Sale, so it has been a good result all around.

“He’s a lovely-looking horse; the other great thing about him is his temperament. He’s a very laidback horse, and Grunt is very much like that – he’s just like his father.

“I wouldn’t say no to him returning to Nagambie in the future, that’s for sure. I certainly think he’d fit in very well in the (stallion) barn.”

With only 19 runners having hit the track to date from a debut crop of 140 foals, there is undoubtedly more to come from Grunt, according to Fairgray, who singled out a lightly raced 3-year-old from the John O’Shea stable as one to watch out for in the coming weeks.

Grunt (NZ) | Standing at Yulong Stud

“He covered a big book in his first year, and nobody expected them to be 2-year-olds out there and running, so what he has done to date has been fantastic,” Fairgray said of Grunt.

“You get the sense that the momentum is building because progeny by him are starting to pop up everywhere, and it’s very promising.

“There’s one that will be running next week, a horse called Rhythm Of Love, who John O’Shea trains. He was impressive in his first preparation and had a nice couple of placings, but he came back and trialled very nicely the other day.

Rhythm Of Love, winner of a Randwick trial on August 25 | Image courtesy of Ashlea Brennan

“Once again, he looks like a horse that has taken the step from two to three, and it’s exciting to see them come out and produce the goods.”

Where it all began

The success of Veight is especially satisfying for the Yulong team and for more reasons than one.

By the farm’s foundation stallion Grunt – a winner of the G1 Australian Guineas and G1 Makybe Diva S. at the elite level – Veight is out of the dual Group 3-winning mare Neena Rock, who represented one of Yulong’s first significant forays into the broodmare market when snapped up for $500,000 at the Inglis Weanling and Broodmare Sale back in 2015.

A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then, and a lot more money has been spent, too, but Fairgray feels that Veight is a perfect example of what Yulong owner Yuesheng Zhang is trying to achieve with his flourishing breeding empire.

“To be able to have a lovely Group-winning mare like Neena Rock and send her to Grunt, the inaugural stallion at Yulong, and then have her produce a horse in the ilk of Veight is very, very rewarding,” Fairgray said.

“Veight is out of one of the first mares that Mr Zhang stepped up and spent a high figure to purchase, which is certainly something that he is very proud of.

“He has always liked Fastnet Rock, and Neena Rock is a neat, strong type of mare. I can see physically that he would have liked her, and she obviously had the race performance to go with it as well.

“Mr Zhang has observed the successful people in the industry, and he has seen how to make an operation into a successful business, which is exactly what he’s going about.”

Back to the well

Yulong’s broodmare band has certainly come a long way since the acquisition of Neena Rock back in 2015, with the operation spending a staggering $33.4 million at this year’s Magic Millions National Broodmare Sale alone – a figure that accounted for 31.17 per cent of the total gross spend across all buyers at the sale.

Yulong has been active at almost all of the major breeding stock sales globally in 2023, and earlier this year, the broodmare band, which has become the envy of most in the world of thoroughbred breeding, was bolstered by the addition of Group 3 placegetter Zouluminous (Zoustar), who was purchased under the Chatsworth Farm banner for $245,000 during the Inglis April (Late) Online Sale.

A five-time winner for leading New Zealand syndicators Te Akau Racing, Zouluminous is out of a sister to Veight’s dam Neena Rock, and there are no prizes for guessing who she is set to visit for her maiden cover this year.

Zouluminous when purchased by Yulong’s Chatsworth Farm | Image courtesy of Inglis

“She’ll go to Grunt this year, based on Veight, which is a bit of a no-brainer,” Fairgray revealed.

“The family is untapped with where Veight could get to, and when something has clicked in the pedigree and worked, you try to replicate it again.”

That approach is precisely the reason why Neena Rock will also be returning to Grunt this season, with the daughter of leading broodmare sire Fastnet Rock due to foal a colt or filly by Yulong’s G1 Blue Diamond S.-winning stallion Tagaloa next month.

Neena Rock also has a recently-turned 2-year-old sister to Veight on the ground who, in a fortunate turn of events, was retained to race by Yulong instead of selling her at the yearling sales earlier this year.

“There’s a Grunt 2-year-old filly with the McEvoys as well,” Fairgray revealed.

“We had already decided that we wouldn’t offer her as a yearling and that we’d race her prior to Veight coming out, so what he has done has just been an added bonus really.

“She’s yet to show us what ability she’s got as she has only just gone in for her second prep, but whatever she does, she’s always going to have good residual value.”

Article courtesy of TDN Aus NZ, written by Lewis Lesbirel